Pennsylvania motorcycle accidents: a primer

Pennsylvania motorcyclists are being seriously injured or killed in crashes at an alarming rate.

Imagine you're cruising along on your motorcycle. You're enjoying the warmth of the sun, the fresh air and the feeling of peace you get when out for a ride. You've almost arrived at your destination and are about to signal for your exit when suddenly the car to your left veers into your lane to take the exit ramp, striking your motorcycle, causing you to lose control and crash.

Thankfully, you are wearing a helmet and protective gear (even though neither is required by Pennsylvania law for motorcycle riders over the age of 21), so your life has been spared. You immediately realize, however, that your injuries are likely severe. As you wait for emergency responders to arrive, the pain sets in, and you begin to worry about what to do next.

The sobering statistics

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that in 2015, nearly 5,000 motorcyclists - operators and passengers - were killed in crashes across America, and another 88,000 people were injured during that time. One hundred seventy motorcycle riders lost their lives in Pennsylvania alone. These may seem like relatively small numbers of injuries and deaths, given that there were about 2.6 million registered motorcycles on the country's roads in 2015, but remember that motorcycle accidents make up a full 14 percent of overall traffic fatalities.

Common causes and injuries

The majority of motorcycle accidents can be boiled down to one simple fact: motorcycles are harder to see than other vehicles are. The smaller profile and limited spatial footprint of a motorcycle - the same factors that make them easy to operate and maneuver - mean that they fit easily within vehicle blind spots and are easily overlooked by frazzled, distracted or impaired drivers.

Not seeing motorcycles can literally be the difference between life and death for the people on them. Crashing into a motorcycle, or causing one to lose control, at highway speeds can easily cause a fatal injury, particularly if the rider isn't wearing a helmet. Brain trauma is especially common on bicycles and motorcycles, because the rider's head could strike pavement, a vehicle or a stationary object if the bike goes over in an accident (or the rider goes over the handlebars). Other serious injuries possible in motorcycle crashes include:

  • Broken bones
  • Crush injuries, particularly to limbs and digits, that can eventually lead to amputations
  • Internal bleeding/organ injuries like lacerated livers and torn spleens
  • Road rash, scrapes, gashes and friction burns that can result in serious scarring and necessitate skin transplants or cosmetic surgery

Sadly, alcohol is a factor in many motorcycle accidents. The NHTSA estimates that as many as 40 percent of fatal motorcycle crashes involve alcohol consumption by either the motorcycle operator or a vehicle driver. Furthermore, 42 percent of single-vehicle motorcycle fatalities involved alcohol. An important part of staying safe on a motorcycle, and possibly being able to avoid a crash caused by someone else's negligence, is to always ride sober.

Sometimes motorcycle accidents simply cannot be avoided in spite of your best efforts at diligent operation. If you have been serious injured in a motorcycle crash - or you have tragically lost a loved one - you have legal rights. Contact an experienced personal injury attorney like those at the Philadelphia or Bensalem law offices of Dorian, Goldstein, Wisniewski & Orchinik, P.C. Call the firm at 215-809-3882 or send an email to schedule a free initial consultation.