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Bicycle and Pedestrian Accidents in Maryland and Washington, D.C.

Bicycle and pedestrian accidents are among the types of accidents that are most likely to result in death or catastrophic injury. In theory, personal injury law provides accident victims with the right to full compensation for their injuries. Nevertheless, a loophole exists in Maryland law that can make it quite difficult for the victim of a bicycle or pedestrian accident to recover any damages at all. D.C. recently revised its law to remove this loophole.

Contributory Negligence and Shared Fault Scenarios

Both Maryland and D.C, along with only a handful of other U.S. jurisdictions, apply the doctrine of contributory negligence to personal injury law. Under contributory negligence doctrine, the victim is denied all compensation if he was even slightly at fault for the accident.

Suppose, for example, that a pedestrian waited for the ?walk? signal before entering the crosswalk and was struck by a car. Would the fact that it was nighttime and the pedestrian was wearing dark clothing mean that the accident was at least one percent his fault? If so, he would recover nothing under Maryland law.

D.C., by contrast, has limited contributory negligence for victims of pedestrian and bicycle accidents. What this means is that, in D.C., a pedestrian or a bicyclist may only be barred from recovering damages if his own negligence was (1) a proximate cause of the injury and (2) greater than the negligence of the defendant. This exception applies only to pedestrians, bicyclists, and users of non-motorized vehicles. If the driver of the car that hit the pedestrian also suffered damages, she would likely be barred from recovery under the standard contributory negligence rule.

Causes of Bicycle Accidents

Some of the most common causes of bicycle accidents include:

  • The cyclist was in the motorist?s blind spot (if you can?t see his mirrors, he can?t see you!)
  • The motorst did not see the bicyclist because of inattention
  • ?Road hog? motorists
  • The motorist turned left without signaling
  • Intoxication
  • Texting while driving
  • The cyclist tried to pass the motorist
  • The cyclist ignored the rules of the road (by running stop lights, etc.)

Causes of Pedestrian Accidents

Some of the most common causes of pedestrian accidents include:

  • Failure to stop before the crosswalk
  • Failure to see the pedestrian
  • Intoxication
  • Texting while driving
  • Failure to look in the rear-view mirror when backing up
  • Speeding or driving too fast for the conditions (in icy weather, for example)
  • Running a stop sign or a red light
  • Pedestrian jaywalking (especially near university campuses)

Wrongful Death

If a bicyclist or pedestrian dies in an accident caused by someone else, a wrongful death claim may arise in favor of his probate estate and close surviving family members. Damages in wrongful death cases can be substantial. Nevertheless, contributory negligence still applies in Maryland.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What kind of insurance covers bicycle accidents?

Cyclists injured in bicycle accidents frequently recover compensation from:

  • Automobile insurance;
  • Homeowners? insurance; or
  • Health insurance.

Check your policy language for details. If you were hit by a car, you might also be able to recover from the automobile insurance policy of the at-fault driver via a third-party claim.

Does the accident victim automatically win by proving that the defendant was intoxicated at the time of the accident?

Not necessarily, although a victim does improve his chances of victory by proving intoxication. Two defenses might be available to the defendant: (i) the victim was partly at fault for the accident (see the discussion on contributory negligence above), or (ii) the defendant?s intoxication did not cause the accident (for example, a pedestrian victim darted out into the street chasing a basketball, so quickly that even a sober driver would not have had time to stop).

Does the victim have to prove his case beyond a reasonable doubt?

No. ?Beyond a reasonable doubt? is the standard for a criminal prosecution where the defendant?s liberty may be at stake, not a civil lawsuit where only money is at stake. A plaintiff in a civil case must only prove his case ?by a preponderance of the evidence,? which is close to a ?51 percent likelihood? or ?more likely than not? standard.

The defendant was acquitted in criminal court. Can the victim still win a civil lawsuit?

Yes, it is possible, although acquittal in a criminal court is certainly not good news. Because of the different standard of proof between a criminal prosecution and a civil trial (see above), it is possible to win a civil lawsuit even after an acquittal. This happened in the famous O.J. Simpson cases in the 1990s.

Contact Us Immediately

If you have suffered a bicyclist or pedestrian accident, contact Henderson Law, LLC, as soon as possible by contacting us online or calling (410) 721-1979. We handle cases 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.

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