Motorcyclists are far more vulnerable than car occupants, and so are far more likely to get hurt in a motorcycle accident than people in other vehicles. Perhaps worse, these injuries to motorcyclists are often much more serious than those that car occupants suffer, with many of them proving to be fatal.
The personal injury law in Philadelphia and the rest of Pennsylvania, though, is there for motorcycle accident victims and aims to give them the compensation that they need and deserve to make a full recovery. Having a personal injury attorney from the law office of Gilman & Bedigian can be the best way to ensure you are taking full advantage of this branch of law and getting the financial help you need. Contact us online.
What Causes Motorcycle Accidents in Philadelphia?
Out of the countless accidents that happen in America every year, thousands of them involve motorcycles, with many of them leading to severe or fatal injuries.
According to a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Information Institute (III), there were an estimated 102,000 accidents in the U.S. that involved motorcycles in 2015. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (DOT) found that 3,413 of these happened in our state, that year, leading to 179 deaths.
While every one of these accidents is different and impacts the lives of unique individuals, the causes of motorcycle accidents can be categorized into a small handful of categories. Many of these categories involve mistakes that were by the driver of the other vehicle in the crash, and studies have shown that a majority of the crashes involving motorcycles are the fault of other drivers.
The leading study in the causes of motorcycle crashes is still the Hurt Report, a study commissioned by the NHTSA and carried out by a college professor, Harry Hurt, in 1981. The study investigated over 900 accidents and 3,600 police reports of other motorcycle crashes. The Hurt Report's list of 55 findings included a hugely important one: Approximately two out of every three motorcycle accidents involving another vehicle was caused by the driver of the other vehicle.
This finding has been backed up by more recent studies, including one done by the Center for Urban Transportation Research. Their investigation revealed that the driver of the other vehicle in a motorcycle accident was at fault in 60% of the multi-vehicle accidents that bikers experienced.
In most of these cases, the cause is simply driver negligence. Today, car drivers pay less attention to the road, fail to notice dangers on the roadway, and seem to be less aware of the rules of the road than before. Additionally, people who live in the state of Pennsylvania tend to be older than average – our state has the eighth-oldest average age in the country, at 40.6 years – and older drivers tend to make more mistakes on the roads than drivers between the ages of 25 and 40. Collectively, these problems turn into dangerous problems for motorcycles, as cars drive recklessly and put them at a severe risk of injury.
Driving while distracted is perhaps the most common way for a driver to be negligent while behind the wheel. Unfortunately, distracted driving comes in a huge variety of forms, including:
- Calling someone on the phone
- Using a GPS device
- Changing CDs, the radio, or MP3 player
- Changing clothes or putting on makeup
The common element behind all of these activities is that they divide a driver's attention between them and the road. But whatever form it takes, driving while distracted is dangerous, and puts motorcyclists at risk.
According to numbers by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), out of the estimated 2,443,000 million people who were hurt in motor vehicle accidents in the U.S. in 2015, around 391,000 of them were hurt because of a distracted driver.
Unfortunately, until more people begin to realize that they are putting themselves and others in danger, there is only so much that the law can do to prevent this problem. Many states, including Pennsylvania, have passed laws that prohibit texting and driving; one of the most common and prominent instances of driving while distracted. Despite the $50 fine in our state, though, distracted driving still causes thousands of accidents in Philadelphia every year, leaving hundreds of innocent victims hurt.
Car drivers who go above the speed limit are also common causes of motorcycle accidents. While it should come as no surprise that speeding drivers are a leading cause of accidents – speeding drivers have less time to react to road hazards, and are also more difficult for other drivers to account for, due to their speed – there is an additional danger, when it comes to how they interact with motorcycles: motorbikes are smaller and lighter, and so stop more quickly. When a driver behind them is speeding, they need to drastically increase their following distance, or else they will find it impossible to come to a full stop if the biker has to hit their brakes, in front of them.
