Riding a motorcycle through New York City is convenient, affordable, and fun. But it can also be difficult and dangerous. Across the United States, there were 5,172 motorcycle fatalities in 2017. The New York State Department of Health reports that approximately 141 motorcyclists die each year in motor vehicle-related accidents across the state. In 2018 there were 1,310 motorcycle crashes in New York City. Of these, 35 were fatal and 1,275 involved serious injuries.
In some ways, operating a motorcycle requires different skills than driving a car, including balance and coordination. Motorcyclists also need to be extremely vigilant because other drivers often do not see them. In general, a person riding a motorcycle is more vulnerable to serious injury than a person riding in a passenger car. Therefore, even a low-speed motorcycle accident can result in severe injuries and even death. If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident, consult the Brooklyn Motorcycle Accident Lawyers at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA. We will work zealously to obtain the compensation you deserve.
New York Motorcycle Laws
Whether you ride a motorcycle or drive another type of vehicle, knowing the rules of the road can help keep you safe. Furthermore, if an accident occurs between a motorcyclist and a passenger car driver, the law will dictate who is responsible for the crash.
Anyone operating a motorcycle in New York is required to have a Class M or MJ Operator's License or Learner's Permit. New York allows motorcycles to be registered for one year and requires periodic safety inspections.
Each rider must wear a motorcycle helmet and all motorcycle helmets must meet the U.S. Department of Transportation federal motor vehicle safety standards. Helmet speakers are permitted, but motorcycle helmet speakers may only have one earphone. Motorcyclists must also use protective eyewear that meets the standards of the American National Standard Institute. If a motorcyclist is carrying a passenger, the motorcycle must have a passenger seat and footrests. Drivers must use headlights in the daytime. However, headlight modulators are permitted.
Other required equipment includes:
- Lights including headlight, taillight, stop lamp and license plate lamp
- At least one red rear reflector
- Brakes (on both wheels if manufactured after 1971)
- Directional signals (if manufactured after 1985)
- Turn signals (if manufactured after 1985)
- A horn or other warning device
- At least one rearview mirror, although experts recommend one on each handlebar
- A muffler (mufflers with removable baffles are not allowed)
- Handlebars or grips limited to the shoulder height of the rider
Special rules of the road that apply to motorcycles provide that no more than two motorcycles can be in one driving lane at a time. Also, lane splitting, which means driving between vehicle lanes going in the same direction, is prohibited. The law also forbids passing slower or stopped vehicles by moving between lanes.
Liability insurance is required for motorcyclists in New York. However, the New York DMV is aware of the risks of driving a motorcycle in the winter months. So riders are permitted to store and not use their motorcycles for several months and stop their motorcycle insurance coverage for that period of time. When the motorcycle is in use, however, it must be insured. The minimum liability insurance requirements for motorcycle coverage in New York are:
- $10,000 for property damage for a single accident;
- $25,000/$50,000 for bodily injury/death of a person involved in an accident; and
- $50,000/$100,000 for bodily injury/death of two or more people in an accident.
New York is a no-fault state. However, no-fault New York Insurance Law does not cover motorcyclists. According to Article 51, first-party benefits go to “The named insured and members of his household, other than occupants of a motorcycle....” Therefore, motorcyclists do not receive no-fault insurance benefits in New York. However, victims of a motorcycle accident may be eligible for compensation under state law if another party's negligence caused their accident.
Liability for Motorcycle Accidents
The big question in all motor vehicle accidents is: “who is at fault?” Generally, in motorcycle accident lawsuits, the injured person will have to establish that another person or entity was negligent. Negligence means “A failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.”
To win a lawsuit based on negligence, the injured person must prove the four elements of negligence:
- The victim must show that the defendant owed a duty to prevent unreasonable harm.
- The victim must show that the defendant failed to uphold this duty.
- The victim must prove that the breach caused the victim's injury.
- And the victim must show that they were injured as a result.
In motorcycle accident lawsuits, as in other types of civil cases, the standard of proof is “by a preponderance of the evidence.” Essentially, this means presenting evidence which is more credible and convincing than the evidence presented by the other party. Thus, even if you believe your injuries are minor, it is important to obtain medical treatment, as some symptoms do not show up immediately. Keep all medical records and bills pertaining to your injuries.
