Although they may have higher performance capabilities than the average closed car, motorcycles also come with higher risks. Compared with other types of vehicles on the road, motorcycles:
The United States government estimates that for every mile traveled in 2016, the number of deaths on motorcycles was almost 28 times the number of deaths in cars.
If you are a motorcycle driver or passenger, then it’s important to understand the steps you can take to mitigate your risk of injury — and what to do if you are injured in a crash.
In an accident, motorcyclists are far more prone to serious injury than drivers in enclosed vehicles. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in 2017:
Even if a motorcycle accident does not result in death, there are a number of common injuries that drivers or passengers may sustain. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates that medical bills for a motorcyclist collision average about $2.00 per mile traveled, compared with $0.20 per mile traveled for other vehicles, and that the average total cost for a motorcyclist’s injuries is $211,000, compared to about $17,000 for all other vehicle types.
Some of the most common types of motorcycle injuries include:
To help reduce motorcyclists’ risk of injury or death in an accident, Maryland has several motorcycle-specific laws in place. It’s important to familiarize yourself with them not only so that you are in compliance with the law, but also so that you can maximize your safety on the road.
*Note: to make sure you are always receiving the most up-to-date information about Maryland law, please refer to the state’s website at Maryland.gov. The information on this page is current as of September 2019.
Operating a motorcycle requires specialized knowledge and skills, which is why Maryland requires all motorcycle drivers to hold a valid Class M license in addition to their standard Class C noncommercial driver’s license. Operating a motorcycle without this could result in a fine, points added to your driving record, a suspension of your driver’s license or license privileges, the towing of your motorcycle, and increased risk of injury or death on the road. Unlicensed drivers are disproportionately represented in fatal motorcycle accidents.
Drivers who are interested in obtaining their motorcycle license must already have a valid Maryland driver’s license and pass special vision, knowledge, and driving skills tests to receive a Class M endorsement. Maryland uses a graduated licensing system wherein applicants must:
Fast Track Licensing
To encourage all drivers to obtain appropriate licensing before operating a motorcycle on the road, and to make the process as quick and stress-free as possible, Maryland relaxes some of its licensing requirements for more experienced motorcyclists. If you already have on-street experience on a motorcycle, then you can go through a fast-track licensing program. There is no learner’s permit required and no waiting period between the knowledge and skills tests.
When you are on a motorcycle, your only protection from the elements — and in the event of a crash — is the protective gear you are wearing.
Always Wear a Helmet
The IIHS estimates that helmets are about 37% effective in preventing motorcycle accident deaths, and 67% effective at preventing traumatic brain injuries. So why do motorcyclists ever choose not to wear a helmet?
Some riders choose to only wear helmets for long trips, or while riding at high speeds. However, according to the Department of Transportation, most crashes happen on short trips (less than five miles) and at speeds slower than 30 mph. At these speeds, helmets can cut both the frequency and severity of head injuries by half, and at any speed, helmeted riders are three times more likely to survive head injuries than those not helmeted.
Others may insist that helmets limit their peripheral vision. However, a DOT-certified helmet lets you see as far to either side as necessary, and in a study of more than 900 motorcycle crashes, researchers could not find a single case in which a helmet prevented a rider from seeing danger.
In any case, in Maryland, wearing your helmet is not only the smart choice, it’s also the law.
Maryland’s Universal Helmet Law
Maryland has a “universal helmet law” in place, which means that all motorcycle drivers and passengers must wear a helmet on the road. Additionally, if the motorcycle does not have a windscreen that is mounted high enough to protect the operator’s face, drivers must wear appropriate eye protection.
Although not required by law, motorcyclists are also advised to wear select personal protective equipment (PPE) that will help to keep them safe and comfortable. This equipment includes:
“Lane splitting” is the practice of riding a motorcycle on the line between the lanes of a road, usually in between stopped or slow-moving vehicles. Although it sounds dangerous, its proponents claim that it can reduce traffic congestion and make roads safer for motorcyclists, who can utilize it as an escape route when they may otherwise be rear-ended.
Currently, lane splitting is only legal in California, although many other states do not explicitly prohibit it.
However, in Maryland, lane splitting is explicitly illegal. Although legislators have considered passing a bill that would allow it, motorcyclists need to stay in their lanes for now.
Maryland law requires all vehicles, including motorcycles, to be registered and carry liability insurance and uninsured motorist coverage. As of September 2019, the mandatory minimum amounts of coverage are:
If you are involved in a motorcycle accident in Maryland, you can wait up to three years after the date of the accident to file a personal injury lawsuit.
