Articles Posted in Motorcycle Safety

Maryland motorcycle accidents occur in a split second, and most riders do not have time to react before an imminent collision. However, riders should always be prepared to lay the bike down if the need arises. Of course, laying down a motorcycle is a big decision that will result in the damage to the bike and may result in serious injury to the rider. Thus, riders only should ditch a motorcycle in the event of an immediate and unavoidable motorcycle accident.

As we have noted in previous posts, Maryland accident law is unique in that it precludes an accident victim who is partially at fault from pursuing a claim against any other driver involved in the accident. This concept is referred to as the doctrine of contributory negligence; if a plaintiff is found to be contributorily negligent by a judge or jury, then they can recover nothing for their injuries. While the doctrine of contributory negligence is outdated, and most other jurisdictions in the United States have shifted away from its use, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. still employ the doctrine.

Laying down a motorcycle is technically a choice. However, it is not a choice that any rider wants to make. The question arises, then, if a motorcyclist chooses to lie down their bike are they then foreclosed from pursuing a Maryland personal injury claim against another driver whose negligence forced them to make the decision. In reality, a rider’s decision to lie down their motorcycle should be viewed as the rider attempting to mitigate their own damages; however, courts do not preclude defendants from arguing that the plaintiff laid the bike down unnecessarily. As is often the case in the law, these are fact-specific determinations that will come down to the specific circumstances of each individual accident. So, unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to the question.

As a general rule, anyone who has been injured in a Maryland motorcycle accident can bring a claim for compensation against the party that they believe to be responsible for causing the crash. If the motorcycle accident victim is successful, they may be able to recover compensation for their past and future medical expenses and lost wages, as well as for any pain and suffering they endured as a result of the accident.

However, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. have some of the strictest laws when it comes to determining which motorcycle accident victims can obtain compensation for their injuries. Each of these jurisdictions applies a slightly different version of a doctrine called “contributory negligence.” Under a contributory negligence framework, an accident victim is not permitted to recover for their injuries if they share responsibility for the accident that resulted in their injuries.

This may sound like a harsh law, and it is. In fact, even if an accident victim is found to be just 5% at fault for causing a collision, they will be barred from recovering anything for their injuries. The doctrine of contributory negligence used to be common across the country, but over time most states have passed legislation abolishing the doctrine in favor of a more accident-victim-friendly alternative. In fact, aside from Maryland Virginia, and Washington, D.C, only two other states apply the contributory negligence rule.

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Under Maryland’s contributory negligence law, only those accident victims who are completely free of fault are able to recover for their injuries. This strict law, which is not applied by the majority of states, precludes many Maryland motorcycle accident victims from recovering for the injuries they’ve sustained. Thus, in a motorcycle accident case against an allegedly negligent driver, the focus is not just on the defendant’s conduct, but also on the plaintiff’s.

Of course, some motorcycle accidents cannot be avoided by even the most attentive and skilled riders. Thus, an accident victim cannot be faulted for failing to avoid an imminent collision caused by another’s negligence; otherwise, no Maryland motorcycle accident would ever be able to recover for their injuries. Courts will usually look to the plaintiff’s conduct leading up to the accident to determine whether the plaintiff bears any responsibility in bringing about the accident.

Courts may also consider a plaintiff’s failure to mitigate damages. For example, if a plaintiff is injured in an accident and is told that she needs a certain surgery but does not get the surgery, the defendant may not be liable for the injuries caused by the plaintiff’s failure to get the required surgery. In other words, a plaintiff’s post-accident conduct can also be relevant to the availability of damages.

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A 19-year-old Connecticut woman was arrested last month after she collided with a man on a scooter while driving her car on a state highway near New London, Connecticut. The rider was ejected from his scooter, suffered serious injuries, and remains hospitalized in critical condition. According to a local news report, the driver of the car remained at the scene of the accident and appeared intoxicated when police and emergency officials arrived. Evidently, she was charged with DUI and released on a promise to appear. Although her current charges do not incorporate the serious injury that she caused to the motorcyclist, prosecutors may decide to press more serious charges, especially if new evidence is uncovered or the victim’s condition worsens.

Drunk Drivers Are a Danger to Everyone on the Road, Especially to Motorcyclists and Scooter Riders

Thousands of people are killed every year in alcohol-related road accidents. Although most drunk driving injuries are suffered by people in cars and trucks, motorcyclists are at a greater danger individually than people in other vehicles.

Any motorcycle or scooter enthusiast knows that other drivers sometimes fail to notice them or yield the right of way. Alcohol intoxication is described by the World Health Organization as causing symptoms that include loss of coordination, reduction in motor and visual abilities, delayed reaction time, and poor judgment. All of these effects of alcohol make the dangers motorcyclists face from cars even worse. A drunk driver with impaired judgment and delayed reaction time may decide not to check her mirrors before changing lanes or may drive at excessive speeds and without regard for others on the road. Motorcyclists and other two-wheeled vehicle riders must be vigilant to always look out for other drivers who are driving dangerously and may be drunk.

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While motorcyclists only account for a small number of the vehicles on the roads, the number of serious or fatal accidents involving motorcycles is fairly high. While some motorcycle accidents are caused by rider error, many of the fatal motorcycle accidents we see each year are caused by other motorists and their inexperience with sharing the road with motorcyclists. In fact, one of the major causes of serious and fatal motorcycle accidents is another motorist’s failure to see a motorcyclist.

