MARYLAND MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT CASES

Everything You Need to Know About Motorcycle Accident Cases in Maryland

Motorcycle riders are 35 times more likely to die in an accident than a car passenger.

NHTSA

Handling a motorcycle case is more challenging than a typical car accident case. Motorcycle crash cases require an awareness of societal prejudices against motorcycle riders. This is because juries and insurance companies typically believe negative stereotypes about motorcyclists. These stereotypes cause disputes about fault and settlement value to become difficult.

Contrary to these stereotypes, most motorcyclists are safe and conscientious drivers. The majority of riders are concerned about their safety. They typically wear helmets and, their motor vehicle records are cleaner than the average driver. In fact, more motorcycle accidents are caused by inattentive drivers than motorcyclists. Below we discuss motorcycle accidents, the value of these accident cases, and what makes them unique.

Maryland Motorcycle Accident Statistics

Though there are fewer motorcycles on the road as compared to passenger vehicles, recent statistics on motorcycle accidents are still alarming. Data reveals that there are approximately 1,800 motorcycle accidents every year in Maryland. In 2017 alone, Maryland reported 76 motorcycle deaths. Additionally, severe injuries are ten times more likely to occur in motorcycle accidents than with cars. A significant amount of fatal accidents for motorcyclists are single-vehicle crashes. These accidents are often attributed to drivers who drive over the speed limit, drive under the influence, or with a lack of driver awareness.

Helmet use also contributes to increased motorcyclist fatalities. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that 749 lives could have been saved in 2017 had riders worn helmets. Maryland law requires motorcycle riders to wear helmets that meet the Maryland Motor Vehicle Association’s standards and visors if their bike does not have a windshield. As a result of these statistics, motorcyclists, pay more for their injuries than drivers of other vehicles. The average total cost of a motorcyclist’s injuries is $211,000 compared to about $17,000 for all other vehicles.

Common Types of Motorcycle Accidents

The types of collisions that motorcycles are frequently involved differ considerably from car accident collisions. For starters, motorcycles get into a very high proportion of head-on collisions compared to other vehicles. Also, motorcycles are less likely to be at-fault in an accident. The other vehicles is at-fault in 65% of all motorcycle accidents.

Failure to Yield

A motorcyclist’s right to turn or move through intersections is known as the right-of-way. Motorcyclists must follow the same right-of-way rules as drivers of passenger vehicles. Often, motorists are unaware of and violate the motorcyclists’ right-of-way. Busy cities and traffic-filled streets pose a significant threat to motorcyclists. Since a motorcyclist has little warning before a vehicle pulls out in front of him, these accidents often end in significant injury or death. For example, a car may make a right turn onto a roadway where a motorcycle is already traveling. The driver turns in front of a motorcyclist without using turn signals and causes a collision. Motorcycles are typically smaller and harder to notice.

Left Turn Accidents

Many motorcycle accidents caused by cars happen at intersections. In particular, left-turn accidents can be dangerous. The negligence of other drivers on the road is a significant contributing factor to motorcycle fatalities. Approximately 40% of fatal motorcycle crashes occur when another vehicle turns left in front of an unsuspecting motorcycle. For example, a driver turns left off a two-way road without noticing an oncoming bike. The driver may have failed to stop at a stop sign or was speeding through a yellow light. Nonetheless, the driver crashes into the motorcyclists causing the bike to collide with the side of the vehicle. 

One of the traditional rules of the road is that a driver does not make a left turn unless it’s safe to do so. Meaning, there are no approaching vehicles so the driver can make the turn safely. In most left-turn accidents, the fault lies strictly with the individual who turned left. However, it’s important to note this isn’t always the case. For example, a motorcyclists drives straight through the intersection while in the left turn only lane. The driver making the left turn doesn’t expect the motorcycle to proceed through the intersection and, a collision occurs. In this instance, the driver of the vehicle and the motorcyclist may both be at fault. If the driver turning left was at fault, but the motorcyclist was also to blame for the accident, it could reduce the number of damages available.

What is Unique About Motorcycle Accident Cases?

Personal injury cases involving motorcycle accidents are unique in a number of ways, especially when the injured victim was the motorcycle rider.

Jury Bias

The most crucial step in personal injury claims is establishing fault. Proving who was at fault is particularly important in states like Maryland, who use contributory negligence principles. Contributory negligence is when a party fails to act rationally and is considered to be a related factor in the injury suffered. In Maryland, the contributory negligence doctrine will not allow a victim to recover if they are found to be even 1% responsible for the accident. Determining at-fault parties in motorcycle accidents is unique because juries typically tend to side with the motor vehicle driver. Therefore, for a motorcyclist to recover, they must establish not only that the other party was at fault, but also that they weren’t a contributing factor.

Insurance Company Bias

Additionally, motorcycle claims are unique because they are also not fairly treated by insurance companies. Specifically, Maryland Insurance Code § 19-505, allows insurance companies to withhold Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage from motorcyclists. PIP is additional insurance coverage on most policies that pay for medical bills or lost wages after an accident. The policy is usually between $2,500 and $10,000 and even covers parties who were at fault. Insurance companies are required to offer PIP to vehicle drivers. Whereas, motorcyclists are handled differently. This makes it increasingly difficult to recover after an accident.

Likewise, uninsured motorist claims unfairly treat motorcyclists. For example, if you are driving someone else’s motorcycle and get into an accident with an uninsured driver, uninsured motorist benefits are typically available for you under your insurance policy. However, if you own both a motorcycle and a car, the policy limit for your motorcycle is applied even if you have higher uninsured benefits on another vehicle.

Motorcycle riders face significant bias from juries and insurance companies in accident cases.