Philadelphia Motorcycle Accident Attorney
Riding a motorcycle can be thrilling, but it carries many risks. Some are obvious, such as not having the same protection from external forces that enclosed vehicles afford. Other risks are not as apparent, such as the reliability of safety equipment that drivers of other vehicles don’t need to use.
Statistics of Motorcycle Accidents
Motor vehicle accidents happen every day in the United States. Unfortunately, those that involve motorcycles are far more likely to be seriously damaging or fatal to victims. In 2014, motorcycle accidents killed 4,586 people, and recent studies from the Insurance Information Institute show that motorcyclists are roughly 26 times more likely to die in a crash than occupants of passenger cars and other enclosed vehicles are.
Unfortunately, one of the most common injuries associated with motorcycle accidents are traumatic brain injuries. Most head injuries sustained from a motorcycle crash are fatal. Helmets help prevent death and brain injuries, but currently only 19 states and Washington, D.C., have helmet laws requiring riders to wear them.
Helmet Use in Pennsylvania Motorcycle Crashes
Data is current as of September 29, 2016 from Pennsylvania Department of Transportation
Unsafe Motorcycle Practices
Although motorcycles are smaller and less visible than other motor vehicles on the road, drivers need to be well aware of all of their surroundings. Unfortunately, the speed and maneuverability afforded by motorcycles tend to encourage some unsafe driving practices among riders, and often these maneuvers are fatally costly.
One of the most dangerous activities a motorcycle rider can engage in is “lane splitting,” in which the motorcycle will weave between lanes of traffic to overtake and pass other vehicles, or share a lane next to another vehicle rather than properly passing them. Just as motorcycles need the same respect and attention as all other motor vehicles, motorcyclists need to follow the same traffic laws expected of all drivers. Simply because they can maneuver with more speed and agility doesn’t mean they should.
As with any other motor vehicle, a driver under the influence of illicit drugs or alcohol should not use a motorcycle. Likewise, fatigued or sleepy drivers should not use motorcycles either. Operating any vehicle in an impaired state endangers everyone on the road, the rider included.
Most motorcycle accidents involving another car happen when that car is making a left-hand turn. Such situations account for 42% of all motorcycle accidents with cars. Usually, as the car makes a left hand turn, the motorcycle will either continue straight past through the intersection and is unable to stop or swerve in time, or the motorcyclist is attempting to pass or overtake the car in an unsafe manner and does not realize the car’s driver intends to turn.
In these situations, Philadelphia and the state of Pennsylvania operate under a comparative negligence law, meaning victims of an accident can be partially at fault for the accident, and their claimable damages will be reduced by a proportionate amount based on the percentage of fault they have in the incident.
Motorcyclists need to exercise an extra degree of caution on the road. While all drivers are expected to follow traffic laws, motorcycle riders need to understand that their bikes afford them much less protection than other vehicles would, and that a mistake or unsafe decision while driving can be much more costly than in another vehicle. Such mistakes are also far more likely to be fatal. Motorcycle riders need to follow the same rules of the road as they would when driving a passenger car to limit their risk of a serious accident.
Motorcycles are also more susceptible to hazardous road conditions compared to other vehicles. Rain, snow, ice, and other weather elements are much more dangerous for motorcyclists than drivers of passenger vehicles. Road construction can sometimes leave roads uneven or slick. Dead animals on the road can even be a serious hazard for motorcycles compared to other vehicles, due to their smaller size.
In some situations, a motorcycle may crash due to a faulty part or a defect in the manufacture of the motorcycle. While manufacturing defects happen with passenger cars as well, they are far more likely to cause serious harm to motorcyclists due to the nature of the vehicle.
If a court finds that a motorcycle manufacturer engages in unsafe manufacturing processes, produces faulty parts or vehicles, or fails to test its vehicles adequately for any performance defects, the company may be liable for damages. All product manufacturers are required to use consistent processes and perform quality assurance to ensure that all their products meet design specifications.
Inherent flaws in design can also produce defective products. Many automotive incidents have occurred due to faulty designs. Defective manufacturing processes can include faulty design, flawed or inconsistent construction or assembly, or failure to warn consumers of all possible risks associated with use of the product.
Motorcyclists also should be using protective gear such as helmets, road leathers, and padded equipment. If their gear fails to perform as intended or advertised, and it doesn’t prevent an injury, the manufacturer should be accountable for releasing a faulty or falsely advertised product. If a motorcyclist’s injuries are due to a defective vehicle, or a piece of their safety equipment did not perform as advertised, seeking an experienced attorney will make obtaining compensation for this negligence much easier.
Possible Injuries from Motorcycle Accidents
Motorcycle accidents carry many of the same risks as other motor vehicle crashes do, but usually the injuries that result are far more severe due to the lack of vehicular protection. For example, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is never acceptable or safe for any driver under any circumstances, but motorcyclists who drive while intoxicated are far more likely to suffer fatal injuries than impaired drivers of passenger cars are.
