Maryland motorcycle accident law is based on a fault system.
Those of us who focus on Maryland motorcycle accident law usually describe motorcycle accident claims as having two components which we commonly call “liability” and “damages.”
Liability means “Who caused the accident?”
Technically, a motorcycle accident claim is a “negligence” claim. Basically, negligence means carelessness. Therefore, you have to be able to show that the other driver acted carelessly and caused the accident by doing such things as these . . .
- driving too fast
- not paying attention
- making an unlawful turn
- following too closely
- running through a red light or a stop sign
- unsafely changing lanes
- driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- or the like
Statistically, the most common cause of motorcycle collisions is the failure of other drivers to see the motorcycle. Normally, this failure constitutes negligence and makes that driver responsible for the collision and all of the consequences of it.
However, especially if you expect the cause of the accident to be challenged, your first concern is to nail down the evidence of what happened. Do these things:
- Write down the facts.
- Make pictures of the scene and of the vehicles involved.
- Identify witnesses and get statements from them.
- Get a copy of the State of Maryland Motor Vehicle Accident Report, if one was written.
Maryland motorcycle accident lawyers are experienced and skilled at gathering the necessary facts. If you hire a Maryland motorcycle accident lawyer, your lawyer will investigate the facts of your case and gather the necessary proof of liability.
One thing is certain. The insurance company “Bad Guys” will immediately investigate the facts of a case, looking for an excuse to “deny liability” so they can refuse to pay you anything.
If you decide to hire a Maryland motorcycle accident lawyer to help you, you should do that as soon as possible to give your lawyer time to thoroughly prepare your case.
Defenses To Liability Claims
The insurance company for the at-fault driver may simply deny that their driver did anything wrong. This often happens if the at-fault driver claims that s/he was not negligent.
Or, the insurance company may raise defenses to your liability claim such as “contributory negligence.”
The alternative to contributory negligence that exists in most states is called “comparative negligence,” a much better and more fair rule.
Under comparative negligence, which varies slightly among the states that have this rule, the fault of the two drivers is “compared” and the one who is more at fault pays while the one who is less at fault has his or her claim reduced by the percentage of their fault. For example, if Jones is 90% responsible for causing an accident and Smith is 10% at fault, Smith can recover from Jones for her injuries, but Smith can only recover 90% of full compensation.
Unfortunately, Maryland is one of only 4 states that has a very harsh rule called “contributory negligence.” If it exists, contributory negligence defeats your claim.
According to the contributory negligence rule in Maryland, if you contributed in any way to causing your auto accident, you have no claim against the driver who was the primary cause of your accident. In theory, if you are only 1% responsible for causing an accident and the other driver is 99% at fault, under Maryland car accident law you are not entitled to recover from the other driver!
So, under Maryland car accident law, if you can prove that the other driver caused your accident and that you did nothing to contribute to causing the accident, there is ‘liability.’
“Damages” is the term that refers to the consequences of the other driver’s carelessness. In other words, “What harm did the carelessness cause?”
There are two main categories of damages in Maryland motorcycle accident law, property damage and personal injury damages.
Property damage, or “P.D.” as it is sometimes called, refers to the damage to your property, mainly your vehicle. The at-fault driver must pay to have your vehicle repaired. The concept underlying Maryland motorcycle accident law is that the careless driver has to give you back what s/he took from you — in this context, an undamaged motorcycle.
If it would cost more to repair your motorcycle than the bike is worth, your vehicle is a “total loss.” In other words, if you have a motorcycle that was worth $5,000 before it was damaged, and it would cost $10,000 to repair it, your motorcycle is totaled. In that case, the careless driver has to pay you what your motorcycle was worth before the careless driver destroyed it. In my example, that is $5,000. The underlying theory here is that the $5,000 you are given will make it possible for you to get another motorcycle just like the one that was destroyed. Unfortunately, that is almost never a realistic possibility.
Under your P.D. claim, the other driver must also give you a replacement vehicle — a rental car — while your motorcycle is being repaired. Or, if your motorcycle was totaled, the other driver must give you a rental car until you are paid for your destroyed motorcycle.
