Articles Posted in Fatal Motorcycle Accidents

When law enforcement officers respond to a serious Maryland motorcycle accident, the scene is often chaotic. The injured individual must be attended to, witnesses must be located and spoken to, and the scene must be secured and eventually cleaned up promptly as to not create an increased risk of causing a subsequent accident. As a result, determining fault in a Maryland motorcycle accident has always been an art as much as it has been a science, and extraneous factors such as inclement weather and the amount of traffic on the road at the time may influence how thoroughness of a post-accident investigation.

Often, investigators base their conclusions on assumptions. Of course, assumptions must be made, especially when there are conflicting accounts of what happened. Investigators will often “play out” the various witness accounts of what occurred to see which account makes the most sense. This is a time-consuming process, but also a necessary one because it is only after concluding an in-depth investigation that a cause of an accident can be confidently determined. And even then, investigators cannot be sure that they got it right.

According to a local news report, some law enforcement agencies are hoping to use recent advances in technology to assist them in determining the causes of serious traffic accidents. Earlier this month, a Chattanooga police received a call for a motorcycle accident. When officers arrived on the scene, they could immediately tell that there were two fatalities.

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Anyone who has been involved in a serious Maryland traffic accident knows that the recovery process – physically, emotionally, and financially – can take quite a bit of time. Accident victims are often left upset, frustrated, confused, and with lingering physical ailments. And all too often Maryland accident victims are also left without adequate compensation to help them cover the medical expenses and other costs incurred as a result of the accident.

Arguably, Maryland hit-and-run accidents present accident victims with the most hurdles and roadblocks to a complete recovery. One reason for this is that the at-fault party may never be located, leaving an accident victim without someone to hold responsible for their injuries.

Thankfully, Maryland law requires all motorists maintain uninsured motorist protection, which will generally cover a Maryland hit-and-run accident. However, a victim’s recovery will be limited to the policy-maximum under their policy. In Maryland, the coverage limits for uninsured motorist protection are just $30,000 per person or a total of $60,000 per accident.

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Perhaps the single most dangerous situation for motorcyclists is when they are approaching an intersection in which an oncoming driver is attempting to make a left-hand turn. These left-turn accidents are responsible for a significant portion of the total Maryland motorcycle accidents that occur each year. Indeed, it is estimated that left-turn accidents account for about 42% of all motorcycle accidents.

Left-turn accidents are not unique to motorcycles; however, the slim profile of a motorcycle makes it more difficult for other motorists to see that a motorcycle is approaching and correctly assess its speed. Thus, motorists routinely begin a turn when they do not have time to complete it, cutting off the motorcyclist as they enter the intersection. The motorcyclist is then left with little to no time to react.

As a general rule, a motorist making a left turn is required to yield to motorcycles that are continuing straight through an intersection. Thus, most left-turn accidents are determined to be the fault of the turning motorist. However, if the motorcyclist is speeding at the time they enter the intersection, the motorcyclist may be found to have caused the accident.

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Earlier this month, one man was killed in a Maryland motorcycle accident in Berkeley County. According to a local news report, the accident occurred in the early morning hours on the 4000 block of Winchester Avenue.

Evidently, a pick-up truck was traveling northbound when it collided head-on with a southbound motorcycle. After the initial collision, both vehicles immediately caught fire. Emergency responders were quick to arrive on the scene, were unable to save the motorcyclist’s life.

Police began a preliminary investigation into the fatal Maryland motorcycle accident, and at this point believe that the pick-up truck had started to drift out of its land an into oncoming traffic prior to the collision. It remains to be seen if the driver of the pick-up truck will face criminal charges for his role in the fatal accident.

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When it comes to determining who was at fault in a Maryland motorcycle accident, the task is not always a simple one. While some motorcycle accidents involve only two vehicles and what happened in the moments leading up to the collision can be readily determined by surveying the scene, other accidents present a more complex scenario.

Law enforcement gets the first crack at investigating an accident. For the most part, law enforcement officials are concerned with determining who was at fault and whether that party’s conduct that gave rise to the accident constituted criminal behavior. And while a law enforcement investigation is important in a subsequent personal injury lawsuit filed by the injured party, it may not be sufficient in some cases.

