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In 2018, U.S. electric scooter riders took 38.5 million trips on shared scooters, according to the National Association of City Transportation officials. As electric scooters become more prevalent in cities in Maryland and across the country, accidents involving electric scooters are also becoming more common. Riders can be injured, and can also hurt others while riding the scooters. In the event of an injury or even a death in a Maryland electric scooter accident, more people are questioning whether electric scooters are covered under their insurance policies.

Electric scooters rental companies usually place liability on riders in their rental agreements or carve out coverage for specific instances. Generally, electric scooters are not covered under an auto insurance policy. Electric scooters also are not generally covered under a homeowner’s insurance policy. Some insurance policies may allow an insured to add coverage for an electric scooter onto their auto, homeowner’s, or renter’s insurance policy.

At Least 29 Killed in Electric Scooter Accidents Since 2018

Drunk drivers can face cases both in criminal court and in civil proceedings. Maryland motorcycle accident victims injured by drunk drivers may be able to use evidence from a criminal or traffic case in a subsequent civil suit. Under Maryland law, a guilty plea to a traffic citation generally can be admitted in a later civil trial. Maryland courts have held that guilty pleas to criminal offenses and traffic citations usually are admissible in a subsequent civil case. It is not conclusive evidence, however, and proof of a guilty plea can be rebutted or explained by the offender during the following civil case.

However, Maryland courts have drawn a distinction between guilty pleas in court and the payment of fines outside of court. Maryland courts consider a person’s express acknowledgment that a person was guilty of an offense in court to be more significant that paying a fine in place of going to court.

Courts have recognized that people may pay a fine in person or by mail in order to avoid going to court. In addition, courts have found that payment of a fine outside of court is not a guilty plea nor an express acknowledgment of guilt. Therefore, even though a person may have paid a traffic ticket it generally does not mean that that evidence can be used against them. Even if evidence is generally admissible, a court may still exclude it. Under Maryland Evidence Rule 5-403, evidence may be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by its danger of prejudice. Judges have the discretion to exclude unfairly prejudicial evidence—or for a number of other reasons.

The duty to properly maintain a Maryland roadway generally rests with the city, county or state government office that owns and controls the roadway. State and local governments in Maryland are responsible for keeping their roads in good repair and in a reasonably safe condition for travel by Maryland motorcycle riders as well as others.

The government entity tasked with maintaining a roadway may fail to do so, causing the roadway to be unsafe for drivers and pedestrians. In these circumstances, an injured person can sue the government for the government’s failure to maintain roads in safe condition. In claims against local governments in Maryland, the government is generally immune from tort liability when engaging in functions of a “governmental” nature, but not when engaged in functions of a “proprietary” or “private” nature.

Maryland courts have long held that local municipalities are not immune from lawsuits arising out of the maintenance of public streets and highways, and that they have a duty to maintain them in a reasonably safe condition. Local governments may be held liable for injuries caused by a dangerous condition in the road caused by the government’s negligence. In claims against the state government, under the Maryland Tort Claims Act (MTCA) the state expressly waives immunity in some circumstances. One such circumstance is in an action for damages caused by a defective, unsafe, or dangerous condition of a street, sidewalk, alley, or highway controlled and owned by the State, if constructive or actual notice of the condition existed.

A tragic multi-vehicle accident occurred in Chesapeake, Virginia last week, resulting in the unfortunate death of a motorcyclist. According to a local news report covering the accident, the responsible driver was in a red pickup truck when they ran a red light around 12:30 pm one afternoon, causing them to hit the motorcyclist and five other vehicles. The motorcyclist, a 56-year-old man, was sadly pronounced dead at the scene, and three other victims were sent to the hospital to be treated for their injuries.

While such accidents and fatalities are always tragic, they, unfortunately, happen far too often, and motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable to their effects. Because motorcyclists do not have the protection that a car provides between them and other vehicles or the road, they are more likely to be severely injured by negligent or reckless drivers when they run red lights or engage in other dangerous behaviors.

