Articles Posted in Fatal Bicycle Accidents

Most cyclists fairly believe that as long as they have insurance, they will be covered in the event of a Maryland bicycle accident. However, insurance contracts can be tricky, and insurance companies often try to interpret insurance contracts in their own favor, potentially limiting the amount of coverage provided to a motorist and at the same time limiting the insurance company’s overall risk.

In some cases, the insurance company has little to do but settle a case fairly. However, other cases present unique situations in which an insurance company’s clever argument may result in a decrease in the company’s obligations. A recent case illustrates one insurance company’s attempt to characterize the deaths of two bicyclists as a single “accident” under the terms of the policy.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in the case was the surviving wife of a man who was killed in a bicycle accident that was caused by a negligent driver. At the time of the accident, both the plaintiff and her husband were riding on the shoulder of the road. Weather conditions were clear. At some point, a driver came from behind at about 50 miles per hour and first struck the plaintiff’s husband. He was thrown about 165 feet from his bike.

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Drunk drivers pose a serious risk to everyone on the road; however, bicyclists are at an especially high risk of being seriously injured or killed if they are involved in a Maryland drunk driving accident. Not just are bicyclists more likely to be injured if they are struck by a drunk driver, but also, due to their slim profile, they are more likely to be overlooked by an intoxicated driver. Additionally, since most bicyclists ride near the side of the lane or on the road’s shoulder, a drunk driver could easily drift off the road and into a biker.

While Maryland law permits the victims of drunk driving accidents to seek compensation for their injuries through the filing of a personal injury lawsuit, filing a case is by no means a guarantee. For example, the other driver’s insurance company may defend against the lawsuit if it believes that there may be a way to avoid paying out what may be a large sum of money. If an insurance company believes that the accident victim was partially at fault for the accident – even if the other driver was intoxicated – it may defend the case on behalf of the other driver.

In some cases, insurance companies will pretend to be on an accident victim’s side and present an offer to settle the case if the accident victim agrees not to sue. Accident victims should be wary of these offers, especially when they are made early in the process, since they are often low-ball offers designed to settle for as little money as possible. With the assistance of a dedicated Maryland personal injury attorney, accident victims can ensure that they are treated fairly throughout the process and stand a good chance of recovering fully for their injuries.

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Bicyclists and motorcycles are the most vulnerable vehicles on the road. Between the lack of protection and the slim profile of bikes and motorcycles, riders who are unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident often suffer serious injuries. While helmets can help reduce the chances of being seriously injured or killed in some cases, a helmet can only do so much to protect the victims of a Maryland bicycle accident.

Most often, when a motorcyclist or bicyclist is killed in a traffic accident, family members are left behind not just with the grief of recently losing someone but also with many questions. Adding to the anxiety is the prospect of paying for potentially astronomical medical expenses and taking care of the final arrangements for the recently departed.

Maryland’s wrongful death law allows for surviving loved ones to seek compensation from an at-fault party responsible for the accident resulting in their loved one’s death. Most immediate family members are able to bring a wrongful death lawsuit, including spouses, parents, and children. More distant family members may also be able to bring a Maryland wrongful death claim if the accident victim has no close family members.

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A 12-year-old North Carolina girl is dead and another woman has been hospitalized after a tragic accident late last month when they were struck by a passing truck while they were legally riding on the side of the road. According to a local news report, the driver of the truck has not been charged with a crime related to the death, and the cause of the accident appears to remain under investigation. The driver of the truck, a 36-year-old North Carolina man, stated that he was not able to see the cyclists in the road before he hit them. The accident occurred at just after 5:00 in the evening.

The Girl and Her Mother Were Riding Single File on the Side of the Road

According to another report of the accident, the 12-year-old who was killed was riding bicycles with her mother at the time of the crash. According to the survivor, the two cyclists were riding near the right shoulder of the roadway and were unexpectedly hit by the truck. Neither bicyclist was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, although it is unclear if the outcome would have been different were they wearing helmets.

