Understanding Pedestrians and Limited Torts

Pedestrian Accident Lawyer in West Chester, PA
The Herald-Mail reported last month that the Waynesboro Area School Board and the Borough of Waynesboro on the southern border of Pennsylvania had been “brainstorming ways to improve safety for pedestrians and motorists near the Waynesboro Area Middle School entrance,” as school administrators said students are crossing the borough-owned road to access the local mall parking lot.

In the northwest corner of the Commonwealth, the Erie Times-News reported on June 12 that a group of more than 60 people marched along the Bayfront Connector, “an area that has a bicycle path along part of the route, but no sidewalk.” Some of those who marched were remembering 8-year-old Jazarion Paul, who was flown to Pittsburgh by helicopter after he was struck in a hit-and-run pedestrian crash on May 28.

Even ahead of the Stanley Cup victory parade Downtown for the Pittsburgh Penguins on June 14, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) urged motorists and pedestrians to be aware of each other. PennDOT said in a June 13 press release that there has been an average of more than 250 pedestrian crashes in the City of Pittsburgh each year since 2011, with 20 of those crashes being fatal and 60 percent occurring in broad daylight.

As we enter summer, communities all over Pennsylvania will see an increase in the number of pedestrians engaging in outdoor activities. Whether it is outings in Brandywine Picnic Park or attending any one of a number of festivals or concerts, visitors and residents alike will choose to commute by foot in order to enjoy the favorable weather. When a motorist is intoxicated or distracted, there is an increased risk of a pedestrian being struck and severely injured.

In many pedestrian crashes, automobile insurance policies cover the damages of pedestrians struck by motor vehicles. Some victims who purchased limited tort coverage policies instead of full tort policies believe that the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL) prohibits them from recovering non-economic damages, but the truth is that tort limitations do not apply to pedestrians.

Pedestrian Accident Lawyer in West Chester, PA

In L.S. v. David Eschbach, Jr., Inc., 874 A.2d 1150 (Pa. 2005), an 11-year-old girl (L.S.) suffered multiple contusions, abrasions, and fractures while attempting to cross the street after exiting her school bus. The girl’s natural parent and guardian commenced a timely negligence action in the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County against the driver of the school bus and the owner of the bus company, but the trial court granted the bus driver and bus company owner’s Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment and denied the plaintiff’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment after concluding that L.S. had failed to meet the “serious injury” threshold as required by the limited tort provision to recover noneconomic damages.

L.S. appealed both Orders to the Superior Court, but a majority of the Superior Court determined that Section 1705 of the MVFRL expressly precludes a pedestrian, who is insured by a limited tort automobile policy, from recovering noneconomic damages absent serious injury. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, however, reversed the portion of the Superior Court’s decision that deemed Section 1705 applicable to pedestrians and remanded the matter to the trial court after concluding that “neither the plain language of the statute nor the express legislative intent support a statutory interpretation of Section 1705 that restricts the right of recovery of a pedestrian based upon his or her limited tort election.”

Many drivers in Pennsylvania opt for the limited tort option when purchasing automobile insurance in order to save some money on their monthly payments. While there are inherent risks to this decision when it comes to motor vehicle accidents, the Supreme Court’s decision in L.S. v. Eschbach has been cited by other courts in determining that not only are pedestrians not bound by limited tort restrictions, but bicyclists are also similarly able to seek noneconomic damages.

When it comes to compensatory damages for any kind of motor vehicle accident, economic damages refer to specific calculable losses such as medical bills and lost wages while noneconomic damages apply to forms of harm that cannot be quantified, such as pain and suffering or emotional distress. In many cases, noneconomic damages can be several times the amount awarded for economic damages.

If you suffered serious injuries or your loved one was killed as a pedestrian struck by an automobile in Chester County, it is in your best interest to immediately seek legal representation. The dedicated team of West Chester personal injury attorneys at [[$firm]] will fight to get you all of the possible compensation that you are entitled to.

Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents in Pennsylvania

MotorcycleBecause of Pennsylvania’s beautiful landscapes, varying terrain, and popular riding routes motorcycle accidents are frequent in the state. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s (PennDOT) annual crash statistics, 3,284 motorcycle accidents occurred in 2014. Of these accidents, 184 were fatal.

