Maryland Motorcycle Accident Lawyers

Trust the Jaklitsch Law Group for unparalleled legal representation and communication throughout the entirety of your motorcycle accident case.

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Motorcycles may be fun to ride, but they do nothing to keep riders safe when an accident occurs. Motorcycles have no protective cab, and they weigh far less than a passenger vehicle. No matter how the accident happens or who is at fault, the motorcyclist usually gets the worst of it.

Motorcycle accidents still happen far too frequently in Maryland and can cause significant injuries resulting in piles of medical bills, missed time from work, and interference with the ability to manage and enjoy life. These losses are entitled to compensation so long as the motorcycle operator has no fault for the accident.

Motorcycle riders injured by other motorists can face an uphill battle trying to establish they did not contribute in any way to causing an accident. With everything on the line, there is no room for mistakes. The nationally acclaimed motorcycle accident attorneys at Jaklitsch Law Group have nearly 100 years of combined legal experience handling personal injury claims from motor vehicle accidents.

Motorcycle Accidents in Maryland

The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) reports that an average of 73 motorcycle riders and passengers are killed and over 1,000 are injured in accidents on the state’s roadways each year. Motorcycle crashes result in injuries to the riders 72% of the time. Although both the total number of motorcycle crashes and the number of crashes resulting in injuries have trended lower in recent years, the number of fatal crashes has begun to rise again. 

Accidents involving motorcycles are twice as likely to result in injury or death as crashes involving other types of motor vehicles. Motorcycle accidents occur most frequently in the main metropolitan areas, with over 46% occurring in the Baltimore region and 33% occurring in the Washington region. 

Who is Most Often Injured in a Motorcycle Accident?

Men are exceedingly overrepresented in motorcycle accidents. In Maryland, males made up 93% of motorcycle operators injured in accidents and 97% of those killed in motorcycle crashes. And they are predominantly young men. Males ages 21-34 make up 35% of the motorcycle operators but 37% of those who are injured and 43% of those who are killed.

When Motorcycle Accidents Most Often Occur

The best time to ride a motorcycle is while the weather is good, so it makes sense that most motorcycle crashes occur during the warmer months. In the US, those months tend to be April through October.

Weekends are the riskiest days of the week for motorcycles, especially in the afternoon and evening hours. Traffic is typically heavier, and there is a greater chance a driver may be drug or alcohol-impaired. Peak periods for fatal accidents are 7 to 9 p.m. (22%) and 2 to 4 p.m. (20%). 

Maryland Motorcycle Laws

Under Maryland law, a motorcycle operator has the same rights and responsibilities as any other motorist. There are also some laws that are specific to motorcycle operators and passengers. 

  • A motorcycle operator may ride only on the permanent and regular seat
  • A motorcycle operator may only carry a passenger if the bike is designed to carry passengers
  • A motorcycle operator must have both hands on the steering mechanism
  • A person riding a motorcycle must face forward with a leg on each side of the bike
  • A passenger must not interfere with the operation or control of the motorcycle

Lane Use – No Lane-Splitting

Motorcycles are entitled to use the full lane of travel – though up to two motorcycles may share one lane. Other motor vehicles are not allowed to crowd or interfere with a motorcyclist’s use of a travel lane. Motorcycles are not allowed to pass passengers or larger vehicles within the same lane of travel. Nor may a motorcycle be operated between two lanes of travel or between adjacent rows of vehicles.

Helmet Use and Eye Protection – Not Evidence of Negligence

Unless enclosed in a cab or equipped with a windscreen, motorcycle operators and passengers are required to wear approved helmets and eye protection. However, the legislature has made it clear that failing to wear a helmet cannot be used against the person who violates the law. 

Failure to wear a helmet may not be:

  • Used as evidence of negligence
  • Used as evidence of contributory negligence
  • Used to limit the liability of an insurance company or other party
  • Used to diminish the recovery for damages arising out of the ownership, maintenance, or operation of a motorcycle

In fact, helmet use may not be referenced at all during a personal injury civil action unless it relates to the design, manufacture, or repair of the helmet. 

Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), crashes with other vehicles in transport result in over half of all fatal motorcycle accidents nationwide. An impact with the front of a motorcycle is the most deadly and causes 75% of the fatalities. 

The driving maneuver most often being executed at the time of a fatal motorcycle accident is a left-hand turn by another vehicle. The NHTSA reports that of the 3,052 fatal two-vehicle motorcycle accidents in 2021, 43% involved the other vehicle making a left-hand turn in front of a motorcycle going straight.

Speed

Speed too fast for the road conditions is statistically associated with motorcycle fatalities. One-third of all reported fatal motorcycle accidents credit motorcycle speed as a contributing factor.  Evidence of excessive speed can be used to prove negligence on the part of a motorcycle operator.

Alcohol

Alcohol impairment also has a strong correlation with motorcycle accidents. Of the total number of motorcycle riders killed in 2021, 36% had been drinking, and 29% tested at or over the legal limit. Motorcycle drivers had a higher percentage of alcohol impairment than any other type of driver involved in a fatal accident.

