Motorcycles offer riders a sense of freedom that you can’t get with a regular car or truck. The vehicles are often associated with an adventurous spirit. Unfortunately, the joy that comes with that can be cut short when other negligent drivers fail to drive responsibly around motorcyclists.
There are nearly nine million registered motorcycles across the United States. Nearly 400,000 of those vehicles reside in Pennsylvania. With a significant number like that, it’s important for all drivers in our state to be aware of how to operate their automobiles around smaller vehicles, as it’s not always the same as driving near or next to another car. Many drivers are unaware of this knowledge and, as a result, lives are changed.
When you’ve been injured in a collision, you need a legal team that will fight aggressively for your rights. A Philadelphia motorcycle accident lawyer from Shrager & Sachs can give you the counsel and justice you deserve. We’ve proudly protected the rights of Philadelphia citizens for years and will continue to protect yours. Our team will do everything we can to get you a successful settlement.
Understanding Motorcycle Laws in Pennsylvania
Every state has their own laws in regard to operating motor vehicles. Our state is no different. Understanding the laws that are in place is crucial to ensure you are riding responsibly and reducing your risk of getting into a crash. The laws apply to the operator and the vehicle.
All riders and passengers must wear helmets; however, there is an exception for drivers over the age of 21 who have had a valid Class M license for at least two years, or for those who have taken an approved riding safety course. Passengers who are over 21 whose drivers are obeying the law are also exempt. In regard to the helmet, speakers are only allowed for communication purposes.
The motorcycle must have a suspension system on at least the front wheel, and the handlebars must not be higher than the rider’s shoulder height when in a seated position. There must be one to two brake lights on the rear of the vehicle. Footrests and handholds are required for passengers and all passengers must have access to a regular and permanent seat.
Motorcycles are entitled to full use of traffic lanes. This means that they are not required to share space with automobiles and bigger vehicles cannot try to take up the other’s space; however, two motorcycles riding next to each other in a single lane is allowed. Motorcyclists are not allowed to operate in-between lanes, and they are not allowed to carry packages or cargo in their hands. That laws goes for passengers, as well.
Finally, the vehicles are required to be inspected on a yearly basis – depending on the registration month. It is crucial to ensure the bike is in working order, which can prevent accidents resulting from vehicle failure.
Motorcycle Accident Statistics
Plenty of people enjoy riding motorcycles, especially when the weather is nice. Some people choose the open road as their main way of getting around the city, while others may prefer to save their bikes for long highway drives on the weekend. In any case, there are many responsible motorcyclists on the road at any given time. But riding also presents with certain risks. If a motorcyclist is in a wreck with a car or large truck, they lack the protection that a passenger vehicle offers and tend to suffer from more serious injuries.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation reported that in 2017, the year’s totals had 3,275 motorcycles involved in collisions resulting in 185 fatalities and 3,052 injuries.
While the total fatalities and injuries are lower than in 2016, they still mark that accidents have a significant impact on the safety of drivers. Overall, most motor vehicle crashes occurred at an angle and collided with a fixed object. Rear-ending and sideswiping were also major kinds of crashes. These situations can easily throw a rider from their vehicle and cause devastating injuries.
Dangers Motorcyclists Should Be Aware Of
There are a number of differences between a crash involving two passenger cars and one involving a motorcycle and another vehicle. Riders should be aware of the unique dangers their vehicle could be subjected to on the road. It’s important for other drivers to be aware of these dangers as well, in hopes of reducing the occurrences of accidents.
- Road Hazards. While potholes, slick roads, uneven lanes, and other road debris might have little impact on a passenger car or truck, motorcyclists can lose control if their vehicle hits something small or if the road condition changes quickly.
- Limited Visibility. Because of their size, cars may be less likely to see motorcycles. This is especially true around curves and at intersections.
- Exposure. Bikes are not protected by the safety features a car has, like seat belts and air bags. As a result, the injuries are often substantially worse because they are likely to make contact with the road directly. They’re often exposed to the elements, which means a sudden rainstorm or snow squall could quickly cause a wreck.
- Limited Stability. Four-wheeled vehicles tend to be much more secure on the road than a vehicle with only two wheels. When traveling at high speeds, motorcycles can wobble and cause the rider to lose control.
Operating a Motorcycle in the City
When you think of motorcycle commercials, you’re likely to picture a motorcyclist cruising down an empty highway. If you own one in Philadelphia, however, you know that driving through heavy traffic and maneuvering through tight spaces is quite the opposite. There is a distinct difference between riding on suburban or rural versus urban roads. There are a number of factors that riders need to pay attention to that are not as common in smaller towns.
It’s easy to get distracted while driving in the city with everything going on; however, riders need to remain focused and scan everything in their peripherals. It’s easy to become to focused on the traffic ahead, when dangers could be lurking all around in the busy environment. It’s also important to check road conditions as cities are more prone to potholes, cracks in the road, and other unsafe conditions that could quickly put a motorcyclist in the hospital.
In addition to remaining focused, it’s crucial to be and stay visible. Not every driver is alert or on the lookout for motorcycles, so it’s essential to be ready for cars to merge unexpectedly. In addition to that, riders need to know their escape lane. This means that if the traffic ahead changes suddenly, there needs to be a plan in place to avoid any impact. Keeping distance is a crucial part of this.
What Causes Motorcycle Accidents in Philadelphia?
Some accidents cannot be avoided but the overwhelming majority are caused by factors that can be avoided by both the driver of the passenger vehicle and the motorcyclist following safe driving practices and the laws of the road. Negligent driving can take many forms in a motorcycle versus car crash, whether the driver of the passenger vehicle knowingly made a dangerous decision or made a mistake on the road.
