Articles Posted in Fatal Motorcycle Accidents

When someone is injured or killed in a Maryland motorcycle accident, either the injury victim or their loved ones can bring a personal injury or wrongful death claim against the responsible party or parties. To establish liability, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant violated a duty of care that they owed to the accident victim, and that the defendant’s breach of that duty was the cause of the accident victim’s injury or death. This is the legal definition of negligence.

Even in situations where a defendant is negligent, the plaintiff may still run into problems pursing a claim for compensation. For example, under the Maryland doctrine of contributory negligence, an accident victim who shares responsibility in causing an accident cannot recover for their injuries. This is the case even if the accident victim is found to be just five or ten percent at fault. Maryland insurance companies routinely rely on principles of contributory negligence when looking for reasons to deny an insured’s claim. For this reason, it is crucial that accident victims or their family members work with an experienced Maryland motorcycle accident attorney who is familiar with the doctrine of contributory negligence and how to minimize any possible role an accident victim played in bringing about the accident resulting in their injuries or death.

Man Killed in Maryland Motorcycle Accident on Crain Highway

Earlier this month, one man was killed in a Maryland motorcycle accident when a minivan changed lanes, colliding with the motorcyclist. According to a local news report, both the motorcyclist and the minivan were heading southbound on Crain Highway just north of Capitol Raceway Road. As the minivan began to move over into the left-turn lane, it did not see that the motorcyclist was already occupying the lane.

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Motorcycle accidents are among the most likely to result in serious injury or death due to the lack of protection riders have while on a bike. While wearing a helmet can help to reduce the risk of injury, some accidents are so severe that even wearing a helmet won’t change the outcome. In fact, each year, approximately 69 people die as a result of Maryland motorcycle accidents.

Whenever someone gets onto a motorcycle, they are placing their lives in the hands of other motorists. While some motorcycle accidents can be avoided, many cannot, even when exercising the utmost care. Those who have lost a loved one in a Maryland motorcycle accident may be eligible for compensation for their loss through a Maryland wrongful death lawsuit.

A Maryland wrongful death lawsuit is a type of personal injury case that is intended to compensate the family members of an accident victim. In most cases, a wrongful death claim must be filed by a “primary beneficiary,” which are defined as spouses, children, and parents. If there are no primary beneficiaries available to file the claim, a secondary beneficiary can pursue a wrongful death case. Secondary beneficiaries are defined as “any person related to the deceased person by blood or marriage who was substantially dependent upon the deceased.”

A trial may be the best way for a plaintiff to obtain compensation in a Maryland injury case. It may allow the plaintiff to recover the most compensation, particularly when a reasonable settlement is not attainable. In other cases, a settlement may be preferable. Trials can drag a case out for years, especially if the case is appealed. It can also be draining, as parties often have to relive painful and emotional moments. A settlement may also allow a plaintiff to obtain compensation faster. It also guarantees payment, as opposed to a trial, which may result in the plaintiff receiving no compensation.

Parties may be able to obtain a settlement with one or more other parties, and proceed to trial with claims against others through a class action lawsuit. For example, a class action lawsuit may be appropriate when there is some defect with a motorcycle part or helmet resulting in many riders being injured. Some settlements require that the court approve the settlement, while others depend solely on the agreement of the parties. In the case of class action lawsuits, a court must find that the plaintiffs understand the terms of the settlement and to decide whether to join in or opt-out of the settlement and that the result of the agreement is fair.

There are also limitations on settlements obtained soon after an injury. Under Maryland Code § 5-401.1, a release by an injured individual that is signed within five days of the injury is voidable for 60 days. A party that may be at fault for another person’s injury also cannot negotiate or attempt to negotiate a settlement within 15 days of the injury. If a settlement or released is obtained while an injured individual is in a hospital or sanitarium and contrary to the law, it cannot be used “for any purpose in any legal action in connection with the injury.”

Victims of Maryland motorcycle or scooter accidents are legally entitled to file a civil negligence claim against the driver responsible. These claims, if successful, can provide injured motorcyclists with financial compensation for the injuries they suffered, including for past and future medical bills, lost wages, and even burial and funeral costs. In order to do so, however, plaintiffs must be able to identify and find the individual responsible. This may be harder in hit-and-run accidents, where the at-fault driver leaves the scene of the accident before providing identifying information or helping those who were injured.

