Articles Posted in Fatal Bicycle Accidents

In the United States, there are two main types of court cases: criminal and civil. Criminal cases are brought by the government against defendants who have allegedly committed a crime. If someone commits (or is suspected of committing) a bank robbery, for example, they might be arrested and charged with robbery, and if they are found guilty, they may be sentenced to jail. Civil cases, on the other hand, are when someone sues someone else. Like criminal cases, civil cases may or may not go to trial, but a civil defendant cannot be sentenced to jail. Instead, they are typically ordered to pay a certain amount of money to the plaintiff who brought the suit. While this difference between the types of cases is relatively clear, it can become complicated in Maryland bicycle accidents, when one accident could potentially lead to both types of cases.

For example, take a bicycle accident that occurred last month. According to a local news report, the crash happened on a Friday morning, when a bicyclist was riding northbound on the edge of the road and was struck by a vehicle. Tragically, the bicyclist, a 35-year-old man, suffered severe injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene. A few days later, state police arrested a 27-year-old man thought to have been the vehicle’s driver. He was booked with failure to report a crash, hit-and-run driving, switching his license plate, driving under suspension, obstruction of justice, and negligent homicide. While it is too soon to know for sure, state prosecutors may choose to pursue a criminal case against him, and the defendant could be facing jail time and/or fines.

However, regardless of whether there is a criminal case, there may also be a civil case against the same defendant, resulting from the same accident. The existence of one type of case already arising from this crash does not preclude the other type of case. The victim’s family, in this instance, could potentially also bring a wrongful death claim against the defendant. In this case, if they were successful, the result would be focused not on punishing the defendant for his wrongs, but rather on making the plaintiffs whole. Thus, the typical damages in wrongful death cases are monetary compensation to cover pain and suffering, medical bills, funeral and burial costs, lost wages, and other direct costs resulting from the accident. Families may also obtain compensation for their non-economic, or emotional, damages through a wrongful death lawsuit.

Losing a loved one in a Maryland motorcycle or bicycle accident is undeniably tragic. While many cyclists go out every day and return home safe and sound, the sad reality is that one careless mistake on the road—either by the cyclist or someone else—can lead to an immense tragedy. For example, a father and his daughter were recently killed while riding their bicycle home, according to a recent news report. The 61-year-old man had picked up his 13-year-old daughter from a friend’s house, and they were riding back home with the girl on the handlebars of the bike. As they were crossing a road, they were struck by a Dodge Dart and thrown from the bicycle. Both died from their injuries.

This case illustrates how quickly multiple lives can change when an accident occurs. While riding a bicycle or motorcycle is a popular form of transportation, it can also be dangerous—those riding may be more prone to death or serious injuries when accidents occur, because they lack the protection of a car’s exterior and are more likely to be thrown onto the road.

When tragic accidents such as the one described above occur and result in a fatality, Maryland law allows the family of the deceased to file a specific type of civil lawsuit called a wrongful death suit. A wrongful death suit seeks damages from the defendant who caused or contributed to the wrongful death of the deceased. In this case, the wrongful death suit would likely be filed against the driver of the Dodge Dart. These suits generally must prove that the defendant was negligent and breached the standard duty of care that a reasonably careful person would adhere to, thus causing the accident. In proving a case, plaintiffs may rely on evidence that the defendant failed to stop at a stop sign, ran a red light, drove while somehow distracted by their phone, or did something else careless that caused the crash.

Last month, tragedy struck in Maryland as a 77-year-old cyclist died after crashing into a turning Jeep in Severna Park. According to a local news report covering the incident, the cyclist was riding east on Shore Road when the driver of the Jeep, a 47-year-old man, tried to turn right into his driveway. The cyclist was riding behind the Jeep and smashed into the side of it, causing severe injuries. At the scene of the crash, paramedics took the victim to Baltimore Washington Medical Center, and he was brought to the Shock Trauma Center. Unfortunately, he died shortly after. This incident sheds light on the risks bicyclists and motorcyclists face in Maryland.

Tragic incidents like this are unfortunately not all that uncommon in Maryland. Every year in Maryland, an average of 816 bicycle crashes occur per year, 80 percent of which result in injury or death. Motorcycle accidents are also far too common, with an average of 276 individuals seriously injured and 70 individuals killed in these accidents every year. One of the reasons these accidents are so concerning and damaging is because of the lack of protection around a cyclist’s body. Unlike those driving in cars or trucks, who may be protected from direct impact with another vehicle or the road, cyclists have no barrier between their bodies and the road or other vehicles. For this reason, a crash involving a bicycle or motorcycle may end up being more serious and more deadly than a crash between two cars.

Those driving bicycles and motorcycles should be sure to take precautionary steps and be as safe as possible on the road. All cyclists should wear protective gear such as helmets, which can be the difference between life and death when a crash occurs. Additionally, cyclists (as well as all drivers, regardless of the vehicle) should always drive while sober and avoid intoxicated driving, which increases the chance for injury. Lastly, cyclists should avoid swerving in and out between lanes of traffic and cars and trucks on the road. Doing so increases the chances that they may be hit while a car merges or switches lanes. Those driving cars and trucks can also do their part to reduce cyclist accidents as well. Staying vigilant and attentive while driving, to ensure that they are aware of all others on the road, can go a long way in preventing accidents and saving lives.

Although bicycles are a popular form of transportation in Maryland, bike accidents can cause devastating injuries or even death. While many cyclists ride every day without getting in an accident, crashes with other negligent drivers can occur out of the blue and cause significant damage, especially since cyclists have minimal protection compared to drivers in cars or trucks. When these accidents occur, injured victims can file a personal injury lawsuit against the party responsible for the accident. This typically, although not always, is the other driver involved in the crash. To win these personal injury suits, plaintiffs usually must prove that the other driver was negligent and that their negligence led to the accident. However, sometimes defendants can be difficult and refuse to cooperate in the suit, further frustrating the plaintiff’s recovery efforts.

