(Transcript)

Cindy Speaker:  Good morning and welcome to Facebook Live. I’m Cindy Speaker and I’m happy today to have with me Dave Miller. Dave is an attorney with Michael J. O’Connor and Associates. He’s going to talk with us. We’re going to talk a little bit about motorcycle safety awareness in light of motorcycle safety awareness month. Dave, thanks for being with us today.

Dave Miller: Good morning, Cindy, it’s my pleasure.

Cindy Speaker: Excellent. Well, Dave, this is motorcycle safety awareness month. I’m talking to you for two reasons. Number one, you handle a lot of motorcycle crash cases, but also because you’re just as guy who knows a lot about this and can really help us in light of motorcycle awareness month. First of all … Yeah, go ahead.

Dave Miller: That’s right. That’s right. It’s a dual interest that I have. Obviously, representing motorcycle riders who have been injured in crashes and also, more importantly, is avoiding those and ways that we can avoid or cut down on the number of crashes that happen every year.

Cindy Speaker:  Tell us a little bit about that. What are some precautions that we, as car and truck drivers, can adhere to in order to prevent some of these motorcycle crashes that occur.

Dave Miller:  Well, from a vehicle operator standpoint, a truck driver or a car, you’ve got to understand and I think most experienced drivers do, that motorcycles are different. Obviously, there are less protections available. The biggest, I think, safety precaution that you can take is just allow more room. The old two second rule for following, I think you want to expand that maybe even to four seconds. We also understand that motorcycles are a little bit more maneuverable and can accelerate much quicker but they also have a more difficult time safely decelerating if need be. That adds into that reason to give them some extra time. First off, so they can react and then secondly so that you can react to what they’re doing. That’s probably the biggest thing.

The other is, if you drive around the roads of Pennsylvania you’ll see the signs. “Keep an eye out.” “Motorcyclists are out.” A lot of crashes that I see are simply because the operator of the car or truck never saw the motorcycle. That’s simply a matter of perception because we’re used to looking for bigger objects on the roadway and it’s just the way our eyes work and the way our minds process visual information is when you’re looking down a road that you’re used to seeing a big truck coming down or a larger SUV and then all of the sudden you have a smaller motorcycle, your eyes just don’t pick it up. It blends into the background. You think you saw it was clear and then next thing you do, you pull out in front of somebody on a motorcycle. It’s never a good situation.

Cindy Speaker: When I was learning to drive, when my dad was teaching me, he taught me to be on high alert when we go into tunnels. I said to somebody else that I was talking to about this issue of noticing motorcycles is that we kind of have to be on high alert any time we’re around a motorcycle just to be sure … There’s a whole different dynamic going on there.

Dave Miller:  Yeah, absolutely. That’s a great way of thinking of it. It’s almost your normal mentality when you’re operating your car, your vehicle … You should be aware anyway. With all the distractions that can otherwise happen, but certainly when there’s a motorcycle around, you need to heighten things up and really be on the top of your senses. If you’re uncomfortable, just pull over or slow down and let them get far enough ahead of you and then go on your way. The reality is, you do. All of your senses need to be heightened when you’re around a motorcycle.

Cindy Speaker:  I know a lot of times the crash isn’t … And let me just ask you this, do you see any statistics, statistical significance in terms of how often the crash is the car driver’s fault versus the motorcyclist’s? Because we’ve all seen the motorcyclist that weaves in and out and I think sometimes they get a bad rap. But I don’t think it’s always … I don’t know if it’s even predominantly motorcyclist’s fault.

Dave Miller: I think you’re right. I don’t know the actual stats on that, on fault analysis on motorcycle crashes. But I would say … I probably used to be a little bit swayed, as a younger driver, when you would see the motorcycles kind of zipping in and out and you’re like, “Oh, boy, here we go.” A couple miles down the road you might be seeing something you don’t want to see. But, I think, the reality is the majority of motorcycle riders are safe riders and they take the precautions that need to be taken.

I was just think about that just driving up to work today. I had an hour long drive and there was plenty of motorcycles out there. I didn’t see anyone zipping around. I probably had about five to ten motorcycles on the road and everyone was riding the bike the right way. I think they do get a bad rap. I think those types of drivers shouldn’t have a motorcycle license because they’re not only putting other drivers at risk, they’re clearly taking their own life at risk as well driving like that. They’re breaking all the safety rules that I can think of on how to ride a motorcycle a safe way on the roads in Pennsylvania. You want to take every precaution you possibly can.

Cindy Speaker: Talk a little bit about that, Dave. Some of the precautions that drivers … And let me just say I agree with you that I do think a lot of times motorcyclists get a bad rap because they are usually very safe drivers. Talk a little bit about some of those safety precautions that bikers should take and most bikers do take.