If you were injured in an accident with a motorcycle along Pennsylvania’s many popular riding routes, including PA 944 and PA 997, The Loop through Kennett Square, or 32 North along the Delaware River, it is imperative to contact an experienced motorcycle accident attorney immediately.

Depending on the circumstances, an individual injured may be entitled to damages, including loss wages, past medical costs, future medical expenses, permanent disability, pain and suffering, and long-term rehabilitation costs. Obtaining damages can be a complex process. It is highly recommended to consult an experienced personal injury attorney.

Common Reasons for Motorcycle Injury

Motorcycle accidents occur for various reasons, including the design of the motorcycle, Pennsylvania’s helmet law, road conditions, and fault of the rider and/or other drivers.

Motorcycle Design: The two-wheel, open compartment design makes motorcycles attractive vehicles for open road and recreational driving. This same design is the reason for increased injury. A motorcycle can weigh hundreds of pounds. For example, the Honda CBR1000RR weighs 439 pounds. The open design affords no protection in the event of a crash.

Pennsylvania Helmet Law: Pennsylvania law does not require drivers over the age of 21 to wear a helmet. Specifically, any person that operates a motorcycle must wear a helmet unless over 21 and has two years of riding experience or completes an approved driving course.

Helmets can provide considerable protection from injury. Research shows a helmet can reduce the chances of head injury, traumatic brain injury, and neck injury. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) from 2009 to 2014, 53 percent of the 186 deaths involving motorcyclists involved a driver not wearing a helmet. 36 percent of the 3,207 motorcycles injured involved a rider not wearing a helmet.

Intoxication: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 4,769 motorcycles were involved in a fatal accident in 2014. Of those fatal accidents, 1,295 or 27 percent involved intoxication or a BAC over 0.08.

 The number of fatal accidents involving motorcycles and alcohol was higher than passenger vehicles and considerably higher than large trucks. According to the Pennsylvania DUI Association, approximately 9 percent of accidents involving motorcycles are considered alcohol-related.

 Distracted Driving: Distracted driving encompasses any activity that causes the driver from losing focus on the operation of the vehicle. Common causes for distracted driving, includes texting, eating and drinking, operating a radio or GPS, and using headphones while driving.

According to Pennsylvania Courts 1, 410 people were cited for texting while driving. Another 711 were cited for operating or wearing headphones while driving. Federal data shows 3, 154 persons died in crashes involving distracted drivers. Another 424,000 were injured.

Lack of Proper Training: The state of Pennsylvania does require operators of a motorcycle to have a Class M motorcycle license. However, sources, including the Alliance of Bikers Aimed toward Education (ABATE of PA) assert many motorcycle drivers do not have the proper training to avoid accidents involving serious injury or death. According to ABATE of PA, 90 percent of motorcycles crashes involved riders who have not taken a motorcycle safety training course. 33 percent of riders are not properly licensed.

 Vehicle Defects: Vehicle defects or malfunction are a leading cause of motorcycle accidents. The most common types of vehicle defects, including brake malfunctions, defective tires, and defective engines. According to PennDot over four percent of accidents involving accidents were caused by either a motorcycle defect or road conditions.

Does the Cause of the Motorcycle Accident Matter?

An experienced motorcycle accident lawyer will thoroughly investigate the cause of the accident. The cause of the accident is very crucial when determining party liability and damages. For example, if the cause of the accident was a vehicle defect, the liable parties could include the motorcycle driver, motorcycle manufacturer, and/or the person or company that performed the repair or maintenance.

Also, if the liable party knew or should have known or such defect or risk of injury to others the injured party may be entitled to more damages. Pennsylvania law prohibits a limitation or cap of damages involving injury or death. The injured party may also be entitled to punitive damages (additional damages intended to punish the liable party) in certain circumstances.

Conclusion

The Ciccarelli Law Offices are experienced motorcycle accident lawyers. The team of attorneys at Ciccarelli Law Offices represents clients in all types of motorcycle accidents, including those involving DUI, distracted driving, and reckless driving.

The attorneys at Ciccarelli Law Offices use the team approach to obtain the best results their clients based on their unique circumstances. The Ciccarelli Law Offices proudly represents clients throughout the Pennsylvania, including West Chester, Radnor, Plymouth Square, Malvern, Philadelphia, King of Prussia, Lancaster, and Kennett Square.

