What Rights Do I Have If I Am in a Motorcycle Accident in Pennsylvania?
Although motorcycles share the road with cars and are subject to the same “Rules of the Road,” there are significant differences between car accident injury claims in Pennsylvania and motorcycle accidents. These differences can greatly impact the rights of victims of motorcycle accidents.
How Insurance Affects Your Pennsylvania Motorcycle Accident Recovery
The first difference is that, with automobile policies, the law requires insurance companies to offer “first-party” benefits to their customers. These first-party benefits include a minimum of $5,000.00 in medical benefits and are mandatory. That means that for a person injured while an occupant of a car (or for any person hit as a pedestrian), there is mandatory, no-fault medical coverage in an amount no less than $5,000.00. For a person without private health insurance, this is an important benefit.
Besides medical benefits, insurers issuing automobile policies must also offer income loss benefits, accidental death benefits, funeral benefits, and/or a combination of the foregoing coverages.
Will My Health Insurance Cover Me After a Motorcycle Accident?
The law that requires insurers to offer these benefits for automobile policies specifically states that these benefits do NOT have to be offered when selling motorcycle policies. The impact of that law can have extremely negative consequences for people injured on motorcycles.
In our practice, we see devastating injuries or horrible deaths from motorcycle accidents. Obviously, no one is wearing a seatbelt on a motorcycle, so we see many situations where people are ejected. Because motorcyclists are not protected by the body of a car, we often see clients who are propelled over vehicles, onto the ground, or directly into other stationary objects. We also see motorcyclists injured in situations where an occupant of a car would not be—such as when a dog darts out into the road.
Since the law does not require motorcycle policies to provide medical benefits, many victims do not have the ability to pay for their medical bills. While these clients may be able to obtain emergency treatment, they may not be able to obtain adequate follow-up care. Without private health insurance, they may be stuck with large hospital bills. In situations where clients do have private health insurance, they might be required to reimburse their insurer for medical expenses that were paid (this can be a complex issue that has to be examined on a case-by-case basis).
In addition to not having access to automatic medical benefits, drivers and passengers on motorcycles are not able to recover first-party benefits, such as lost wage coverages, which are necessary if you are disabled as a result of the wreck.
There are some motorcycle policies that provide “first-party-type” benefits, even though the law does not require them. If you are injured on a motorcycle, it is critical to retain a motorcycle accident attorney to investigate all of the coverages that apply to your case.
Filing a Lawsuit After a Pennsylvania Motorcycle Accident
The second main difference between motorcycle and automobile policies is that there is no
“tort option” for motorcycle policies. This means that every occupant of a motorcycle who is injured as the result of someone else’s negligence is entitled to make a claim for pain and suffering.
Almost every motorcycle collision case that we handle involves a serious, life-altering injury or a death. When these crashes are caused by someone else, we go all out to obtain fair and just compensation for our clients.
How Do I Get Compensation for My Motorcycle Accident?
The first place that we look is to the liability insurance policy of the wrongdoer. This policy may be from a striking vehicle, or it may be the policy of the motorcycle you are on if your driver is at fault. In other cases, you may be able to make a claim to someone’s homeowner’s insurance, if, for example, a dog runs onto the road.
Because motorcycle crashes often involve death or serious injury, there is often not enough liability insurance available to fairly compensate the victim or his/her family members.
When this occurs, we will look to what is called “Underinsured Motorist” (or UIM) coverage. UIM coverage is an optional coverage that you can purchase on your own policy, and this coverage will compensate you when a wrongdoer does not have enough liability coverage (in other words, they are “underinsured”).
You can purchase this UIM coverage on your own motorcycle policy, and if you have more than one motorcycle on your policy, you will be given the option to “stack” the UIM coverage. This means that the UIM amount that you purchased will be multiplied by the number of motorcycles on your policy. For example, if you purchase UIM coverage in the amount of $100,000.00, and there are three motorcycles on your policy, if you elect stacking, then your UIM coverage will be $300,000.00. If you do not elect stacking, then your UIM coverage will be $100,000.00.
Even though everyone who owns a car or motorcycle is required to insure it and provide liability insurance, we unfortunately see many cases where the vehicle of the wrongdoer has no liability insurance. In those types of cases, the vehicle is “uninsured.” Similarly, if you are hit by a vehicle that flees the scene, or an unidentified vehicle causes a collision without contact (such as a person who pulls out in front of you and then flees) then that vehicle is also considered uninsured.
When the wrongdoing vehicle is uninsured or unknown, you may have the ability to make an “Uninsured Motorist” (UM) claim. Like UIM coverage, UM coverage is an optional coverage that you can purchase to protect yourself, and can be “stacked” as well.
When you are out enjoying the weather on your motorcycle, you cannot control whether some unknown wrongdoer will have purchased enough insurance, or whether they will have purchased any insurance at all. What you can do, though, is protect yourself by making sure that you purchase UM and UIM coverage for an amount of coverage as high as you can afford. We believe this is particularly important for motorcyclists, due to the often traumatic and permanent injuries they sustain.
Some insurance companies will allow you to insure your motorcycle(s) on the same policy as your automobiles. If your insurer allows this, we believe that you should do so, because you should then be able to stack the UM and UIM coverage together with your automobiles.
If your insurer will not allow you to place your motorcycle on your automobile policy, then you may not be able to obtain UM/UIM coverage from the auto policy if you are injured on the motorcycle, and vice versa.
Injured in a Pennsylvania Motorcycle Accident? Speak to an Attorney Today
These are just some of the many issues that our motorcycle accident clients face. Making sure that our clients receive the money that they deserve means that we thoroughly investigate all of the available coverage. As in all cases, it is important to retain a qualified attorney to make sure that your rights are protected.
The attorneys of Waldman & Associates are intimately familiar with Pennsylvania motorcycle accident cases. When you connect with our firm, you can rest assured that we’ll put our years of experience to work for you. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you obtain just compensation for your motorcycle accident injuries.