Can I file a motorcycle accident claim if I violated traffic laws?

Categorized: Motorcycle Accidents

Can I file a motorcycle accident claim if I violated traffic laws?

In a Pennsylvania car accident, personal injury protection (PIP) is a no-fault insurance coverage that pays for your medical bills up to policy limits, no matter who is at fault. So even if you violated traffic laws and were completely at fault for an accident, PIP would cover your medical bills.

But motorcycle policies in Pennsylvania aren’t required to offer PIP. That means motorcyclists must rely on filing a claim against an at-fault driver’s insurance to recover compensation. If the motorcyclist is partially at fault – such as for violating a traffic law – he or she still can recover damages, but compensation may be reduced.

Am I eligible to file a claim against the other driver?

Auto insurance policies allow Pennsylvania drivers to choose between limited and full tort insurance. Under limited tort, policyholders can pursue a lawsuit against an at-fault driver only if they suffered serious injuries. Full tort provides the unlimited right to sue the other party, provided that other party is at fault.

Motorcycle insurance is automatically full tort. Injured motorcyclists have the right to sue the other party and do not have to meet the serious injury threshold required for limited tort policyholders.

How do comparative negligence laws affect compensation?

Pennsylvania is a comparative negligence state, meaning that you may still collect damages from an at-fault driver, even if you are partially at fault. You may hold partial fault if you violated a traffic law, for example. As long as you are less than 50 percent liable for the accident and your injuries, you can recover compensation minus your percentage of fault.

So if you were 30 percent at fault and suffered $50,000 in damages, you may recover $35,000 instead of the full $50,000. This is why it’s so important to build a solid case that establishes the other driver’s fault. One common issue regarding partial fault as it pertains to motorcyclists is helmet use.

Am I in violation of Pennsylvania law for not wearing a helmet?

Pennsylvania repealed its mandatory helmet law for anyone who fulfills the following requirements:

  • You must be older than age 21.
  • You must be licensed for at least two years to drive a motorcycle or have finished a motorcycle rider safety course that has Department of Motor Vehicles or the Motorcycle Safety Foundation approval.


So if you didn’t wear a helmet and fit the above criteria, you did not violate the helmet law. But just because you don’t have to wear a helmet doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Not only can it save your life, but helmet use also might affect your assigned fault if you are in a wreck.

If you suffer a knee injury, whether you wore a helmet is irrelevant to your injury, so it shouldn’t factor into your case. But if you suffered a head injury, failure to wear a helmet may increase your comparative negligence because it may have prevented the injury or reduced its severity. Discuss this with your lawyer and how it might affect your damages recovery.

So what should I do next?

Talk to a lawyer to help navigate Pennsylvania’s motorcycle policy and negligence laws. If you’re in the Morrisville area, call Cordisco & Saile LLP at 215-642-2335 to make an appointment for your free consultation.

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