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Pennsylvania Limited Tort Does Not Apply To A Bicyclist Hit By A Car

Summer is in full swing, and a lot of people and families are engaging in more outdoor activities, from going to the community pool to riding bicycles.  Unfortunately, bicycle and car accidents happen more often in the summer as well.

Common Pennsylvania Bicycle And Car Accidents

Bicycle and car accidents often happen in 2 situations.  The first situation is when a bicycle rider is sharing the roadway with cars, and a car tries to pass the rider.  Many times, the car hits the rider from behind because the negligent car driver did not leave enough room between the car and the bike.  The bicycle rider is typically surprised because he is hit from behind.

The second common scenario is when a car is attempting to make a right turn and cuts off a bicycle rider that is attempting to go straight.

Because the only protection most riders have while riding a bicycle is a helmet, they often sustain serious injuries such as:

  • extensive "road rash,"
  • fractured bones,
  • torn ligaments, and/or
  • concussions and other head injuries.

The Rights Of PA Bicycle Riders Injured By Cars

Oftentimes, bicycle riders also have cars and elected limited tort on their car insurance policies.  Pursuant to Section 1705 of the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (MVFRL), limited tort bars the insured from recovering non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, unless the injury is "serious."  To learn more about limited tort, click here to read: Pennsylvania's Limited Tort - When You Can Sue for Pain and Suffering (Part A)

One misconception injured riders have is that they believe their limited tort status also applies in their bicycle/car accidents.  That is simply not true.  It is well settled, pursuant to Pennsylvania case law, that limited tort does not bind individuals who are not occupying or operating motor vehicles at the time of their accidents.

The seminal case dealt with a pedestrian who was hit by a car.  In L.S., a Minor v. David Eschbach, Jr., Inc., 844 A.2d 1215 (Pa. 2004), an eleven year old was hit by a car.  At the time of the accident, L.S. lived with her mother who owned a registered car and had limited tort on her car insurance policy.  As a minor residing in her mother's home, L.S. was considered an "insured" under her mother's car insurance policy.  Defendant argued that the child was bound by her mother's limited tort election and could not recover from the negligent driver for her injuries.  

However, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court determined that nothing in Section 1705 of MVFRL applies to pedestrians.  Innocent pedestrians are completely unassociated with cars.  Therefore, limited tort did not apply to the minor because she was a pedestrian, despite the fact that she was an "insured" under her mother's car insurance policy.

The same argument applies to bicycle riders.  Other Pennsylvania trial courts have cited the above PA Supreme Court case to determine that bicyclists are also not bound by limited tort, even if they have limited tort on their car insurance policies.  Crouse v. Shaffer, No. AD 1999-20535 (Franklin Co. June 19, 2001).

Philadelphia, PA Bicycle Car Accident Lawyer

If you were hit and injured by a car while riding a bicycle, you may be entitled to compensation from the negligent driver.  If you would like to discuss your case and explore your legal rights, feel free to contact Dan O'Brien to discuss your case.

Dan O'Brien is a lifelong athlete and has represented many bicyclists injured in car accidents.  Call today for a free, no obligation consultation. 877.944.8396

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