Motorcycle accidents in Maryland are some of the most severe kinds of wrecks that can happen on the road because motorcyclists are far more vulnerable that occupants of a car, and so frequently suffer injuries that are far more severe. As a result, motorcycle crash victims often face treatments and recovery times that are much longer and more difficult than other kinds of accident victims.
Personal injury law in Maryland, though, recognizes the increased need for compensation that motorcycle accident victims face on their road to recovery and provides the avenues that these victims need to return as close to the life they had before the crash. However, it often takes a personal injury lawyer, like those at the Baltimore law office of Gilman & Bedigian, to ensure motorcycle accident victims use the opportunities that the law presents and recover the compensation that these victims deserve.
Causes of Motorcycle Accidents in Maryland
Every year in America, there are thousands of accidents involving motorcycles. Many of these lead to severe injuries for the motorcyclist and a significant amount prove to be fatal.
In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the year 2016 saw 5,286 motorcyclists die on the roads of America. This was a 5.1% increase from 2015. Approximately 90,000 more were hurt. Perhaps worse, while motorcycles only accounted for 3% of the registered vehicles in the U.S.—and only 0.6% of the miles traveled in the country—they accounted for 14% of all traffic fatalities in 2016. This meant that motorcyclists had a fatality rate that was six times higher than for people in cars, and 28 times higher than car occupants per mile traveled.
Unfortunately, in many of these accidents, the motorcyclist was not at fault. According to one study by the Center for Urban Transportation Research, which looked at motorcycle accidents in the state of Florida, the other vehicle was at fault in 60% of the multi-vehicle crashes that involved a motorcycle.
While the statistics did not break down the precise cause of these accidents, there are a handful of likely culprits.
Perhaps the most common cause of a car accident is simple negligence. Drivers today take their safety on the road for granted, and frequently pay very little attention to their surroundings or to what they are doing. This manifests itself in poor or seemingly reckless decisions being made on the basis of an inadequate understanding of the surrounding hazards on the road.
The negligence of other drivers can show itself in a variety of ways, any one of which can cause a motorcycle accident.
One of the most common ways for a driver's negligence to show itself on the road is through distracted driving.
Despite the fact that they are moving thousands of pounds of metal and plastic along the road and considerable speeds, many drivers think that it is perfectly safe for them to divide their attention between driving and doing something else, like:
- Talking on the phone
- Changing CDs or the radio
- Applying makeup
- Adjusting a GPS device
- Scolding children in the backseat
- Getting dressed
These and other activities divide a driver's attention between the road—and the surrounding dangers—and something else. Many of them also require a driver's sight to perform correctly, pulling their vision away from the road. Without looking ahead and around them and looking instead at a cell phone, for instance, the distracted driver has no way of seeing a potential hazard approaching or developing. Even if the budding danger could be easily avoided by simply braking or turning the steering wheel, a driver who has been distracted by something else is powerless to avoid it because they never notice the situation, in the first place.
Altogether, these and other instances of distracted driving accounted for 3,450 road deaths in America in 2016, alone. Another 391,000 were estimated to be hurt by distracted drivers. Many of these were innocent people on the road who were simply minding their own business when the distracted driver's lack of attention created an accident that easily could have been avoided.
Left Turn Accidents
A common cause of a motorcycle accident in Baltimore and elsewhere in Maryland is when a driver makes a left-hand turn across traffic and either does not see the motorcyclist in the oncoming lane or misjudges how far away the biker is. These crashes are common on multi-lane roadways where there are lots of other cars shielding the view of the driver of the car, preventing them from seeing far into the oncoming lane and making the left turn dangerous because of the obstructed view. Worse, these roads frequently have a high-speed limit, so the unsuspecting motorcyclist is often going fast enough to make the collision severe.