Worse, the motorcycle accidents that speeding drivers cause are much more severe than crashes that happen at the speed limit. The added speed and force that it creates put motorcyclists in even greater peril, and often results in injuries that are significantly worse that would otherwise be expected.
Opening Car Doors Into Traffic
A road risk that is especially dangerous for motorcyclists is when a car driver opens his or her car door into traffic without looking to see whether it is safe to do so. These are called dooring accidents and are a surprisingly common way to cause a crash. They are also completely preventable, highly negligent on the driver's part, and also very dangerous to motorcyclists who frequently have so little warning that they cannot evade the opening door in time to avoid the crash.
Most of these dooring accidents happen on side roads in Philadelphia, where the streets are narrow and lined with houses and cars parked parallel to the curb. Many of them happen on weekdays, in the early morning or early evening, when people are leaving or just returning from work. Drivers rushing to get in or out of their cars will forget to look behind them or in their mirrors before pulling their door open wide: many drivers never consider to do this, at all. Hurried commuters are not the only people susceptible to this practice – some drivers are too distracted by other things to remember how important it is to be safe even while entering or exiting their vehicle. In still other cases, it is a child swinging their door open.
In any case, the result is often terrifying and very dangerous to an approaching motorcyclist. Left with little time to stop or even slow down, bikers are frequently forced to take immediate action to avoid slamming into the inside of the car door. This typically puts them into the path of oncoming traffic, where they can be the victim in a head-on collision – one that is often worse than the one they just avoided. In some other cases, motorcyclists have no time at all to react or avoid the crash, and are left helpless by the negligence of the person opening their car door.
In light of this danger, the Pennsylvania state legislature has made dooring illegal: 75 Pa. Code § 3705 prohibits opening “any door on a motor vehicle unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic.” Nevertheless, the practice continues.
A maneuver that negligent or distracted drivers frequently make that puts motorcyclists in particular danger is a left turn through traffic. Many intersections in and around Philadelphia are on busy, multilane roads with stop lights and left turn lanes. While drivers in these left turn lanes should wait for a green arrow to turn safely, many look for empty spaces in the flow of oncoming traffic to make their turn. Many of these drivers, however, are in a rush, distracted by their surroundings, or simply fail to notice an oncoming motorcyclist. Instead of waiting for a safe opportunity that does not put anyone else in danger, these drivers make their left turn directly into the path of a biker coming towards them, leaving them little time to avoid the collision or forcing the motorcyclist to take evasive action that leads to a crash with a third vehicle.
These turns are extremely negligent because there is no good reason for a driver to take them. Worse, they frequently cause severe injuries to the oncoming biker because they are left with little warning and are rarely able to slow down before the collision. As a result, left turn crashes like these typically end with the motorcyclist either slamming into the side of the turning car – which often sends the biker over their handlebars and onto the pavement, where they are at risk of being hit by other drivers coming from behind them – or swerving to avoid the turning car and sideswiping another vehicle traveling alongside them. The injuries that result are often severe or life-threatening.
Driving Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol
Another common cause of motorcycle accidents in Philadelphia are drivers who are intoxicated. Whenever a drunk or drugged driver gets behind the wheel of their car, they put everyone else on the road at a significant risk of a crash because of their inability to operate their own vehicle in a reasonably safe manner. Motorcyclists, however, are especially at risk because their bikes are smaller and so are less prominent on the road, and because, without all of the safety equipment that surrounds a car occupant, they are much more vulnerable in a crash.
The result of an intoxicated driver getting behind the wheel is often catastrophic or life-threatening. According to the NHTSA, 29% of the traffic fatalities in the U.S. in 2015 came in crashes that involved someone with a blood alcohol content at or above the legal limit of 0.08%. In the state of Pennsylvania, that percentage was slightly over average, at 30.3%. Unfortunately, this number has likely climbed in recent years, as Pennsylvania has been ravaged by the opioid crisis, according to the CDC. This has likely increased the number of people who have been on the roads while under the influence of drugs, increasing the number of innocent drivers who have had the misfortune to be in their way at the wrong time.