According to New York law, more than one individual or entity can be held accountable for a motorcycle crash. In motorcycle accidents, the driver of the passenger vehicle is frequently at fault, because many drivers fail to see a motorcyclist in traffic. If government entities fail to correct dangerous potholes or neglect to post necessary road signs, they may be liable for a resulting accident. Lastly, if a defective motorcycle part causes a crash, the manufacturer or other entity in the chain of commerce may be liable for any resulting injuries.
How do you prove liability and damages?
To support your claim and obtain the compensation you deserve, you and your attorney will need to provide evidence, such as:
- Police reports;
- Eyewitness statements;
- Pictures of the scene, damage to your vehicle, and your injuries;
- Your medical records;
- Surveillance footage of the accident from local businesses;
- Accident reconstruction;
- Expert testimony;
- Hospital bills;
- Bills from rehabilitation centers and other care providers;
- Bills for home healthcare services;
- Documents showing missed work; and
- Expert testimony.
Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents
Motorcycle accidents and car accidents share some common causes but there are a few that only motorcycle riders have to worry about. Below you can find some of the most common causes of motorcycle accidents:
- Driving under the influence. Driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs is dangerous, and it's a crime. Driving under the influence is involved in approximately half of motorcycle accidents. About 28 percent of motorcyclists killed in 2017 were under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Left-turn accidents. Drivers turning left in front of an oncoming motorcyclist are a frequent cause of motorcycle collisions. In fact, 42 percent of all accidents involving a motorcycle and a car happen when cars are making left-hand turns. Because motorcycles are smaller vehicles, drivers often fail to see them.
- Speeding. Generally, the faster a driver is going, the more severe the accident, and the more catastrophic the injuries. Most people think of speeding as driving above the posted speed limit. However, it also may mean driving too fast for road conditions.
- Unsafe lane changes. Again, because motorcycles are smaller vehicles, a driver who does not check their blind spot or signal a lane change may not see a motorcycle in time to avoid an accident.
- Car doors. A driver seated in a parked car may fail to see an oncoming motorcycle and open the car door, hitting the motorcyclist.
- Lane splitting. Driving between two lanes of traffic is dangerous and illegal.
- Sudden stops. Tailgating or abrupt stops means that neither driver has enough reaction time. The result is often serious or fatal injuries to a motorcyclist.
- Inexperienced drivers. Drivers are usually very careful at first; however, over time, they may become more careless and endanger themselves and others on the road.
- Hazardous road conditions. Because a motorcycle is smaller and less stable than vehicles with four wheels, motorcyclists are more at risk from road hazards. Roadways should be safe and free of hazards. Therefore, if potholes, debris, irregularities, or unexpected objects in the road are there because of someone's negligence, that person or entity might be liable for the accident.
- Type of motorcycle. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that drivers of supersport motorcycles have a much higher fatality rate than those who drive other types of motorcycles.
- Motorcycle defects. A defective motorcycle or part may lead to an accident. In that case, the liability for the accident falls to the manufacturer of the component or motorcycle.
- Collisions between motorcycles and fixed objects. When a motorcycle crashes into a fixed object, the motorcyclist is likely to be thrown from the vehicle or suffer serious injuries.
Common Motorcycle Accident Injuries
Motorcyclists are far more vulnerable to severe injuries than those who are in enclosed vehicles. A motorcyclist is 27 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than someone in a car. Because they only have two wheels, motorcycles are less stable than other vehicles, and they are also smaller and lighter. Therefore, even a relatively small impact, whether it's with a semi truck or a bicycle, a motorcycle accident can still cause severe injuries. In an accident, the motorcyclist is exposed to direct impact when hitting the pavement, other vehicles, or objects. Studies show that head and neck injuries are the most common, followed by injuries to the chest, back or shoulders, hands, and arms, then the pelvis and hips. Common types of injuries include:
- Traumatic brain injuries. A violent blow to the head often causes a traumatic brain injury. Such injuries can have devastating, long-term consequences.
- Head injuries. While head injuries can include concussions ranging from minor to severe, it can also result in brain damage or a cracked skull, both of which can be fatal. The best defense, of course, is to wear a safety helmet.
- Neck, back or spinal cord injuries.
- Bone fractures.
- Sprains and strains.
