Evidence of a Motorcyclist’s Failure to Wear a Helmet is Not Admissible in a Maryland Personal Injury Lawsuit

Earlier this month, one woman was killed and another man seriously injured when they were cut off by a vehicle making a left turn in front of the motorcycle the two were riding. According to a local news report covering the tragic accident, responding officers found one helmet at the scene that had been improperly secured by one of the victims.

This tragic case brings up an important issue that many defendants in Maryland motorcycle accident cases try to raise:  the fact that the victim was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident. To be sure, all motorcyclists should wear a helmet to protect themselves when they are riding. And it is true that, in some cases, a helmet can prevent serious or fatal injuries. However, under Maryland law, evidence of helmet non-use is inadmissible in a personal injury trial.

If wearing a helmet is required by law in Maryland, why then is the fact that a motorcyclist wasn’t wearing a helmet inadmissible in a personal injury trial? The answer has to do with how liability is determined in Maryland personal injury lawsuits.

In Maryland, in order to establish a defendant’s liability, a plaintiff must show that the defendant breached some duty of care that was owed to the plaintiff and that this breach resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries. Notice that the focus is on the conduct of the defendant, instead of the plaintiff. The plaintiff’s conduct can come into play in two circumstances.

First, Maryland law uses a strict framework for determining which accident victims can recover compensation for their injuries. Under the state’s contributory negligence rule, a plaintiff who is found to be even the slightest bit at fault for the accident causing their injuries will be precluded from recovery. Second, if a defendant is able to prove that the plaintiff assumed the risks involved with the activity in which they were engaging at the time of the accident, the plaintiff will not be permitted to recover for their injuries.

In a 1970 case, Rogers v. Frush, however, the court rejected the idea that helmet non-use is relevant to either of these inquiries. Thus, since the essential elements of a negligence claim focus on the conduct of the defendant, rather than the plaintiff, and since the courts have already decided that helmet non-use is not relevant to a plaintiff’s role in causing the accident, Maryland courts continue to preclude the admission of this evidence.

Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Motorcycle Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a motorcycle accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. This may be the case even if you or your loved one was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident. At the Maryland personal injury and wrongful death law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers, we represent victims and their families in all types of motorcycle accident cases. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule your free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Court Rejects Plaintiff’s Product Liability Case Following Serious Personal Watercraft Injury, Maryland Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog, published April 19, 2018.

Court Dismisses Negligent Entrustment Claim in Recent Motorcycle Accident Case, Maryland Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog, published April 5, 2018.

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