In any motor vehicle accident, motorcyclists are at a much higher risk of serious injury or death than drivers of other types of vehicles. There are several things you can do to responsibly manage this risk and to reduce your chances of being injured or involved in an accident.
Here are ten tips for staying safe on the road:
Although they are not required by law for anyone over the age of 18, the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration offers motorcycle training courses for new and experienced riders alike. These programs teach essential techniques and strategies for coming out on the other side of potential life-or-death situations.
Statistics show that more than 90% of riders who were involved in fatal motorcycle crashes had no formal training, were self-taught, or were taught by family or friends, so it is worth it to enroll even if you are an experienced rider. There are 20 approved training centers throughout Maryland, so find a training center near you and request a class schedule to get started.
Make sure you’re not biting off more than you can chew with your motorcycle. If you haven’t ridden in a while, then you may be surprised by the performance capabilities of modern bikes, even models with small-displacement engines. Always choose a bike that fits you and your needs. The right bike:
Anti-lock braking systems (ABS) prevent wheels from locking up while braking, helping to maintain traction between the tires and the road surface and prevent skidding. It gives drivers greater control in an emergency stop or in slippery conditions.
On a motorcycle, this capability is especially important. According to IIHS data, motorcycles equipped with ABS brakes are up to 37% less likely to be involved in a fatal crash.
Fortunately, they are a standard feature on most new models. If your motorcycle does not have anti-locking brakes, consider upgrading and having them installed for only a few hundred dollars. The cost can often be offset by insurance discounts, and it may save your life.
The statistics don’t lie. Wearing a helmet will significantly reduce your risk of being seriously injured or killed in an accident.
Nobody wants to have to hire a personal injury attorney or file a wrongful death claim. Follow Maryland law and keep yourself safe by wearing a helmet on the road.
Skip the flip flops and T-shirts. The right clothes and personal protective equipment can:
Inclement weather can greatly reduce your visibility, your traction on the road, and ultimately, your margin for error. If possible, avoid riding in wind, rain, or snow — but if you have no choice, be especially gentle with the brakes, throttle, and steering. Avoid making sudden maneuvers. Be particularly cautious right after it starts raining or snowing, when the precipitation on the road can cause oil to rise to the top and create slippery conditions. When riding in heavy winds, anticipate being “nudged” by gusts by riding on the side of the lane from which the wind is blowing.
Motorcycles have less contact with the pavement surface than cars do, which makes them more vulnerable to sliding on sand, loose gravel, wet leaves, or other slippery materials. Likewise, bumps and potholes that pose no safety risks to cars can be hazardous to motorcyclists.
When driving, always be on the lookout for road hazards that could cause you to skid or lose control of the bike. If you can’t avoid them, slow down as much as possible and try to go over them with minimal steering input, since panicking and over-steering can also cause you to lose control of the bike. When approaching railroad tracks, uneven lanes, or other non-level surfaces, try to ride over them at as close to a right angle as possible to reduce the chances of skidding.
As important as it is to watch out for awry speed bumps, wet leaves, and other inanimate hazards, your biggest danger as a motorcyclist comes from other drivers. Always follow traffic laws, but do not assume that you will be protected by others doing the same. You can never predict what other drivers will do, so make sure to stay alert and drive defensively. In a study from the University of South Florida’s Center for Urban Transportation Research, for collisions involving motorcycles and cars, car drivers were found to be at fault a majority of the time.
With the rise of cell phone use while driving, it’s more important than ever to be aware of your surroundings on the road. Give cars plenty of room; keep a safe following distance and stay out of cars’ blind spots when in adjacent lanes. Watch out for cars suddenly pulling out from side streets or changing lanes. As you approach intersections, double check that they will be clear when you pass through.
Defensive driving, simply put: always give yourself as much time and space as possible to react to another driver’s poor decision.
Driving while drunk, buzzed, high, or even drowsy can cause harm to yourself and to others.
The 1981 Hurt Report — described by famed motorcycle journalist David L. Hough as “the most comprehensive motorcycle safety study of the 20th century” — found that alcohol was a factor in up to half of all motorcycle crashes.
According to a more recent 2017 analysis by the IIHS, 28% of fatally injured motorcycle drivers had blood alcohol concentrations above the legal limit. 49% of motorcycle drivers who were killed at night (between 9:00 PM and 6:00 AM) were over the limit.
Never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and make sure you are awake and alert enough to stay safe on the road before getting behind the handlebars.
