Motorcycles can be a fun and exciting way to travel; however, several recent fatal motorcycle accidents in Maryland remind us that motorcycles can also be dangerous. On July 4, 2014, two motorcyclists were involved in fatal accidents in one evening in Silver Spring, Maryland. And in June, a motorcyclist’s death in Annapolis, Maryland was attributed in part to a substandard helmet.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle accident with another vehicle, you may be able to recover damages for lost wages, pain and suffering, and medical bills. It is important to consult with an experienced Maryland motorcycle accident attorney to find out whether you may have a claim.
Many motorcycle accidents are caused by negligence; either the negligence of the motorcycle operator, the negligence of another driver, or both. For example, one of the most common causes of a motorcycle accident is the operator’s poor training. For this reason, it is important to understand how Maryland negligence law applies to motorcycle accidents.
Generally, a plaintiff can recover in negligence if they are harmed by a defendant who owed them a duty of care, breached that duty, and caused them damages. All drivers on the road owe a duty of reasonable care. However, certain defenses such as contributory negligence can prevent a plaintiff from recovering even when all of the other elements of negligence are satisfied.
Maryland is one of only a few states to apply the law of contributory negligence. This means that a motorcyclist may not be able to recover damages in a personal injury lawsuit if they were negligent themselves, even if the other party was 99 percent responsible. In a Maryland negligence lawsuit, it is important for an injured motorcyclist to be able to prove that they were riding safely and obeying traffic laws.
Is Failure to Wear a Helmet Contributory Negligence?
Maryland has a motorcycle helmet law that requires motorcycle operators to wear a helmet that conforms to the Department of Transportation Standards. In addition, if the helmet does not cover the rider’s eyes, the rider must wear an eye-protective device that is in compliance with the Federal Food and Drug Administration’s regulations on impact resistance.
Is failure to wear a helmet and/or eye protection contributory negligence? Not necessarily: 40 years ago in 1973, the Maryland Court of Appeals considered the issue and held that failure to wear a motorcycle helmet is not itself contributory negligence (Rodgers v. Frush, 257 Md. 233). Other states that have considered the issue more recently have admitted evidence of failure to wear a motorcycle helmet in order to show negligence.
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