For example, imagine one of the typical intersections on a major roadway, like the intersection of Central Avenue and Route 40 near downtown Baltimore. Right before the stoplight at the intersection, a left turn lane begins for vehicles to pull out of the stream of traffic and wait for a green turn signal. Many drivers, though, scan ahead into oncoming traffic for a break in the cars while they wait. If there is a break that they think is big enough, they can make their left hand turn without waiting for the turn signal on the stop light to turn green.
Unfortunately, many drivers in this position are either in a rush to make their turn and try to squeeze through a gap that is not big enough or they fail to judge the speed and distance of oncoming vehicles. In either case, this can be disastrous if the vehicle that they fail to account for is a motorcycle, as the resulting crash typically happens at high speeds and to the front section of the motorbike. The crash frequently sends the motorcyclists over his or her handlebars and either into the car that pulled out in front of them or over that vehicle and into the traffic on the far side. The result is often serious personal injuries that can be life-threatening.
Opening Car Doors into the Roadway
Another common cause of a motorcycle accident—and one that is entirely preventable and is almost always the result of a driver's negligence—is when a driver opens his or her door without looking in their rearview or side mirrors to see if anyone is coming.
These types of accidents are the most common on side streets, narrow roadways, and residential areas where parallel parking is legal. Car drivers will typically park their vehicle on the side of the road, often after a long day of work and either in a rush to get home or relieved to end the workday swing their door open to get out of the car. While such a simple act might not seem negligent, on a narrow roadway with traffic potentially coming from behind, doing this without looking for oncoming vehicles can create an accident. When the oncoming vehicle is a motorcycle, it can be especially problematic.
In these crashes, the motorcyclist can either run directly into the inside of the car door after it opens into their path or can get sideswiped as the door gets opened into them as they pass by. In this situation, sideswipe accidents can be less severe because they merely push the biker to the ground in the opposite lane. However, if there is oncoming traffic at just the wrong time, this can create a fatal accident if the oncoming vehicle is not able to avoid or brake in time to prevent the collision with the helpless motorcyclist. On the other hand, if the car door opens directly into the biker's path and he or she cannot avoid it in time, the crash can be a serious head-on collision that the biker was powerless to prevent.
Drivers who are either drunk or drugged can also cause accidents in Baltimore and in the rest of the state of Maryland. When those accidents involve motorcyclists, they can be particularly severe because of how vulnerable bikers are on the road.
In 2015, the NHTSA found that 29% of the traffic fatalities in America involved someone with a blood alcohol content (BAC) at or above the legal limit of 0.08%. In Maryland, out of the 513 people who died on the roadways, 159 of them were killed in accidents that involved alcohol.
The risks of drunk or drugged drivers are even greater for motorcyclists. Intoxicated drivers tend to behave far more recklessly than sober ones, and frequently weave in and out of traffic and drive well above the speed limit. Worse, they are far less able to notice their surroundings and react to them in effective and productive ways that can prevent or minimize a pending accident. Because motorcyclists are vulnerable, should a crash happen, all of these factors make intoxicated drivers even more dangerous for bikers.
Another common cause of motorcycle accidents is car drivers who are speeding.
When drivers speed, they need to look further out in front of them to notice, predict, and react to potentially dangerous situations. Few drivers, however, are able to do this effectively. Additionally, speeding vehicles take longer to bring to a stop than a car that is traveling at a reasonable rate. Despite this danger, speeding drivers rarely add the necessary distance to the gap they maintain with the vehicle in front of them.
This can spell disaster for motorcyclists on the road. They count on drivers being safe, noticing other vehicles, and keeping a safe distance when they are following a motorcycle. When they fail to do one of these things, the resulting crash can be severe.
While far less common than the negligence of other drivers, defective motorcycles can also cause a serious motorbike accident if the defect makes something go wrong while you are on the road.
Even motorcycles that were assembled by the biker themselves can be the source of a products liability lawsuit if one of the parts used had a defect that would have been impossible for anyone to find.
Defective Road Design
Finally, some motorcycle accidents can be caused by a terrible design in the road. The engineers and construction workers who design and build the roads that crisscross the U.S. are not infallible, and occasionally make mistakes. In some cases, these mistakes put drivers at risk and motorcycle riders are especially vulnerable to some of these problems.