Finally, as a responsible motorcycle driver, it’s your job to keep your skills honed. If it’s been a while since you rode, you’re learning how to handle a new bike, or you simply want to make sure you’re staying as safe as possible, consider refreshing your knowledge with a safety course.
Not only will this help you review critical motorcycle driving knowledge and skills, but many motorcycle manufacturers will also offer a credit toward the cost of a new bike if a rider enrolls in a course, and insurance providers often grant discounts on your premiums.
Keep your skills fresh so that you can continue enjoying riding for many years to come.
Unfortunately, even if you take every possible preventive measure, you may still end up in a motorcycle accident one day. If this happens, even if you are able to pick yourself up and brush yourself off, you may be in an altered emotional state that makes it difficult to know what to do next.
Do your best to gather your thoughts and remain calm. The actions you take immediately after a crash may be crucial not only to your health and safety, but also to future insurance coverage and legal action.
These are the steps you should take:
Before you do anything else, make sure that you are okay. If you are in too much pain to move, call out for help, and if you are alone, do everything you can to call for help on your phone. If you are okay, check on others.
As soon as you have gotten your bearings and checked for injuries, get yourself and others to safety. This is your number one priority. After a crash, you, your motorcycle, and others involved in the accident may not be visible to other approaching drivers, especially at night, so it’s important to move off of the road as quickly as possible.
Be careful when moving injured people to safety. Many spinal cord injuries may make it difficult or even dangerous to move a person. If you are not in immediate danger at the crash site, then wait for emergency responders to transport injured people.
Additionally, before you disturb the crash site, try to take photos of your motorcycle, any debris, and any other vehicles that were involved. This is evidence that may be helpful in future insurance claims and legal proceedings. However, crash debris is a hazard to oncoming drivers, and it could cause further accidents or injury for which you could be held accountable. Move it off of the road and out of the way as quickly as you can, whether or not you are able to successfully take photos.
Call 911 (or your local police force, if it is not an emergency) as soon as possible. This does not imply guilt; you will not be held responsible for the accident just because you are the first to place a call for help. You should inform the police about any collision, major or minor.
Maryland is a “fault” insurance state, which means that anyone seeking compensation through insurers must prove that the other party was at fault for the accident. Determining fault is rarely a cut-and-dry issue with motor vehicle accidents, so you need to be careful of what you say to others. Do not assume the other parties will admit fault, even if you believe they caused the accident.
Immediately after the crash, and while waiting for responders to appear, try to refrain from talking about the details of the accident with other motorists. This will go against your instincts, but it’s important. Many people will automatically apologize to other drivers, regardless of whether they caused the accident — try to refrain from this. Often, the exact cause of a crash is unclear, and you may not remember important details for hours or even days afterward.
You need time to process so that you do not say anything that may be misconstrued. Even casual or conversational statements at the scene of the accident can have powerful legal consequences down the line.
Only discuss how the accident occurred with the police, and even then, only give the facts. Do not tell them what you think might have happened, make guesses regarding speed or distance, or talk about how you were feeling at the time.
When emergency responders arrive, direct them to assist seriously injured people first, and make sure all injured parties have received medical attention before speaking with law enforcement officers.
Even if you don’t think you’ve been injured, do not refuse or delay medical attention. Some accident injuries (especially whiplash, back, joint, and internal injuries) will not show obvious symptoms for hours or even days.
Also, if you refuse or delay treatment, and then have to claim injuries afterward, some insurance companies may claim that your injuries were pre-existing or caused by something other than the accident and refuse to cover you.
If you are able, document the scene and gather as much information and evidence as possible. It could prove crucial in protecting your legal rights and securing compensation for personal injury damages. Gather the following:
Once you are calm and clear-headed, contact your insurance company to let them know what happened, and alert the at-fault driver’s insurance provider that you will be filing a claim. Much like filing a police report, informing insurance providers of a motorcycle accident will help to document the incident for future legal proceedings.
However, keep in mind that insurance companies will look for any way to refuse covering your claim. Speak with caution.
Finally, contact a motorcycle accident attorney who can safeguard your interests and advocate on your behalf. Avoid any lawyer who unexpectedly shows up at your door to persuade you to have them represent you — this is both unethical and illegal, and your case will likely not receive the quality of representation it deserves.
Instead, reach out to an established team like the one at Murphy Falcon & Murphy in Baltimore. Our personal injury lawyers can help to make sure your rights are defended and that you receive the compensation you deserve.