The following behaviors are some of the most common reasons for wrecks.
- Aggressive Driving. When other drivers are speeding or tailgating, they give themselves less time to react to the vehicle in front of them. They may not see a rider merging or changing lanes.
- Failure to Yield or Share the Road. Sometimes, drivers aren’t good at sharing the road with riders. It could be because they’re choosing not to acknowledge a motorcyclist’s right of way, but it could also be from inexperience with sharing the road. Drivers may incorrectly gauge a rider’s speed or distance and cause a crash.
- Traffic Weaving. A motorcycle is more difficult to spot than other motor vehicles. A driver who is weaving through traffic may not spot a motorcyclist in between two cars.
- Distracted Driving. Drivers who are trying to text and drive or multitask while they’re at the wheel have a greater risk of colliding with others around them.
- Improper Left Turns. Many accidents occur because another driver unlawfully turned left. They may have turned without having the right-of-way, or they may not have seen the motorcyclist. When a rider is thrown from their vehicle, it’s likely they will be severely injured.
The Severity of Motorcycle Accident Injuries
Motorcyclists lack the protection that a car gives its driver. At best, they will have a helmet and thick, long-sleeved clothing. In a wreck, there’s more potential for the rider to sustain devastating injuries because they’re likely to come in contact with the pavement at high speeds. The force of impact can cause an array of injuries.
Motorcycle operators are at risk of getting catastrophic injuries that could cause permanent damage or disability. Injuries with lifelong consequences include:
- Traumatic Brain Injury. Operators can still hurt their head when they are wearing a helmet. Some states don’t have any helmet laws. Traumatic brain injuries can reduce a person’s ability to speak, process information, and may also inhibit mobility.
- Neck/Spinal Cord Injury. Injuries to the spinal cord can cause paralysis, including paraplegia and quadriplegia.
- Burn Injury. The friction from skidding on the ground could potentially cause serious burn injuries – also called road rash. There’s a chance of permanent scarring, nerve damage, and skin grafts.
- Loss of Limb. Motorcyclists can potentially lose an arm or a leg in a serious collision, or they may lose the mobility of one of their limbs.
All these injuries could require hospitalization, surgery, and have a long path to recovery. Other injuries include lacerations, broken bones, and bruises. These injuries may not have permanent consequences but can be painful and will take a considerable time to heal.
While the physical injuries related to a crash are often visible, it’s important to remember there are injuries that are not. Emotional trauma is something someone is likely to experience after an accident. A crash victim may experience difficulty sleeping, depression, anxiety, fear of traveling, and appetite changes. Oftentimes, seeking counsel from a licensed mental health professional is the best way to get your life back in order.
The injuries and trauma associated with a wreck are likely to be incredibly expensive – even with health insurance. You may be faced with piling medical bills. If you’re uncertain as to how you will pay them because you’ve had to take time off work to recover, it’s best to get in touch with a Philadelphia motorcycle accident lawyer. If the incident was caused by someone else’s negligence, compensation from them could cover all your related expenses, so you can focus on recovery and returning to work when you’re ready.
The Stigma Against Motorcyclists
You may be wondering about the benefits of hiring a motorcycle accident injury lawyer. There’s an unfortunate bias against motorcycle owners that often occurs when they’re involved in collisions. Some see riders as reckless drivers who weave in and out of traffic. Others don’t understand the culture and choose not to respect those that ride near them.
As a result, insurers and adjusters may be more inclined to believe that the motorcyclist caused the wreck or was doing something unlawful. Your situation may be complicated further if the other side isn’t fully owning up to their actions or are trying to put some of the fault on you.
These situations could affect your claim. If you weren’t at fault for your accident, you deserve to have representation willing to stand up for you and hold the right person accountable for their unsafe actions.
Building a Strong Accident Claim
Building a strong claim for yourself starts immediately after the collision. It’s best to take the following actions in order to be eligible for compensation:
- Assess the Situation. Take a moment to collect yourself and evaluate what has happened. Assess yourself and others for injuries. If you’re able to, call 911 and request emergency medical attention right away. Having an accurate medical record of your injuries will help your attorney determine how much you are owed.
- Take Photographs. It’s a good idea to document the property damage and your physical injuries. Taking pictures is the best way to do this. Photograph the scene, vehicular damage, and any injuries you’ve sustained.
- Never Apologize. When speaking to the other parties involved or law enforcement, never apologize for the accident. Apologizing, even when you know you were not at fault, can act as a sign of admission for insurance companies.
- Contact an Attorney. Because of the stigma against motorcyclists, it can be difficult to prove your claim without the help of an experienced lawyer. They will be able to use your information in conjunction with their own investigation to build a strong case for you.
Once your motorcycle accident attorney has an understanding of what you’ve been through, they’ll review the site photos, speak with witnesses, examine police reports and medical records, and investigate the scene for skid marks, tire tracks, pavement damage, etc. They will be able to compile the evidence into a case that proves where the other party went wrong and how they caused the wreck.
If you claim is successful, you may be eligible for compensation that can help you recover from the event and restore order in your life.
Get Peace of Mind with Shrager & Sachs
You can rest assured that your attorney from Shrager & Sachs will do everything possible to find the cause of your wreck and prove that the other party is at fault. Our Philadelphia motorcycle accident lawyers have experience in investigating the aftermath of a crash and understand how to get the evidence needed to show that you weren’t negligent and were unfairly hurt. We’ll fight to get you the compensation that covers medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
Please get in touch with our office today and schedule a free consultation. Taking this first step will help you lift the weight of the claim off your shoulders, so you can look forward to the future.