Law enforcement investigators can also make mistakes, or may change their opinion of what caused the accident as new information comes in. For example, investigators changed their theory of how an accident occurred while investigating a recent motorcycle accident. According to a local news report, a motorcyclist was killed when he struck a turning semi-truck. A semi-truck cut in front of the motorcyclist, and the motorcyclist was unable to avoid the collision. The motorcyclist struck the side of the semi-truck, causing the driver to be ejected from the bike. He was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.

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Each year, about 60 people are killed in Maryland motorcycle accidents. Improper lane changes, including passing another motorist where it is prohibited or unsafe to do so, account for a large number of these fatal accidents.

A motorist may make an improper lane change for a number of reasons. The most common types of improper lane changes are illegal passing and changing lanes without signaling. In each of these cases, other motorists are put in serious danger. While most of the time, those who make an improper lane change do not end up causing a serious accident, when an accident does occur, the motorist can be held liable for any resulting injuries.Recovering compensation in a Maryland motorcycle accident lawsuit is much like any other personal injury lawsuit. However, motorcycle accident victims often encounter a difficulty that the drivers of other vehicles do not:  the stigma that is associated with riding a motorcycle. When people hear about a motorcycle accident, they often think “I wonder how fast the motorcyclist was going?” as though the default is that the motorcyclist was somehow at fault. Of course, that is not how the law views motorcycle accidents, and an experienced Maryland personal injury attorney can assist motorcycle accident victims in proving that they were a victim of another motorist’s negligence.

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When someone gets on the back of a motorcycle, the last thing they are expecting is that they are going to be injured or killed in a Maryland motorcycle accident. Indeed, the vast majority of motorcycle operators are responsible motorists, but not everyone appreciates the risks involved in operating a motorcycle, and some motorcyclists take unacceptable risks.

A passenger who is injured in a Maryland motorcycle accident may have a claim for damages against several parties. If the accident was caused by another driver, that driver and their insurance company may be on the hook for any injuries sustained by the victim.

In single-vehicle motorcycle accidents, passengers may be able to pursue a claim for compensation against the driver of the motorcycle and the driver’s insurance company. In the event that the at-fault party does not have adequate insurance coverage, the passenger may be able to also file a claim with their own insurance company under the underinsured motorist provision.

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Earlier this month, one woman was killed and another man seriously injured when they were cut off by a vehicle making a left turn in front of the motorcycle the two were riding. According to a local news report covering the tragic accident, responding officers found one helmet at the scene that had been improperly secured by one of the victims.

This tragic case brings up an important issue that many defendants in Maryland motorcycle accident cases try to raise:  the fact that the victim was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident. To be sure, all motorcyclists should wear a helmet to protect themselves when they are riding. And it is true that, in some cases, a helmet can prevent serious or fatal injuries. However, under Maryland law, evidence of helmet non-use is inadmissible in a personal injury trial.

If wearing a helmet is required by law in Maryland, why then is the fact that a motorcyclist wasn’t wearing a helmet inadmissible in a personal injury trial? The answer has to do with how liability is determined in Maryland personal injury lawsuits.

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When a motorist causes a Maryland motorcycle accident, they may face two types of liability:  criminal and civil. A criminal case is brought by the local prosecuting authority and is intended to punish an at-fault motorist for the conduct that caused the accident. Thus, when a motorist is found guilty of a criminal offense, they may be fined, placed on probation, or sentenced to a term of incarceration. While criminal cases following motorcycle accidents are appropriate in some cases, the focus of these cases is not to help the accident victim recover from their injuries.

If a motorcycle accident victim hopes to seek compensation for their injuries, they should file a civil Maryland personal injury lawsuit. Unlike criminal cases, the sole purpose of a civil lawsuit is to provide the victims of another person’s negligence with compensation for their injuries. This may include amounts for past and future medical expenses, lost wages, and a decrease in the enjoyment of life, as well as for any pain and suffering the accident victim has endured as a result of the accident.

In some cases, a driver may face both civil and criminal liability for their role in causing an accident. It is important to keep in mind, however, that a civil case for damages is not contingent upon the filing of a criminal case against the same driver. Similarly, even if a motorist is found not to have been criminally liable for an accident, an accident victim may still be able to succeed in a civil case for damages because civil cases are held to a lower standard of proof than criminal cases.

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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.

The 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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