For example, long curves on high-speed roads like Interstate 95 are increasingly being made with a tilt or a bank, like one would see on a racetrack. The banked design makes it easier for a driver to keep control of their vehicle and preserves gas mileage by reducing lost momentum. However, if this tilt is miscalculated it can actually increase the risks of an accident.
Common Injuries from Motorcycle Accidents
Regardless of the cause of the motorcycle crash, the injuries that are often sustained by the biker can be severe. This is due, in large part, to the lack of weight that a motorcycle brings with it into a collision, and the lack of safety equipment that bikers have to protect themselves from the force of other vehicles. The light weight of the motorcycle—at least when compared to other vehicles in the crash, which can and often do exceed 3,000 pounds—means that the motorcycle gets pushed around and offers very little resistance to the force of the other cars.
Together, these factors contribute to what can be significant, life-threatening, or even fatal injuries.
One of the most common injuries that motorcyclists suffer in a motorbike accident is road rash.
Road rash is a severe abrasion that forms when a motorcyclist's body hits and then rubs against the pavement of the road beneath them. The friction from the contact strips away the biker's skin from the impacted area. In severe cases, road rash can even affect the underlying muscle.
Because road rash is similar to a burn—both are created by the friction of one surface on another—there are three levels of road rash:
- First-degree road rash, which damages the top layer of skin—the epidermis—but goes no deeper. The result is a tender redness that looks like a superficial skin condition.
- Second-degree road rash, which damages the second layer of skin—the dermis. This can be significant enough to create scarring.
- Third-degree road rash, which penetrates through the skin and can impact the underlying muscle, tissues and even the nerves of the impacted area.
Unfortunately, the dangers of road rash are not just relegated to a burning sensation, skin damage, potential scarring, and some blood. Because road rash damages the skin, the likelihood of an infection skyrockets. This requires extensive care, including a strict cleaning regimen, which can be very painful.
Road rash is not the only kind of burn injury that a motorcyclist can suffer after a crash. More traditional burn injuries are also possible, as well.
Because there are relatively few protective devices and safety mechanisms on a motorcycle, crashes can cause damage to important parts of the motorcycle that can exacerbate the severity of the collision. One of these motorcycle parts is the gas tank.
If the gas tank on a motorcycle is compromised and fuel comes out, there is a distinct chance that the heat from the rest of the collision—whether from the friction of metal parts on the asphalt or from the exhaust of other vehicles—can ignite the fuel and create a fire on the scene of the crash. In these cases, the initial vulnerability of a motorcyclist in the crash can either work for them or against them. While their added mobility can allow bikers to escape from a conflagration more quickly than car occupants, their increased exposure to the trauma of the collision can render them unable to move away in time.
In these cases, burn injuries can happen quickly and can become quite severe before medical care arrives.
The danger of these burns, just like the danger from road rash, is not confined to the initial pain, skin damage, and potential for scarring. Your skin is your body's first and most powerful line of defense against infection and harmful bacteria from the world around you, and burns breach that line of defense. This can leave motorcycle accident victims vulnerable to severe medical problems after a burn injury.
Broken Bones and Fractures
Along with road rash, broken bones and fractured bones are some of the most common injuries suffered by motorcyclists in crashes with other vehicles.
According to a report by the NHTSA, injuries to a biker's leg and other lower body extremities—like their feet, ankles, hips, and pelvis—happen in an estimated 47% of the injury-producing motorcycle accidents.
These injuries vary along a wide spectrum of severity. Some broken bones have a relatively simple and straightforward healing process, and require only a couple of months of recovery time and carry no long-term impact on a victim's life and livelihood. On the other hand, many of these broken bones—even to a biker's lower body and legs—can be devastating. Broken femurs are some of the most painful injuries that someone can suffer, while other fractures sustained in motorcycle accidents can be complicated and require numerous surgeries to bring the victim back to a point they can live with. However, many of these instances leave the victim with a permanent lack of mobility which can cause emotional distress and prevent them from living their life to the fullest.