For example, a man in Texas was recently killed in a hit and run accident while riding a scooter with a passenger. According to a local news report covering the accident, the collision occurred at around 8 p.m., with an SUV hitting the scooter and then driving off. When authorities responded to the accident, they took both the driver of the scooter and his passenger to the hospital, where the driver, unfortunately, passed away.

This incident illustrates the devastation that can occur with hit and run accidents; when an accident occurs and results in bodily injury, Maryland law requires that all drivers involved stop as close to the scene as possible and render reasonable assistance to any injured party. This means they may need to call an ambulance, and they are also required to provide their name and information to the others involved. If the others involved are unconscious or otherwise unable to meaningfully receive the information, the information must be provided to the police. Even if the car is parked and the owner is not around, the individual who hits it must leave a written note with their information. This law protects accident victims by (1) ensuring that, if they are injured, someone is able to call medical assistance for them and (2) ensuring that they have the information needed to file a civil negligence suit if appropriate.

A tragic multi-vehicle accident occurred in Chesapeake, Virginia last week, resulting in the unfortunate death of a motorcyclist. According to a local news report covering the accident, the responsible driver was in a red pickup truck when they ran a red light around 12:30 pm one afternoon, causing them to hit the motorcyclist and five other vehicles. The motorcyclist, a 56-year-old man, was sadly pronounced dead at the scene, and three other victims were sent to the hospital to be treated for their injuries.

While such accidents and fatalities are always tragic, they, unfortunately, happen far too often, and motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable to their effects. Because motorcyclists do not have the protection that a car provides between them and other vehicles or the road, they are more likely to be severely injured by negligent or reckless drivers when they run red lights or engage in other dangerous behaviors.

In such incidents, it is always possible that local law enforcement will investigate and file criminal charges. In the tragic incident described above, law enforcement charged the at-fault driver with involuntary manslaughter and possession of cocaine. These charges, while they may help the public feel safer on the roads, do very little to compensate the victims and their families who may be suffering psychologically and financially.

Maryland motorcyclists might be surprised to learn that one of the most fatal traffic situations is one they are in regularly: left turns. Turning left while driving or riding a motorcycle is typically unavoidable for most people because left turns are commonly necessary to get to places they regularly visit, such as work, the grocery store, or a family member’s house. Unfortunately, however, these turns can be quite dangerous, especially for motorcyclists because the drivers of other vehicles often have a difficult time accurately assessing the speed at which an oncoming motorcycle is traveling.

According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Association, turning left is considered a “leading critical pre-crash event.” In fact, 22.2 percent of all crashes involve someone turning left, as do approximately 61 percent of crashes that take place while someone is turning or crossing an intersection. Additionally, CNN recently reported that left turns are three times more likely to kill pedestrians than right turns are. Because of these dangers, some commercial drivers, such as those who drive UPS trucks, avoid left turns as much as they can.

Left turns are especially dangerous for motorcyclists who are largely exposed on the road and do not have a large vehicle surrounding them to absorb the shock or force of an impact. For example, take a recent crash that occurred in Gulfport, Mississippi. According to a local news report covering the incident, a 35-year-old man was driving a Harley Davidson motorcycle when he tragically struck a pick-up truck that was turning left. Due to the force of impact, and the fact that the motorcyclists’ body was largely unprotected from the crash, the motorcyclist was killed and pronounced dead on the scene.

Maryland law requires all motorists to obtain a certain amount of insurance coverage. There are several types of Maryland motorcycle insurance, including bodily injury liability, underinsured/uninsured motorist (UIM) protection and property damage liability.

Bodily injury liability provides coverage for injuries caused to others that are the fault of the insured motorist. On the other hand, UIM coverage provides coverage for the insured motorist in the event that the at-fault driver either had no insurance or did not have enough insurance to fully cover their injuries. Property damage liability covers damage to others’ property that is caused by the insured. As of 2020, the minimum insurance requirements in Maryland are $30,000 per person/$60,000 per accident in bodily injury liability and UIM protection and $15,000 in property damage liability.

