Articles Posted in Fatal Motorcycle Accidents

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case involving allegations that a local police department was liable for an accident that resulted from a high-speed chase that was initiated by police officers. The case is important for all potential Maryland motorcycle accident plaintiffs to understand because it illustrates the importance of ensuring that all procedural requirements are met when pursing a claim against a state or local government.

MailboxThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were riding a motorcycle on the highway when they were struck head-on by another motorist who was traveling the wrong way. One of the motorcyclists was killed in the accident, and the other was seriously injured. As it turns out, the other motorist was fleeing from police when he entered the highway going the wrong direction. As soon as the motorist got on the highway, police abandoned their pursuit.

The surviving motorcyclist believed she had a claim against the police department, arguing that it was responsible for the accident because the officers were negligent in initiating the pursuit. However, the plaintiff did not provide notice of the claim to the local government, as was required by law, but instead proceeded to file a personal injury claim with the court.

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Maryland offers thousands of miles of beautiful wooded roads, perfect for those looking to take a relaxing ride. However, anyone who has spent more than a few minutes on a motorcycle knows the anxiety that comes along with driving a motorcycle. No matter how confident a motorcyclist is in their own abilities, there is always the chance that another driver will cause an unavoidable accident.

SportsterAs with other auto accidents, there are many causes of Maryland motorcycle accidents. However, many of the major causes of motorcycle accidents are different from the causes of car accidents. For example, one of the most common causes of motorcycle accidents is when a driver makes a lane change into a motorcyclist. While this does occur among cars and trucks, it is much less common because these vehicles have a much larger profile and are easier to spot. Another common danger motorcyclists face is a car door that suddenly opens directly into a motorcyclist’s path, leaving little to no time for reaction.

Of course, other causes, such as drunk driving and distracted driving, are constant threats regardless of which type of vehicle a motorist is operating. In fact, it is estimated that these two causes alone explain about half of all motorcycle accidents. Lawmakers have tried to reduce instances of drunk and distracted driving by criminalizing the conduct, but some motorists do not seem to get the point.

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Not all accidents are created equal. Indeed, Maryland law attaches criminal consequences only to some types of accidents, such as Maryland DUI accidents and hit-and-run accidents. Other types of accidents, while not necessarily excusable, will not result in criminal charges, even if someone is found to have been at fault. This shows that, in the eyes of the law, there are various levels of culpability depending on the type of accident involved.

TachometerHit-and-run accidents are among the most strictly punished types of accidents, and for good reason. When someone flees the scene of an accident, they are not only attempting to evade financial and potentially legal responsibility for their actions, but they are also putting people’s lives in jeopardy by failing to get accident victims the help they desperately need.

As noted above, Maryland hit-and-run accidents can be punished criminally by the local prosecutor’s office. However, the victims of a Maryland hit-and-run accident can also pursue a civil claim for financial compensation from the at-fault party once they are located. Hit-and-run lawsuits can, although not always, present unique legal issues, especially when the identity of the driver is at issue. Thus, it is important for anyone considering a Maryland hit-and-run lawsuit to speak with a dedicated personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

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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.

Yield SignIt’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 many Maryland motorcycle accidents are clearly the fault of one party or another, other accidents present more a complex situation. For example, if both of the drivers involved committed a traffic violation, it may be difficult to determine which party should be held responsible. Similarly, if there are no witnesses to an accident other than the operators of the vehicles, this may create a “he said, she said” situation requiring additional investigation.

On the RoadWhen it comes to establishing who was at fault for a motorcycle accident, the initial job rests with the police. However, in some cases, a police investigation comes up short, failing to name either party. Or in cases of a hit-and-run accident, the at-fault driver may not be located. In either event, an accident victim can always seek compensation through their own insurance policy. However, in some cases, an insurance company will deny a motorist’s claim, leaving them with no means of financial recovery.

If an insurance company denies a motorist’s claim or offers insufficient compensation to cover a victim’s injuries, the accident victim can file a personal injury claim. However, Maryland applies a strict legal doctrine when it comes to determining which parties are entitled to compensation. Under Maryland’s contributory negligence rule, only motorists who are completely free from fault are able to recover damages for injuries they sustained in an accident. Thus, it is very important that motorcycle accident victims reach out to discuss their case with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

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Semi-trucks present a danger to all motorists with whom they share the road. In part, this is due to their large and cumbersome size, which does not lend itself to being easily maneuvered in the event of an emergency situation. Additionally, the enormous size of these trucks creates large blind spots that can make it difficult for truck drivers to safely change lanes and make turns.

MotorcyclistWhile all motorists are at risk of being involved in a Maryland truck accident, perhaps none face as high a risk as motorcyclists. With their slim profile, motorcyclists are too often not seen by motorists in cars, let alone truck drivers dealing with blind spots that are several times the size of cars. Despite the difficulties truck drivers face when operating their vehicles on a crowded highway, truck drivers are always required to operate their rig in a safe and responsible manner. This includes making sure that all blind spots are clear before making a turn or lane change.

When a Maryland truck driver fails to take the adequate precautions when changing lanes or turning, they may be held liable for any injuries that were caused as a result of their negligence through a Maryland truck accident lawsuit. These cases can present a number of complex legal issues, including the determination of which parties should be named in the lawsuit. In some cases, a truck driver’s employer can be named as an additional defendant, potentially increasing the likelihood of a full and fair recovery.

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Maryland motorcycle accidents are a common occurrence, and too often, they result in the serious injury or death of the motorcyclist. Many times, these accidents are due in no part to the motorcyclist’s actions but are caused by another driver’s negligence. This may be due to the other motorist being distracted or intoxicated or driving in an aggressive manner.

MotorcycleAnyone who loses a loved one in a motorcycle accident is entitled to seek compensation for their loss through a Maryland wrongful death lawsuit. In Maryland, wrongful death lawsuits must be brought by a primary beneficiary, if one exists. A primary beneficiary includes a surviving spouse, parent, or child of the accident victim. If no primary beneficiary exists, a secondary beneficiary can bring the claim. This opens up the class of putative plaintiffs to anyone who was related to the accident victim by blood or marriage and was substantially dependent on the accident victim.

Once it is determined that the proper party is bringing the wrongful death claim, the claim itself must be established. This requires the plaintiff to show that some negligent act or omission of the defendant resulted in the death of their loved one. Proof of negligence can be shown through the admission of cell phone records, traffic citations, accident reports, or eyewitness testimony. If successful, damages normally include not only amounts for actual losses incurred, such as medical expenses, but also amounts for mental anguish, pain and suffering, and loss of companionship.

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While there are many causes of fatal Maryland motorcycle accidents, one of the most frequently seen causes is a motorist’s failure to yield the right-of-way to a motorcyclist. Of all the failure-to-yield accidents, left-turn accidents are the most common. Indeed, it is estimated that approximately 40% of all fatal motorcycle accidents involve a motorist making a left turn in front of a motorcyclist who is going straight.

Motorcycle CrashIn most cases, these accidents are results of a motorist’s inability to properly gauge the speed at which a motorcyclist is traveling. However, aggressive driving may also be a cause. Regardless, motorists are responsible to safely operate their vehicles while on the road, and neither of the above reasons is an excuse for causing a motorcycle accident.

Motorcycle accident victims who are injured in a left-turn accident may be entitled to recover compensation for their injuries – both physical and emotional – through a personal injury lawsuit. In order to successfully bring a motorcycle accident case, an accident victim must be able to establish that the other driver was somehow negligent in the operation of their vehicle. This can be shown though the issuance of a traffic citation, or, if no citations were issued, through the presentation of convincing evidence at trial.

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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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