Articles Posted in Fatal Bicycle Accidents

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.

The opioid crisis, by nearly all accounts, has turned into an epidemic. While opioid medication may be prescribed with the best of intentions, the addictive nature of the medication too often results in patients becoming dependent on the medication. Indeed, it is estimated that 20-30% of all patients who are prescribed opioids abuse the medication. Considering that there are approximately 214 million prescriptions written each year for opioid medication, the number of people who abuse the medication is staggering.

The “high” that opioid users get from the medication impairs their ability to drive. It is commonly understood that opioids cause drowsiness and impair cognitive functioning. Users may have a hard time fighting off sleep, and they can “nod off” unexpectedly. At the same time, the drug reduces the user’s ability to make rational decisions. Given the number of people who take opioid medication and the significant effects it has on their ability to drive a car safely, it is no surprise that opioids are involved in an estimated 20% of all drugged driving accidents.

If a driver who is under the effects of opioid medication causes a Maryland motorcycle accident, victims who were injured in the accident can pursue a claim for compensation against the driver. Importantly, it is not essential for the purposes of a personal injury case for the victim to prove that the at-fault driver was taking the drug illegally; the relevant question is whether the driver was legally negligent. Driving under the influence of opioid medication – even if prescribed – may constitute negligence and can be the basis of a Maryland personal injury lawsuit.

As we continue to shifts toward being a more environmentally aware society, more and more people are relying on bicycles as a primary source of transportation. Indeed, many of the large cities across Maryland and Virginia are in the process of making their streets more bike-friendly by installing additional signage, widening roads, and creating bicycle lanes. These efforts go a long way in reducing the number of Maryland bicycle accidents; however, the risks are still present.

When it comes to determining who is at fault in a Maryland bicycle accident, the legal doctrine of negligence applies. Thus, a bicycle accident victim can pursue a claim against any party who violated a duty of care that was owed the bicyclist, so long as that party’s conduct was a contributing factor in causing the accident.

Certainly, in some Maryland bicycle accidents determining potentially negligent parties is a simple task. However, accident victims should be aware that there may be additional parties who could be held liable. For example, if an accident was caused in part by a poorly maintained road, the local government responsible for maintaining the road may be a potential defendant. Maryland accident victims should note, however, that cases naming government entities as defendants must comply with certain additional procedural requirements.

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With the increased prevalence of smartphones, distracted driving has become a major cause of Maryland traffic accidents over the past decades. Indeed, according to one government report, over the past few years there have been about 48,000 Maryland car accidents caused by distracted driving each year. Most of these accidents occur in the urban areas around Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

The report acknowledges that determining the actual number of Maryland distracted driving accidents is difficult because verifying that a driver was distracted before causing an accident is difficult. However, the most recent report issued by the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that distracted driving is involved in about half of all Maryland motor vehicle accidents.

In 2016 alone, Maryland law enforcement officers issued over 34,000 citations for cell phone use while driving and another 1,800 for texting while driving. While these numbers have gone down over the past few years as government efforts to educate drivers on the dangers of distracted driving have increased, distracted driving is still a significant concern, especially for Maryland bicyclists.

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Commercial semi-trucks and construction vehicles are designed to perform a specific function, whether it be carrying a large amount of cargo across the nation’s highways or hauling away waste from a construction site. They are not, however, designed to travel the smaller streets of an urban or suburban area. When large trucks are required to operate on smaller surface streets, those who routinely use these roads are put at great risk of being the victim of a Maryland truck accident.

Operators of large trucks have a difficult time driving on smaller roads for several reasons. Most often, these trucks have enormous blind spots making it difficult to see nearby pedestrians, bicyclists, and other motorists. Additionally, commercial trucks and construction vehicles have a large turning radius, making it difficult for drivers to maintain their lane when executing tight turns. While those who are forced to share the road with a large truck should take precaution to avoid an accident, the duty to safely operate the truck rests with the driver.

Fatal On-Campus Bicycle Accident Claims One Student’s Life

Earlier this month, a Boston University graduate student was killed in a bicycle accident involving a dump truck. According to a local news report covering the tragic accident, the accident occurred on campus, near the school’s museum.

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Each accident is different, and when it comes to determining which party was responsible for causing a Maryland bicycle accident, courts consider a number of factors. Of course, accidents involving drunk driving, or other violations of the traffic law, make determining fault easier; however, even in these situations the accident victim may encounter a difficult time recovering financial compensation for their injuries.

The reason Maryland bicycle accident victims may have a difficult time is due to the state’s contributory negligence rule. Under Maryland law, anyone who is even the slightest bit at fault for causing the accident that resulted in their injuries is precluded by law from recovering from any other party involved in the accident.

Most other states employ a much more victim-friendly approach, under which a partially at-fault accident victim can be awarded damages for their injuries, but the amount of damages awarded will be reduced by their own percentage of fault. Under Maryland law, however, even a bicycle accident victim who is determined to be just five percent at fault will be precluded from obtaining compensation for their injuries.

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Most Maryland motorcycle accidents involve only one person on the motorcycle because, while motorcycles are designed to carry a single passenger, they are more commonly operated by the driver alone. However, each year, there are hundreds of motorcycle accidents in which there is a passenger on the bike who is injured in the accident. In single-vehicle accidents or accidents in which the motorcyclist was at fault, the accident victim may look to the driver of the motorcycle for compensation for their injuries.

A motorcycle passenger can file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver based on the driver’s violation of the duty he owed to the passenger. All drivers owe a duty of care to those whom they share the road with, and this includes passengers. When a driver’s negligence causes an accident, they can be held liable for any injuries that were caused as a result.

In most of these cases, the at-fault driver’s insurance company will be responsible for the accident victim’s injuries. Of course, dealing with an insurance company following a serious motorcycle accident can be difficult, especially when the insurance company denies the claim or refuses to engage in meaningful settlement negotiations. In these situations, a Maryland personal injury attorney can assist accident victims in obtaining fair compensation for their injuries.

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