Maryland Motorcycle Helmet Laws

It’s a proven fact; helmets save lives, and anyone riding a motorcycle or bicycle should wear a helmet at all times. In fact, all motorcyclists and passengers in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia are required to wear helmets in order to legally operate their vehicles on public roads. However, bicyclists are not required to wear a helmet, although doing so greatly increases the chance of survival in the event of an accident. Maryland’s helmet law has stood up to several legal challenges and remained intact by justifying the restriction of rider freedom by the increase in safety and decreased severity of accidents. Sources vary on exactly how effective helmet laws are in preventing fatalities, but whether a biker is wearing a helmet at the time of the accident has nothing to do with the determination of whether another driver was negligent in causing the accident in the first place.

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Everyone learns the dangers of drunk and drugged driving in the first few weeks of their driver’s education course, but some motorists still insist on getting behind the wheel while intoxicated. In fact, each year across the United States, there are nearly 10,000 deaths attributed to drunk and drugged driving. This figure accounts for about one-third of all traffic-related accidents.

Since drunk driving is such a serious problem, state legislators across the country have enacted tough criminal and civil penalties that can be levied against those who cause an accident while intoxicated. In fact, under the doctrine of negligence per se, anyone injured in a drunk driving accident can essentially take a legal shortcut in proving their claim. This is because the doctrine of negligence per se allows for accident victims to bypass the requirement that they prove the defendant’s conduct was negligent. In other words, since drunk driving is specifically forbidden under the law in an effort to reduce traffic accidents, such conduct is presumed to be negligent by the courts.

Distracted and Intoxicated Driver Kills One Cyclist, Injures Two Others

Earlier this month, one woman was killed and another two injured when an intoxicated driver struck all three with her SUV. According to one local news report covering the tragedy, the driver of the SUV crossed over the center median and struck one of the bicyclists head-on, killing her instantly. After that first collision, the SUV’s mirror struck another woman, and the vehicle then struck a third woman. These women were both admitted to the hospital, but they have since been treated for their injuries and released.

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In August, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a preliminary report of an investigation into a motor vehicle accident that killed five bicyclists and injured four others. According to the report, nine cyclists in Michigan were riding in a four-foot-wide roadway shoulder when a pickup truck veered off the road and plowed into them from behind. In addition to the report, local news organizations have reported that the driver of the pickup truck is being charged with both second-degree murder and operating a vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating pain medications and muscle relaxants.

The NTSB is a federal agency charged with investigating rail, air, and automobile crashes. According to a recent article, the agency chose to investigate the bicycling accident, due to an uptick in cycling on public roadways. The article also states that in 2013, over 900 bicyclists were killed in cycling accidents, and nearly 500,000 were treated for injuries in hospital emergency rooms. The NTSB last studied crashes involving cyclists in the early 1970s.

Bicycling Accidents on Maryland Roads

In Maryland, motor vehicle drivers owe bicyclists and pedestrians a duty of care while driving. This means that they must drive as a reasonable driver would under the same or similar circumstances. A failure to take such care is called negligence. Drivers who commit negligence may be liable for damages to injured bicyclists, pedestrians, and other drivers and their passengers.

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Motorcycle accidents can happen anywhere. However, almost half of all serious motorcycle accidents occur at intersections, both rural and urban. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about three motorcyclists die each day in multi-vehicle accidents occurring at intersections.

The causes of motorcycle accidents vary, but they often include distracted driving, aggressive driving, or a motorist’s inability to see the motorcyclist. While news outlets often report motorcycle accidents in terms of how the motorcyclist is at fault, this is often inaccurate. In fact, the motorcyclist is deemed to be at fault in only about one-third of the total number of accidents. However, since most people have experience driving a car but cannot relate to riding a motorcycle, accidents are often framed in terms of “what the motorcyclist could have done differently,” even when the motorcyclist was the innocent victim of another driver’s negligence.

There are also some situations in which both parties are at fault. For example, if a motorcyclist is speeding through an intersection, but another driver runs a red light, a collision may result. In these cases, both drivers may be at fault. It is important for motorcyclists to understand that in Maryland and Washington, D.C., any accident with shared fault will prevent either party from recovering compensation for their injuries.

