Pennsylvania law considers a motorcycle a vehicle, which means riders must abide by all the rules of the road, just like motorists. However, there are several distinct differences when it comes to filing a claim and seeking financial recovery after a motorcycle crash. Below, we share three important ways motorcycle accident claims differ from other vehicle accident claims — one which is advantageous to riders, and two which are not so much.
For legal questions specific to your claim, call Cordisco & Saile LLC in Pennsylvania at 215-791-8911 and request a free consult.
#1: Motorcyclists do not have access to MedPay coverage for their injuries.
One of the key differences between motorcycle accident claims and other types of claims is that riders do not qualify for medical payments coverage; they have to seek recovery via other avenues.
Medical payments coverage, or MedPay, pays for your and your passengers’’ injuries if ever you are in an accident. Pennsylvania requires that all drivers carry at least $5,000 in MedPay, which you can use after an accident, irrespective of fault. It will cover reasonable and necessary expenses such as ambulance services; ER care; hospitalization; medical, surgical, dental, chiropractic treatment; medical and prosthetic devices; and funeral services.
However, 75 PA §§ 1711(a) and 1714 exclude motorcyclists from MedPay coverage. Auto insurers do not have to offer it to riders, and riders are not automatically entitled to it.
This means that when a rider sustains injuries in a traffic accident, he cannot file a claim with his own insurance company to cover his medical bills like drivers of passenger cars and trucks are entitled to do. It does not matter whether the rider was at fault or not — in either case, he still cannot recover compensation for medical bills from his auto insurance company.
Because motorcyclists tend to sustain serious injuries in accidents, this poses a serious issue. How do injured riders pay for their medical bills then if not for MedPay? They generally have two options:
- Health insurance: They can use their own health insurance policy to cover their damages, although this is usually subject to deductibles.
- Lawsuit: They can file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party.
#2: Motorcyclists retain full tort rights.
The second way that motorcycle accident claims differ from other vehicle claims is that motorcyclists are not subject to limited tort options. This is a major benefit, legally and financially speaking.
Pennsylvania is a “choice no-fault” auto insurance state, which means that when motorists purchase their auto insurance policies, they can opt for limited tort or full tort.
Limited tort policies are less expensive, but they limit your rights to sue and fully recover if another party injures you. Limited tort policyholders cannot recover damages for non-economic damages like pain and suffering, unless their injuries meet the state’s strict definition of “serious.”
With a full tort policy on the other hand, you retain your rights to seek full recovery including non-economic damages from at-fault parties, even if your injuries are not “serious.”
Full tort policies are much more advantageous, but many people choose a limited tort policy because the premiums are lower. Fortunately for motorcyclists, whenever you are in an accident, Pennsylvania law automatically grants you full tort rights, irrespective of your tort selection on your auto policy.
So, if another party caused or contributed to your accident, you have the right seek compensation for all of your accident-related damages, both economic (special damages) and noneconomic (general damages).
Because your general damages can be one-and-a-half to five times the value of your special damages, retaining full tort rights could put additional thousands of dollars in your pocket come settlement time.
Of course, this only applies if someone else caused your accident. If you were at fault, you will need to pay your expenses using your own resources. If you were partly at fault, you may still be eligible to recover a portion of your damages. We will talk more about this in the next section.
#3: Helmet use can affect the outcome of the claim.
A factor unique to motorcyclists, helmet usage — actually, lack thereof — has the potential to reduce the value of your claim. This is because of a specific rule that Pennsylvania adheres to, referred to as the comparative negligence rule.
This law, detailed in PA 42 § 7102, provides that when injured parties (plaintiffs) receive a settlement for their damages, their degree of fault will reduce their settlement amount. It also bars plaintiffs from recovery entirely if they were more than 50 percent at fault for their injuries.
Many riders are under the mistaken impression that because helmets are not mandatory in Pennsylvania for most riders, lack of helmet usage cannot be a defense against liability. That is not so.
When you file a claim against an at-fault driver (defendant) after a motorcycle accident, the defendant’s attorney or insurance company may try to pin part of the blame on you if you were not wearing a helmet. The insurer will argue that your injuries would not have occurred or would have been less severe had you been wearing a helmet, and thus, you should be partly liable for your damages.
Moreover, this argument stands up in court. If the insurer or courts assign you with say 25 percent fault for not wearing a helmet, you will only receive 75 percent of the overall value of your damages.
However, helmet usage as a defense against liability is only valid when you suffer motorcycle accident-related head injuries. The insurer cannot assign you with fault for not wearing a helmet if you suffered arm or leg injuries, for instance. If they try to use lack of helmet use as a defense for non-head-related injuries, your Cordisco & Saile LLC attorney will refute liability on your behalf.
How should I go about pursuing a motorcycle accident claim?
Motorcyclists face unique challenges when seeking recovery after an accident in Pennsylvania. Filing a motorcycle accident claim can be a tricky process that requires careful planning before taking action. You will want to speak to a Pennsylvania motorcycle accident attorney to discuss the best way to pursue a settlement.
Your attorney can review your accident, ascertain liability, and then explain your options to you. If you are entitled to file a suit or claim, your lawyer can help gather the evidence necessary to support your case and walk you through the claims or civil court process. He will also make sure to detail the full extent of your damages and try to limit your liability in order to maximize your settlement award.
For more information, you can also download a free copy of our guide, Don’t Crash Again! A Car Accident Victim’s Guide to Maximizing Recovery. The guide, which also applies to motorcyclists, contains lot of helpful hints for working with insurance adjusters after an accident
For legal help from an attorney that has successfully handled numerous motorcycle accident cases in Pennsylvania, consider Cordisco & Saile LLC. We have over 25 years of experience helping injured victims and their families obtain the funds they need and deserve after they have been injured by others’ negligence. We may be able to do the same for you.
Contact us today at 215-791-8911 for a free, no-obligation consultation.