Traumatic Brain Injuries
One of the worst kinds of injuries that can happen in a motorcycle accident is a traumatic brain injury.
Because of the light weight of the average motorcycle, when compared to other vehicles that are typically involved in a motorcycle crash, bikers are frequently thrown from their vehicles during the collision. The moving parts of the rest of the collision, together with the shock of the crash and any injuries that have already been suffered in the immediate impact, make it almost impossible for a motorcyclist to avoid further injury in these situations. Instead, they frequently have to rely on the protection of their safety equipment.
However, not every motorcyclist wears a helmet, and those that do wear one can still suffer serious head injuries if the trauma is severe enough.
In these cases, motorcyclists can suffer extreme brain injuries that carry long-term or even permanent effects. The extent of these injuries can stretch from a simple concussion all the way to permanent brain damage that leaves the victim in a coma.
After a motorcycle accident, bikers who have suffered a significant injury can find that, even after all of the medical expenses and recovery time they have gone through, their pain does not completely leave. Considering the long recovery times that frequently accompany some of the most severe injuries that motorcyclists suffer, and the steep prices that come with the medical attention they needed to get back on their feet, this can be incredibly disheartening.
Nevertheless, chronic pain is not an unknown or even uncommon medical condition after a motorcycle injury. These injuries are frequently severe enough that they cause damage to the biker's nervous system. This damage can be difficult to detect and impossible to fully repair, and until it is healed, it can cause the unfortunate motorcyclist to constantly feel pain.
In some cases, chronic pain can be the result of a psychological response to the accident, as the memory of the crash continues to weigh heavily on the cyclist. However, even in these cases, the chronic pain can be severe and no less problematic for the biker's life.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
The memory of a serious motorcycle accident can ravage the thoughts of even the most experienced and hardened motorcyclist. Just because this happens inside an accident victim's mind, though, does not mean that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is not one of the more serious types of injuries that can be suffered in a bike accident.
In fact, PTSD can even manifest itself in physical, not just mental or emotional, ways. People who suffer from PTSD can find it difficult to sleep or eat or even relax, and these problems can create other health problems that require medical attention.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Another one of the most severe injuries that motorcyclists can suffer in a motorcycle accident is one of their spinal cord. These injuries are frequently very complex because spinal cord injuries implicate nerve endings, typically carry the potential of chronic pain, can have lasting debilitations, and require extensive medical treatment that often includes experimental procedures and surgeries that are not certain of success.
Unfortunately, motorcyclists are at a higher risk than other vehicle occupants for suffering a spinal cord injury in a motorcycle accident. Their increased vulnerability from the lack of protection afforded by a motorcycle means that the impact of a collision—especially a high-speed collision from the side—can rock them in ways that the muscles of the back and core are not designed to withstand.
Many kinds of injuries can lead to paralysis, but some of the most common are spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries—two of the most severe injuries that are relatively common in a motorcycle accident. The nerve damage that is common in these kinds of injuries can cause can be significant enough for the victim of the crash to lose the feeling and mobility of their extremities.
The practical consequences of such a paralyzing injury are extreme, and among the worst, that an accident victim can be forced to live with. Paralysis often confines a victim to a wheelchair for the rest of their life, dramatically reducing their ability to enjoy life and saddling them with future medical expenses that can be very steep. It also strains their personal relationships, as loved ones are forced to spend time and energy to care for the victim. Getting compensation for all of these difficulties and losses is crucial.
Finally, many motorcycle accidents prove to be fatal for the motorcyclist involved. The lack of safety equipment that a bike affords and the biker's immediate proximity to the impact of the collision can be enough to deal injuries that prove to be severe enough that the biker does not survive the collision, or succumbs to their injuries soon after the crash.