Not sure you need an auto accident attorney? In the best-case scenario, they can help you understand how to deal with your medical providers, insurance company, and other parties’ insurance companies. They will also be able to offer legal advice and representation in more serious cases, such as when:
If you or your loved one has been involved in a motorcycle accident in Baltimore, then please contact us today to schedule your free initial consultation. Our accident injury lawyers are ready to help.
If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident, or your bike has been damaged, then the at-fault driver’s insurance company isn’t going to automatically write you a check for the damages. You’ll have to build a strong case for your personal injury claim, which means that you’ll have to be able to prove that the at-fault driver caused the accident and that the accident caused your injuries.
A car accident lawyer will be able to help you build the strongest possible case.
When navigating the world of insurance adjusters and personal injury lawyers, it helps to be aware of a few common terms:
To prove that the other party was negligent and should be held liable for your damages, you or your car accident lawyer will have to prove:
1. The other driver had a duty of care to avoid harming you.
This is easy to prove. All drivers on the road have a duty of care to other drivers and pedestrians.
2. The other driver breached this duty of care through acting negligently.
Negligent driving can mean failing to keep a proper lookout, not complying with traffic laws, or not using every reasonable means to avoid an accident.
As a motorcyclist, you also have a duty of care to others on the road. The insurance adjuster will look for any indications that you partially caused the accident by doing something wrong or acting negligently.
3. You were injured directly because of the other driver’s breach of duty.
You will need to be able to prove that your injuries or property damages are the direct result of the accident. This is why it is important to not refuse or delay medical attention, even if you believe you are okay. If symptoms appear later (as they often do with car accident injuries), then the insurance company may try to claim that they are unrelated to the accident.
4. The other driver’s negligence was the proximate cause of your damages.
Sometimes, the “at-fault” driver may not be legally at fault for your damages. For example, if you collide with a car whose driver is running a red light, but it is found that they ran the light due to a brake part failure, then the proximate cause of the accident was due to the part manufacturer’s negligence and not the driver’s, and the manufacturer may be held legally responsible for damages associated with the accident.
Why do you need a lawyer? To make sure you receive the justice and compensation that you deserve. An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to help you navigate each step after an accident, including:
Many personal injury claims can get complicated when there are disputes regarding the at-fault party or parties, or the proximate cause of damages. An experienced attorney can be beneficial whether or not your claim is disputed, so contact our car accident lawyers at Murphy Falcon & Murphy to arrange your free consultation today.
Negotiating an injury settlement after a motorcycle accident can be complex. Some of the key issues related to settlement factors may include:
What happens when a motorcyclist and a car driver are each partly responsible for an accident? For example: in slow-moving traffic on the interstate, a motorcyclist decides to cut ahead by driving between the lanes of cars. The right lane begins to move faster, and a driver in a car in the left lane sees an opening. He abruptly changes lanes without checking his blind spot and strikes the motorcyclist.
Who is at fault? Both drivers acted negligently to cause the accident.
When determining fault in a car accident — and who is eligible for the associated damages — most states have what are called “comparative negligence” laws. This means that even if you are partly to blame for causing an accident, you can pursue damages; the court simply reduces your compensation by the percentage of blame you take in the accident. For example, if you filed a personal injury claim for an accident that caused $100,000 in damages, and were found to be 40% at fault, then your final compensation would be reduced by 40% to $60,000.
However, Maryland is one of only a few states with “pure contributory negligence” laws. This means that if you share even 1% of the blame for causing an accident, you are not eligible to pursue damages. Insurance adjusters will do everything in their power to prove that you slipped up, and even a small mistake can cost you thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars.
This is one reason why it is crucial to have a qualified Baltimore accident attorney in your corner. They can help you present the best possible case and prevent you from making mistakes that will allow insurance adjusters to deny your claim outright.
Although personal biases should never be a factor in compensating an injured party in a personal injury case, humans are fallible. Insurance adjusters, judges, and members of the jury (if your case lands in court) may have preconceived notions about motorcyclists that can harm your chances of receiving fair compensation.
Building an airtight case is your best defense against unfair personal biases. Contact our Baltimore car accident attorneys to schedule your free initial consultation and get started today.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a motorcycle accident in Maryland, then contact the team of personal injury attorneys at Murphy Falcon & Murphy. Our law firm has been a trusted name in Baltimore for more than 70 years, and our lawyers have won millions in damages for our clients.
We offer free initial consultations, and we take personal injury cases on a contingency basis, so you’ll only have to pay for our legal services if we win your case.
Contact us now to set up your consultation with one of our attorneys. We’re ready to help you find justice and rightful compensation.