- Leg or arm injuries.
- Cuts, burns or abrasions.
- Wrongful death.
Compensation for Motorcycle Accident Injuries
If you were injured in a motorcycle accident that wasn't your fault, you might be entitled to receive compensation, also known as damages. Your damages may include:
- The cost of current and future medical care;
- Lost wages;
- Loss of future earning capacity;
- Property damage;
- Cost of household services, if, for example, your injuries mean you need to hire a lawn service or house cleaners while you recover;
- Physical and mental or emotional pain and suffering;
- Disfigurement or physical impairment;
- loss of enjoyment of activities;
- Loss of enjoyment of life;
- Loss of consortium or companionship; and
- In some cases, punitive damages. These damages, which go beyond compensation awarded for losses, are meant to punish a defendant for his or her perceived wrongdoing.
Brooklyn Motorcycle Accident FAQ
Brooklyn is a popular destination for motorcycle riders due to its Perhaps you ride your motorcycle through Brooklyn because it gives you a sense of freedom and excitement. When you travel among drinking, distracted, and speeding drivers, you may feel a sense of danger as well. The same openness that gives you a thrill may, unfortunately, put you in danger of the worst drivers on the road. When a vehicle crashes into your bike, even a simple impact sends you to the emergency room.
At Dolman Law Group, we've handled tough motorcycle cases for many injured clients. We've seen how a single accident can lead to a lifetime of painful impairments and financial losses. We've always realized that it's often difficult to avoid an accident. That's why we created this Brooklyn Motorcycle Accident FAQ. We believe that individuals must understand their legal rights before a crash occurs.
How often do motorcycle accidents occur in Brooklyn?
The Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research maintains traffic data for the state.
A search of recent updates provides these statistics:
New York Statewide 2020 Motorcycle Crash Statistics
- Motorcycle accidents: 4,320
- Accident-related fatalities: 153
- Accidents with personal injuries 3,273
- Property damage only accidents: 894
Brooklyn 2020 Motorcycle Crash Statistics
- Motorcycle accidents: 408
- Accident-related fatalities: 7
- Accidents with personal injuries 308
- Property damage only accidents: 93
Why are Brooklyn motorcycle accidents overrepresented in traffic fatality statistics?
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration's (NHTSA) most recent national motorcycle data shows that motorcycles represent only 3 percent of all vehicles registered in the country, but that motorcycle riders account for 14 percent of all traffic-related fatalities. These factors generate a high motorcyclist fatality rate. While this figure fluctuates, the NHTSA currently estimates that a person riding a motorcycle is 27 times more likely to sustain fatal injuries in a crash than someone operating another type of vehicle.
Why are Brooklyn motorcyclists so at risk for serious injury?
When a vehicle crashes into a motorcycle, the motorcyclist is often hurt while the vehicle driver usually remains uninjured.
A motorcycle puts a driver at risk for several reasons.
- Two versus four wheels: A motorcycle's two wheels make it far more unstable than a four-wheeled vehicle. A minor impact can easily knock a motorcyclist to the curb.
- Weight and size advantage: Vehicle valuation specialists at NADA explain that motorcycle size varies widely, but the average weight is 700 pounds. The smallest car (average 1.5 tons) or pickup truck (average 3 tons) has a weight and size advantage over a motorcycle. During a crash, this difference allows vehicle operators to cause serious damage and injuries while usually remaining uninjured.
- Visibility: Some vehicle drivers have problems “seeing” motorcycles when they're in traffic. Visibility issues are often related to a motorcycle's size. It's also a cognitive issue where the driver may look but fails to see a motorcycle.
- Safety equipment: Motorcyclists have no seatbelts, airbags, or reinforced compartments. Riders have only helmets and Kevlar wearables for protection when thrown to the pavement.
Am I entitled to no-fault benefits if I'm injured in a Brooklyn motorcycle accident?
New York law specifically excludes motorcyclists from coverage for first-party benefits. You must present a claim or file a suit against the responsible driver to recover damages for your injuries.
What is the most common type of vehicle/motorcycle crash?
Based on NHTSA statistics, motorcyclists had front-end crashes more frequently than any other type of accident. Front-end crashes also caused more disabling motorcyclist injuries and more fatal motorcyclist injuries than any other type of motorcycle crash.