In these cases, just because the motorcyclist does not survive the crash does not mean that nothing can be done to compensate their loved ones for their losses. Instead, the personal injury law of Maryland guarantees rights to the family or the representative of the accident victim, allowing them to file a personal injury lawsuit for wrongful death on the victim's behalf. This ensures that they receive the compensation that they deserve and desperately need from the person or the parties responsible for the horrific accident that deprived them of a loved one.
Treatment for Motorcycle Injuries
The treatment that is reasonably necessary to recover from a motorcycle accident will, obviously, depend on the exact nature of your injuries. However, there are numerous stages of recovery, from the emergency care needed in the immediate aftermath of the crash to the continued care that might be necessary for the most severe and longest-lasting injuries you suffer. Knowing the most common stages of treatment can help you better understand the legal damages that you can recover in a personal injury suit after the crash.
Emergency Medical Care: Casting and Splinting
In the immediate aftermath of a motorcycle accident—often within 24 hours of the instant of collision—victims of the crash will often need emergency care to gain control of their initial medical conditions. In many cases, this involves casting or splinting broken bones or fractures, scrubbing road rashes and abrasions, and suturing lacerations.
The speed with which this medical care is provided is paramount because some of these medical conditions get much worse if care is delayed. For example, severe lacerations can cause a lot of loss of blood, which can be life-threatening if immediate care is not available.
Unfortunately, because of the need for immediacy, emergency care for splinting or casting injuries and caring for other potentially severe injuries after a motorcycle accident can become quite expensive. The medical bills for these procedures are often steep, making it necessary for victims to seek compensation from the person or the people who were responsible for the accident.
Once you have received the emergency medical care that you need to prevent your initial injuries from getting worse and potentially threatening your life, the next step is often undergoing whatever surgeries are necessary to correct the injuries that you suffered in the accident. Unfortunately, many of the more serious injuries that you can suffer in a motorcycle crash require at least one surgery to make right, and the most severe of those injuries can lead to surgeries that are not always successful. Worse, some of the injuries that you suffer in a crash can require emergency surgeries that combine the complexity of an internal procedure with the immediacy of emergency care.
Unfortunately, many of these procedures are very expensive, making it paramount for accident victims to pursue a personal injury lawsuit and recover the legal damages to which they are entitled.
Reconstructive Plastic Surgery
One of the most common kinds of surgeries that motorcycle accident victims have to undergo is a reconstructive plastic surgery. These surgeries are meant to fix superficial medical conditions and blemishes that nevertheless can cause severe emotional distress and diminish a victim's quality of life through their very existence.
One example of a reconstructive plastic surgery that is common after a severe motorcycle accident is to fix, hide, or minimize the scarring from the road rash or laceration that a victim suffered in the collision. These disfigurements can weigh heavily on a victim's mind for years after the crash, as they serve as a constant and visual reminder of the horrors of the incident. The emotional and mental distress that this causes—together with the social stigma that victims face every time someone else reacts to the sight of their scarring—can drastically reduce their quality of life.
Most of the different kinds of injuries that a motorcyclist can suffer after a motorcycle crash can require physical therapy in order for them to make a full recovery.
While this is obviously true for musculoskeletal injuries like broken bones, tendon or ligament damage, or muscle tears from the crash, physical therapy can also be a big part of the recovery for other types of injuries like road rash or other burn injuries. These injuries create far more internal scar tissue than other common injuries from motorcycle accidents, and breaking up this scar tissue can best be done with intensive physical therapy. In fact, in some cases, physical therapy for these kinds of injuries is more important than for others, as leaving the scar tissue intact after these medical conditions can lead to a loss of mobility that is far more severe than for other conditions.
While physical therapy is more concerned with strengthening the muscles and tissues injured during the motorcycle accident, occupational therapy focuses more on helping accident victims overcome their injuries by focusing on completing the day-to-day tasks that can be the most problematic for them after their injury. This helps to improve an accident victim's motor skills and practical abilities in ways that physical therapy only helps with, indirectly.
