Pennsylvania is a little different in how its insurance works because drivers can choose between fault and no-fault insurance. Generally, this is referred to as full tort or limited tort insurance on your policy. You must choose which type of insurance you want when you buy the policy; you can’t choose or make a change after an accident. Thus, you must understand how both systems work before you choose. Read on for more information.
In Pennsylvania, you must have your motorcycle inspected and registered. The state also has helmet laws. While helmets are not mandatory if you are 21 years or older and have operated a motorcycle for at least two years or you took a motorcycle safety course, safety experts recommend that all riders wear a helmet.
Should you get into an accident, the helmet could protect your head. A full-face helmet can also protect your face and eyes. Eye protection is mandatory for all riders. You must also have a motorcycle license. If your bike has a sidecar, you do not need to title or register the sidecar.
About No-Fault Insurance
States have different types of no-fault insurance. Pennsylvania is a choice state, which means that you can choose to have no-fault or tort insurance. If you choose no-fault, you don’t have to prove who was at fault in the accident to qualify for coverage. Your insurance company will cover your medical expenses and lost wages, as well as funeral and burial/cremation expenses, if applicable.
You cannot sue the at-fault driver unless your injuries meet the threshold. Generally, your injuries have to cause you to have long-term or permanent disabilities. The benefit of no-fault insurance is that you don’t have to wait for settlement negotiations or the end of a trial to receive compensation for your losses. However, you also don’t get to sue the at-fault driver for most non-economic damages.
States have three types of insurance from which citizens can choose. In a choice no-fault state, like Pennsylvania, drives choose full tort or limited tort insurance. In a tort liability state, the state does not put any restrictions on lawsuits. An accident victim can sue for pain and suffering and other non-economic damages.
In an add-on state, drivers can receive immediate compensation from their own insurance company. States do not restrict lawsuits. Insurance laws allow insurance companies to pay first-party benefits, such as personal injury protection, and do not impose restrictions on lawsuits. However, in some states, you might have to opt-in for the no-fault add-on.
How Motorcycle Insurance Works if You Have Limited Tort (No-Fault) Insurance
If you get into an accident on a motorcycle, and you have no-fault insurance, you can immediately claim damages from your own insurance company. You do not have to prove who is at fault for your accident, but you can generally only collect certain damages. You cannot sue for pain and suffering and some other economic damages.
How Motorcycle Insurance Works if You Have Full Tort Insurance
If you opt for full tort insurance, you can sue the at-fault parties and their insurance companies for compensatory damages and punitive damages. However, you do have to wait until you settle your case or a jury rules in your favor with an amount that it deems fair and reasonable before you can collect any compensation.
What to Do After a Motorcycle Accident
If you frequently ride a motorcycle, you should instruct a loved one what to do if you sustain injuries in a motorcycle wreck and cannot take these steps yourself. It is even better if you have a shortlist of three or four attorneys you like so that your loved one doesn’t have to find a good motorcycle accident lawyer to handle your case. You’ll have done most of the work for your loved one.
After a motorcycle wreck:
- Call first responders and check on others involved in the accident. The exception to checking on others is if the person who caused the accident was exhibiting road rage, in which case it is better to stay away from that person. Just call first responders, and let them know that there is a possible road rage situation and that you can’t tell if anyone else is injured.
- Take photos of the accident from all angles. Make sure you get some close-up and distance photos. Also, be sure to get photos of the damage to property and the road, including skid marks. Again, if you believe the other driver caused the accident because of road rage, be careful taking photos before first responders arrive.
- Obtain the contact information, registration information, and insurance information from others involved in the accident. Include the contact information for passengers.
- Obtain contact information from witnesses. You can also ask what the witnesses saw and take notes.
- Obtain medical attention at the scene. Once the police release you from the scene, go to the hospital to have a full checkup. Some injuries do not manifest until hours or even a day or two later. Let medical personnel know that you were in a vehicle accident and that you would like a full checkup, including x-rays and other tests to evaluate internal damage.
- Contact your motorcycle accident attorney as soon as possible. If you cannot make the contact yourself, make sure a loved one knows who to contact. The sooner you can get an attorney started on your case, the sooner you can recover compensation to cover the cost of your injuries.
You can contact the insurance companies to let them know you were involved in an accident, or you can let your attorney start the claim process. Insurance companies give you little time to file a claim, so you must do this as soon as possible.
Speaking to the Insurance Company
If you decide to speak to the insurance company, whether it’s your insurance company or not, only give the representative your name, policy number, the other person’s contact information and policy number, the date and location of the accident, and your attorney’s contact information.
The representative will likely attempt to get you to talk about the accident. If this happens, continue referring the representative to your attorney. Because insurance companies are in business to make money, any compensation that they pay out decreases their profits. Thus, these companies will search for anything possible to deny your claim. Barring that, they’ll try to offer you the lowest amount possible to make you go away.