Just because a motorcycle crash was not caused by another negligent driver does not mean that it was the motorcyclist's fault. In some cases – not many, but some – the cause of a motorcycle accident can be traced to the motorcycle, itself. When the parts on a motorcycle fail because they are defectively designed, made, or marketed, and that failure creates an accident that hurts you, the party responsible for the problem should be held liable for your injuries through products liability law.
One of the most common examples of this happening in real life is when a tire on your motorcycle gets punctured while you are on the road, causing you to lose control of your bike and hit another vehicle, or creating a single-vehicle crash. If the tire should have withstood the puncture, then the tire manufacturer should pay for your losses that resulted from the crash.
One particular type of defective product that can cause mayhem for motorcyclists in Philadelphia is the very road that they drive on.
Philadelphia is steeped in history and is one of the oldest cities in all of America. While this gives our city much of its colonial charm, it also has severe practical repercussions: our transportation system and roads were designed for horse-drawn carriages, not cars and motorcycles. Some of our side streets are still paved with cobblestones, while many more of them are notoriously difficult to manage or confusing to navigate in modern-day vehicles.
In some cases, these problems can become so severe that they cause a motorcycle accident, and when they do, current city planners should be held accountable for not taking the appropriate steps to keep everyone safe on our antiquated avenues.
Injuries Frequently Suffered in a Motorcycle Crash
Motorcycle crashes are far more likely to produce injuries that accidents between two other vehicles, like two cars or even one car and a truck. This is largely due to the fact that bikers are left almost completely vulnerable from their seat on their bike. Without the thousands of pounds of metal and plastic that car occupants can rely on to deflect or absorb most of the impact from the collision, motorcyclists are much more likely to get hurt in an accident than other people involved. To make matters even worse, the weight difference between a motorcycle and the vehicle that hits it – no matter what that vehicle is – is so significant that motorcycles are almost guaranteed to get pushed around in the crash in a way that threatens the biker.
In all, motorcyclists can almost expect to suffer an injury in a motorcycle accident. Here are some of the most common.
Broken or Fractured Bones
Out of all of the injuries that motorcyclists suffer in a bike accident, broken or fractured bones are perhaps the most common. In fact, according to numbers by the NHTSA, 47% of the motorcycle accidents that resulted in at least one injury hurt the motorcyclist's lower extremities – including their legs, ankles, and feet. The vast majority of these injuries were broken bones or fractures.
This should come as no surprise, as motorcyclists have none of the protective metal that surrounds car occupants, and which absorbs much of the collision's impact and force. Instead, the crash often directly impacts the biker's body. When the force comes from the side – as many motorcycle accidents do – this puts a motorcyclist's legs directly in the path of the contact.
While rarely life-threatening, the broken bones that bikers tend to suffer in motorcycle accidents have a wide spectrum of severity. Some of the least severe – those that tend to happen in low-speed accidents on the residential streets of Philadelphia and its suburbs – requires only a simple and straightforward healing process. Others, though, can directly and severely infringe on an injured biker's livelihood, putting his or her financial security at risk through a long and costly road to recovery that prevents them from working and earning an income. Some of these major fractures can even lead to a long-term or permanent decrease in mobility that prevents a victim from ever fully recovering and returning to the way things used to be, before the crash.
Another very common injury for motorcyclists to suffer in a crash is road rash, which typically happens when a biker is thrown from his or her motorcycle to the road. The abrasion that results can break through the outer layer of skin and impact the underlying tissues. The amount of friction that develops between the road and a biker's skin largely determines the extent of the road rash, which can come in three degrees, much like a burn injury:
First-degree road rash is the least severe, and only damages the epidermis, or the top layer of skin. The result is a slight burn that leaves the skin red, but unbroken.
Second-degree road rash is in the middle, as it breaks through the epidermis, but only damages the second layer of skin, the dermis. However, second-degree road rash can be bad enough to create scarring.
