Articles Posted in Fatal Motorcycle Accidents

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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It is always important for motorists to pay attention to their surroundings. However, motorists are presented with myriad distractions, ranging from cell phone use to talkative passengers and everything in between. In fact, according to a recent report by the National Highway Transportations Safety Administration (NHTSA), over 3,300 people are killed each year in accidents involving a distracted driver. Additionally, there are 387,000 people injured in similar accidents.

Wrong Way SignThe NHTSA defines distracted driving as “any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving.” Distracted driving is unsafe, and when a driver is not paying attention and causes an accident, they may be held liable for their negligence. While it may seem difficult to prove that a driver was distracted at the time of an accident, cell phone records, eyewitness accounts, and circumstantial evidence can all help an accident victim show that the driver responsible for their injuries was not paying as close attention to the road as they should have been.

Motorcyclist Killed in Head-On Collision

Earlier this month in California, a motorcyclist was killed when he was struck by an oncoming Ford Crown Victoria. According to a local news source covering the accident, the collision occurred on a rural road in the afternoon hours.

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It’s a well-known fact that riding a motorcycle can be dangerous. Whether it is the risk of another motorist failing to take notice of a nearby motorcycle or the possibility that another motorist misjudges the speed at which a motorcycle is traveling, the dangers of riding a motorcycle are several. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that given the nature of these dangers, the threats that motorcyclists face greatly increase after dark, when visibility decreases and motorists are more likely to be intoxicated.

MotorcycleIt is true that motorcycle accidents are over-represented when compared to auto accidents as a whole. However, this does not reflect the general skill level or responsibility of motorcyclists as a group. Instead, this fact simply shows that motorcyclists are more likely than other motorists to be involved in an accident.

The unfortunate reality, however, is that many motorcycle accident victims are viewed with skepticism immediately after an accident. In fact, often, motorists hoping to avoid responsibility for their own negligent actions will try to shift the blame for an accident onto the motorcyclist, knowing that there is a societal stigma against motorcycle accident victims. It is therefore incredibly important for anyone who has recently been involved in a Maryland motorcycle accident to discuss their case with an experienced personal injury attorney to determine whether a claim for damages may be appropriate.

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According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 35,092 people killed in car accidents in the United States in 2015. This was a seven percent increase from 2014, and the biggest increase in almost 50 years. There was also an increase in injuries, amounting to 2.44 million people injured in 2015.

Motorcycle at SunsetWith the exception of that year, traffic fatalities have generally decreased over the past decade. Education has improved seatbelt use and resulted in a decrease in impaired driving. However, this year marked an increase in fatalities and injuries across almost all segments of the population. The increase could be a result of an increased use of handheld devices. Indeed, the use of handheld devices among drivers has increased substantially over the past 10 years.

In addition to an increase in overall traffic fatalities, motorcyclist fatalities in the United States increased by eight percent, or 382 people, in 2015. It was the greatest increase since 2012. This resulted in a total of 4,976 motorcyclist fatalities. Motorcyclists are more likely than passenger car occupants to be killed if an accident occurs. Research has showed the fatality rate for motorcyclists is about six times the fatality rate for passenger car occupants. Research has also found that just 33 percent of the motorcyclists were speeding near the time of the fatal accident. According to the Federal Highway Administration, there were 8.4 million private and commercial motorcycles on the roads in 2014. Motorcycles can be dangerous, and there have been efforts to increase rider safety classes in recent years. Some states even provide insurance discounts for motorcyclists who complete motorcycle training courses.

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Motorcycle accidents have many causes, but no cause is more common than a vehicle’s failure to yield to a motorcycle. This is due in part to a motorcycle’s slim profile, making them less visible and more likely to be overlooked by other motorists. The most common failure-to-yield accident is one involving a vehicle making a left-hand turn into a motorcycle. In fact, left-turn accidents account for roughly 40% of all serious motorcycle accidents involving a motorcycle and another vehicle.

MotorcycleLeft-turn accidents are common in a number of routine traffic situations, including:

  • When a motorcycle is proceeding straight through an intersection, and a car is making a left turn in front of the motorcycle;
  • When a motorcycle passes a vehicle on a single or multi-lane highway; or
  • When a motorcycle attempts to make a left turn in front of another vehicle.