A motorcycle accident attorney is accustomed to this, as well as other tactics insurance companies use. Additionally, motorcycle accident attorneys know the law, so it’s even harder to trick them.
Even your own insurance company is loyal only to itself. It doesn’t care that you paid your premiums on time every month. All the insurance company sees is that your claim is going to put a dent in its profits. It will attempt to make it look like it is on your side when it really isn’t.
Motorcycle Accident Injuries
When determining which type of insurance to purchase for your motorcycle accident insurance, keep in mind that the risk of suffering severe injuries, catastrophic injuries, or death is much higher than if you get into a car accident.
Because motorcycles have zero protection for the rider, other than the helmet and other protective gear, riders have a much higher risk of suffering injuries where you might need non-economic damages.
Motorcycle accident injuries include:
- Bumps, bruises, cuts, scrapes, and scratches.
- Compound fractures.
- Internal injuries.
- Road rash.
- Burns from chemicals and fire.
- Internal injuries.
- Secondary injuries that affect open wounds, mainly infections. You have a higher risk of contracting infections in open wounds, whether you received those wounds in the accident or during surgery to repair wounds suffered in an accident.
- Simple fractures.
- Head, neck, and shoulder injuries.
- Traumatic brain injuries, including concussions and penetrating injuries.
- Back and spinal cord injuries.
- Face and eye injuries.
Always let your attorney know if you have underlying conditions that could slow your recovery process, especially for open wounds. Diabetes and other immunodeficiencies and certain medications, such as chemotherapy, that lower your white cell count can significantly increase recovery time.
The at-fault driver that caused the accident is also liable for medical expenses for secondary injuries and exacerbated underlying conditions. You would not have suffered these types of injuries if it weren’t for the actions or inactions of the defendant.
Damages You Might Recover if You Have Limited Tort (No-Fault) Insurance
If you opt for limited tort or no-fault insurance, you might recover compensation for:
- Medical expenses for injuries incurred in the accident.
- Lost wages for the time you could not work after the accident.
- Replacement or repair of destroyed or damaged property.
- Burial and funeral/cremation expenses if you lost a loved one in a motorcycle accident.
Damages You Might Recover if You Have Full Tort Insurance
If you have full tort insurance, you might have to wait to collect compensation for damages you suffered in a motorcycle accident. However, the state does not impose restrictions on what you can recover, either through a settlement or at trial.
Damages you might recover, depending on the circumstances of the accident, include compensatory damages, including economic damages and non-economic damages, as well as punitive damages.
Special damages, usually referred to as economic damages, have a monetary value and include:
- Past medical expenses for injuries incurred in a motorcycle accident and before a settlement or trial award.
- Future medical expenses for injuries incurred in a motorcycle accident and after a settlement or trial award.
- Past lost wages for the time you couldn’t work because of motorcycle accident injuries before a settlement or trial award.
- Future lost wages for the time you cannot work after a settlement or trial award, as long as injuries suffered in the motorcycle accident are the reason you can’t go to work.
- Replacement or repair of destroyed or damaged personal property.
- Funeral and burial/cremation expenses if you lost a loved one in a motorcycle accident.
Courts award economic damages in an attempt to make plaintiffs whole again. Since you would not have had these expenses and other damages if not for the accident, the person at fault is liable for these damages.
General damages, usually referred to as non-economic damages, do not have a monetary value but are still considered compensatory damages, because they compensate you for losses that you can’t put a price on.
Non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress if you suffered injuries in a motorcycle wreck.
- Emotional distress if you lost a loved one in a motorcycle wreck.
- Loss of quality of life.
- Loss of companionship if you can no longer enjoy and take part in family activities and events.
- Loss of consortium if you can no longer have a physical relationship with your spouse.
- Loss of use of a body part, such as your foot or hand.
- Loss of use of a bodily function, such as your eyesight or bladder control.
- Amputation, whether you lost a limb in the accident or a doctor had to amputate later because of secondary injuries.
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do the chores you normally do, such as lawn maintenance, home maintenance and repair, house cleaning, and grocery shopping.
- Excessive scarring and disfigurement.
Generally, courts award non-economic damages if doctors expect your injuries to become long-term or permanent disabilities.
Courts only award punitive damages if a plaintiff can prove that the defendant’s actions or inactions were grossly negligent or intentional. Punitive damages are not meant to make injured individuals whole again but are instead a punishment for the defendant. These damages are levied against a defendant in the hopes that he or she will not take the same actions or inactions against another person in the future.
If you suffered injuries in a motorcycle accident, contact an experienced motorcycle crash attorney for a free case evaluation.