Articles Posted in Failure-to-Yield Motorcycle Accidents

Recently, two individuals riding a motorcycle were seriously injured when they collided with a pickup truck making a left turn, leading to the tragic death of the 27-year-old passenger. According to a local news report covering the incident, the crash occurred at around 9:30 in the evening, and the driver of the motorcycle, who survived, had to be taken to the hospital for their injuries. In addition to being tragic, this accident highlights one of the major risks posed to Maryland motorcyclists: left-turn accidents.

Left-turn accidents can be dangerous for anyone, including those in cars, trucks, and pedestrians. However, motorcyclists are particularly at risk of significant injury and death when these accidents occur because their bodies are relatively unprotected from the impact with other vehicles or the road, even if wearing a helmet. A left-turn accident with a motorcyclist can lead to life-altering injuries, including broken bones, spinal injuries, brain injuries, skull fractures, and more. Unfortunately, this type of accident is also one of the most common types of motorcycle accidents, and those on the road should take extra precautions to avoid them.

There are a number of reasons that these crashes may occur. One of the major reasons is visibility. Because motorcycles are significantly smaller than cars and trucks, it may be difficult for other motorists to see them, and they may not realize the risk when they decide to make a left turn. Distracted driving also increases the risk for these accidents—if a driver is texting, eating, talking on a cell-phone, or even just distracted by a flashy billboard or something he is driving by, he may not notice a motorcycle and may make left turns without stopping to ensure the coast is clear.

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.

Although many people take left turns every day without issue, left turns can be a factor in many Maryland motorcycle accidents. Left turns have been a subject of research in recent years, including a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA). In that study, the NHTSA found that in 22.2 percent of crashes studied, the critical pre-crash event was turning left. Turning right accounted for only 1.2 percent of crashes. One study carried out in New York City found that left turns were three times as likely to produce a serious injury or fatality compared to right turns, and left turns were twice as likely to cause a pedestrian or bicyclist fatality compared to right turns. According to that study, 108 pedestrians and bicyclists were killed by left-turning vehicles during a four-year period.

According to the senior vice president for research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, left turns are difficult because drivers have to make a number of decisions within a short period of time. Left turns are also particularly dangerous for pedestrians, since they have a walk light at the same time that a turning driver has a green light. Another researcher explained that the front piece of the car’s frame can obstruct pedestrians from view. The New York City study also found that the wide turn radius involved in left turns makes them more dangerous because it leads to higher speeds and exposes pedestrians more.

Left turns are also particularly dangerous for motorcyclists. According to statistics from the NHTSA, in 2013, there were 2,182 fatal two-vehicle crashes involving a motorcycle and another type of vehicle. In 922 of these cases (42 percent), the other vehicle was making a left turn while the motorcycle was going straight, passing, or overtaking another vehicle.

While there are many causes of Maryland motorcycle accidents, accidents involving another vehicle making a left turn into or in front of a motorcycle are among the most common. In most cases, these accidents are the result of a negligent motorist who fails to take notice of the motorcycle or accurately gauge the speed at which it is approaching. Indeed, experts estimate that roughly 40 percent of all motorcycle accidents involving another vehicle are due to the vehicle making a left turn. Maryland left-turn motorcycle accidents result in hundreds of injuries each year, most of which are entirely preventable.

Most left-turn accidents are the result of a driver not accurately being able to assess the speed of an oncoming motorcycle. Motorists are used to driving around other cars and trucks, and have a built-in sense of how quickly these vehicles move. Thus, most of the time, motorists can safely assess the speed of an oncoming car or truck and determine whether they have enough time to complete their left turn. However, the slim profile of a motorcycle challenges motorists’ assumptions because motorcycles often appear to be approaching more slowly than they are.

Another cause of left-turn motorcycle accidents is a driver’s failure to notice an oncoming motorcycle. Again, due to their slim profile, motorcycles may go unnoticed when approaching an intersection. In this situation, motorists may think they have a clear intersection when they do not. Regardless of the cause, left-turn motorcycle accidents are most often the fault of the turning motorist, as vehicles making left turns must yield the right-of-way to those going straight through an intersection. However, if a motorcyclist is speeding as he travels through the intersection, that may result in the motorcyclist losing the right-of-way, essentially making the accident their fault.

One of the most common causes of Maryland motorcycle accidents is a motorist’s failure to yield the right-of-way to a motorcyclist. Failure-to-yield accidents can occur in several ways. A few of the most common types of failure-to-yield accidents are:

  • When a driver attempts to make a left turn in front of a motorcycle;
  • When a driver suddenly pulls out in front of a motorcyclist;

When it comes to determining who was at fault in a Maryland motorcycle accident, the task is not always a simple one. While some motorcycle accidents involve only two vehicles and what happened in the moments leading up to the collision can be readily determined by surveying the scene, other accidents present a more complex scenario.