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A woman who was riding on the back of a motorcycle is dead, the driver of the motorcycle is seriously injured, and another woman is facing charges for driving while intoxicated and causing an accident resulting in serious injury or death. According to a local news article discussing the tragic crash, the driver of the car was making a left-hand turn out of a parking lot when she crashed directly into the motorcycle. Neither the driver nor the passenger was wearing helmets at the time of the crash, and the article stated that head trauma was a contributing cause to the passenger’s death.

Vespa with HelmetMaryland’s Helmet Law

The state of Maryland has passed a law that all motorcyclists on public roads must be wearing an approved helmet, as well as all passengers riding on the back of a motorcycle. It’s a simple fact that helmets save lives every year, and some sources estimate that 700 deaths each year could be prevented if motorcyclists and their passengers wore helmets at the time of the accident.

Although helmets are effective and should be worn by motorcyclists and their passengers, other drivers are not protected from liability when they cause an accident involving a motorcyclist without a helmet. The fact remains that according to the National Transit Safety Board, over half of fatal motorcycle accidents result in the death of one or more riders who were properly wearing an approved helmet. This statistic can be explained in part by the fact that more riders wear helmets than not, especially in Maryland since the passage of the helmet law.

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When an collision between two vehicles occurs, those in the immediate vicinity of the accident may have a difficult time avoiding the effects of the accident. These multi-vehicle crashes, or chain-reaction accidents, have a capability to inflict massive damage and threaten the lives of all involved. This is especially true regarding motorcyclists, who, due to the nature of their vehicles, have less protection and may require additional distance to come to a complete and controlled stop.

Motorcycle CrashThat being the case, a motorcyclist who is unable to avoid a collision is not necessarily at fault for his inability to do so. Neither is a motorcyclist to blame for the injuries they sustained in an accident, even if the injuries would not have been as severe had the motorcyclist been driving a car or a truck. Instead, courts will look at whether the motorcyclist did anything to cause the accident. If it is determined that the motorcyclist was merely a victim and did not contribute to the accident, the motorcyclist or their surviving family members may be entitled to monetary compensation from the at-fault driver or drivers.

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Motorcycle accidents are an unfortunate reality in Maryland and the surrounding area. With the many busy highways and winding country roads across the state, it is inevitable that motorcycles – like other vehicles on the road – will be involved in serious accidents. Sadly, these motorcycle accidents often result in the death of those aboard the motorcycle, both drivers and passengers. Too often, these accidents are preventable.

MotorcycleDrivers of cars and trucks are responsible for the majority of motorcycle accidents. Whether it is failing to notice a motorcycle traveling next to them or misjudging the speed at which an oncoming motorcycle is approaching, a lapse in judgment or a momentary distraction can result in a driver causing a fatal motorcycle accident. When this occurs, the surviving loved ones in the wake of the accident are left grieving.

In Maryland, those who have lost a loved one in a motorcycle accident may choose to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the parties they believe are responsible for the death of their loved one. These lawsuits must be brought by a proper party – usually a spouse, parent, or child. However, in some cases, courts will allow other relatives through blood or marriage to proceed with a wrongful death lawsuit. Once the court determines that the proper party is bringing the lawsuit, it must be established that the named defendant was responsible for the accident that caused the death of their loved one. A skilled personal injury attorney can assist family members with this task.

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Motorcycle accident victims have a long road to recovery. At first, there are the physical injuries and emotional trauma that are common after most motorcycle injuries. However, even after the body and mind have healed as best they can, accident victims are often left with recurring symptoms, lingering injuries, and mounting medical bills. As a result, many motorcycle accident victims choose to file personal injury lawsuits against the party or parties responsible for causing the accident resulting in their injuries.

Street SweeperWhen a motorcycle accident victim files a personal injury lawsuit, they will need to name all potentially liable parties who may have caused or contributed to the accident. In some cases, this is an easy task. However, in other cases, especially single-vehicle accidents, determining which parties are at fault can be difficult. In some cases, the poor design of a road or a poorly maintained road can create a very dangerous situation for motorcyclists.

An experienced personal injury attorney can be of great assistance to victims when the only potentially liable parties are government entities. This is because many times government entities are protected from some personal injury lawsuits due to governmental immunity.

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