Unlike cars and trucks, motorcycles offer little to no protection to riders in the event of an accident. Thus, Maryland motorcycle accidents often result in serious bodily injury. In many cases, the medical expenses alone will exceed the limits of an insurance policy, especially if the policyholder opted for the minimum amount of insurance. In these situations, UIM coverage is especially important. Uninsured motorist coverage can also help a Maryland motorcyclist recover compensation in the event of a hit-and-run accident where the at-fault party cannot be identified. In fact, Maryland law considers an unidentified driver an “uninsured driver” for the purposes of UIM coverage.

Causation is a necessary element in any Maryland motorcycle crash case alleging the negligence of another party. An essential part is proving that the other party’s actions caused the plaintiff’s damages, which means both proving a cause-in-fact and a legally cognizable cause. Proving a cause-in-fact means proving that the other party’s actions were the actual cause of the damages, whereas legal cause means proving that the defendant’s actions were sufficiently related to the damages to hold the party liable. This inquiry often requires a consideration of whether the plaintiff’s damages were a foreseeable result of the party’s actions. Even if another party’s actions are proven to be the cause-in-fact of the plaintiff’s damages, a court may still find the party is not liable because it is not fair or because it is bad policy.

In addition to proving causation, in a negligence case, a plaintiff still has to prove that the party owed the plaintiff a duty of care, that the defendant’s actions amounted to a breach of the relevant standard of care, and the plaintiff suffered damages. A plaintiff has to prove all elements in a negligence claim, and must prove each element by a preponderance of the evidence. This means that a plaintiff must prove what caused the crash, rather than proving only that another party’s actions were merely a possible cause of the crash.

Motorcycle Driver Killed After Crash with Debris

In the tragic event of the death of a family member, a wrongful death claim may allow family members to recover compensation for the loss they suffered. Under Maryland’s Wrongful Death Act, a claim can be filed by certain family members against the parties at fault for the family member’s death. The Wrongful Death Act is intended to compensate family members of the decedent based on the losses suffered by the family members.

It is common for defendants in Maryland wrongful death claims to raise the fault of the victim as a defense. Maryland follows the doctrine of contributory negligence, which means that if a plaintiff is found to have been even the slightest bit negligent, the plaintiff is completely barred from recovery. Similarly, a person’s contributory negligence bars recovery of a subsequent wrongful death claim.

Another common issue is proving the elements of negligence in the absence of the victim’s testimony. Without the victim’s statement concerning what happened, families often have to rely on circumstantial evidence to prove the case. This often requires the assistance of experts and investigators. A plaintiff has the burden to prove all the elements of the claim by a preponderance of the evidence, including whether the defendant’s conduct caused the plaintiff’s injuries. Mere speculation cannot sustain a negligence claim. A plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s conduct failed to meet the standard of care, that the defendant’s failure to meet the standard of care caused the plaintiff’s injuries, that the injuries were a foreseeable result of the defendant’s conduct, and that the plaintiff suffered injuries.

While there are many causes of Maryland motorcycle accidents, accidents involving another vehicle making a left turn into or in front of a motorcycle are among the most common. In most cases, these accidents are the result of a negligent motorist who fails to take notice of the motorcycle or accurately gauge the speed at which it is approaching. Indeed, experts estimate that roughly 40 percent of all motorcycle accidents involving another vehicle are due to the vehicle making a left turn. Maryland left-turn motorcycle accidents result in hundreds of injuries each year, most of which are entirely preventable.

Most left-turn accidents are the result of a driver not accurately being able to assess the speed of an oncoming motorcycle. Motorists are used to driving around other cars and trucks, and have a built-in sense of how quickly these vehicles move. Thus, most of the time, motorists can safely assess the speed of an oncoming car or truck and determine whether they have enough time to complete their left turn. However, the slim profile of a motorcycle challenges motorists’ assumptions because motorcycles often appear to be approaching more slowly than they are.

Another cause of left-turn motorcycle accidents is a driver’s failure to notice an oncoming motorcycle. Again, due to their slim profile, motorcycles may go unnoticed when approaching an intersection. In this situation, motorists may think they have a clear intersection when they do not. Regardless of the cause, left-turn motorcycle accidents are most often the fault of the turning motorist, as vehicles making left turns must yield the right-of-way to those going straight through an intersection. However, if a motorcyclist is speeding as he travels through the intersection, that may result in the motorcyclist losing the right-of-way, essentially making the accident their fault.

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