Finally, third-degree road rash is the most severe, as it penetrates both the epidermis and the dermis layers. Especially bad cases also damage the underlying muscle or even the nerves in the impacted area.
While road rash might seem like the least severe injury that a motorcyclist can suffer after a crash, this is far from the case. Road rash can be excruciatingly painful in the immediate aftermath of a crash, and cleaning the wound – an absolute necessity, considering it breaks the body's most powerful line of defense against infections – is often even worse. Additionally, the scarring that frequently comes from the most severe instances of road rash can leave lasting memories of the accident that plague a motorcyclist's mental and emotional state, causing emotional distress or even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Road rash belongs to a wider category of injuries that are common in motorcycle accidents: burn injuries. These can be caused by a variety of sources, only one of which is the friction between skin and pavement that creates a road rash.
One of the other ways that motorcyclists can suffer a burn injury in a bike crash is when the motorcycle's gas tank gets punctured and gasoline spills out onto the roadway. This creates a distinct hazard that complicates a crash because, if heat from any other part of the crash comes into contact with the gasoline, it can ignite it and cause a fire at the scene.
For motorcyclists who are already vulnerable to a crash, this can be disastrous: many motorcycle drivers get thrown from their bike in the immediate collision and are too dazed or too injured to get away from the scene of the crash. Their inability to escape the sudden flames can quickly lead to severe burn injuries well before emergency personnel arrives on the scene.
These injuries, like road rash, are intensely painful in the immediate aftermath of the collision and subtly dangerous over the next few weeks. They leave a victim's skin damaged, opening them to the significant risk of infection and subjecting them to high amounts of pain and suffering as the burn wounds are kept clean and cared for.
Without the protective surroundings that car drivers can count on to deflect most of the force of a crash, motorcyclists who have the misfortune of being involved in a collision with a car will often bear the brunt of the impact, themselves. This can have dire repercussions on some of their most important body parts, like their spinal cord.
Spinal cord injuries are complicated and often very severe because of the intricate web of nerves that surround the spine. When the spine is compromised or the muscles around it are strained or torn, there exists the very real possibility that there will be nerve damage, as well. This can cause severe or chronic pain throughout the upper and lower back or, perhaps worse, no pain at all and only debilitation or paralysis.
Unfortunately, motorcyclists are far more likely to suffer spinal cord injuries than car occupants because of their vulnerability during a motorcycle crash. This is especially true in high-speed accidents that hit a biker from his or her side, as this can push the spine in ways that it was not designed to withstand.
Paralyzed Body Parts
Because of the vulnerability of a motorcyclist's spine in an accident, paralysis is not an uncommon injury for victims to suffer. The nerves that run the length of the spinal cord, if ruptured, torn, or even just severely compromised, can cut off the signal that runs from the brain to a motorcyclist's extremities. When this happens, the biker can find that they are unable to move entire portions of their body – like their left or right side or, most commonly, their legs or extremities.
The level of debilitation that comes with a paralyzing injury like this is extreme, and regularly changes the course of a hurt biker's life: professional careers are often impacted, family dynamics are altered, and financial stability is lost as medical bills accumulate on the long road towards recovery.
Traumatic Brain Injuries
Yet another relatively common injury that motorcyclists suffer is a traumatic brain injury. Unfortunately, these injuries are among the most severe that bikers can suffer while on the roads of the U.S., as the symptoms caused both directly and indirectly by these brain injuries can be life-altering.
Traumatic brain injuries happen relatively often because, unlike many car occupants, motorcyclists are left unrestrained in the event of a collision. Coupled with the fact that motorcyclists ride on their bikes, rather than inside a car, this drastically increases the chances of a biker being thrown from their vehicle in the initial impact of a crash.
Once ejected, though, bikers are still very vulnerable. Worse, they are often dazed, hurt, or incapacitated from the initial contact to land safely, let alone hurry away from the crash in time to make it to safety. Instead, they are often trapped in the middle of an ongoing motorcycle accident, exposed to the dangers of other vehicles and objects hitting them and with only their safety equipment to protect them.
