Articles Posted in Motorcycle Injury Accidents

One of the fundamental things all Maryland residents learn when learning to drive is how to safely change lanes. Changing lanes is a common part of driving, and when done safely, it does not cause any harm. However, failure to follow safety protocols whilst changing lanes, or even just not paying attention, can cause serious harm to others—especially motorcyclists on the road. In fact, negligence while changing lanes can cause serious or even deadly Maryland motorcycle accidents, since motorcyclists have far less protection around their bodies than drivers of other vehicles and are more easily knocked onto the road.

Take, for example, a recent fatal motorcycle accident that killed a Maryland motorcyclist. The crash occurred on I-95, according to a local news report, around 4:30 one afternoon. A 29-year-old woman from New Jersey was driving along the interstate when she decided to merge left. However, she merged into the path of a motorcyclist, a 30-year-old woman from Odenton, Maryland. The cyclist was thrown from her motorcycle, causing severe injuries. She was taken to a nearby hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

The crash is still under investigation, but it provides a tragic illustration of how dangerous negligent lane changing can be. While the car could have changed lanes into the path of other vehicles—cars and trucks—the odds are that the resulting crash would have been less deadly, since drivers in cars and trucks are better protected by their vehicles. In addition, it is easier for drivers to spot cars and trucks in the other lanes, but harder to spot smaller motorcycles.

Motorcyclists face the unfair stigma that they are reckless and aggressive drivers, which often leads to the conclusion that they are at fault after a Maryland motorcycle crash. In reality, most motorcyclists are generally safe drivers. According to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), about one-half of all motorcycle crashes involve another motor vehicle. Almost 40 percent were caused by the other vehicle turning left in front of the motorcyclist. Further, according to the NHTSA, when motorcycles and other vehicles collide, it is usually the other (non-motorcycle) driver who violates the motorcyclist’s right-of-way. In fact, in two-vehicle crashes involving passenger cars and motorcycles, 35 percent of the driver-related factor was the failure to yield the right-of-way compared to only 4 percent of motorcyclists who failed to yield the right-of-way.

A non-motorcycle driver may violate a motorcyclist’s right-of-way for various reasons. For example, motorcycles are smaller and may be less noticeable and more easily obscured, such as in a larger vehicle’s blind spot. Non-motorcycle drivers also may not be accustomed to motorcyclists’ movements and driving with them in general. Yet, motorcyclists have the same rights and privileges as other vehicles on roadways. Motorcyclist advocates say that other drivers should look out for motorcyclists and educate themselves about motorcycles and how to drive safely with them in the roadway. To drive safely with motorcyclists, other drivers are supposed to allow motorcyclists a full lane width to allow motorcyclists to maneuver safely.

Unfortunately, motorcyclists are over-represented in traffic crashes and fatalities throughout the United States. According to the NHTSA, almost 5,000 motorcyclists were killed in 2018. Motorcyclists are about 28 times as likely as occupants in cars to die in a motor vehicle crash. In addition, seemingly minor crashes can result in serious injuries for a motorcyclist. But while insurance companies and juries may be quick to blame motorcyclists for causing the accidents, the stigma against motorcyclists can be overcome. For example, investigation after a crash, accident reconstruction, discovery tools, and litigation are some of the ways experienced legal advocates can build evidence in a party’s favor after a crash in order to hold the negligent party responsible. Injured motorcyclists should seek the compensation that they deserve if they are injured in a crash, despite any stigma they may face in the claims process and in court.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), accidents are among the leading causes of death in the United States. The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) reports that their most recent data indicates that the state experienced an average of over 500 car accident-related deaths and 48,000 injuries over the most recent five-year period. Although some accidents are avoidable, the vast majority of accidents occur because of one or more parties’ negligence. Statistics indicate that these accidents are especially deadly when a motorcycle is involved.

Most Maryland motorcycle accidents involve a read-end or head-on collision, left-turn collision, low-speed crash, or hit-and-run accidents. The majority of these accidents involve a negligent motorist. The most common reasons for these accidents are speeding, driving while impaired, distracted driving, driver fatigue, weather conditions, and sudden, unsafe traffic movements, such as hasty lane changes.

Motorists who change lanes endanger motorcyclists or pedestrians, and everyone else on the road. These reckless drivers may be liable for their unsafe driving. Sudden, unsafe lane change accidents typically occur when drivers fail to pay attention to their surroundings or other vehicles. Similarly, these accidents also occur when a motorist is speeding or cutting through traffic. Further, inclement weather and unsafe road conditions may cause drivers to quickly change lanes, resulting in an accident. Finally, in some cases, sudden traffic changes may occur when a motorist is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In any event, these accidents frequently involve motorcyclists, which are more difficult to see due to their slim profile.