Types of Injuries Sustained in Motorcycle Accidents

The injuries sustained in motorcycle accidents depend on how the crash occurs. Lower limb injuries are the most frequent type of injury from a motorcycle accident and can occur when the limb is trapped between the motorcycle and a fixed object. Fractures of the lower legs are the most common lower limb injury, followed by injuries to the ankles and feet. 

 

Head-first collisions are the most likely to result in frontal head trauma. Head injuries are seen in up to 50% of motorcycle accidents and are the leading cause of fatalities. Cervical spine injuries are also more likely to occur in head-leading injuries. About 33% of motorcycle crashes result in upper extremity injuries. The collarbone and shoulder blades are most often injured, followed by forearm injuries.

Motorcycle Accident Fatalities

The unfortunate reality is that motorcycle accidents often result in fatalities. When a motorcycle operator or passenger is killed in a crash caused by another motorist, the family of the decedent has the right to be compensated for the loss of their loved one. 

A wrongful death lawsuit is for the benefit of the surviving spouse, children, and parents of the deceased person. In addition to pecuniary damages for the loss of financial support, the beneficiaries of a wrongful death action can be awarded compensation for the mental anguish and emotional pain they experience as well as contributions the decedent could have made such as companionship, comfort, care, guidance, and advice.   

Compensation for Motorcycle Accident Injuries

There are two types of damages that can be awarded as compensation for personal injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident. Lost earnings and medical expenses are economic damages. Compensation for pain, suffering, physical impairment, disfigurement, and other non-pecuniary losses are noneconomic damages.   

Non-economic damages are capped for both personal injury and wrongful death claims. Beginning at $500,000 in 1994, the amount is adjusted upward annually by $15,000. As of October 1, 2023, the non-economic damages cap is $935,000.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are a special type of damages that may be awarded in addition to compensatory damages when a wrongdoer’s conduct is motivated by malice. Malice is evil intent, intent to injure, ill will, or fraud. Punitive damages are intended to punish the wrongdoer and deter similar behavior in the future. Awards of punitive damages are rare, and there is no right to receive punitive damages even if malice is proven.

Auto Insurance Coverage for Motorcycle Accidents

All drivers in Maryland are required to carry a minimum amount of auto liability insurance. The current minimums are:  

  • $30,000 per person bodily injury
  • $60,000 per accident bodily injury
  • $15,000 property damage

Unlike some other states, Maryland also requires motorists to carry the same minimum limits of uninsured motorist coverage, and vehicles other than motorcycles must carry at least $2,500 of Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage for non-family passengers and pedestrians. 

PIP benefits cover medical expenses and lost wages without regard to fault. This coverage can be especially important in a state like Maryland, which bars recovery for personal injuries caused by someone else if there is any contributory fault. 

Insurers are not required to offer PIP coverage on motorcycles, and motorcycle liability policies generally have no first-party medical benefits. Some insurance companies may offer first-party medical coverage or wage replacement benefits by endorsement. 

How to Deal with Insurance Companies

After an accident, no matter who was at fault, you need to report the accident to your own insurance company. This is usually a requirement, and failure to timely report an accident could jeopardize any benefits you might be entitled to under your own policy.

 

When another motorist is responsible, you can expect to be contacted by the other motorist’s insurance company fairly soon after the accident. It is important to be prepared before speaking to an opposing insurance adjuster. Their goal is to close claims quickly while paying out as little as possible. Anything you say will be used to limit your claim if it can be.

 

You do not need to speak with the at-fault driver’s insurance company if you are not prepared when they call.  You can let them know you need to speak with your attorney first and that you will be in touch shortly. There is no downside to actually speaking with an attorney before talking with the insurance company. Many personal injury attorneys offer free consultations where you can learn valuable information to help yourself.

 

At the very least, write down everything you can remember about the accident so you have something to refer to when talking to any insurance company, and the information you provide will be consistent. Do not agree to let the insurance company record your conversation. Do not agree to settle your claim or sign anything until you have had time to consider your options or consult an attorney. 

How Fault is Determined after a Motorcycle Accident

Maryland is one of very few states that follows the rule of contributory negligence in personal injury cases. If an injured person is found to have any contributory fault for causing the accident, there is no right to compensation. 

 

The contributory fault rule has been criticized for its all-or-nothing approach, and Maryland courts have established a test for determining when an injured party’s negligence will be considered contributory for purposes of barring recovery. When there is more than one negligent act that causes an injury, the negligence of the injured claimant will not be considered contributory unless it is both an active and substantial factor in causing the accident. 

You Only Have One Opportunity to Recover Compensation

If you are a motorcycle rider who has been injured in an accident caused by another motorist, you have a right to collect compensation for your injuries. However, you only get one opportunity to prove you are entitled to damages, and your actions must not have legally contributed to causing your injuries. 

The personal injury lawyers at Jaklitsch Law Group have a proven track record of success in helping injured motorcyclists defeat contributory negligence allegations and obtain the maximum compensation available. Client well-being is a priority, and clients never pay a fee until their case is won. In Upper Marlboro, contact Jaklitsch Law Group for a free consultation.

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