Law enforcement gets the first crack at investigating an accident. For the most part, law enforcement officials are concerned with determining who was at fault and whether that party’s conduct that gave rise to the accident constituted criminal behavior. And while a law enforcement investigation is important in a subsequent personal injury lawsuit filed by the injured party, it may not be sufficient in some cases.

Law enforcement investigators can also make mistakes, or may change their opinion of what caused the accident as new information comes in. For example, investigators changed their theory of how an accident occurred while investigating a recent motorcycle accident. According to a local news report, a motorcyclist was killed when he struck a turning semi-truck. A semi-truck cut in front of the motorcyclist, and the motorcyclist was unable to avoid the collision. The motorcyclist struck the side of the semi-truck, causing the driver to be ejected from the bike. He was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.

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As spring approaches, and the weather starts to get warmer, more and more Marylanders are going to start parking the car in the garage and instead opt to get around on a motorcycle. Using a motorcycle as a primary means of transportation has a number of benefits; however, one of those benefits is not safety. Indeed, each year, there are hundreds of Maryland motorcycle accidents, many of these resulting in serious injuries or death.

It’s a known fact that riding a motorcycle can be dangerous. However, only so much of that danger is within a motorcyclist’s control. While it is estimated that approximately half of all motorcycle accidents involve only the motorcycle, of those accidents involving two or more vehicles, most are caused by another driver’s negligence.

Establishing liability after a Maryland motorcycle accident can be difficult, depending on the specific facts of the case. One of the primary difficulties motorcycle accident victims face is the doctrine of contributory fault. Under the doctrine of contributory fault, an accident victim cannot legally recover compensation for their injuries from any other party if the accident victim is determined to have shared responsibility in causing the accident. Thus, it is very important that motorcycle accident victims reach out to an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss their case. An experienced attorney can help accident victims present a compelling case for compensation, reducing the chance that a defendant is able to shift a small portion of fault onto the victim, which would essentially destroy their case.

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While all ages of drivers are capable of negligent driving, young drivers in particular present an especially high risk for Maryland motorcyclists. Indeed, it has long been understood that young drivers are responsible for the most Maryland motorcycle accidents when compared to other age groups. Some statistics have found that one in five teen motorists are involved in a collision of some sort each year.

Young drivers present such a high risk for a number of reasons. Of course, it goes without saying that young drivers have less experience driving. However, that factor alone does not totally account for the increased rate of accidents because new drivers who obtain a driver’s license later in life do not present as high a risk. Teens, as a group, are more likely to engage in several other risky behaviors while driving, including:

  • Driving while talking on a cell phone;
  • Texting while driving;
  • Talking to passengers in the rear seats;
  • Speeding;
  • Driving aggressively; and
  • Using poor judgment.

Can Parents Be Held Responsible for a Minor’s Accident?

In Maryland, a parent can usually only be held responsible for an accident caused by their minor child if the accident involves a crime. If there is no crime committed, it is likely that the parents of the minor will not be financially liable. However, to the extent that a child is on the parent’s insurance policy, the insurance company will be on the hook for the accident.

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All drivers should be aware of Maryland traffic laws by virtue of having obtained a Maryland driver’s license. Most drivers can rely on their gut instinct when determining who has the right-of-way in a traffic situation, since the traffic laws have become ingrained in our minds through years of driving. However, there are some situations in which determining who has the right-of-way is not as easily determined.

One situation in which it is not always clear which person has the right-of-way is left-turn accidents. Of course, the general rule is that the vehicle turning left must yield the right-of-way to the vehicle that is continuing straight. However, that is not always the case. For example, if the motorist who is continuing straight is traveling in excess of the speed limit, that driver can be said to have lost the right-of-way, potentially absolving the left-turning motorist of fault.

The idea behind the shifting right-of-way makes intuitive sense when thinking about the knowledge each driver possesses in the moments before an accident. For example, a driver waiting to make a left turn has no knowledge of how fast the oncoming vehicle is traveling and can only make a rough estimate judging by how fast the vehicle is approaching. In most cases, that motorist will reasonably assume that the oncoming motorist is traveling at the posted speed limit and will make the decision of when to turn accordingly.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an interesting opinion in a motorcycle accident case that was filed against a taxi-cab driver as well as the taxi-cab company. The case required the court decide whether the taxi-cab company could be held vicariously liable for the allegedly negligent actions of the taxi-cab driver. Finding that the jury was presented sufficient evidence to create an agency relationship between the driver and the company, the court determined that the company could be held vicariously liable.

Vicarious Liability

Vicarious liability is a theory of liability where one party is held legally responsible for the negligent actions of another party. This type of liability is most commonly seen in cases involving a case against an employer for the negligent actions of an employee. However, the relationship between the parties need not be that of employer/employee for vicarious liability to apply; a party may also be held liable for the negligent actions of their agent.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured when he was involved in a motorcycle accident with a taxi-cab driver who was operating a cab marked with the defendant’s logos. According to the facts as discussed in the appellate opinion, the taxi-cab driver made a left turn directly in front of the plaintiff, causing the vehicles to collide.

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