Dave Miller:  I kind of break this down into three different categories. The first one is to know your motorcycle as the rider. You want to make sure you understand how the bike works. You don’t have to be an expert mechanic, but have an understanding of the basic operations of the motorcycle, what needs to be repaired, always keep it tuned properly. Make sure your brakes are in good working order. A lot of these motorcycles also have recalls where there’s some, say, a steering mechanism needs to be replaced. Make sure your bike is in as perfect condition as it possibly can be before you get on the road. That’s number one.

Two, is know yourself as a motorcycle rider. Just like drivers, they come in all shapes and sizes and skill ability. If you’re not comfortable going on a highway, don’t go on a highway. If you’re not comfortable in rush hour traffic down 76 going down to Philadelphia where it’s a lot of stop and go, try to avoid that. One of the ways to really know yourself is to … And I will always talk about this program because I think it’s excellent is the Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program which is a free program that’s run by the state but it’s put on by experienced drivers so it’s more like a volunteer situation. You’re really getting person to person experienced accounts of what to do, how to operate your bike, what to look out for. There’s a basic rider program and it goes all the way up to an advanced rider course even for someone who’s been riding for 30 years. It’s never a bad thing to revisit safety.

Cindy Speaker: Where can they take that course? Are there places in your area?

Dave Miller:  Yeah. They’re offered all throughout Pennsylvania at different times of the year. There’s actually a winter classroom program as well so if you’re just looking to get a motorcycle license you can do the classroom in the winter time and then you have to do the on-cycle training when they hold that in the spring or summer time. The website you can sign up for alerts and they’ll post when they’re having those classes. I think it’s an excellent idea for anybody no matter how experienced you are.

Cindy Speaker: Do you happen to know that website?

Dave Miller: Yeah. It’s www.pamsp.com. So it’s PA Motorcycle Safety Program dot com.

Cindy Speaker: Excellent.

Dave Miller:  I was actually just reading up on this. I didn’t realize this but, if you take the basic rider course, you don’t have to go to the driver license center to do the on-bike training so you save yourself a couple of hours there. And also you’re eligible for reduced motorcycle insurance rates. So there’s two huge benefits to that program in addition to being a safer motorcycle rider. Save yourself some time and maybe some money as well. I couldn’t plug that program any more strong.

Cindy Speaker: Sure. Sure. Let me ask you about that … I lost my place here, let me see my notes.

Dave Miller:  I never got back to number three. I’m sorry.

Cindy Speaker: Let me go the insurance issues because you mentioned the insurance.

Dave Miller:  Sure.

Cindy Speaker: Are there unique insurance issues?

Dave Miller:  Yes, there are. In Pennsylvania, motorcycle insurance is different than the automobile insurance policy in one major way and that is what we call first party benefits are not available on the motorcycle insurance policy in Pennsylvania. So that means that, unlike on your auto policy, you don’t have any medical coverage and you don’t have any wage loss coverage so those are the two big items. Those are immediate impact items as well if someone’s involved in a crash and injured because you need a way to pay for your medical bills and you need a replacement source of income if you’re going to be out of work for a while.

That’s why it’s very important for anybody riding a motorcycle to understand those risks and what is and is not provided in their motorcycle insurance policy and then have other insurance available to make up for those holes. By statute, there’s nothing you can do about it other then you can buy short term disability policy and probably should have a long term disability policy as well for income replacement and then also, obviously, have health insurance or a way to pay for medical bills. The way health insurance is these days you know most plans have pretty large co-pays or deductibles so keep that in the back of your mind as well because you’ve got to fill those gaps somehow and you don’t want to have an unfortunate experience really be a life changing financial detriment to you.

Cindy Speaker:  Let me just make sure I understand that. So your injured on a motorcycle and what you’re saying is your own health insurance is what’s going to come into play there.

Dave Miller: Yeah, immediately.

Cindy Speaker: As opposed to a car where you would have benefits within the auto policy.

Dave Miller: Right. Your auto policy will provide a medical payments benefit. The minimum in PA is $5,000. You can always increase that up to as much as you want, as much as the insurance companies want to sell you. As a side note, I would say that’s the cheapest health insurance you’ll ever purchase. Take a look at their auto policy as well. If you have $5,000 there, if you get an ambulance ride and a visit in the ER, that’s pretty much going to be used up. These days with using the helicopters maybe a little bit overzealously, again, that $5,000 coverage is used up very, very quickly. Where, even if you bump it up to $10,000, that gives you some added treatment post emergency room that can save you some money because now you’re not paying anything out of pocket depending on what your personal health insurance provides.

Cindy Speaker:   What about motorcycle crashes? What are the most common causes that maybe you see?

Dave Miller:  Most common causes, and I’ll split this up, by liability analysis reasons, but the one is the motorcycle rider not riding safe enough for conditions where if we have a wet roadway or someone’s out in the early spring and the roads haven’t been swept up yet from the salt, things like that. You just have to really know your roadway and drive safe. Taking a turn too quickly, we see a lot of those where the rider has to lay the bike down on the side because they can’t stop in time.

