Earlier this month, an appellate court in California issued a written opinion in a motorcycle accident case requiring the court to determine if the plaintiff assumed the risk of injury involved in riding a dirt bike. Specifically, the court was tasked with determining whether the defendant’s reckless conduct exposed the plaintiff to risks above and beyond those normally encountered while riding a dirt bike. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff assumed the risk of injury by riding the dirt bike and that the defendant did not expose her to additional risks. This concept may be relevant to Maryland motorcycle accident victims as well.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff and the defendant were in a relationship. The plaintiff was new to riding dirt bikes when she met the defendant, but the two made the activity a joint hobby. One day, the couple decided to take about a two-hour ride to some dunes. The plaintiff was hesitant, and she explained to the defendant that she did not like riding in sand because it made her uncomfortable. Evidently, the defendant was present one time when the plaintiff fell while riding in sand.
The defendant “guaranteed” that there was a hard-packed dirt road the whole way and that the plaintiff would not have to ride in the sand. The plaintiff then reluctantly agreed to go.
The court detailed the couple’s ride as explained by the plaintiff. Several times during the ride, the plaintiff would let the defendant know that she was uncomfortable proceeding, and he would encourage her to continue. Each time, the plaintiff agreed. She also testified that the faster she went through the sand, the more in control she felt. She was traveling at an estimated 30-40 miles per hour.
At some point, the plaintiff encountered a sandy dune. She rode up the dune and eventually lost control of the bike on the way back down. She was thrown over the handlebars when the bike struck a rock, and the bike landed on top of her. The plaintiff sustained serious injuries to her spinal cord, resulting in permanent paralysis.
The plaintiff then sued the defendant. The plaintiff acknowledged that riding dirt bikes is a dangerous activity and that she should have expected some risk. However, she claimed that the defendant’s conduct impermissibly increased her risk of injury beyond that which is normally expected.
The court rejected the plaintiff’s claim and entered judgment in favor of the defendant. The court concluded that, as a general rule, those who ride dirt bikes assume the risk of the activity. Here, the plaintiff acknowledged the general rule but claimed the defendant’s conduct created an exception.
The court disagreed, noting that the defendant’s promise that the road was safe was insufficient to create an elevated risk of injury. First, the court explained that the defendant’s promise was accurate in that the road was hard-packed dirt up until the sand dune. The court continued its analysis, explaining that once at the sand dune, the sandy condition of the trail would have been obvious, and the plaintiff chose to proceed nonetheless. Thus, the court held that the plaintiff assumed the risk of injury and that the defendant’s promise did not expose her to additional risk.
Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Motorcycle Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Maryland motorcycle accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have extensive experience representing clients in a wide range of accidents, including motorcycle accidents and dirt bike accidents. While the doctrine of assumption of the risk barred the above plaintiff’s claim, the doctrine applies only in a limited number of factual scenarios, and potential plaintiffs should not be discouraged. Instead, call 410-654-3600 to discuss your case with a dedicated Maryland personal injury attorney.
More Blog Posts:
Lingering and Delayed-Onset Injuries Following Maryland Motorcycle Accidents, Maryland Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog, published October 26, 2017.
Insurance Disputes in Maryland Bicycle Accidents, Maryland Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog, published October 5, 2017.