Articles Posted in Bicyclists Accdients

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Sadly, another bicycle rider has been killed by a driver, this time in Roland Park. An article regarding this most recent matter can be found here.

I have handled two high-profile bicycle death cases in Maryland in the last few years, and both of them were tragic. The first involved a bicyclist who was run over by a commercial vehicle in Baltimore City. An article regarding that case can be found here. That case also involved a hit and run, though the driver in that case never came back to the scene.

The second involved a Johns Hopkins student who was run over by an elderly woman. An article regarding that case can be found here.

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The law firm of Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin & White takes on a limited number of plaintiff’s personal injury cases each month. We limit our intake so we can provide the highest quality representation to each of our clients. To better equip our clients with an understanding of the process, we have broken down the phases of what to expect of our attorney-client relationship.

THE INITIAL CONFERNCE:

General information regarding the incident will be obtained when you are first interviewed. Certain other material relating to things you should not do will be furnished to you. You will be asked to sign authorization forms which will allow us to obtain necessary information. We will schedule a follow-up appointment for you to meet with the attorney handling your case shortly after you retain Silverman Thompson Slutkin and White.
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In a case eerily similar to the John Yates case, the Baltimore Sun is reporting that a Carrol County Cyclist was killed on Tuesday. Apparently John Martin Jr., 51, of New Windsor was riding his bike on Shepherds Mill road when a tractor-trailer driven by Anthony Edward Woodie made a right turn onto Route 75-directly in front of Mr. Martin.

Early indications are that Woodie is considered by police to be at fault for failing to yield to the cyclist while turning. This law firm is currently in litigation on behalf of the estate of John Yates who was killed in Baltimore City by a turning truck that also failed to yield to the cyclist.

As a result of our representation of the Yates and as advocates for cyclist’s rights, we are proud to have played a part in the Maryland General Assembly recently passing a new law helping to clarify the rights of cyclists on the roadways. Our sympathies go out to the entire Martin family.

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The Baltimore Sun is reporting that 42 year old Lawrence Bensky, a married father of two was tragically killed on Wednesday while riding his pedacylce on Falls Road in Baltimore County. Mr. Bensky was riding on the roads shoulder when, 64 year old Faith Frenzel drifted off the road onto the shoulder striking Mr. Bensky and his riding companion, Joel Wyman. Mr. Bensky was killed in the accident, and Mr. Wyman is in serious condition. The Baltimore County police are currently investigating the accident and anticipate filing charges against Ms. Frenzel in the near future.
Under Maryland law, a motorist who negligently injures a pedestrian or cylist is liable for those injuries. An experienced Maryland accident attorney can make sure victims and their familes are represented and protect their rights and claims under the law.

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Liability defenses often used by drivers against bicyclist involved in accidents in Maryland include:

A. Contributory Negligence
Maryland recognizes the defense of contributory negligence as a complete bar to a plaintiff’s recovery. In order to succeed in asserting this defense, the driver of a vehicle that strikes a cyclist would have to show that the bicyclist deviated from the standard of ordinary care. Usually questions of contributory negligence in Maryland are resolved by the jury. To justify withdrawal of a case from the jury on grounds of contributory negligence, “the evidence must show an act so decisively negligent as to leave no room for difference of opinion thereon by reasonable minds.” Heffner, 196 Md. At 473, 77 A.2d at 131.

Factors a jury might consider in deciding whether a bicyclist exercised reasonable care may include precautions that a reasonable bicyclist would have taken under similar circumstances. Though not codified by Maryland law, published safety guidelines may be relevant to an examination of whether a bicyclist exercised ordinary care. The League of American Bicyclists suggests that bicyclists wear reflective or brightly colored clothing and that they yield to traffic in the same destination lane.

B. Assumption of the Risk

In Maryland, an assertion of the defense of assumption of the risk requires a showing that (1) the plaintiff had knowledge of the risk of the danger, (2) the plaintiff appreciated that risk, and (3) the plaintiff voluntarily confronted the risk of danger. Piquette v. Stevens, 128 Md. App. 590, 739 A.2d 905 (1999). Whether a plaintiff has assumed the risk is generally a question for the jury, unless it is clear that the plaintiff must have understood the danger, and then it is determined by the court. Id. at 599. In Piquette v. Stevens, the Court of Special Appeals reversed a determination by the trial court that a bicyclist had assumed the risk of colliding with a motor vehicle by failing to come to a complete stop at a stop sign. Id. at 600. The bicyclist was aware of an approaching vehicle, but chose to roll through a stop sign and turn to the right. Id. at 600. The court reasoned that “it was not clear that [the bicyclist], certainly a person of normal intelligence, would have anticipated the risk of danger.” Id.
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• Bicyclists:
– Bicyclists possess all of the same rights and duties as drivers of motor vehicles. Md. Transp. Art. §21-102 – Bicyclists, like drivers of motor vehicles, must exercise ordinary care under the circumstances. Kaffl v. Moran
– Bicyclists must ride as close to the right side of the road as practicable, except when turning left, passing, or traveling on a one way street. Md. Transp. Art. §21-1202 – Operation of a bicycle in violation of a statute does not constitute negligence per se unless the violation is the proximate cause of injury. Miles v. State.