Liability after a Ride-Sharing Accident with Uber

Profile of red luxury sports sedan. Focus on side mirror.

Where you need a ride from West Chester PA to Media, or a ride from shopping at the King of Prussia Mall to dinner in Wayne, PA, Uber is starting to be a more common way in both Center City Philly and suburban Philadelphia. Ride-Sharing arrangements, like Lyft and Uber, have become a popular alternative to taxis since the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission granted both companies two-year experimental licenses.

Philadelphia was one of the last major cities to permit Uber and Lyft operations. Now Uber and Lyft drivers are available for fares throughout Philadelphia and the surrounding areas, including West Chester, Radnor, Plymouth Meeting, Malvern, Philadelphia, King of Prussia, Media, and Doylestown.

These ride-sharing companies have created a serious quandary regarding liability for occupants and other drivers following an accident.

Problems with Uber

Uber drivers are just as likely to get into are car accident as any other vehicle. However, the determination of liability is not as clear for Uber drivers as an ordinary driver of a vehicle or even a taxi driver. This is for two reasons.

1. Uber is not a transportation company. As indicated in their Terms and Conditions (last updated January 2, 2016), Uber technology platform that allows an individual to arrange transportation services. By using an Uber service, the rider and driver acknowledge that “Uber does not provide transportation or logistic services or function as a transportation carrier”. By defining itself as a “technology platform” rather than a transportation company, Uber attempts to escape liability and place liability for accidents on the Uber driver.

2. Uber drivers are independent contractors not employees. The distinction between employees and independent contractors is especially important when determining a company’s liability. Generally, an employer is liable for negligent acts of an employee but not an independent contractor. The classification of Uber drivers as an independent contractor further distances Uber from liability following an accident.

Insurance Coverage Provided By Uber

As of July 2014, Uber provides the following coverage:

1. $1 million of liability coverage per incident: Uber holds a commercial insurance policy with $1 million of coverage per incident. This covers the Uber driver’s liability to third parties during a fare only (from the moment a driver accepts a trip to the conclusion of said trip). This coverage does not apply when the driver is waiting and available for fares.

2. $1 million of uninsured/underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage per incident: In the event of an accident with an uninsured or underinsured vehicle (driver does not have the state minimum coverage) or a hit and run, Uber offers $1 million of bodily injury coverage per incident. This coverage covers passengers injured if another driver causes the accident.

3. $50,000/$100,000/$25,000 of contingent coverage between trips: Uber provides insurance protection when the driver is available and waiting for another fare. Insurance coverage is up to $50,000 bodily injury per individual per accident with a total of $100,000 and $25,000 property damage. This coverage is only available when the driver’s personal auto insurance declines to pay or pays zero.

The “Other Driver”

Uber’s insurance seems adequate; however, there are still major issues, including:

  •  Uber may deny the claim: It is possible that Uber’s insurance will deny the claim, which would require the Uber driver to submit the claim to his or her personal insurance company. Generally, personal auto insurance companies will deny the claim, because the driver was using the vehicle as a business.
  •  The accident might result in catastrophic injury or death: Uber offers $1 million of liability coverage during a fare and $50,000 bodily injury up to $100,000 when the driver is between trips. Depending on the type of injury sustained or in the case of death, these figures are not sufficient.

When the aforementioned issues arise, it is likely the “other driver” will have to turn to the courts to recover damages incurred as a result of the accident. In addition to the physical damage to the vehicle, the “other driver” often must sue to recoup loss wages, medical costs, estimated cost of future medical procedures, and pain and suffering.

Pursuing a law suit against a ride-sharing company like Uber or Lyft will be a complex process. It is important to have an experienced personal injury attorney fighting on your behalf. The team of experienced attorneys at the Ciccarelli Law Offices will work as a team to recover all that you’ve loss following an accident with a ride-sharing driver.

With offices in West Chester, Radnor, Plymouth Meeting, Malvern, Philadelphia, Lancaster, and Kennett Square, our personal injury team proudly represents clients throughout Philadelphia and the surrounding areas, including Chester County, Lancaster County, Delaware County, Philadelphia County, and Montgomery County.

Contact the team of attorneys at Ciccarelli Law Offices at (610) 719-3190 for a free, confidential attorney consultation.