Articles Posted in Fatal Motorcycle Accidents

When Maryland motorists get behind the wheel, they assume a duty to the other drivers they encounter along their journey, including motorcyclists. Motorcyclists in particular are at an increased danger of suffering serious or fatal injuries following an accident, due to the lack of protection motorcycles afford riders. When it comes to Maryland motorcycle accidents, there are many causes; however, certain common traffic situations pose a heightened risk.

Stop LightA large percentage of Maryland motorcycle accidents occur at traffic intersections when another motorist runs a red light or makes a left-hand turn in front of an approaching motorcycle. These failure-to-yield accidents account for over half of all fatal motorcycle accidents. In part, these accidents are so common because motorists are not accustomed to sharing the road with motorcycles and may have a difficult time assessing the speed at which an approaching motorcycle is traveling.

Another common cause of failure-to-yield motorcycle accidents is aggressive driving, which may be a manifestation of drunk or intoxicated driving. In any event, when a motorist causes a serious or fatal Maryland motorcycle accident, the surviving loved ones affected by the accident may be able to pursue a Maryland personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault motorist. Successful parties may receive compensation for medical bills, missed work, and any pain and suffering caused by the accident.

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One of the most common questions we see in Maryland motorcycle accidents is whether the fact that an accident victim was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident can be used against the accident victim at trial. While states across the nation are split on this question – with some states not yet having arrived at a definitive answer – Maryland courts generally do not allow evidence of helmet non-use to show that the motorcyclist was negligent.

Motorcycle HelmetCourts that prevent helmet non-use evidence from being considered at trial understand that the benefits of wearing a helmet are common knowledge, and people are aware that helmets can help save a rider’s life in some circumstances. However, the legal question in Maryland motorcycle accidents is whether the defendant breached a duty of care that he owed to the accident victim, and whether the defendant’s breach of the duty resulted in the accident victim’s injuries. This inquiry does not necessarily require courts to look at whether the motorcyclist was wearing a helmet at the time of the collision.

In fact, several courts have determined that when helmet non-use evidence is presented to a jury, it may have the unintended consequence of essentially requiring a plaintiff to prove that they could not have prevented their own injuries through helmet use. This is not how the law should be applied, so these courts prevent helmet non-use evidence to prevent this unfair result.

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Last month, an appellate court in Florida issued a written opinion affirming a lower court’s decision to enter summary judgment in favor of a motorcycle accident victim. While the court determined that the driver who caused the accident was individually liable for the plaintiff’s injuries, the court also held that the trust for which the at-fault driver was a trustee could not be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.

motorcycleThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the surviving spouse of a man who was driving his motorcycle eastbound in the slow lane of the Route 50 highway. The defendant, who was operating a flatbed truck, was facing northbound on a perpendicular street, preparing to make a left turn to head westbound on Route 50. As the defendant pulled out into the eastbound lanes of traffic, he cut off the motorcyclist, who collided with the front driver’s-side quarter-panel of the truck. The motorcyclist was seriously injured and taken to the hospital, where he later passed away.

The responding police officer surveyed the accident scene, finding that the motorcyclist tried to brake before colliding with the truck but was unable to come to a stop in time. The officer determined that the defendant was at fault and issued a citation for failing to yield to the motorcyclist.

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Anyone familiar with riding a motorcycle knows that there are certain unavoidable dangers that confront riders every time they get on a bike. Whether it is an intoxicated or distracted driver or a motorist who misjudges the speed at which a motorcyclist is traveling, many of the risks facing motorcyclists are beyond their control. However, of all of the dangers out there, one of the biggest dangers to motorcyclists is aggressive or distracted drivers.

HandlebarsDistracted driving is a broad term used to describe any time a motorist’s attention is diverted anywhere other than the road ahead of them. The reasons for distracted driving vary, but commonly distracted driving involves the use of a cell phone to talk or text. In some cases, a driver can be distracted by other passengers, by eating or drinking, or by adjusting the volume on the radio or the coordinates on the GPS system. In any event, distracted driving is dangerous, and the law discourages the behavior by allowing anyone injured by a distracted driver to hold the distracted driver accountable through a personal injury lawsuit.

Of course, proving that a driver was distracted is not always easy, and it is best left to an experienced personal injury attorney. With an attorney’s help, accident victims may be able to obtain cell-phone records, traffic-camera footage, or witness testimony to establish that another driver was not paying attention.

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Earlier this month, one Maryland man was killed when he was struck by another vehicle while riding on a motorcycle in Upper Marlboro. According to a local news report covering the fatal accident, the collision occurred in the evening hours on Maryland Route 202 near the intersection with Robert Lewis Drive.

Motorcycle on HighwayEvidently, the motorcyclist was heading southbound on MD 202 when a westbound vehicle traveling on Robert Lewis Drive attempted to make a left-hand turn onto northbound MD 202. As the vehicle executed the turn, it traveled directly into the path of the motorcycle, leaving the operator no time to avoid the collision. The motorcyclist crashed into the side of the vehicle, sending the motorcyclist off the bike and onto the pavement. He later died from the injuries he sustained in the accident. As it turns out, the motorcycle had previously been reported stolen.

