Out of all of the kinds of accidents that can happen on the roads of Philadelphia, motorcycle accidents are some of the worst. Motorcyclists are extremely vulnerable to collisions, and frequently suffer severe injuries in the crash.
These injuries and their complications can be very costly, and when a motorcyclist was not the cause of the collision, it would be unfair to make them pay for their losses. The amount that they should recover in compensation in a personal injury lawsuit is called their legal damages and reflects the cost of all of their losses sustained in the crash.
Two Kinds of Losses in a Motorcycle Accident
Legal damages from a motorcycle accident—or any accident, for that matter—fall into two categories:
- Economic damages
- Non-economic damages
Both of these types of damages can be broken down, further, though some motorcycle accidents lead to injuries that focus on one, or the other.
Economic Damages in a Motorcycle Accident
The economic damages that you can suffer in a motorcycle accident are those that are easy to express in a dollar amount. These are frequently counted in bills and expense reports from places like the hospital, doctor's office, mechanic, and home contractor. Other economic damages that you suffer from a motorcycle crash are in gains that you have lost, or that you stand to lose in the future, typically in the form of wages.
The most common kinds of economic damages that you can suffer in a motorcycle accident are:
- Lost wages
- Lost earning capacity
- Medical bills
- Future medical expenses
- Property damage
- Home modifications
Lost Wages and Earning Capacity
One of the most overlooked aspects of your legal damages following a motorcycle accident in Philadelphia is how the crash impacted your professional life or ability to work and make an income. Because both the wages you lost during your recovery and any increased difficulty you have in making a living from your injuries are the direct result of the crash, if you were not at fault for the accident then you deserve to be compensated for those losses. Because these losses are relatively easy to assess, they are considered economic losses in a personal injury suit.
For example, imagine a motorcyclist who works as a professional landscaper, but who suffers a badly broken leg in a motorcycle crash. The injury causes him to miss weeks of work while he languishes in the hospital, and then months more while he is in a cast and unable to walk. Even after the cast is removed, he has to go to physical therapy, which takes him away from work early. Finally, the injury was bad enough that it causes him pain to stand for long periods of time, limiting his ability to work at his job. He is confined to a riding mower or office work and takes a pay cut.
All of the hours that the worker missed—from his time in the hospital to his time in a cast to his time at physical therapy—should be compensated in the form of his lost wages. Meanwhile, the pay cut that he took should be compensated in the form of a loss of earning capacity. After all, none of these decreases in his income was his fault: they were all the fault of the driver who caused the motorcycle accident.
Medical Bills and Future Medical Expenses
Perhaps the most obvious form of damages you can suffer in a motorcycle accident are your medical bills. These are directly related to the injuries you suffered in the crash, and so are the most prominent form of legal damages from the accident. Insurance companies know this and frequently offer to cover the costs you have already accumulated in an initial offer, hoping that you are unaware that you can recover far more.
However, after a severe motorcycle accident, a big part of your medical expenses are those that arise in the years after the crash. While Pennsylvania's statute of limitations requires you to file a lawsuit within two years, some injuries that you suffer can take far longer than that to recover from. In these cases, your medical expenses might not be fully known before the statute of limitations expires. Pennsylvania personal injury law, though, allows you to still recover the costs of medical expenses in the future if you can estimate them with reasonable certainty.
Most motorcycle accidents do not just result in injuries to your body—they also cause property damage in the form of injuries to your bike. Because the costs of repairing and replacing your motorcycle would not have arisen, were it not for the negligence of the other driver who caused the crash, it would be unfair to expect you to pay for them.
Modifications to Your Home
Many injuries that you suffer in a motorcycle accident can be severe enough that your house or apartment needs to be altered so you can live in it, after the crash. Once again, because the costs of these home modifications would not have been incurred were it not for the other driver's negligence in causing the crash, you should be able to recover those costs in a personal injury lawsuit.
For example, imagine a motorcyclist who gets paralyzed from the waist down in a bike crash. If they live on the third floor of an old apartment building in downtown Philadelphia that does not have an elevator, they will have to move out of their apartment. Even if they live in a house, instead, they will likely have to outfit it with a wheelchair ramp so they can get in and out. These changes can be expensive, and there is no reason why the victim of a motorcycle crash should have to pay for them.
