In 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic and various stay-at-home orders, Pennsylvania witnessed its highest number of motorcycle accident fatalities in five years (217) and nearly 400 more motorcycle accidents than the previous year — 3,227, second only to the 3,321 recorded motorcycle accidents in 2016, according to statistics from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
The fatalities from motorcycle accidents resulted in nearly 20% (19.22) of all statewide roadway fatalities, which stood at 1,129 in 2020.
If you or a loved one has been injured — or lost their life — in a motorcycle accident in the greater Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area, or anywhere in Montgomery, Delaware, or Philadelphia counties, contact our team at Richard L. Vanderslice, P.C. We will listen to your story, investigate, and explore all options with you to seek the full and just compensation you deserve.
Pennsylvania expects motorcyclists to observe the same laws — and exercise the same duty of care while operating their cycles — as it does of drivers of other vehicles.
In the case of motorcycles, however, Pennsylvania requires operators to obtain a driver’s license with an “M” (motorcyclist) qualification. With some exceptions, motorcyclists are required to wear helmets approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation that carry the USDOT approval insignia on them.
Motorcyclists are also prohibited from riding more than two abreast in a single lane, and the act of lane-splitting — driving between the lanes with vehicles on both sides — is illegal in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania is considered a “choice no-fault” insurance state. You can opt between limited tort and full tort liability. Limited tort is similar to no-fault, in which you are restricted to obtain compensation from your own insurance policy. Full tort coverage allows you to pursue legal claims against the other driver if you can prove that the other driver was more than 50% at fault for the accident and your resulting injuries and property damages.
“More than 50%” refers to Pennsylvania’s use of a modified comparative negligence standard in which both drivers in an accident are assigned fault.
For instance, if you ride your motorcycle too closely to another vehicle, and the driver then turns into you because you’re caught in his blind spot, you may be assigned 20% fault (or more or less). If the total compensation awarded is $10,000, you will receive only $8,000 after your share (20%) is deducted. If you wish to file a claim against another driver and your portion of fault rises above 50%, you cannot collect anything.
Legal claims against at-fault vehicle operators allow the injured party to not only recover medical expenses and lost wages but also non-economic damages like pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment in life. An insurer will cover only direct economic damages.
Pennsylvania law requires you to report any vehicular accident that results in injury or disables one or more vehicles enough for them to be unable to leave the scene. You should call 911 and seek assistance. The police will often complete an on-site investigation and file a report. You should, when it becomes available, try to get a copy of that report to back up your insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit.
If you’re injured and need immediate care, request emergency medical assistance as well. Otherwise, if you’re healthy enough, you need to document what happened at the scene.
Use your cell phone to take pictures of everything — damages, your injuries, even roadway signs that may have been violated. If there are witnesses, try to get their contact information and statements. As soon as you can, write down or record everything that happened as you remember it.
Obtain the other driver’s contact and insurance information if you’re planning to pursue a legal or insurance claim against the other driver. Remember, you can only sue the other driver if you have full tort insurance coverage, but Pennsylvania sometimes allows a “serious injury” exemption if you have only limited tort coverage. You would be required to show that your injuries were serious enough to warrant a personal injury lawsuit.
As described above, Pennsylvania’s use of the modified comparative negligence rule means you must show that the other driver was more than 50% at fault for your injuries and other damages, whether you’re pursuing a claim against his insurer or in a court of law.
Pennsylvania traffic laws require all drivers to exercise what is called a “duty of care” toward other vehicle operators on the road. Your claim would have to show that the at-fault driver failed to exercise their proper duty of care and was negligent in a certain way causing your injuries.
This is why the pictures, documentation, witness statements, and police report (if available) gathered at the scene play such an important role.
If you are pursuing a personal injury lawsuit, remember that there is a two-year statute of limitations starting from the date of the accident/injury.
Pennsylvania law defines a "wrongful death" as one that is "caused by the wrongful act or neglect or unlawful violence or negligence of another." If you’ve lost a loved one in a motorcycle accident, you may have a basis for a wrongful death lawsuit.
For the first six months following the person’s death, however, only their personal representative — the person designated in the decedent’s will to oversee the distribution of assets — can file a wrongful death lawsuit. After that period, family members can file.
Damages recoverable are broad, including burial and funeral expenses, hospital and medical expenses, lost wages and benefits (past and future), and the loss of the decedent’s “household services,” including providing comfort and guidance.
The statute of limitations for wrongful death claims is two years, just like personal injury lawsuits.
Injuries resulting from motorcycle accidents are often far more serious than injuries suffered by those riding inside vehicles with enclosed cabins — for obvious reasons. Fatalities are also far more likely, as our opening statistics indicated.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle accident — or worse, a loved one has lost their life — you need to consult with an attorney immediately. An experienced motorcycle accident attorney can listen to and investigate the circumstances of the accident and determine your best legal option moving forward. Given Pennsylvania’s negligence bar of 50%, some cases may require assembling solid evidence of negligence against the other driver. A skilled attorney can assist you in this.
If you’re in the greater Philadelphia area or anywhere throughout the counties of Montgomery, Delaware, or Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, contact our attorneys at Richard L. Vanderslice, P.C. We will fight aggressively for you to help you pursue the full and just financial compensation you deserve. Reach out to our team today to schedule a consultation to discuss your case.