• Drivers of Vehicles:
– Drivers may assume that other drivers will obey the rules of the road and need not anticipate that others will violate the law. Dean v. Redmiles.
– Drivers of motor vehicles owe a duty to exercise due care to avoid colliding with any bicycle ridden by a person. Md. Transp. Art. §21-1209.
– Drivers must exercise greater vigilance when approaching an intersection. Heffner v. Admiral Taxi Service, Inc.
– Drivers approaching a circular green signal, when turning right or left, shall yield right of way to any other vehicle lawfully within the intersection when the signal is shown. Md. Transp. Art. §21-202.

• Turns:
– A person may not turn a vehicle from a direct course on a roadway unless the movement can be made with reasonable safety. Md. Transp. Art. §21-604(b).
– One who operates a motor vehicle on a public highway must anticipate the presence of others thereon and must exercise constant vigilance to avoid injuring them. Peoples Drug Stores v. Windham – A motorist may not, if any other vehicle might be affected by the movement, turn a vehicle without giving a proper signal. Md. Transp. Art. §21-604(c).
– A signal of an intention to turn must be given continuously during at least the last 100 feet traveled by a vehicle before turning. Md. Transp. Art. §21-604(d).
– A driver shall make a right turn as closely as practicable to the right –hand curb of the roadway. Md. Transp. Art. §21-601(a). This requirement is intended to provide further indication of an intent to turn so that the motorist will not be passed on the right. Norris v. Wolfensberger – Vehicles of greater than average size do not enjoy any additional rights. Drivers of trucks, having knowledge of their increased width and length, owe a duty to other drivers on the roadway to take these elements into consideration in the operation of their vehicles. York Manor Express Co. v. State for use of Hawk.
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SUMMARY OF APPLICABLE MARYLAND STATUTES AND CASELAW

I. Rules of the Road, Duty & Standard of Care

The Maryland Transportation Article codifies the “Rules of the Road” for all vehicles traveling on Maryland roadways. All drivers of vehicles in Maryland must observe the rules of the road. Md. Transp. Art. §21-102. They may also assume that others will obey the rules of the road and need not anticipate that others will violate the law. Dean v. Redmiles, 208 Md. 137, 374 A.2d 329 (1977). Pursuant to Md. Transp. Art. §21-1202, the operator of a bicycle on a public street possesses all the rights and duties of the driver of a vehicle. These general duties include the duty to operate a bicycle, or any vehicle, with ordinary care under the circumstances. Kaffl v. Moran, 233 Md. 473, 477-478, 197 A.2d 240, 242 (1964). In addition, there are unique rules of the road that apply particularly to the operation of bicycles. Drivers of motor vehicles owe a duty to bicyclists to exercise due care to avoid colliding with any bicycle being ridden by a person. Md. Transp. Art. §21-1209. Bicycle operators must to ride as close to the right side of the road as practicable, except when turning left, traveling on a one way street, or passing a slower moving vehicle. Md. Transp. Art. §21-1205. Operation of a bicycle in violation of a statute does not constitute negligence as a matter of law, unless the violation is the proximate cause of injury. Miles v. State, 174 Md. 292, 198 A. 724 (1938).

Operators of any type of vehicle on Maryland roadways owe a duty to exercise due care under the circumstances. Moran, 233 Md. 473 at 477-478, 197 A.2d 240 at 242 . While ordinary care is generally required, the Court of Appeals has held that “vigilance must vary according to the danger naturally anticipated from the operation of the vehicle.” Heffner v. Admiral Taxi Service, Inc., 196 Md. 465, 471, 77 A.2d 127, 129 (1950). It is universally understood by travelers on the roadway that intersections create an increased potential for collisions. In anticipation of this known danger, a higher degree of caution is appropriate. The Court opined that “a motorist, when approaching a street intersection, must exercise much greater vigilance than when he is driving between intersections.” Id.

The Maryland Transportation Article also includes provisions that pertain to specific traffic maneuvers. Regarding turns, “a person may not, if any other vehicle might be affected by the movement, turn a vehicle until he gives an appropriate signal in the manner required.” Md. Transp. Art. §21-604(c). A signal of an intention to turn must be given continuously during at least the last 100 feet traveled by a vehicle before turning. Md. Transp. Art. §21-604(d). In addition to signaling, “if the driver of a vehicle intends to turn right at any intersection, he shall approach the intersection and make the right turn as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.” Md. Transp. Art. §21-601(a). The requirement that drivers of motor vehicles drive close to the edge of the roadway when approaching a right turn is intended to provide further indication to following drivers of an impending turn, so that the turning motorist will not be passed by following vehicles on the side toward which an indication of turning has been given. Norris v. Wolfensberger, 248 Md. 635, 237 A.2d 757 (1968).

In addition to the duty to properly signal an intended turn, drivers owe a duty not to make a turn from a direct course until such turn can be made with reasonable safety. Md. Transp. Art. §21-604(b). Before turning, drivers must keep a proper lookout. As noted by the Court of Appeals, “[o]ne who operates a motor vehicle on a public highway must anticipate the presence of others thereon and must exercise constant vigilance to avoid injuring them…” Peoples Drug Stores v. Windham, 178 Md. 172, 185, 12 A.2d 532, 538 (1940). A well established rule is that when a witness says he looked but did not see an object which he must have seen if he did look, such testimony is unworthy of consideration. Cogswell v. Frazier, 183 Md. 654, 660, 39 A.2d 815, 818 (1944).
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