Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case that presents a very important issue for the victims of Maryland bicycle accidents. The case required the court to interpret and apply the state’s recreational use statute, determining if the conduct of the government defendant in charge of maintaining the land where the plaintiff sustained his injuries rose to the level of “willful or wanton.”
Finding that the government’s conduct was not willful or wanton, the court determined that the government agency was entitled to immunity and dismissed the plaintiff’s case.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was riding his bicycle on a mixed-use trail on a summer morning. As the plaintiff approached a pedestrian on the trail, he rang his bell and began to pass the pedestrian by moving into the middle of the trail. However, as the plaintiff steered the bike to the middle of the trail, the bike’s tire got caught in a crack that was about three inches wide and two inches deep, and ran approximately four feet in the direction of travel. As the bike’s wheel got caught, the plaintiff lost his balance and fell, injuring his shoulder.
As it turns out, the government was aware of the crack and had begun to take actions to fix it. However, due to the various levels of approval such repairs were required to obtain, the repairs were not conducted until three days after the plaintiff’s fall.
The plaintiff filed a personal injury case against the local park district, arguing that the district was negligent in failing to properly maintain the trail. In response, the government argued that it was entitled to immunity from the plaintiff’s lawsuit under the state’s recreational use statute.
The court agreed with the government, initially noting that it was undisputed that the trail where the injury occurred was created for recreational purposes. Thus, the government is immune from liability unless its conduct could be considered willful or wanton.
Here, the court noted that the government had taken some actions to remedy the hazardous crack, but the repairs had not yet occurred. This, the court held, was evidence that the government did not willfully create the crack or fail to repair it. The court also rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the government could have done more, noting that the question was not whether the government was merely negligent but whether its conduct was willful or wanton.
Maryland’s Recreational Use Statute
As noted above, this case is important for Maryland bicycle accident victims because Maryland’s recreational use statute is similar to the one applied by the court in this case. In Maryland, a landowner is immune from injuries occurring on land that is opened up to the public for recreational use in some limited situations. However, as in the case discussed above, if the landowner’s conduct is willful or malicious, such immunity does not apply.
Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Bicycle Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Maryland bicycle accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated Maryland personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have extensive experience handling Maryland bicycle accident cases and are intimately familiar with the state’s recreational use statute. While issues of immunity may arise in some limited circumstances, it is best to discuss your case with a dedicated attorney prior to making any decisions. Call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation with a dedicated Maryland personal injury attorney.
More Blog Posts:
Commuter Bicycle Accidents in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., Maryland Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog, published December 20, 2017.
Bicycle Accidents on Maryland Roads, Maryland Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog, published January 5, 2018.