A woman who was riding on the back of a motorcycle is dead, the driver of the motorcycle is seriously injured, and another woman is facing charges for driving while intoxicated and causing an accident resulting in serious injury or death. According to a local news article discussing the tragic crash, the driver of the car was making a left-hand turn out of a parking lot when she crashed directly into the motorcycle. Neither the driver nor the passenger was wearing helmets at the time of the crash, and the article stated that head trauma was a contributing cause to the passenger’s death.
Maryland’s Helmet Law
The state of Maryland has passed a law that all motorcyclists on public roads must be wearing an approved helmet, as well as all passengers riding on the back of a motorcycle. It’s a simple fact that helmets save lives every year, and some sources estimate that 700 deaths each year could be prevented if motorcyclists and their passengers wore helmets at the time of the accident.
Although helmets are effective and should be worn by motorcyclists and their passengers, other drivers are not protected from liability when they cause an accident involving a motorcyclist without a helmet. The fact remains that according to the National Transit Safety Board, over half of fatal motorcycle accidents result in the death of one or more riders who were properly wearing an approved helmet. This statistic can be explained in part by the fact that more riders wear helmets than not, especially in Maryland since the passage of the helmet law.
Admissibility of Helmet Non-Use Evidence in Personal Injury Trials
Defendants who are sued for personal injuries or wrongful death after an accident may want to introduce evidence that the injured or dead rider was not wearing a helmet, which may have contributed to the cause of their death or the severity of their injuries. In 1970, before the helmet law had been passed, the Maryland Court of Appeals decided a case in which the defendant sought to introduce the fact that the victim was not wearing a helmet to show the contributory negligence of the accident victim. Arguably, this could have been used to eliminate a potential damages award. However, the court did not allow the evidence to be considered.
This case has not been overruled in Maryland, although defendants have tried to change the law. Making matters more confusing, the other state appellate courts who have decided whether helmet non-use evidence is admissible in their state have come to different conclusions for different reasons where the courts have weighed in on the issue. Since Maryland law continues to prevent the admission of helmet non-use evidence in civil trials, plaintiffs in this state may have an advantage compared to similarly situated injured motorcyclists who pursue a claim in a different state. That being said, motorcyclists and their passengers should always wear helmets.
Should You Contact a Maryland Motorcycle Accident Attorney?
If you or a family member has been hurt or killed in a Maryland motorcycle crash, the qualified Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. motorcycle accident attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers can meet with you free of charge to discuss your case. Even if the injured or killed party was not wearing a helmet, Maryland law still protects their right to relief. At Lebowitz & Mzhen, we represent clients in Maryland, Northern Virginia, and the entire Washington, D.C. region in motorcycle accident and wrongful death cases, including head-on collisions and DUI accidents. Call us toll-free at 1-800-654-1949 or contact us online and schedule a free consultation.
More Blog Posts:
Multi-Vehicle Accidents Involving Motorcyclists, Maryland Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog, published November 4, 2016.
How Self-Driving Cars May Affect Motorcycle Safety, Maryland Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog, published October 20, 2016.