Motorcycle Accidents



Motorcycle riding can be risky. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a motorcyclist is approximately three times as likely to be injured in a crash than an automobile occupant. A separate study funded by the NHTSA showed that the typical motorcycle accident allows the motorcyclist less than two seconds to complete all collision avoidance action. Injuries caused by motorcycle accidents also tend to be much more severe than typical automobile accidents. These statistics and many others show that motorcycle accidents can be a common source of personal injury claims. The NHTSA reports that intersections are the most likely place for two-vehicle motorcycle accidents to occur, with the other vehicle violating the motorcyclist’s right-of-way and often violating traffic controls.

As in automobile accident cases, the burden of proof rests on the plaintiff. He or she must prove that the defendant vehicle operator was negligent and caused the accident. To prove negligence, the law uses the “reasonable person” standard. A reasonable person is someone who uses due care and takes reasonable steps to avoid creating a situation where an accident could occur.

Whether or not you are at fault for an accident affects your ability to recover damages, your liability for damages of others and your insurance rates. Having your own motorcycle insurance coverage protects you from claims of others if you are at fault, and can provide some coverage for your own injuries. However, the normal rules of insurance under the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law do not apply to motorcycles. Because the rules are different, it is important to consult promptly with an attorney experienced in handling motorcycle cases if you are involved in an accident. Make sure that you have adequate liability insurance coverage to protect you if you are sued by another vehicle operator (talk to your insurance agent). Your automobile coverage will likely not help you in the event of an accident.

Pennsylvania requires motorists to have liability insurance or to show proof of their financial ability to pay another person if an accident occurs. However, one-half to two-thirds of all drivers are underinsured or uninsured motorists. What can you do to protect yourself from these motorists? Consider buying uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. Insurance companies are required by law to offer these coverages when you purchase insurance. They provide protection for you and your family for situations where the responsible operator failed to obtain the proper insurance coverage. Uninsured coverage pays you or any other person covered under your policy for bodily injuries caused by either a hit-and-run driver or an uninsured driver. Uninsured motorist insurance also may cover any passenger riding with you. Underinsurance coverage pays you for any damages caused by a motorist who doesn’t have enough liability insurance to cover your damages.

Many insurance companies discount policies to riders who have completed certified skill and safety courses because a motorcyclist’s technical skill is a high influencing factor in the ability to avoid an accident. Motorcycle rider training experience reduces accident involvement and is related to reduced injuries in the event of accidents. The NHTSA reports that most motorcycle riders involved in accidents are essentially without training; 92% are self-taught or learned from family or friends.

Even if you ride with skill and care you still may be involved in an accident. If this happens, get as much information as you can from the other motorist and call your insurance company and your lawyer as soon as possible.

Comparative Negligence: A Common Defense

To dispute your claim, defense lawyers may try to prove that you contributed to causing the accident. This is known as “comparative negligence.” Comparative negligence reduces the amount of damages you may recover based on the percentage of fault assigned to you. Even if you are at fault for an accident, comparative negligence laws may enable you to recover some damages. Under Pennsylvania law, if you are negligent, your damages may be reduced by the percentage of negligence assigned to you. If comparative negligence can be proven, you may not be able to collect any damages if your negligence exceeds the negligence of the defendant. 

If your claim is successful you may be able to recover damages for pain and suffering, loss of past earnings, future loss of earnings, past and future medical expenses, loss of life’s pleasures, any restrictions on your usual activities, pursuits and pleasures and loss of consortium (loss of comfort, loss of companionship, damage caused to the marital relationship).

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