The Non-Economic Damages in a Motorcycle Accident
In contrast to economic damages, the non-economic damages that you can suffer in a motorcycle accident are not easily translatable into a dollar amount. This is largely because your non-economic damages are meant to reflect the costs of non-physical injuries or losses that cannot be seen. Just because they are more vague than economic damages, though, does not mean they are any less serious. In fact, many personal injury lawsuits that stem from motorcycle crashes result in more compensation for non-economic damages than for economic ones.
Compensation for Pain and Suffering
Out of all of the kinds of non-economic damages you can suffer in a motorcycle crash, pain and suffering are the most well known. In fact, pain and suffering damages could even be said to be infamous because of how widely variable the award can be after a trial, making people doubt how accurate it is.
This difficulty in putting a dollar amount on how much you have been hurt and how badly you have suffered from your injuries sustained in the crash, though, does not mean that you should not have a right to recover compensation for them. Additionally, the variability in damages for pain and suffering reflect just how differently people go through these symptoms.
The damages for pain are meant to compensate you for how much you were physically hurt by the other driver's negligence. Obviously, some injuries that you can suffer in a motorcycle accident will hurt more than others. Broken femurs, for example, are widely regarded to be the most painful fracture you can suffer, and so demand more in compensation than, say, a broken wrist. Road rash is another very painful injury that many bikers suffer in a crash: not only does the burning sensation from the injury cause a great deal of pain, but cleaning the wound requires an extensive scrubbing that can be incredibly painful.
Damages for your suffering, on the other hand, are slightly different: they are meant to compensate you for how much your injuries prevent you from enjoying your life. The amount that you have suffered, therefore, is much more dependent on how debilitating your injuries were, and how long they take to make a full recovery. Between a broken femur and a road rash injury, therefore, the broken femur is far more likely to result in a higher amount of compensation for your suffering—these injuries tend to keep you “out of commission” for far longer than road rash, and can impede your ability to do the things that you want to do, well into the future.
Emotional Distress Damages
Not all of the ways you suffer in a motorcycle crash are physical. Many of the most severe motorcycle accidents are graphic and traumatizing. Even the hardiest and rugged bikers on the road can be affected by the sights and sounds of the crash, and the memory of the incident can haunt their minds for years afterwards. The emotional distress that these memories create can lead to further complications, like difficulties eating or sleeping, which can snowball into further medical problems.
The emotional distress that bikers can suffer from an accident can be especially bad if the physical injuries that they suffer are visually apparent, and can be even worse if those injuries are so prominent that they impact how people react when they see them. An excellent example of how a prominent or disfiguring injury can create emotional distress in a motorcycle accident victim is an amputated limb. The increased difficulty in daily tasks without the normal use of an arm or a leg serves as a constant reminder of the horrors of the accident, and the continual sight of the missing limb makes things worse. To add insult to injury, motorcyclists who have had a limb amputated also go through the constant stares in public of people who cannot hide their shock of the sight of their injury.
Every time this happens, it serves to remind the motorcyclist of the trauma that they went through, which can plague their mind for years after the crash and remind them that they will never be the same, again. Because these feelings would never have happened, were it not for the negligence of the other driver who caused the crash, you deserve to be compensated for what you are going through.
Loss of Consortium
A frequently overlooked aspect of a motorcycle accident is how it impacts the family and close friends of the victim, especially when they are dependent on the victim for a source of income. Children and spouses of injured motorcyclists, therefore, also suffer when a biker gets hurt in a crash and becomes unable to earn an income while he or she goes through the recovery process. Because their emotional strain and uncertainty is a result of the crash, which would not have happened were it not for the poor conduct of the other driver, there is no reason why they should have to go through it without being compensated.
This is why the personal injury law in Pennsylvania allows a victim's family members to recover non-economic damages for their loss of consortium after a motorcycle crash. Accidents like these—and the injuries that they cause—can upend or drastically change the family dynamics of the injured biker. The uncertainty that this creates is no fault of their own and should be compensated.
Motorcycle Accident Attorneys in Philadelphia
The personal injury lawyers at the Philadelphia law office of Gilman & Bedigian strive to represent victims of motorcycle accidents that happen in and around the city. By fighting for your rights and interests both inside the courtroom and outside of it, we can make sure you get the compensation that you need and deserve. This includes compensation for your economic and non-economic damages, in whatever form they appear in your case.
If you or someone you love has been hurt in a motorcycle accident in Philadelphia or eastern Pennsylvania, contact us online for the legal representation that you need to get the compensation that you deserve. We can help in this troubling time, and do everything possible to make sure that your financial well-being is also not hurt by the crash.