Occupational therapy is an indispensable part of the recovery process for many motorcycle accident victims because it helps them overcome the difficulties of their new injuries in a structured and productive environment, and helps them regain the necessary skills they need to function on a daily basis.
What physical and occupational therapy are for an injured motorcyclist's body, therapy is for their mind. Because the mental and emotional struggles that injured bikers often feel after horrific and severe accidents are very real, going through therapy can be an incredibly helpful part of a victim's recovery. Therapy can help you overcome the painful memories of the crash and teach effective tools for dealing with the lasting mental repercussions of the incident.
The health benefits of going through therapy after a motorcycle crash are not small. Holding onto the stress that comes with the constant mental images of the accident can create significant medical problems that manifest themselves physically. In some cases, these new medical issues—like nausea or insomnia—can complicate the other physical conditions from the crash that you are trying to overcome.
Legal Damages in Motorcycle Accidents
If you get into a motorcycle accident in Maryland, there are a handful of ways that you can suffer, in the eyes of the law. These are your legal damages, which encompass all of the losses that you stand to be compensated for in a personal injury lawsuit. Legal damages can be subdivided into two smaller categories: economic damages and non-economic damages.
Economic Damages from Motorcycle Crashes
Economic damages are the ways that you were hurt—either physically or financially—that can easily be distilled into a certain dollar amount. Economic damages, therefore, are often determined by the amount of money that the victim of a motorcycle accident paid for their recovery, whether in the form of medical bills, the cost of repairing their motorcycle, or in wages lost.
One of the integral parts of the economic damages that motorcycle accident victims can recover for is the cost of their medical bills. Because these medical expenses would not have happened, but for the accident, and because that accident only happened through someone else's conduct, there is no reason why the victim of the crash should have to pay for their own medical bills. The law recognizes this and will make the person who caused the crash compensate victims for the costs of reasonable medical care that was necessary for the victim's recovery.
The amount that you can recover in compensation for your medical expenses is typically reflected in your medical bills. However, the defendant in your personal injury case will almost always challenge the medical necessity of many of the procedures and tests you will have gone through and paid for, and will frequently question the price of these expenses. This can lead to protracted litigation and lots of stress, especially if the injuries that you suffered were severe and required extensive and complicated medical treatment.
For example, if you suffered a severe and complicated femur fracture in the motorcycle accident—one that required dozens of surgeries—you can count on the defense delving into the medical necessity of each and every one of those procedures, and questioning even the length of time you stayed in the hospital.
Future Medical Expenses
Additionally, the compensation for your medical expenses does not only cover the cost of prior medical expenses: it is also forward-looking and covers the medical expenses that you are likely to need, in the future. This is especially important if the injuries that you suffered in the motorcycle accident were severe, and can lead to long-term debilitation. For example, if you suffered a significant spinal injury in the crash that will require physical therapy visits for years after your case has been resolved, the future medical expenses that you deserve compensation for would include those physical therapy appointments that have not happened, yet.
An often overlooked aspect of the economic damages that you should be compensated for by the driver who caused the accident is the cost of any home modifications you had to make to make your recovery go smoothly. After all, the costs of these modifications can be significant, and would not have had to be done, were it not for the negligence of the driver who caused the motorbike crash.
Perhaps the most common example of a home modification for which you deserve compensation is a wheelchair ramp. Leg injuries are among the most common for bikers who have been involved in a motorcycle crash. Often, these victims need to spend time in a wheelchair during their recovery. If their home is not wheelchair accessible, the need for a wheelchair ramp becomes apparent, if they are going to stay at home during their recovery. The costs for such a ramp are typically not small, and it would be unfair to expect the accident victim to have to pay for it, when the crash was not his or her fault.
Property Damage from a Motorcycle Crash
If you were riding your motorcycle in Maryland or through Baltimore when you got hit by another driver, odds are that your bike was damaged in the collision. While the damage to your ride can pale in comparison to the injuries you suffered in the crash, that is not a reason why the costs of repairing or replacing your motorcycle should come out of your own pocket. Again, it would be unfair for you to have to pay for the costs of damage that only happened because of someone else's negligence on the road.