Whether a motorist drives a car, truck, or motorcycle, they have a duty to those with whom they share the road. This duty requires that the motorist operate their vehicle in a manner that is safe and responsible. Of course, this also includes refraining from distracted or intoxicated driving. When a motorist violates this duty and creates a danger on the road, he or she can be held liable for the damages that result through a Maryland motorcycle accident lawsuit.

Injured motorcyclists should be prepared for a fight, however. Routinely, at-fault drivers and their insurance companies try and shift the blame onto the motorcyclist. For example, if a motorcyclist is injured while not wearing a helmet, an at-fault driver may attempt to use that fact against the motorcyclist. However, the fact remains that without the at-fault driver’s negligence, there would have been no accident in the first place.

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The phrase “intentional accident” does not make a lot of sense. Indeed, when most people think of an accident, they think of one party being negligent, such as by forgetting to stop at a stop sign, failing to see another oncoming motorist, or being ignorant of a traffic sign. However, some accidents are seemingly intentional in nature and require a second look.

Road rage is an increasingly common phenomenon across the United States. Studies have hypothesized regarding the causes and reasons why road rage is seen more today than in the past, with most theories coming back to the fact that we live a fairly high-stress lifestyle as Americans and that there are so many motorists on the road today. However, there is never an excuse to intentionally cause an accident or put other motorists at risk.

Road rage and other forms of aggressive driving are especially dangerous to the motorcyclists on the road. With little to protect them from a fall, motorcyclists often endure serious, life-threatening injuries after being involved in an accident. To think that another person intentionally puts someone at this level of risk is astonishing, but it does happen.

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Motorcycle accidents have a variety of causes, ranging from drunk or distracted drivers in cars or trucks to speeding motorcyclists and dangerous roadways. All too often, the motorcyclist himself is seen as the at-fault party, especially in single-vehicle motorcycle accidents. However, that is a gross oversimplification, and while there certainly are irresponsible motorcyclists who cause accidents that result in their injuries, most motorcycle accidents require a deeper look to determine what is going on.

One instance in which a single-vehicle motorcycle accident may not be the fault of the motorcyclist is when the accident is caused by poor road conditions. This may mean that a construction crew didn’t adequately clean up the road and left debris that is dangerous to motorcyclists. It could also be that the roadway was not repaired after a particularly harsh winter that caused cracks in the roadway to expand and become dangerous to riders. In any event, the city or county government that is in charge of maintaining the roadway may be held liable in some circumstances when an accident is caused by a failure to maintain the roadway.

These claims differ from those alleging that the road is dangerous due to a flawed design. Those claims are less often successful because the government’s immunity to tort lawsuits attaches as long as the government agency properly researched the design of the road.

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Earlier this month, researchers from the University of Arizona at Tucson released a study they conducted regarding helmet use and its effects on bicycle injuries. As the reader may expect, helmets do prevent injury if they are worn by a rider involved in an accident. However, this study looked a bit deeper.

The idea of the study was to determine if wearing a helmet somehow helped those who did suffer a traumatic brain injury. In other words, it is well known that a helmet can reduce the chance of getting severely injured in a bicycle accident, but of those who are severely injured, did the group of those who were wearing helmets fare any better than those who were not?

The Study

The study looked at 6,267 bicycle accidents that resulted in a traumatic brain injury. Of those, roughly 25% of the riders were wearing their helmets. The results of the study indicated that of those who were involved in a bicycle accident and suffered a traumatic brain injury, those wearing a helmet at the time were 58% less likely to sustain a “serious” brain injury, and 59% less likely to die as a result of their brain injury.

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Some members of the Delaware House of Representatives recently made a move to prevent a mandatory helmet bill for motorcyclists from moving to the full House of Representatives. A report from one local news source stated that the maneuver puts the plan to require all motorcycle riders to wear a helmet in “legislative purgatory,” and it will prevent the bill from becoming law until at least the next legislative session.

What Is the Law and What Are the Benefits?

The proposed law would require all riders to wear a helmet. The current law requires motorcyclists to have a helmet in their possession but not to wear it. When actually worn, helmets make motorcycle riding safer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, helmets reduce the risk of death by 37% and reduce the risk of head injury by 69%. The proposed change would have made Delaware a state with a universal helmet law, much like the law in Maryland, where helmets became mandatory in 1992.

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Earlier this month, the Maryland State Senate heard testimony from a motorcycle safety instructor in favor of a new bill that would potentially make failing to yield a criminal offense in some circumstances. According to one local Maryland news source, the woman who testified told the story of a 50-year-old woman who was riding her 2006 Harley Davidson to Bike Week along Route 50.

At some point, a Toyota Solara heading in the opposite direction attempted to make a left turn in front of the motorcyclist, cutting her off. As a result, the motorcyclist had no time to react and slammed into the side of the Toyota. The 50-year-old motorcyclist was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident, and the driver of the Solara was named as the at-fault driver.

Another motorcycle and a minivan were also involved in the collision. Currently, the driver of the Solara, who is the son of the Mayor of Pokomoke City, is not facing any criminal charges, although prosecutors may file charges shortly after the conclusion of the investigation.

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