Motorcycle accidents can result in innumerable injuries. Traumatic brain injuries are extremely common in motorcycle accidents. Although helmet use is strongly encouraged by motorcycle manufacturers and law enforcement organizations, use of Department of Transportation (DOT) approved helmets is roughly 60%, meaning the other 40% of riders do not use helmets or at least not DOT-approved ones. Traumatic brain injuries can lead to serious disabilities, long-term medical complications, increased susceptibility to future brain injuries, and death.
Broken bones may be the least traumatic injury that results from a motorcycle collision. Spinal injuries are also very common. Motorcyclists thrown from their bikes at high speed are likely to tumble violently, contorting or breaking the spine. The spinal cord is one of the most vital parts of the human body but does not possess the ability to heal itself. Spinal cord injuries are permanent, and they can cause paralysis or the loss of motor functions.
When a crash tosses a motorcyclist off the vehicle, the cyclist will likely suffer “road rash,” a term used to describe friction burns sustained from sliding across asphalt. Motorcycle riders often wear road leathers, which are heavy-duty protective leather garments meant to sustain the damage of sliding across the ground and protect the wearer from road rash. However, they are not always successful, and some riders do not wear them at all. Anyone operating a motorcycle should always use DOT-approved protective equipment.
Proving Negligence and Claiming Damages
Motorcyclists are entitled to the same legal rights as any other driver of any other vehicle on the road. Even though motorcycle riders should be exercising a heightened degree of caution while riding, that doesn’t excuse other drivers from any damage they cause if they imperil other drivers on the road with unsafe practices.
If another driver strikes a motorcyclist and causes an accident due to unsafe driving practices, they need to be accountable for the damage they cause. That damage is likely going to be far greater than had they struck another passenger vehicle. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) reminds all motorists to safely share the road with motorcycles and use extra caution to ensure their safety. They also encourage motorcyclists to keep themselves as visible as possible to other drivers.
Though there are unique aspects to motorcycle collision, as with any personal injury claim, the victim must prove that the defendant was negligent in some way. Proving negligence depends on establishing three things:
- The defendant had a duty to act with reasonable care. On the road, this means following the traffic laws and staying within posted speed limits. This also means exercising caution around motorcyclists and not engaging in aggressive or irresponsible driving maneuvers.
- They breached this duty of care. This may mean failing to properly signal before making a lane change or turn, or failing to check their rear-view mirrors before making such maneuvers. It could also mean the other driver was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or driving at excessive speed.
- The defendant’s actions directly caused the victim’s injuries. The victim must show that there would have been no injuries if the defendant had exercised a reasonable degree of caution.
Motorcycle accidents can quickly become extremely complex. For example, another driver may strike a motorcyclist and cause an accident, throwing him or her from the bike. The rider may sustain injury, but if his or her helmet breaks from impact when it was advertised as safe at higher speeds, the manufacturer may be held responsible for part of the injury. The victim may then be able to claim damages against the other driver for the unsafe actions, as well as file a product liability claim against the helmet’s manufacturer for releasing an unsafe product.
In addition to seeking compensation for medical bills, the cost of necessary surgeries and ongoing treatments, property damage for a damaged or destroyed motorcycle, pain and suffering, and lost wages from missed time from work, the victim may also be entitled to punitive damages. Punitive damages could go to the victim if the defendant was engaging in any illegal activity at the time of the accident. This may include operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol or fleeing from authorities for another crime.
Due to the increased safety risks of motorcycles, victims are much less likely to survive severe injuries after a crash. In such cases, their loved ones will need to settle their affairs after their deaths. They will not only have to pursue a wrongful death claim but also file for compensation for the deceased’s lost wages and services to the family, consider any possible product liability claims, and possibly pursue punitive damages against the other driver.
Seek Motorcycle Accident Attorney in Philadelphia
As with any personal injury claim, having a reliable, compassionate attorney will make a world of difference when it comes to pursuing damages for your ordeal. If you’ve been involved in a motorcycle accident in the Philadelphia area, you should turn to legal professionals with extensive experience in motorcycle accidents and the resources to tackle every aspect of your case so you can focus on healing and getting your life back on track after sustaining injury.
The attorneys at Ciccarelli Law Offices are compassionate and well versed in all forms of personal injury law. We understand how serious motorcycle accidents can be, and we believe that riders are entitled to the same legal rights as any other driver on the road. Motorcycle accidents can be extremely injurious, and our mission is for victims to focus on healing rather than fretting about legal entanglements.
Let us handle your case while you worry about yourself and getting better. Reach out to our team of Philadelphia injury attorneys at Ciccarelli Law if you have any questions about Philadelphia motorcycle law or if you want to start reviewing your case. We pursue every possible avenue of compensation for our clients. Regardless of whether a drunk or distracted driver, a defective vehicle or safety product, or an improperly marked road hazard caused your injuries, we work to obtain the maximum compensation possible for our clients.