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Auto accidents that involve automobiles and two-wheeled vehicles, whether bicycles, motorcycles, or motorized scooters, share common characteristics demonstrating the unique dangers that are faced by commuters using smaller vehicles on our nation’s roadways. Not only are the users of two-wheeled vehicles more likely to suffer an accident based on the negligence of another driver, but also they are more likely to be seriously injured or killed in an accident as a consequence of the difference in mass between the vehicles.

Other Drivers Owe a Special Duty of Care to Motorcyclists and Bicyclists

There are several reasons why accidents between normal vehicles and smaller, two-wheeled vehicles are more common than between two normal vehicles alone. A primary cause of the increased accident risk is the fact that motorcycles and other small vehicles can be more difficult for another motorist to see, resulting in an unintended collision. Although bicycle and motorcycle operators should use additional caution when commuting around larger vehicles, the drivers of the larger vehicles have a legal duty to exercise due care while on public roadways, and this duty includes paying attention to the road and keeping an eye out for smaller vehicles. If the driver of a larger vehicle fails to see a smaller vehicle and causes an accident, the driver of the larger vehicle may be accountable for damages to the motorcyclist even if the driver of the other vehicle never actually saw the smaller vehicle before the collision.

Motorcyclists and Bicyclists Should Use Approved Safety Equipment to Ensure Their Safety

Motorcyclists should always employ fully functional safety equipment to protect themselves while on the road. This includes lights, reflectors, proper signaling equipment, protective clothing, and a helmet. Using approved safety equipment while on the road can help save a motorcyclist’s life in the event of an accident and additionally support their case for compensation from a negligent driver who may have caused the crash. A motorcyclist or bicyclist involved in an accident who failed to use safety equipment or follow traffic laws before an accident may lose their right to collect the full amount of damages from a negligent driver who caused the accident.

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As the summer season rolls in, more and more people will hop on their bicycles, leaving the cars in the garage. Bicycling can be an affordable and environmentally friendly way to get where you need to go, but riding a bicycle presents additional dangers that commuters should be aware of and should take precautions against.

Perhaps some of the biggest dangers to bicyclists are distracted drivers. Since in most cities bicycles are required to ride on the road with cars and trucks, a driver who is not paying as close attention as they should may inadvertently drift into a bike lane or fail to see a turning bicyclist. In cases in which another motorist causes a bicycle accident, that bicyclist may be entitled to recover compensation for any injuries they sustained. However, in Maryland, a very specific doctrine makes it difficult – if not impossible – for a bicyclist to recover for their injuries when the bicyclist shares fault with another party.

The Doctrine of Contributory Negligence

Maryland follows the doctrine of contributory negligence when it comes to determining who is able to recover for their injuries after an accident. Indeed, contributory negligence is a very strict doctrine that prevents an injured accident victim from seeking compensation for their injuries if they are even the slightest bit at fault in causing the accident that resulted in their injuries. This means that it is incredibly important for anyone injured in a Maryland bicycle accident to seek out the counsel of an experienced personal injury attorney.

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The vast majority of vehicles one encounters out on the road are passenger cars and trucks. Since drivers see these vehicles day in and day out, hundreds of thousands of times, drivers begin to feel comfortable assessing the speed at which these vehicles are traveling. Drivers make these assessments at any time they need to gauge how much time they have to complete a turn or clear an intersection.

However, motorists are notoriously bad at assessing the speed of oncoming motorcycles. This is likely because drivers see motorcyclists less often and are not as familiar with gauging a motorcycle’s speed. In addition, their smaller profile often leads a driver to assume that a motorcycle is actually moving more slowly than it really is. This can have drastic consequences when a motorist is waiting at an intersection to make a turn and incorrectly estimates the amount of time they have to clear the intersection.

In these situations, the motorist may be at fault for the accident, as long as the motorcyclist is not traveling in excess of the posted speed limit. If the motorcyclist is speeding, he or she may be deemed to be at fault. In the alternative, even if the motorcyclist is not “at fault” in the accident, the fact that the motorcyclist contributed to their own injury may act to bar the motorcyclist from financial recovery in Maryland or Washington, D.C. This is because both jurisdictions apply the strict doctrine of “contributory negligence,” which denies an accident victim the ability to recover compensation for their injuries if they are at all at fault for the accident.

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