In such incidents, it is always possible that local law enforcement will investigate and file criminal charges. In the tragic incident described above, law enforcement charged the at-fault driver with involuntary manslaughter and possession of cocaine. These charges, while they may help the public feel safer on the roads, do very little to compensate the victims and their families who may be suffering psychologically and financially.

Maryland motorcyclists might be surprised to learn that one of the most fatal traffic situations is one they are in regularly: left turns. Turning left while driving or riding a motorcycle is typically unavoidable for most people because left turns are commonly necessary to get to places they regularly visit, such as work, the grocery store, or a family member’s house. Unfortunately, however, these turns can be quite dangerous, especially for motorcyclists because the drivers of other vehicles often have a difficult time accurately assessing the speed at which an oncoming motorcycle is traveling.

According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Association, turning left is considered a “leading critical pre-crash event.” In fact, 22.2 percent of all crashes involve someone turning left, as do approximately 61 percent of crashes that take place while someone is turning or crossing an intersection. Additionally, CNN recently reported that left turns are three times more likely to kill pedestrians than right turns are. Because of these dangers, some commercial drivers, such as those who drive UPS trucks, avoid left turns as much as they can.

Left turns are especially dangerous for motorcyclists who are largely exposed on the road and do not have a large vehicle surrounding them to absorb the shock or force of an impact. For example, take a recent crash that occurred in Gulfport, Mississippi. According to a local news report covering the incident, a 35-year-old man was driving a Harley Davidson motorcycle when he tragically struck a pick-up truck that was turning left. Due to the force of impact, and the fact that the motorcyclists’ body was largely unprotected from the crash, the motorcyclist was killed and pronounced dead on the scene.

Maryland law requires all motorists to obtain a certain amount of insurance coverage. There are several types of Maryland motorcycle insurance, including bodily injury liability, underinsured/uninsured motorist (UIM) protection and property damage liability.

Bodily injury liability provides coverage for injuries caused to others that are the fault of the insured motorist. On the other hand, UIM coverage provides coverage for the insured motorist in the event that the at-fault driver either had no insurance or did not have enough insurance to fully cover their injuries. Property damage liability covers damage to others’ property that is caused by the insured. As of 2020, the minimum insurance requirements in Maryland are $30,000 per person/$60,000 per accident in bodily injury liability and UIM protection and $15,000 in property damage liability.

Unlike cars and trucks, motorcycles offer little to no protection to riders in the event of an accident. Thus, Maryland motorcycle accidents often result in serious bodily injury. In many cases, the medical expenses alone will exceed the limits of an insurance policy, especially if the policyholder opted for the minimum amount of insurance. In these situations, UIM coverage is especially important. Uninsured motorist coverage can also help a Maryland motorcyclist recover compensation in the event of a hit-and-run accident where the at-fault party cannot be identified. In fact, Maryland law considers an unidentified driver an “uninsured driver” for the purposes of UIM coverage.

Causation is a necessary element in any Maryland motorcycle crash case alleging the negligence of another party. An essential part is proving that the other party’s actions caused the plaintiff’s damages, which means both proving a cause-in-fact and a legally cognizable cause. Proving a cause-in-fact means proving that the other party’s actions were the actual cause of the damages, whereas legal cause means proving that the defendant’s actions were sufficiently related to the damages to hold the party liable. This inquiry often requires a consideration of whether the plaintiff’s damages were a foreseeable result of the party’s actions. Even if another party’s actions are proven to be the cause-in-fact of the plaintiff’s damages, a court may still find the party is not liable because it is not fair or because it is bad policy.

In addition to proving causation, in a negligence case, a plaintiff still has to prove that the party owed the plaintiff a duty of care, that the defendant’s actions amounted to a breach of the relevant standard of care, and the plaintiff suffered damages. A plaintiff has to prove all elements in a negligence claim, and must prove each element by a preponderance of the evidence. This means that a plaintiff must prove what caused the crash, rather than proving only that another party’s actions were merely a possible cause of the crash.