In these situations, if a motorcyclist is not wearing a helmet, the threat of being hit in the head and suffering a traumatic brain injury is very real.
Some of the most severe and complicated injuries that motorcyclists commonly suffer in accidents can come with a surprising and extremely frustrating after effect – chronic pain.
Sharp blows to your head, or injuries to your neck, spine, or to other areas of your body that are dense with nerve endings can all cause serious damage to your nervous system. Unfortunately, even the best surgeons and doctors in the Philadelphia area – like those at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania – can find it impossible to repair or mend a compromised nervous system in a way that returns you to where you were, before the crash.
In some cases, these nerve injuries can make it feel like you are still in pain, even though everything has been done to fix the underlying injury that you suffered in the crash. After a long road to recovery, to find yourself still in the throes of a chronic pain that doctors cannot identify or cure can be very frustrating.
PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
Not all injuries that you can suffer in a motorcycle accident are physical. The memory of a terrible accident can plague your mind and prevent you from living your life the way you wanted to live it, and can even manifest itself in other complications that cause serious medical problems, like an inability to sleep, eat, or even relax.
In some extreme cases, these mental repercussions of a crash can be the worst of all of your injuries. Getting the therapy that you need to overcome the mental obstacles and emotional anxiety that the crash triggered can be an essential part of your recovery process.
Fatal Motorcycle Accidents
Finally, the worst injury that can be suffered in a motorcycle accident in Philadelphia is a fatal one. Unfortunately, fatal motorcycle accidents are not uncommon, especially in high-speed situations and motorbike crashes that happen on the highways, like Interstate 95. According to the NHTSA, 2016 alone saw 5,286 motorcyclists die on the roads of America. While these numbers are worryingly high, the upward trend in recent years and the high proportion of fatal motorcycle accidents to regular accidents are even more disturbing: 2016's fatality total was a 5.1% increase from 2015 and, despite only accounting for 3% of the registered vehicles and 0.6% of the miles traveled in the U.S., motorcycles were involved in 14% of all traffic fatalities. This gave motorcyclists a mortality rate that was 6 times higher than car occupants, and 28 times higher per mile traveled.
While the deceased victims of a fatal motorcycle accident cannot benefit from the compensation that they would deserve to receive in a personal injury lawsuit, their immediate family members can through Pennsylvania's wrongful death statute. This law allows a victim's loved ones to recover the compensation that they deserve, in their stead.
Treatment for Injuries Suffered in Motorcycle Accidents
Obviously, the treatment that you will need to recover from a motorcycle accident will depend on the nature and the severity of the injuries that you suffered. However, there are distinct stages of your recovery – ranging from the initial emergency medical care that you need right after the accident occurred to the final follow-up visit with a doctor or physical therapist, years after the incident – to take into consideration as you begin recuperating from the crash.
Knowing how these stages of recovery fit into the grand scheme of your situation can help you understand the complexity of a personal injury lawsuit stemming from a motorcycle accident, and the true scope of the legal damages that you suffered at the hands of the other driver's negligence or poor conduct.
The first type of medical care that you will need after a motorcycle accident is the urgent treatment that you get from the first responders and the emergency room personnel. This includes the cost of an ambulance ride from the scene of the crash to the nearest hospital with an emergency room, or with the specialized facilities that you might need if your injuries are particularly severe. It can also include the often considerable cost of stitching or suturing lacerations, which can be severe or even life-threatening if the crash was a serious one, as well as cleaning wounds like road rash, which can be incredibly painful.
Because these emergency treatments are so timely and hurried, they are also often frighteningly expensive. The costs of an ambulance ride, alone, can easily eclipse a thousand dollars, and the costs of the treatment that you are likely to receive in an emergency room can quickly double that number. Getting compensated for these costs – especially if you are uninsured or underinsured – is crucial to protect your financial well-being after a motorcycle accident.