Recently, two individuals riding a motorcycle were seriously injured when they collided with a pickup truck making a left turn, leading to the tragic death of the 27-year-old passenger. According to a local news report covering the incident, the crash occurred at around 9:30 in the evening, and the driver of the motorcycle, who survived, had to be taken to the hospital for their injuries. In addition to being tragic, this accident highlights one of the major risks posed to Maryland motorcyclists: left-turn accidents.

Left-turn accidents can be dangerous for anyone, including those in cars, trucks, and pedestrians. However, motorcyclists are particularly at risk of significant injury and death when these accidents occur because their bodies are relatively unprotected from the impact with other vehicles or the road, even if wearing a helmet. A left-turn accident with a motorcyclist can lead to life-altering injuries, including broken bones, spinal injuries, brain injuries, skull fractures, and more. Unfortunately, this type of accident is also one of the most common types of motorcycle accidents, and those on the road should take extra precautions to avoid them.

There are a number of reasons that these crashes may occur. One of the major reasons is visibility. Because motorcycles are significantly smaller than cars and trucks, it may be difficult for other motorists to see them, and they may not realize the risk when they decide to make a left turn. Distracted driving also increases the risk for these accidents—if a driver is texting, eating, talking on a cell-phone, or even just distracted by a flashy billboard or something he is driving by, he may not notice a motorcycle and may make left turns without stopping to ensure the coast is clear.

Maryland motorcyclists and all other drivers must exercise reasonable care at any time that they are on the road. At times, a driver’s lack of care goes beyond simple negligence. Under Maryland law, gross negligence refers to willful and wanton misconduct, which is considered as something more than simple negligence, and closer to reckless conduct. Gross negligence signifies conduct “in reckless disregard of the consequences” and the actor’s lack of concern for the effect on another person’s life or property. It also suggests a disregard of the consequences without any attempts to avoid them. Whether gross negligence was committed is fact-specific and is generally a question for a jury. A recent case is an example of a situation in which one state appeals court found that gross negligence may have resulted in a motorcycle crash.

According to the court’s opinion, a raceway obtained a license from a racing federation to hold federation-sanctioned motorcycle events. An association managed operations for the raceway. To control erosion, the association placed unmarked sandbags around the raceway. The association did not have any staff with experience or training in track safety, and the placement of sandbags violated federation standards. The plaintiff was competing in a motorcycle racing event and lost control of his motorcycle. He entered the safety zone, collided with the sandbags, and suffered serious injuries. He was not warned of the sandbags, which were the same color as the track.

The plaintiff filed a claim that alleged that the association was liable for gross negligence and that the county was liable for a dangerous condition of public property. After a trial court dismissed the claim, a state court of appeals reversed. The appeals court found that it might have been grossly negligent for the association to divert money to operations instead of erosion protection and to rely on the assessments of an executive with no track safety training. In addition, the raceway association could be found liable for a dangerous condition.

Although many people take left turns every day without issue, left turns can be a factor in many Maryland motorcycle accidents. Left turns have been a subject of research in recent years, including a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA). In that study, the NHTSA found that in 22.2 percent of crashes studied, the critical pre-crash event was turning left. Turning right accounted for only 1.2 percent of crashes. One study carried out in New York City found that left turns were three times as likely to produce a serious injury or fatality compared to right turns, and left turns were twice as likely to cause a pedestrian or bicyclist fatality compared to right turns. According to that study, 108 pedestrians and bicyclists were killed by left-turning vehicles during a four-year period.

According to the senior vice president for research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, left turns are difficult because drivers have to make a number of decisions within a short period of time. Left turns are also particularly dangerous for pedestrians, since they have a walk light at the same time that a turning driver has a green light. Another researcher explained that the front piece of the car’s frame can obstruct pedestrians from view. The New York City study also found that the wide turn radius involved in left turns makes them more dangerous because it leads to higher speeds and exposes pedestrians more.

Left turns are also particularly dangerous for motorcyclists. According to statistics from the NHTSA, in 2013, there were 2,182 fatal two-vehicle crashes involving a motorcycle and another type of vehicle. In 922 of these cases (42 percent), the other vehicle was making a left turn while the motorcycle was going straight, passing, or overtaking another vehicle.

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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