The law recognizes this and includes the property damage that you suffered in the crash in the legal damages that you can recover from the defendant in a personal injury case. This also includes compensation for the damage you suffered to other things in the crash—like your helmet, clothes, and anything you were carrying at the time of the collision.
Wages Lost During Your Recovery
Not all of the legal damages that you suffered from the motorcycle collision involve money that you paid to recover from the crash. Some can better be characterized as lost benefits, and the most important of these is the income that you missed out on while you were recovering from the crash. For people who are making an income, and whose income stream was impacted by the crash, these lost wages can be significant. And again, were it not for the crash, you would not have suffered this loss so it makes sense to have the driver whose negligence caused the accident pay for your lost wages.
Therefore, if you earn an income—whether you are paid hourly, salaried, or on a different basis—if you can prove that you failed to earn any money, and that failure was because of your recovery from the crash or from the crash, itself, you can get compensation for that loss.
Lost Earning Capacity
Similarly, many motorcycle accidents in Maryland are severe enough to cause the kinds of injuries that prevent you from working, at all. Brain or spinal injuries that debilitate victims over the long-term, or even permanently, are not uncommon in motorcycle crashes. If you or a loved one has suffered such an injury in a motorcycle accident that was caused by someone else, you deserve to be compensated for the future income that you lost and the impact of the crash on your professional life.
Of course, the extent of these damages has a lot to do with what you do for a living. For example, an accountant who suffers paralyzing injuries in a motorcycle accident will likely not be able to recover very much for their lost earning capacity: desk jobs like these do not rely on physical abilities, so such a severely debilitating injury will not have much of an impact. However, this changes drastically if the victim was not an accountant, but worked as a construction worker. Not being able to walk would be a severe impediment to work, and might even make it impossible for the victim to earn a living in their chosen field. In these cases, the lost earning capacity suffered from the crash could be a huge part of the compensation a victim deserves.
Non-Economic Damages from Motorcycle Accidents
Non-economic damages, on the other hand, are ways that you have suffered or lost something in the motorcycle accident, but which is not reflected on a bill or invoice, and which is not easily stated in a dollar amount. These damages are often mental or emotional pains, rather than physical losses or damages to your property. Nevertheless, they are still important aspects of a personal injury case, and the torment that they can have on a victim's life can make them even more substantial than any physical toll from the crash.
Pain and Suffering
The classic example of a non-economic damage that is usually sustained in a motorcycle accident is your pain and suffering. You would not have gone through the physical pain, on the one hand, or the emotional and mental suffering, on the other, were it not for the other driver's negligence. Therefore, that driver should compensate you for these two types of losses you have been put through.
The legal damages for your pain are meant to reflect the amount of physical pain that you have felt from your injuries. Damages for your pain can be especially high if the injuries you suffered in the motorcycle accident were excruciatingly painful in the immediate aftermath of the collision—like a broken femur or pelvis—or if they will continue to be painful in the future, whether because of the extensive physical therapy necessary for a full recovery or from chronic pain that will likely develop.
Legal damages for your suffering, on the other hand, are meant to compensate you for the loss of life's enjoyments that you will go through because of your injuries. For example, if you are an avid marathoner, but the motorcycle crash ends with you suffering two badly broken legs that will prevent you from ever running, again, you will suffer from the loss of your favorite hobby. Such a loss would not have happened, were it not for the other driver's negligence, so they should compensate you.
The appropriate amount of compensation that you should receive for your pain and for your suffering, though, is tricky to determine. The other driver cannot compensate you in any other way than to pay you money, and putting a dollar amount on how much pain you have been through is not easy. However, there is no question that some injuries hurt more than others, while others will make you suffer more than others, in the long term. It is also obvious that the most painful and longest-lasting injuries deserve the most compensation.