Casting and Splinting Broken Bones and Fractures
Because broken and fractured bones are some of the most common injuries that you can suffer in a motorcycle accident, one of the most frequent treatments that accident victims need is setting, splinting, and casting a broken bone. These procedures, despite being some of the more routine ones that doctors perform, still cost thousands of dollars in the U.S., and some of the more complex breaks require surgery before a cast can be put on, in order to ensure the injury heals properly.
In some of the more severe motorcycle accidents in Philadelphia, surgery can be required in order to make a full recovery. These medical procedures – which require a surgeon to make an incision and operate internally to correct a medical condition or to prevent one from getting worse – can be emergency procedures that need to happen immediately, or can happen months or even years after the collision.
Both versions are incredibly expensive and are fraught with potential complications that can make you even worse off and require even more medical care and attention.
One kind of surgery that many motorcycle accident victims need is a plastic surgery. While many bikers take pride in their rugged appearance, the reality of many motorcycle crashes is that they are traumatic experiences that can scar a victim mentally and emotionally for years afterward. Outward signs of the crash – including prominent disfigurements like scars or superficial blemishes – serve as constant reminders of the horrors of the impact and can contribute to or trigger episodes of PTSD for years after the incident. Getting plastic surgery is an often overlooked aspect of your well-being after a motorcycle accident.
While plastic surgery can cover up the damage that a motorcycle accident does to your body, getting psychiatric help can be the best way to overcome the intense difficulties you can face in moving past the motorcycle accident that changed your life. By seeing a psychiatrist like those at Friends Hospital, you can learn methods of coping with losses that are difficult to wrap your head around or that make life feel pointless, and take on a new outlook on life's challenges that can prove to be the most beneficial aspect of a long and hard road to recovery. In the end, getting the help you need for your mental well-being can be just important – if not more important – than getting the medical attention you need to make a full physical recovery.
As you progress through your path to recovery, you will likely find that many of the injuries that you suffer in a motorcycle accident require extensive attention and medical care for months or even years after the incident. If this care is skipped or taken lightly, you could find your injuries failing to heal fully, leaving you with a surprising amount of debilitation, often in the form of a lack of movement or strength.
Physical therapy is often the best way to prevent this from happening and forms one of the most crucial aspects of your long-range treatment. Having a professional physical therapist, like those at Kindred Hospital, help you regain the strength and dexterity in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that were injured in the crash can ensure you make it as close as possible to a completely full recovery.
Similar to physical therapy, occupational therapy also helps you regain the movement, strength, and agility that you might otherwise lose in a motorcycle crash. However, while physical therapy focuses on building strength and range of motion through physical exercises, occupational therapy focuses on achieving these results through performing daily activities, like walking, picking up and manipulating small objects, or eating.
Especially after motorcycle accidents that led to severe injuries, occupational therapy can be a critical first step back towards normalcy.
Legal Damages Suffered in Motorcycle Accidents
When you get into a motorcycle accident in Philadelphia, the injuries and other losses that you suffer are called legal damages by the law. These legal damages are wide-ranging and are meant to include each and every single way that you have suffered, in the crash. Once all of these losses have been tallied, a dollar amount can be ascertained that notes how much you deserve to be compensated.
There are two kinds of legal damages. The first of these are your economic damages.
Your economic damages from a motorcycle crash are those that can easily be distilled in a dollar amount, typically because you will have already paid a set amount for recovery or other services related to the crash. The amount of your economic damages, therefore, is often reflected in a bill or receipt.
Current Medical Bills
Perhaps the most obvious way that you have been damaged in a motorcycle accident is through the cost of fixing and recovering from the injuries that you suffered. This includes each and every instance of medical care that you received, throughout your road to recovery, and at each stage of the treatment process, including all of the types of treatment listed above. After all, the expenses you have had to pay for your medical care would not have been necessary, but for the other driver's negligence in causing the crash. Therefore, the personal injury law in Pennsylvania requires the at-fault driver to compensate you for what they have put you through.