For example, take the recent tragic case of a 16-year-old boy who was struck and killed by a car when riding his bike in April of this year. According to local news reports covering the story, the boy was riding his bike and attempting to cross in the crosswalk when a car entered the intersection, hitting him with the front driver’s side. The cyclist hit the front of the car, rolling onto the windshield, and then fell onto the sidewalk. He died later that day.

The victim’s family seemingly wanted to file a personal injury suit against the driver, which would likely require information from the defendant stored electronically on his car—including the speed of the vehicle, brake application, seat belt use, airbag deployment, and the steering angle. Typically, in a civil lawsuit, there is a “discovery” phase where this information may come to light. However, the driver refused to allow investigators to inspect the car. Because of this refusal, the family, plaintiffs in this case, first had to file a different lawsuit demanding access to the vehicle. According to this initial suit, the information located on the car was critical to the plaintiffs’ claim and also was at risk of being destroyed or erased by the defendant. The plaintiffs also alleged that this information was especially important because there were no eyewitnesses to the accident who could testify as to what happened.

Learning to ride a bicycle is a rite of passage for many children and can become a hobby that boasts health benefits as well as practical ones. However, while riding around town is a great, environmentally friendly, and cost-effective alternative to driving, there are risks involved when one rides a bicycle on or across roads. Bicyclists, even when wearing helmets and other protective gear, are vulnerable on the road, and are more likely to be severely injured if they are tragically involved in a Maryland motor vehicle accident.

Collisions between bicycles and cars are rare but not unheard of. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, pedal cyclists deaths account for about 2.1% of motor vehicle traffic fatalities. In 2017, there were 864 Maryland crashes involving bicycles, with 725 resulting in injuries and 11 resulting in at least one death.

These accidents can be extremely tragic, especially since children are a significant portion of those riding bicycles. Last month, a child riding his bicycle around his neighborhood was hit while crossing the street, resulting in serious injuries. A local news report covering the incident stated that the child had to be airlifted to two different hospitals in the aftermath to be treated for his injuries. Apparently, the driver is fully cooperating with officials, and has not been charged. The Chief of Police stated the crash was an accident.

A trial may be the best way for a plaintiff to obtain compensation in a Maryland injury case. It may allow the plaintiff to recover the most compensation, particularly when a reasonable settlement is not attainable. In other cases, a settlement may be preferable. Trials can drag a case out for years, especially if the case is appealed. It can also be draining, as parties often have to relive painful and emotional moments. A settlement may also allow a plaintiff to obtain compensation faster. It also guarantees payment, as opposed to a trial, which may result in the plaintiff receiving no compensation.

Parties may be able to obtain a settlement with one or more other parties, and proceed to trial with claims against others through a class action lawsuit. For example, a class action lawsuit may be appropriate when there is some defect with a motorcycle part or helmet resulting in many riders being injured. Some settlements require that the court approve the settlement, while others depend solely on the agreement of the parties. In the case of class action lawsuits, a court must find that the plaintiffs understand the terms of the settlement and to decide whether to join in or opt-out of the settlement and that the result of the agreement is fair.

There are also limitations on settlements obtained soon after an injury. Under Maryland Code § 5-401.1, a release by an injured individual that is signed within five days of the injury is voidable for 60 days. A party that may be at fault for another person’s injury also cannot negotiate or attempt to negotiate a settlement within 15 days of the injury. If a settlement or released is obtained while an injured individual is in a hospital or sanitarium and contrary to the law, it cannot be used “for any purpose in any legal action in connection with the injury.”

While it is awful anytime someone is involved and injured in a Maryland car crash, it is even more tragic when someone is killed as a result of a preventable accident. Unfortunately, however, those riding bicycles and motorcycles are generally more susceptible to serious injuries and death because they are less protected than those in cars and trucks which provide a buffer between other vehicles, roadside objects, and the road itself.

Recently, a 10-year-old bicyclist was tragically killed when she was struck by a car. According to a local news report covering the accident, the 5th grade girl was riding her bicycle to school when she fell off and was struck and killed by an oncoming SUV. The exact cause of the girl’s fall is still unknown, but authorities believe that the victim’s backpack may have caused her to lose her balance and fall.

The driver of the SUV that struck and killed the child is not expected to face any criminal charges. However, just because criminal charges are not filed does not mean that they will not end up in court. In situations like this, Maryland law allows the victim’s family to file a civil lawsuit against the driver. If it is found that the driver was negligent or somehow at fault for the accident—by texting while driving, speeding, or unreasonably failing to apply their brakes, for example—the family may be able to recover for their pain and suffering, as well as funeral and burial costs and any medical expenses.

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.

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.

The doctrine of sovereign immunity protects state and local governments from many lawsuits. In cases against the state, in order for a Maryland motorcycle injury claim to go forward in court, the government has to specifically waive immunity for such a claim. Sovereign immunity protects not only the state, but also its employees as long as they are acting in their official capacity and their actions are without malice or gross negligence.

Local governments, such as cities as counties are also generally protected by immunity. However, unlike the state government, under Maryland law, local governments only benefit from immunity when they perform governmental functions, as opposed to proprietary functions. Courts have held that governmental functions are those that are sanctioned by the legislature, are solely for the benefit of the public, and have no element of private interest. Other courts have stated that the distinction is between acts that are performed for the common good as opposed to those that are done for the benefit or profit of a corporation.

For example, the operation and maintenance of public parks, swimming pools, and police forces are normally considered governmental functions, and thus are protected under immunity. However, whether a function is governmental or proprietary is often not clear, and has been the subject of much litigation.

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