You may have many questions as the victim of a motorcycle accident in Pennsylvania. You might not understand your legal options, for example, or know who to trust when discussing your injury claim.
It is important to consult with a Pittsburgh motorcycle accident attorney as soon as possible about your right to bring a lawsuit. An attorney can guide you through the legal process, point you to top doctors in your city and answer all of your questions with tailored legal advice. In the meantime, use these FAQs for some general information.
What Are the Top Causes of Motorcycle Accidents?
Many motorcycle collisions are preventable and stem from human error. For example, national statistics state that 3,142 victims died in traffic accidents in 2019 because of distracted drivers. The most common driver-related causes of motorcycle collisions include:
- Failing to watch for motorcycles
- Ignoring rights-of-way
- Texting and driving
- Drinking and driving or drug use
- Speeding and reckless driving
- Following too closely
- Breaking traffic laws
- Making unsafe lane changes
- Cutting off a motorcyclist
If a driver made a mistake or error in judgment and this caused your motorcycle accident, his or her insurance may have to pay for your losses. However, your injuries must be serious to hold someone responsible outside of Pennsylvania’s no-fault system.
Are Helmets Required? What if I Wasn’t Wearing One?
Pennsylvania does not have a universal law requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets. If a rider is over the age of 21 and has had a motorcycle license for at least two years – or if the rider takes an approved motorcycle safety course – the motorcyclist does not have to ride with a helmet. Otherwise, however, a helmet is mandatory.
If you weren’t wearing a helmet at the time of your motorcycle accident, this could interfere with your financial recovery. An insurance company may be able to argue that had you been wearing a helmet, your injuries would not be as severe. This defense would only work, however, if the opposition can prove that your failure to wear a helmet caused or contributed to your injuries, and that you lawfully should have been wearing a helmet at the time of the accident.
What Must Be Proven in a Motorcycle Accident Case?
If you have grounds to file an injury lawsuit against someone else in Pennsylvania, you will generally need proof of negligence to win. Negligence consists of four elements:
- Duty to exercise reasonable care. A legal obligation to act in a rational and prudent manner, such as a driver’s duty to prevent accidents.
- Breach of the duty of care. Any action or failure to act that falls outside of the duty of care, such as a driver texting while driving.
- Causation for the motorcycle accident. Proof that the defendant’s breach of the duty of care caused or substantially contributed to the motorcycle accident.
- Damages suffered by the victim. Compensable and specific losses suffered by the victim because of the motorcycle accident.
You or your lawyer will need to prove these elements as more likely to be true than not true (a preponderance of the evidence). A lawyer can help you gather evidence of fault and causation.
How Long After a Motorcycle Accident Do I Have to File a Claim?
In Pennsylvania, a law known as a statute of limitations restricts your right to file a lawsuit. The statute of limitations gives you no more than two years from the date of the actual accident to file a damage claim. If you file too late, the courts will refuse to hear your case. If your loved one was killed in a motorcycle accident, you will have two years from the date of death to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Do I Need to Hire an Attorney for a Motorcycle Accident?
Legally, you do not have to hire an attorney to represent you during a motorcycle accident lawsuit. It can benefit you in many ways, however, to do so. An attorney will understand how the law works in Pennsylvania and how to negotiate your claim for the best possible outcome. An attorney can also connect you to top doctors, investigators and experts to help you with various aspects of your case.
Contact the Pittsburgh motorcycle accident attorneys at Dallas W. Hartman P.C. for a free consultation.