How much this compensation can amount to is typically reflected by the total of your medical bills. However, just because there is a settled dollar amount that you have been forced to pay for your recovery does not mean that the person you are suing in a personal injury lawsuit will not raise objections – a defendant in a lawsuit for compensation from a motorcycle accident is only required to pay for the expenses that were reasonably necessary for your recovery. Costs or procedures that were not directly related to your injuries sustained in the crash, therefore, can be ripe targets for litigation.
Future Medical Expenses
Motorcycle accident victims in Philadelphia have two years to file a lawsuit under Pennsylvania's statute of limitations. However, some of their medical expenses – especially for injuries that are serious or have long-term debilitations – can come outside of that two-year window.
Just because this is the case does not mean that you cannot recover for those medical expenses, if they were related to the crash. It just means that you will have to estimate the amount that you are likely to spend on these future medical expenses, so you can include them in your lawsuit against the person or the people who caused the crash that hurt you.
Wages Lost During Your Recovery
While many of the economic damages that you suffered in a motorcycle accident and which you can recover in a lawsuit are things that you have had to pay for, you can also recover benefits that you have lost, because of the accident. One of these comes in the form of the wages you had to do without, because of the crash and your recovery.
Whatever income that you lost because of your accident can be recovered in a personal injury lawsuit against the person who caused the wreck. After all, these are wages that you would have brought in, were it not for their poor conduct.
Earning Capacity Lost from Your Injuries
Additionally, some of the most severe injuries that you can suffer in a motorcycle crash come with lasting debilitations that can prevent you from working in your chosen profession, or alter your professional path. In these cases, you can recover the earning capacity that you lost, due to the injuries you sustained in the crash.
For example, imagine two motorcyclists who both get into a crash and who both get paralyzed from the waist down. One of the bikers works as a professional landscaper, while the other is a computer programmer. When it comes to earning capacity lost from the crash, the landscaper can recover the significant amount of income he can expect to lose – after all, the crash will prevent him from working outside, again. The computer programmer, on the other hand, will probably stand to recover very little in the form of lost earning capacity, as his relegation to a wheelchair will likely not impact his ability to perform his job effectively.
One of the more straightforward and common forms of economic damages that a biker suffers in a motorcycle wreck is property damage to their vehicle. Even minor accidents typically cause damage to a motorcycle, and it would be unfair to put the cost of fixing it on the biker if they were not the ones who cause the crash.
Pennsylvania's personal injury law recognizes this fundamental unfairness and includes the property damage you suffered to your bike – as well as to other gear, like your helmet and clothes – in the amount of legal damages that you can recover in a personal injury lawsuit.
Modifications to Your Home
Finally, some of the more severe injuries that you can suffer in a motorcycle wreck can force you to make modifications to your home, if you still intend to live there. These expenses are frequently overlooked by accident victims, but not the law in Pennsylvania – they are still included in the legal damages that you can recover in a personal injury suit.
Examples of home modifications included, but are far from limited to, wheelchair ramps, specialized bathrooms and showers, and support bars in important places in your home. These modifications would not be required, were it not for the injuries that prevent you from moving like you did, before the crash. Therefore, there is no reason why you should bear the costs of paying for them if the accident was not your fault.
Non-Economic Damages Suffered in Motorcycle Accidents
The second major type of legal damages that you can suffer in a motorcycle crash is a non-economic damage. While economic damages can easily be stated in a dollar amount, non-economic damages cannot. Instead, the non-economic damages that you suffered in a crash are far more vague, and frequently internal, injuries. Nevertheless, that does not mean that they do not exist or that you have not suffered from them.
Pain and Suffering
The most well-known type of non-economic damage that you can suffer in a motorcycle crash is for your pain and suffering. While these are typically put together, the damages for your pain and the cost of your suffering are subtly distinct in important ways. However, they are both important negative outcomes of the crash, and you deserve to be compensated for what you have been put through.