Here’s a tip about an overlooked property damage claim. If your motorcycle has been badly damaged, especially if it is relatively new, it may be that even after it is repaired your motorcycle will be worth less than it was before it was damaged. The common sense notion here is that, as between two similar motorcycles, a knowing buyer would pay less for the one that has been badly damaged and repaired than s/he would pay for the one that has not been badly damaged. In this situation, you may be able to prove the diminished value of your motorcycle as part of your P.D. claim.
“Damages” also include injury claims. Some insurance companies call these personal injury claims, or “P.I.” claims. Others call them bodily injury, or “B.I.,” claims. By whatever name, this is your claim to be compensated for the injuries that the other driver’s carelessness caused.
Under Maryland motorcycle accident law, P.I. (or B.I.) damages include economic losses and noneconomic losses.
The economic losses that you can recover include . . .
- all medical bills you incurred treating injuries that result from the accident,
- any loss of income, such as employment income, and
- any other economic losses that result from the accident.
If Maryland motorcycle accident law merely required the careless driver to pay for your financial losses, you would not be fully and fairly compensated.
The economic losses are not what you will remember years later about this experience. What you will remember more is the pain of your injuries, the mental uncertainty, the sleepless nights (or whatever your symptoms were) and the disruption to your life that the careless driver caused.
Because you did nothing to cause these losses, fundamental fairness — and Maryland motorcycle accident law — require the one who caused your injuries to compensate you in money damages for such noneconomic losses as . . .
- physical pain
- mental anguish
- physical impairment
- damage to your marital relationship.
To be able to prove these losses, keep a diary which answers this question: How has this accident affected my life?
If you hire a Maryland motorcycle accident lawyer, your lawyer will help you gather and develop the evidence of your noneconomic losses.
Defenses To Damage Claims
You must be able to prove that the other driver’s negligence caused your injuries and damages.
Often, the defending insurance company will raise the defense that something other than their driver’s carelessness caused your damages. They may claim that the “real cause” (their term, not mine) of your damages was an earlier accident, a later accident, the normal aging process . . . or anything else they can think of.
Normally, you will defeat these claims with expert testimony, such as your doctor’s opinion that your injuries are the result of your car accident.
How Much Are You Entitled To Recover For Your Injuries?
The amount of compensation you are entitled to receive for your injuries depends on the circumstances of your case. Obviously, that determination will depend on such things as . . .
- how seriously you are injured
- how long you suffer with your injuries and
- whether you recover fully
What you want is a full and speedy recovery from your injuries. If that happens, you will still have a claim against the careless driver, but it will be for less than the claim that you will have if you do not recover quickly or completely.
Fair compensation for your injuries under Maryland motorcycle accident law includes the full amount of the medical bills that were caused by your motorcycle accident, the full amount of the income that you lost as a result of your auto accident and an additional amount for pain, suffering, inconvenience and the like.
The end result could be as little as about 1 1/2 times your out-of-pocket losses for your medical bills and loss of income to an amount 10 times your financial losses, or more, if your injuries are very severe and permanent.
Here’s a rule-of-thumb to keep in mind: the more seriously you are injured, and therefore the more you are entitled to recover as damages, the more the “Bad Guys” will resist you. If you have been seriously injured and have substantial losses, you should have an experienced Maryland car accident lawyer on your side protecting your interests.
PIP No-Fault Claim
PIP — which rhymes with “sip” and stands for “Personal Injury Protection” — is a type of auto insurance that Maryland drivers have unless they affirmatively waive it. It is a no fault coverage which pays medical bills and (85% of) lost income in the event of an accident. These are benefits that an injured person can receive in addition to her claim against the driver who caused the accident.
However, Maryland law allows insurance companies to exclude motorcycles from PIP insurance, and they do.
If you are injured in a motorcycle accident, you should consult a Maryland motorcycle accident lawyer about the different types of insurance coverage that exist and how they apply to your claim.
To learn more about Maryland motorcycle accident law, contact us.