Motorcycle Accidents in Maryland and Washington D.C.
Motorcycles are some of the most dangerous vehicles on the road, due to a special combination: low visibility, high maximum speeds (unlike bicycles), and zero frame protection. Motorcycle accidents result in catastrophic injury and death far more commonly than automobile accidents do. Contentious litigation, either in court or at the negotiating table, is a common result. Either way, justice comes only to those who can prove their case with admissible evidence.
Lane-Splitting and Contributory Negligence
Lane-splitting (weaving in between cars occupying adjacent lanes) is illegal in every U.S. state except California, even though motorcyclists do it all the time. It is particularly dangerous in Maryland and D.C., not because an accident is more likely than anywhere else, but because these two jurisdictions apply a defendant-friendly “contributory negligence” rule to personal injury claims.
Under contributory negligence, an accident victim who was only one percent at fault for the accident loses all rights to compensation (with exceptions for pedestrians and bicyclists in D.C. that do not apply to motorcycle accidents). In Maryland, violation of a statute may be used as evidence of negligence, although it does not mean that the motorcyclist was automatically contributorily negligent. In D.C., negligence may be presumed when a party is found in violation of a statute. Either way, the motorcyclist’s negligent driving and violation of the statute must have operated as a proximate cause of the injury for contributory negligence to apply.
How does the statute of limitations work?
The statute of limitations operates as a major impediment to recovery for victims who wait too long to assert their rights. The statute of limitations sets a deadline for a plaintiff (victim) to file a lawsuit over a personal injury claim. The plaintiff does not have to have won the case by the deadline. All that is necessary is for the complaint to have been properly filed. If the deadline is missed, the claim is permanently barred unless an exception applies.
In both Maryland and D.C., the general statute of limitations deadline is three years after the accident. If the victim dies, a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within three years (Maryland) or two years (DC) of the victim’s date of death. Again, limited exceptions apply. Consult a lawyer before making any assumptions about the date that the statute of limitations expires.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Who can be sued or claimed against, other than the driver who caused the accident?
Depending on the circumstances, you might be able to file a claim against:
- The at-fault driver’s employer;
- The manufacturer of a defective automobile or motorcycle part that ultimately caused the accident;
- The government responsible for maintaining the road upon which the accident occurred; or
- The manufacturer of a malfunctioning traffic light.
It might be possible to identify other defendants as well.
Can the manufacturer of a defective motorcycle part be sued if a product malfunction caused the accident?
Yes, and under most circumstances, it is possible to sue under a strict liability theory. The main advantage for a plaintiff of suing (or seeking settlement) under a strict liability theory are (i) you don’t have to prove that the manufacturer behaved negligently, and (ii) you can sue anyone in the chain of distribution of the product, including the dealer. In a strict liability case, the plaintiff must only show that the part was sold in an unreasonably dangerous condition and that the defective part was the cause of the injury.
Does failure to wear a helmet constitute contributory negligence?
No, because a motorcyclists’ failure to wear a helmet normally does not operate as a substantial cause of the accident itself. In Maryland, the defendant cannot even admit evidence in trial of the plaintiff’s failure to wear a helmet. In D.C., evidence of the plaintiff’s failure to wear a helmet may only be used to obtain a reduction in damages.
I was injured in a motorcycle accident. Should I give the insurance company permission to access my medical records?
No, definitely don’t. If you do, they will “go fishing” in your files to find some way to claim that all or some of your injuries were caused by a pre-existing medical condition rather than by the accident itself. It is best that you retain a lawyer before you file your claim. This is because insurance adjusters are expert negotiators, and they know how to trick you into reducing the value of your claim or sacrificing it altogether.
Contact Us Today
If you are the victim of a motorcycle accident, contact us online or call (410) 721-1979 so that we can schedule a meeting to discuss your options. We serve clients throughout Maryland (including Baltimore and Annapolis) and Washington D.C.
Henderson Law, LLC is accepting new cases in the District of Columbia and Maryland. Henderson Law, LLC is willing to take new clients across the State of Maryland, including, but not limited to, new cases arising in the following cities: Annapolis, Crofton, Bowie, Upper Marlboro, Crownsville, Davidsonville, Edgewater, Millersville, Odenton, Severna Park, and Pasadena. Please call Henderson Law, LLC for an initial consultation.