Your legal damages for pain are meant to compensate you for the physical pain you felt from your injuries. While all injuries are painful, some are far more painful than others – broken femurs are generally considered more painful than broken wrists, for example – and therefore deserve more compensation because of the increased torment you have been put through. The amount of compensation that you deserve, however, becomes complicated when you compare injuries that are very painful in the immediate aftermath of a crash, like road rash, and injuries that are moderately painful for years afterward, like chronic back pain.
Legal damages for suffering, on the other hand, are for how much enjoyment you have lost in life, due to your injuries. For example, people who enjoy jogging every morning deserve compensation for their suffering if the motorcycle accident resulted in a badly broken ankle that will take over a year to correctly heal, and even more if the crash broke their knee in such a way that they will never run, again.
Unfortunately, putting a dollar amount on the pain and the suffering that you have been put through because of a motorcycle crash is very difficult to do. However, it is necessary because the law has decided that the only permissible way for the other driver to compensate you is financially – forcing the other driver to make up for what they have done in other ways becomes quickly problematic, and fails to avoid the problem of what is enough and what is too much.
The way that personal injury law in Pennsylvania solves this problem is to simply put it to a jury. By telling the jury to put a dollar amount on your pain and suffering damages – as well as your other legal damages, too – the law wipes its hands of the complexities of figuring out exactly how much you should be owed, while still ensuring you receive some compensation. However, the reality of letting a jury decide leads to widely-varying results, largely depending on how sympathetic the jury is and how much they empathize with you.
This is just one of the places where having a skilled personal injury attorney on your side can prove to be an immense help in your case.
Motorcycle accident victims – even the hardiest among them – suffer emotional distress in crashes. The sight, sound, and feel of the impact are enough to terrify anyone, even long after the incident is over, in the form of memories and dreams. This is particularly true when the injuries that you have suffered are prominent and disfiguring in the form of scars, chronic pain, debilitating conditions, or amputations, as these conditions serve as a reminder of the accident and the horrors that went along with it. In some cases, the emotional distress that a motorcycle accident victim suffers can rise to a level high enough to constitute a case of PTSD.
However, accident victims are not the only people who can recover compensation for emotional distress after a motorcycle wreck. Witnesses who saw the accident unfold can also suffer emotional distress as they saw what happened right before their eyes and are traumatized by it. This is especially true if the crash resulted in serious or fatal injuries that happened in graphic or disturbing ways. In Pennsylvania, witnesses to a motorcycle accident who are closely related to the driver who was hurt can file a lawsuit for the emotional distress they have been put through, and recover compensation for their condition.
Loss of Consortium
Finally, motorcycle drivers are not the only ones who suffer when they get into a crash. When they get hurt, miss work, and get thrown into a long road to recovery, their families and loved ones also suffer as they scramble to pick up the pieces and make life work.
For example, when a motorcycle accident victim is a parent and the primary bread-winner for his or her family, the crash can throw the entire family into turmoil by not only incapacitating a loved one but also by freezing their income and saddling the family with seemingly insurmountable medical bills. The biker's spouse will frequently be put to work to help pay the bills or prevent them from getting too out of control, but this changes how the family works, at home, causing further strain and distress in children who are already struggling to cope with the recovery of their other hurt parent.
Because this strain and difficulty would not have happened if the crash had not occurred, the personal injury law of Pennsylvania allows a motorcyclist's loved ones to recover compensation for their loss of consortium from the person or the people who hurt the biker.
Motorcycle Accident Attorneys in Philadelphia
The personal injury attorneys at the Philadelphia law office of Gilman & Bedigian know how devastating motorcycle accidents can be, and strive to represent victims both in court and outside of it. This includes helping accident victims deal with their own insurance company, the insurance company of the driver who was at fault, and preparing a personal injury lawsuit if this does not produce the compensation that you and your family deserve for your injuries and strain you have been put through.
By fighting for your rights and interests, our personal injury attorneys can maximize the amount that you stand to recover, prevent you from being low-balled by insurance companies looking to protect their own bottom line at your expense, and ensure the crash does not impact your financial well-being, as well. Contact us online for the legal help and representation you need at this time of difficulty.