The way that Maryland's personal injury law handles this thorny problem is to simply let the jury decide the appropriate amount of compensation that you should receive. If your case goes to trial, the jury will hear all about your injuries and will have to decide how much money should be paid to compensate you for the pain and suffering you have been put through.
Of course, this leads to some widely fluctuating results. Some juries strongly sympathize with the victim of a motorcycle accident, while others do not. Getting the jury to feel your pain and appreciate the depths of your suffering is something that personal injury attorneys can do, drastically improving the amount of compensation that you stand to recover from your losses.
Another type of non-economic damage that you can recover after being hurt in a motorcycle accident is for the inconvenience that the crash caused. You would not have to go through the time that it takes to recover from the crash if the crash never happened in the first place, so you should be able to recover compensation for the inconvenience that the accident has caused in your life.
If your recovery time is long and the process intense, then you should recover more for the inconvenience that this causes than if it is easy to overcome your injuries. However, just because your recovery is limited to a couple of hospital visits does not mean that you were not inconvenienced by the crash. You deserve compensation for your losses, and this is one form that they can take.
Damages for Loss of Consortium
Many victims in motorcycle accidents have families that depend on them for more than just a paycheck—their families also rely on them for emotional guidance and social support, too. When you get hurt in a motorcycle crash in Maryland, you are not the only one who suffers: your family, friends, and loved ones all suffer, as well.
Again, because these losses would not have happened, but for the other driver's negligence and the crash that it caused, there is no reason why you and your family should not be compensated for the loss of consortium that the crash has caused.
Loss of consortium damages is especially prevalent when the victim of the motorcycle crash is a crucial part of his or her family, an upstanding member of the community, and whose recovery takes their attention and energy away from the people who count on it, the most. For example, personal injury cases involving parents who suffer severe injuries that lead to lasting debilitations are the most likely to recover damages for the loss of consortium that their family suffers from their loss.
Emotional Distress Damages
Finally, motorcycle accidents can leave lasting scars that can be both physically and mentally prominent. Regardless of what form those scars can take, they are the result of another driver's negligence, and should, therefore, be compensated by the person at fault.
The most common form that emotional distress damages can take after a motorcycle accident is when the accident was so horrific that the memory of it haunts the victim. In many of these motorcycle accidents, the unfortunate victim sees “life flash before their eyes” right before the moment of impact. Together with the severity of the crash and the injuries that it leads to, this memory can haunt them for years to come, putting a dark blemish on their unconscious that leads to loss of sleep, vivid flashbacks, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other medical problems.
Accident victims are not the only people who can be emotionally scarred after a motorcycle crash. Witnesses who see the collision—especially family members of the person on the bike—can be plagued by the memory, seeing it happen again and again in their mind's eye and forcing them to relive the terrible moment over and over. In many cases, this emotional distress is enough to create other medical problems that would never have happened, were it not for the other driver's negligence and the crash that it created.
Finally, the physical injuries that the victim of a motorcycle accident suffers can create emotional distress, on their own. Because motorcyclists are very vulnerable during an accident, they often suffer the kinds of bodily injuries that a car's protective equipment prevents—extreme lacerations, badly broken bones, and disfiguring abrasions. In the worst cases, victims in motorcycle accidents suffer amputations, limb disfigurements, and prominent scarring.
These injuries serve as a physical reminder of the accident, and can constantly trigger emotional distress at their sight. Victims are continually reminded of the horror of their crash at the sight of a grotesque scar or their inability to use a limb in the way they could, before the crash. They also have to deal with the social stigma of their disfigurement every time they meet someone new or interact with a stranger, and this can be mentally and emotionally tiring.
Motorcycle Accident Attorneys in Baltimore
The personal injury attorneys at the Gilman & Bedigian law office in Baltimore, Maryland represent clients who have been hurt in motorcycle accidents in the city and throughout the state both in the courtroom and outside of it. By fighting for your rights and interests, we can ensure you make a full recovery without putting your financial well-being in peril.
If you or someone you love has been hurt or killed in a crash, contact us online to get the legal help you need, to get the compensation you deserve.