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Maryland Court Reviews Whether Police Chase Caused Dirt Bike Accident in Negligence Case

Motorcycle and dirt bike riders can suffer life-threatening injuries when they are involved in a Maryland motor vehicle collision.  In a February 6, 2020 case, the plaintiff was seriously injured in a dirt bike accident while being pursued by a police cruiser.  He brought a negligence claim against the officer and other defendants to recover damages for personal injuries.  When the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, the plaintiff filed an appeal with the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

The defendant in the case was a police officer working secondary employment as a security guard at an apartment complex.  He observed the plaintiff’s cousin driving a dirt bike with the plaintiff, riding as a passenger, through the apartment complex.  Believing their dirt bike matched the description of a bike that had been reported stolen, the defendant approached them.  The plaintiff’s cousin sped away from the defendant and out of the apartment complex.  The defendant pursued them in his police cruiser onto the main road.  The defendant alleged that he did not witness the accident involving the plaintiff and his cousin, but came upon it after it had happened.

A Maryland negligence claim requires four elements: a duty owed to the plaintiff, breach of that duty, causation, and injury.  The trial court had dismissed the plaintiff’s negligence claim in part due to the lack of proximate causation.  On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the officer’s conduct was the proximate cause of the accident because he had chased the dirt bike despite an obvious error that it was stolen, and because his pursuit on public roads violated police policy.

The appeals court explained that to establish proximate cause, the plaintiff must show evidence of a direct and substantial causal relationship between the defendant’s breach of the standard of care and the plaintiff’s injuries.  In other words, but for the proximate cause, the plaintiff’s injury would not have occurred.  The appeals court pointed to the traffic surveillance video, which showed that the officer’s vehicle was ten seconds behind the dirt bike, and that after the bike turned, neither the defendant nor the plaintiff could have seen each other.

The court noted that the plaintiff and his cousin could have slowed after the turn and still avoided the officer, or stopped the dirt bike and fled on foot.  The court went on to conclude that, based on the evidence, the officer’s conduct was not the proximate cause of the accident.  The appeals court therefore held that the plaintiff could not establish his negligence claim against the officer, and affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants.

At Foran & Foran, P.A., our Maryland negligence attorneys have experience handling a wide range of personal injury claims.  From auto accidents and premises liability cases, to medical malpractice and wrongful death actions, we can provide compassionate and dedicated legal representation on behalf of plaintiffs and their family members.  If you have been hurt in an accident, contact Foran & Foran online or call (301) 441-2022 and request a free consultation with a skilled injury lawyer.

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