Articles Posted in Motorcycle Injury Accidents

In a typical Maryland motorcycle accident lawsuit, the plaintiff must establish the core elements of negligence: duty, breach, causation, and damages. However, when there is a statute that governs the defendant’s conduct in a specific situation, the plaintiff may be able to take a “shortcut.” In other words, the existence of a statute can be evidence of a legal duty, and the defendant’s violation of the law can be evidence that the defendant breached that duty.

To establish a Maryland negligence per se claim, the plaintiff first needs to prove that the statute covers the defendant’s conduct. Typically, to do this, the plaintiff must show that the law was passed to prevent the defendant’s behavior that led to the accident and that it was passed to protect from the type of harm the plaintiff suffered. Once the court acknowledges that negligence per se applies, the plaintiff need only show 1.) that the defendant violated the statute; and 2.) that the defendant’s violation of the law was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. There is no requirement that the plaintiff proves the defendant’s knowledge of the statute.

For example, if the defendant causes serious injury to the plaintiff while the defendant was driving while intoxicated, the plaintiff may be able to benefit from negligence per se. In this situation, the drunk-driving statute was clearly passed to prevent drunk driving because drunk driving poses a serious risk to other motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists. From here, the plaintiff would only need to show that the defendant violated the statute and that the defendant’s decision to drive while under the influence was what led to the plaintiff’s injuries.

Riding as a passenger on a motorcycle can be dangerous, especially if the passenger does not know the operator or their driving habits. While most motorcyclists are responsible drivers, that simply is not always the case. In fact, it is estimated that approximately 40 percent of all Maryland motorcycle accidents are the fault of the motorcyclist. In Maryland, common causes of motorcycle accidents include speeding or aggressive driving, distracted driving, and intoxicated driving.

When someone is injured as a passenger in a Maryland motorcycle accident, they may have a claim against several parties, depending on the circumstances surrounding the accident. In accidents involving more than one vehicle, a passenger can pursue a personal injury claim against the drivers of any of the other vehicles involved in the accident.

In addition, a motorcycle passenger can bring a claim against the operator of the motorcycle. While this may seem unusual because it is likely that a motorcycle passenger and rider know each other, accident claims against friends and family members are not uncommon. Accident victims should not be discouraged from pursuing a claim for compensation, regardless of the at-fault party, because the operator’s insurance company will likely be responsible for any damages.

For those who are fortunate enough to be awake and sufficiently oriented to know what has just happened, the moments immediately following a Maryland motorcycle accident can be stressful. An accident victim will have almost certainly sustained serious injuries themselves, their motorcycle may not be anywhere near them, and there may also be concern about a passenger. While this is an incredibly stressful and anxiety-producing time, there are a few essential things that all Maryland motorcyclist should keep in mind after an accident.

Seek Medical Treatment

Motorcycle accident victims may not immediately realize that they have sustained serious injuries after an accident. In some cases, adrenaline kicks in and masks pain that would be otherwise intolerable. Some accident victims who sustain a blow to the head may have suffered a concussion or other brain injury. The signs and symptoms of these may not be readily apparent, but may get worse if untreated. Additionally, proof that an accident victim received medical treatment immediately after an accident strengthens their case.

Report the Accident

Calling the police after a Maryland motorcycle accident can help provide an accident victim with an objective account of what the scene of the accident looked like. Police will also obtain all the necessary information from the other drives involved, which will be required for filing a personal injury lawsuit down the road.

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It is often said that over 95% of all cases are resolved through some kind of settlement agreement. Thus, it is almost a certainty that an accident victim will be made at least one offer to settle their case before it reaches trial. Settlement negotiations are consequently an essential part of a Maryland motorcycle case, even if the agreement is not accepted.

There are several reasons why so many cases settle. Primarily, it is because insurance companies are the ones defending most personal injury cases. Insurance companies are for-profit companies and, because of the nature of their business, they prefer to know what their exposure will be. That being the case, if an insurance company can settle a case for a known dollar amount, it may be willing to do so to avoid taking the case to trial and the possibility of a much larger verdict.

While this sounds reasonable in theory, in practice insurance companies tend to prey upon the desperation and suffering of accident victims. Many accident victims do not know the ins and outs of the insurance business, and by approaching accident victims at a very vulnerable time, insurance companies hope to settle claims for far less than they may be worth. A recent article discusses a motorcycle accident victim’s decision to turn down a settlement offer and take the case to trial. Of course, each case is different, and injury victims should only decide what to do with their claim after consulting with a dedicated Maryland motorcycle accident attorney.

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For those who regularly drive, knowledge of traffic laws becomes ingrained. Most motorists do not have to think about whether they need to yield to the person on their right or stop at a red traffic signal; they just intuitively know. While this makes driving – an activity that involves numerous complex tasks – much easier, it also means that motorists who encounter unfamiliar signage may be caught off guard, increasing the chance of a Maryland motorcycle accident.

For example, decades ago the concept of a traffic-circle was virtually unknown in the United States. However, in the recent past city planners have made use of traffic-circles to control traffic and prevent motorists from speeding through intersections. As more traffic-circles started popping up, there was an increased number of accidents due to drivers not knowing how to navigate a new traffic feature safely.

Another potentially dangerous situation is an intersection with flashing lights. While most motorists know that a flashing red light means they must stop and then proceed only when clear, some drivers are confused when confronted by a flashing yellow light. Of course, a motorist’s confusion or unfamiliarity with certain traffic features is not an excuse for causing an accident.