On the flip side, when we’re looking at the other driver’s fault, most of the times I see it as a turn in front of the motorcycle, either pulling out from a stop or making a left hand turn across the other lane or they simply did not see the motorcycle or they weren’t able to calculate, I guess, the time that the motorcycle was going to get to that point. Just because, again, it’s a matter of perception. Like we talked before, you can either miss it completely or also you can’t judge it properly because it’s a smaller object.

Cindy Speaker: Let me ask you something about that with liability. If the car makes a turn in front of the motorcycle, but the motorcycle hits the car I would guess there’s a liability issue there because probably both parties try to say it’s the other party’s fault.

Dave Miller:  Yeah. Even when it sounds very clear, like, “Okay, the car’s not supposed to turn in front on a bike,” but it’s never that simple. It’s always, “Well, how fast was the bike going? What could the rider have done differently? Could they have come to a stop or did some kind of avoidance maneuver?” The reality is any vehicle that makes a left turn across traffic, has to do it safely which means you have to allow enough time to complete your turn so there’s going to be liability there. The matter is depending on the crash analysis and the reconstruction often leads to that to do a sort of time and distance analysis.

There’s also perception and reaction time on the part of the motorcycle rider as well. We have to understand that we can’t just slam on the brakes on the motorcycle. There has to be enough time to bring the bike to a safe stop. If you slam on the brakes, you’re just going to end up turning sideways and you might have to put your bike down on the side which is not something that anyone wants to do. It’s a complex analysis. Every crash is complex when it comes to a motorcycle. That’s why points of impact are sometimes hard to figure out on a motorcycle as well because you’re not looking at a vehicle versus a vehicle. You’re looking at a much different object that has different mechanics and different physics behind it.

Cindy Speaker:  Not to jump ahead, but with the motorcyclist, so with these types of liability issues, you’re talking about crash analysis and speed and all of this, that is a reason for someone who is a biker in a situation like that to get a lawyer involved because the average person is not going to know where to go to get a complex crash analysis. Can you talk a little bit about … I know you had talked about you brought in a new case last week that was a serious crash. I know you can’t talk about that, but just generally speaking talk a little bit about types of things that you do in those situations in terms of crash analysis. What kinds of experts do you have to get involved in those situations?

Dave Miller: We use experts to do a reconstruction for us. The state police, I believe every state police or most state police throughout the country have their own crash analysis teams where in severe situations they’ll come around with their equipment, do a scan, take a look at all the markings on the roadway, take photographs, take statements from all the witnesses, the parties involved obviously. We don’t always agree with that or we want an independent look at it. It’s nothing against them. They do an excellent job at the state police but it’s always good to have different perspectives on things. Maybe they missed something on the roadway that … One small little yellow mark or skid mark on the roadway can mean all the difference in a crash analysis. That’s what we would do.

If they give us a call soon after the crash, obviously we would reach out to the state police or whatever police department is doing the work up, the report, and the crash analysis. If need be, we’ll get our folks out there as well while the markings are fresh, while people’s memories are fresh. It’s very important, I think, the witnesses are critical because there’s times where if it’s a party against a party, motorcycle rider versus a truck or a car, they’re each going to have their own perspectives of what happened. So if you have multiple witnesses who can add into the story then it’s easier to piece it all together. And hopefully it all makes sense with what we see on the roadway and what the final positions of the vehicles were as well. As you can see, that was a lot of words. I hope that came across. It’s a very complex analysis. It’s forces. It’s all the stuff that maybe we took back in high school that we thought we’d never use again and most people don’t in their every day life which is why we bring these experts in.

Cindy Speaker: Just to go back was there anything else in terms of crashes, types of crashes that you see?

Dave Miller: I think that’s it but I wanted to go back to that first one. The third point that I wanted to make on being safe is for the motorcycle rider to understand the risks that are there. Most motorcycle riders are also vehicle operators so I think they have an understanding of that, but I think going to one of those PA Motorcycle Safety Program courses is … That five hour classroom will go over all these types of things. A lot of it is common sense stuff but it’s never a bad thing to keep it fresh in your mind.

Cindy Speaker:  Right. Absolutely. Dave, if someone has specific questions how can they reach you guys?

Dave Miller: They can get us … Go to our website at www.OConnorLaw.com or give us a call at 1-800-518-4529.

Cindy Speaker:  Excellent. Anything else you want to add before we go today, Dave?

Dave Miller: Ride safely. Be safe out there, everybody.

Cindy Speaker:   There you go. Thanks, everybody, for being here today. If you have questions or comments you can put them right in the comment section on this page. Dave, thank you, again, for being here.

Dave Miller:  Thank you, Cindy.

Cindy Speaker: Okay.

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