Police sent an accident reconstruction team to the scene, and the cause of the accident is still under investigation.

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The chances are that most motorists have had the experience of driving along a winding road when a vehicle pulls out of a hidden driveway, requiring evasive maneuvers and a quick application of the brakes. These hidden driveways are a major hazard on Maryland roads and are fairly commonplace across the state. While hidden driveways are a hazard to all motorists, motorcyclists in particular are at an increased risk due to motorcycles’ increased stopping distance.

Hidden DrivewayResidents who live in a home with a hidden driveway are most likely accustomed to the dangers that are presented when they pull out onto the road. Indeed, many residents strategically install mirrors so that they can see if another vehicle is approaching. However, not every home or business owner with a hidden driveway takes this precaution, and the fact remains that many – if not most – hidden driveways require motorists exiting the driveway to essentially guess when it is safe to pull out.

Motorcycle accidents caused by a vehicle exiting a hidden driveway can be either party’s fault. In cases in which an exiting motorist fails to take notice of an approaching motorcycle, that motorist may be at fault. However, exiting motorists cannot be expected to anticipate a motorcycle speeding around a curve. Thus, these cases are highly fact-dependent and often require the close eye of an experienced personal injury attorney.

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In most cases, after a motorcycle accident, the injured motorcyclist can pursue monetary compensation through a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault motorist. However, when the at-fault party is a government employee, the injured motorcyclist may discover that government immunity is a barrier to their recovery.

Sheriff CarGovernment Immunity in Maryland

As a general rule, state, local, and federal governments are immune from tort liability. However, in Maryland, the state legislature has passed the Maryland Tort Claims Act (MTCA), waiving immunity in many situations. For example, under the MTCA, when a government employee is acting within the scope of his or her employment and causes an accident, government immunity will not attach, and the government entity can be held liable up to $200,000 per person, per incident.

While Maryland law allows for recovery in many cases involving government defendants, there may be significant litigation over whether the government employee’s actions are within the scope of employment. If a government employee is determined not to have been acting within the scope of their employment, an injured motorcyclist may be able to bring a lawsuit against the motorist in their individual capacity, but they will be prevented from naming the government entity as a defendant.

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While motorcyclists should take every precaution while on the road, it is not a motorcyclist’s duty to prevent accidents that may be caused by other negligent drivers. While there are a number of common causes of motorcycle accidents, drunk driving in particular presents an especially serious risk to motorcyclists, who have less protection than other motorists and often have less time to react to hazards.

Beer TapsMotorcyclists are already at an increased risk of being involved in a serious or fatal accident. Indeed, a recent study conducted by the Insurance Information Institute suggests that motorcyclists are 27 times more likely to be killed in a traffic accident than those who drive cars or trucks. It is estimated that approximately 21% of all at-fault motorists involved in traffic accidents have a blood alcohol content at or above the legal limit.

Drunk drivers who cause a serious or fatal motorcycle accident may be held liable through a Maryland personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. If successful, an injured motorcycle accident victim can recover compensation to reimburse them for their medical bills and lost wages. In addition, compensation packages may include amounts to cover future medical treatment, if necessary, as well as any pain and suffering caused by the accident.

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In some cases, the parties responsible for a serious accident are clear. This can make determining against whom to file a personal injury case clear. In other cases, however, figuring out the proper defendant takes a substantial amount of investigation and research.

MotorcyclistDetermining Liability in Motorcycle Accidents and Whom to Name in Subsequent Claims

In general, most individuals are liable for their negligent acts. However, some individuals may not be liable because they lack the requisite capacity to form intent, and other individuals or entities may be protected through immunity or other laws. For example, children may be too young to be held liable — although their parents may be separately liable in some circumstances. In Maryland, generally, children under the age of seven are thought to be unable to form the requisite intent.

The state and local governments may also be held liable in some circumstances. For example, the State of Maryland can be sued in situations provided by statute. Generally, in claims against state and local governments, plaintiffs must also give notice to certain individuals within a specified time period.

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While most motorcyclists use the necessary caution and attention when riding, the fact remains that some 40% of all motorcycle accidents are caused by the motorcyclist. The percentage of motorcyclist fault in single-vehicle accidents is even higher, reaching well over 50%. In many of these accidents, the motorcyclist is not the only one on the bike at the time of the accident.

MotorcycleMotorcycle accidents can result in serious injuries, time away from work, and significant pain and suffering. It is important for passengers involved in motorcycle accidents to realize that they may be entitled to monetary compensation to help them cover the costs of their injuries. This is even the case in single-vehicle accidents when there are no other vehicles involved.

In fact, under Maryland law, all motorcyclists must carry a certain amount of insurance to cover themselves as well as their passengers. Even if a motorcyclist does not have insurance or has an insufficient amount of insurance, the chances are that a motorcycle passenger’s own insurance policy will cover their injuries.

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