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Motorcyclists have the very same rights to use the roads as other motorists, and this means that other motorists must yield the right-of-way to motorcyclists when necessary. However, each year, there are thousands of motorcycle accidents involving a motorist’s failure to yield to a motorcyclist.

Of all Maryland motorcycle accidents, the most common are when a motorcyclist is traveling straight and another vehicle attempts to make a left-hand turn in front of the motorcyclist. Indeed, National Highway Transportation Safety Administration data suggests that approximately 40% of all motorcycle accidents involving a motorcycle and another vehicle are caused by the driver making a left-hand turn in front of the motorcyclist.

Left-turn motorcycle accidents are common for a number of reasons. First, motorists may not be accustomed to sharing the road with motorcycles, which have a slimmer profile than cars. This often results in a motorist’s inability to accurately gauge how fast a motorcycle is traveling at the moment the motorist decides to initiate a left-hand turn. Another common reason for left-turn motorcycle accidents is the motorist’s failure to see an approaching motorcycle. This is often due to distracted driving on the motorist’s part.

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When a parent allows a child to use their car, they are trusting that the child will operate the vehicle responsibly. However, history has proven that this is not always the case. In fact, due to the inherent risks of sharing the road with motorcycles, many Maryland motorcycle accidents are caused by young and inexperienced drivers.

Most people assume that when a child causes a motorcycle accident, the child’s parents can be held civilly liable for any damage and injuries caused by the accident, which are often quite serious. In a recent case, a state appellate court discussed when a parent may be liable for their child’s accident. That court applied the “family purpose doctrine,” which confers liability onto the owner of the vehicle that the related minor was operating when causing the accident. This is a blanket rule that applies by default, making it easier for accident victims to recover compensation for their injuries from a minor’s parents. However, under Maryland personal injury law, a different standard is applied.

Maryland employs a different doctrine, entitled negligent entrustment, when determining if a parent can be held liable for the negligent acts of their children. The question in a negligent entrustment analysis is 1.) whether the teen driver was incompetent to operate a motor vehicle, and 2.) whether the parent knew about the incompetence. The idea is that Maryland lawmakers have determined that a parent should not be liable for a child’s negligence unless the minor’s inability to safely operate a vehicle was known to the parent at the time they allowed the child to use the vehicle.

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The chances are that anyone who drives even a few miles a day has seen another motorist using a cell phone while driving. Despite the illegality of cell-phone use while driving, most motorists admit to using their phone at least occasionally while behind the wheel. Not only is using a cell phone while driving against the law, but it is also likely to cause a Maryland motorcycle accident.

To begin with, motorcycles are more difficult for motorists to see. Add to that a driver who is more focused on their cell phone than the road ahead of them, and the result is a greatly increased chance of being involved in a motorcycle accident. Of course, all Maryland drivers have an obligation to operate their vehicle in a safe manner, and a driver’s failure to do so may result in civil liability.

Maryland Motorcycle Accident Cases

In Maryland, anyone who has been injured in a motorcycle accident can bring a personal injury lawsuit against the party they believe to be responsible for their injuries. In order to succeed, an accident victim must be able to establish that the other driver was somehow negligent in the operation of their vehicle, and the other driver’s negligence caused the accident victim’s injuries.

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While all ages of drivers are capable of negligent driving, young drivers in particular present an especially high risk for Maryland motorcyclists. Indeed, it has long been understood that young drivers are responsible for the most Maryland motorcycle accidents when compared to other age groups. Some statistics have found that one in five teen motorists are involved in a collision of some sort each year.

Young drivers present such a high risk for a number of reasons. Of course, it goes without saying that young drivers have less experience driving. However, that factor alone does not totally account for the increased rate of accidents because new drivers who obtain a driver’s license later in life do not present as high a risk. Teens, as a group, are more likely to engage in several other risky behaviors while driving, including:

  • Driving while talking on a cell phone;
  • Texting while driving;
  • Talking to passengers in the rear seats;
  • Speeding;
  • Driving aggressively; and
  • Using poor judgment.

Can Parents Be Held Responsible for a Minor’s Accident?

In Maryland, a parent can usually only be held responsible for an accident caused by their minor child if the accident involves a crime. If there is no crime committed, it is likely that the parents of the minor will not be financially liable. However, to the extent that a child is on the parent’s insurance policy, the insurance company will be on the hook for the accident.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court in Florida issued a written opinion in a personal injury case brought by several men who were injured in a multi-vehicle motorcycle collision they claimed was caused by the defendant’s aggressive driving. Since the lower court prevented the defendant from admitting certain evidence, the appellate court was tasked with determining whether the evidence should have been excluded. Finding that it was improperly excluded, the case was reversed.

The below case is important for Maryland motorcycle accident plaintiffs because it illustrates how important pre-trial discovery motions can be. Indeed, many cases are won and lost before the jury is even empaneled. This is because a party that loses a pre-trial evidentiary ruling may be more willing to consider a settlement offer, reducing the risk of taking the case to trial.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were three men who left the bar at around 11:00 p.m. Two men were driving a motorcycle, and the third was a passenger on the back of one of the motorcycles. The passenger was on the rear of a bike that was operated by a driver who only had a learner’s permit and was not legally permitted to carry a passenger.

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