Motorcycle Driver Killed After Crash with Debris

Maryland motorcyclists and all other drivers must exercise reasonable care at any time that they are on the road. At times, a driver’s lack of care goes beyond simple negligence. Under Maryland law, gross negligence refers to willful and wanton misconduct, which is considered as something more than simple negligence, and closer to reckless conduct. Gross negligence signifies conduct “in reckless disregard of the consequences” and the actor’s lack of concern for the effect on another person’s life or property. It also suggests a disregard of the consequences without any attempts to avoid them. Whether gross negligence was committed is fact-specific and is generally a question for a jury. A recent case is an example of a situation in which one state appeals court found that gross negligence may have resulted in a motorcycle crash.

According to the court’s opinion, a raceway obtained a license from a racing federation to hold federation-sanctioned motorcycle events. An association managed operations for the raceway. To control erosion, the association placed unmarked sandbags around the raceway. The association did not have any staff with experience or training in track safety, and the placement of sandbags violated federation standards. The plaintiff was competing in a motorcycle racing event and lost control of his motorcycle. He entered the safety zone, collided with the sandbags, and suffered serious injuries. He was not warned of the sandbags, which were the same color as the track.

The plaintiff filed a claim that alleged that the association was liable for gross negligence and that the county was liable for a dangerous condition of public property. After a trial court dismissed the claim, a state court of appeals reversed. The appeals court found that it might have been grossly negligent for the association to divert money to operations instead of erosion protection and to rely on the assessments of an executive with no track safety training. In addition, the raceway association could be found liable for a dangerous condition.

Maryland drivers are at risk of getting into an accident because of something that they may not even be able to see:  ice. As the weather gets colder, roads are more likely to ice over, which can cause cars, trucks, bicyclists, or even pedestrians to slip and slide. Ice also can potentially cause a serious Maryland motorcycle accident. Ice on the roads, which can be present even if it’s not freezing cold outside, stops tires from getting a good grip, reducing even a skilled driver’s ability to steer and stop.

Weather conditions involving ice, snow, and freezing rain are some of the most dangerous conditions for Maryland residents. In fact, icy roads are responsible for more than twice as many fatalities each year as tornadoes, hurricanes, lightning, and severe thunderstorms combined.

For example, a doctor was recently killed when he wiped out on a patch of ice while riding his bicycle. According to a local news report covering the tragic accident, the doctor, a 50-year-old pediatrician, was riding his bike at around 8:40 in the morning when the bike slipped on ice, causing him to fall. Unfortunately, he fell right in front of a school bus full of children, which hit and killed him. The driver and passengers of the bus were unharmed. The accident brought attention to the dangers posed by ice on the roadways.

A college student recently made headlines for inventing a helmet that may reduce the number of serious injuries and deaths that result from motorcycle accidents. According to a local news report, a 21-year-old student was inspired to design the helmet—called ConTekt—when his friend got into a motorcycle accident. After the crash, his friend couldn’t move and thus couldn’t reach his phone to call for help. The motorcyclist’s position on the highway made him invisible to other motorists, and he lay there injured, unsure of what to do. ConTekt aims to solve this problem; the helmet uses technology to contact 911 the moment that the wearer hits the ground, giving accident victims “a lifeline without risking any injury by moving.”

Uehara is on his way to producing the helmet for retail. Earlier this year, the invention won first prize at the University of Hawaii’s Breakthrough Innovation Challenge. The prize money, $2,000, will help Uehara obtain a patent for the helmet and develop a prototype. A cost analysis led him to predict that the helmet will retail around $700, which is less than the average for a similar quality helmet.

The helmet, once finalized, can help address the dangers that motorcyclists face every day. Motorcyclists are overrepresented in traffic fatalities, and their lack of protection compared to cars and trucks makes them uniquely susceptible to serious injuries when accidents occur. Helmets in general, even without the ability to call 911, can play an important role in protecting motorcyclists’ skulls and brains from traumatic injuries. In fact, Maryland has recognized the importance of helmets, and state law requires helmet use.

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