Where do vehicle/motorcycle accidents occur most frequently?
A National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) causation study determined that fatal motorcycle accidents often occur at intersections. The study also found that in many vehicle/motorcycle accidents, the vehicle driver did not see the motorcycle coming.
In the cases studied, two types of actions were a frequent factor in fatal intersection actions:
- Motorcyclists laid their bikes down to avoid a vehicle crossing through an intersection.
- Vehicle drivers made a left turn into a motorcyclist's path.
What can a Brooklyn motorcyclist do about vehicle drivers' visibility issues?
The NTSB study determined that perception failures contributed to 56 percent of the fatal motorcycle accidents studied. Motorists simply could not detect a motorcycle's presence in surrounding traffic.
The NTSB recommends several actions to counteract motorcycle visibility problems, including:
- Bikers' training must include techniques to recognize dangerous situations before a crash.
- Manufacturers must make vehicle crash warning systems more sensitive to motorcycles and smaller vehicles.
- Motorcycle manufacturers must implement better braking and stability technologies.
What type of license do I need to ride a motorcycle in Brooklyn?
You must have a Class M or Class MJ junior operator's license to ride a motorcycle in New York. When non-residents ride in the state, they must also comply with all motorcycle licensing standards. To earn a New York motorcycle license, you must have a vehicle driver's license. You must then take a knowledge and road test to obtain your motorcycle license.
The DMV waives the road test if you meet certain requirements, including:
- You have a motorcycle learner's permit or another class driver's license.
- You take the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's BASIC RiderCourse.
A recent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety motorcycle accident study determined that, nationally, 30 percent of fatally injured bikers didn't have a valid license at the time of their accidents.
What is a re-entry motorcycle rider?
A re-entry motorcycle rider is a politically correct name for an older biker who returns to motorcycling after a lengthy absence. Based on an analysis of U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) traffic statistics, the IIHS determined that age 50-plus riders sustained fatal injuries more often than younger riders. Re-entry motorcycle riders require safety training before they ride a bike again. Their lack of recent experience and control often puts them at greater risk of injury.
What are the most common Brooklyn motorcycle accident injuries?
In studying motorcycle accident-related injuries, the NHTSA determined that riders sustain lower-extremity injuries more frequently than upper-body and head injuries.
- Fractures are the most frequent type of motorcycle accident injury.
- Often, a rider or passenger sustains multiple fractures in a single accident.
- Legs, feet, pelvis, ankles, and toes are the most frequently injured body parts.
What are the most severe types of motorcycle accident-related injuries in Brooklyn?
Bikers sustain upper extremity and head injuries less frequently, but these injuries are usually more severe. When head, face, chest, spine, and abdomen injuries do occur, an injured biker usually has a less favorable medical outcome. Some of the most severe upper body trauma causes spinal cord injury, internal injuries, and traumatic brain injury.
Must Brooklyn motorcycle motorcyclists wear safety gear?
New York has a universal helmet law, which means that all motorcyclists and their passengers must wear a helmet and goggles. New York also establishes standards for lights, handlebars, brakes, windscreens, and other motorcycle accessories.
What is the helmet standard for Brooklyn motorcyclists?
Manufacturers make some trendy helmets. These helmets are fine to use in New York as long as they comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety standards. The NHTSA's page, Choose the Right Helmet, has information on helmet fit, safety ratings, and unsafe helmets. Helmets that comply with mandatory safety standards have a label that says: “DOT, FMVSS No. 218, CERTIFIED.”
If you've already purchased a helmet, you can check the website HelmetCheck.Org to determine if your helmet complies with safety standards.
Do helmets prevent motorcycle accident injuries?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) determined that helmet use reduces motorcycle deaths by 37 percent. Helmets also reduce head injuries by 69 percent. Head injuries don't occur as frequently as other motorcycle accident injuries. When head injuries do occur, however, they often leave the injured biker with lifelong physical impairments. Head injuries also cause cognitive, emotional, psychological, and behavioral patterns.
What other states have mandatory helmet laws?
State helmet laws vary across the country. Nineteen states have universal laws, like New York, which mandate that all riders and passengers must wear a helmet. Twenty-eight states have age-based helmet laws. When you ride in those states, you must wear a helmet if you are at or below the state's minimum age. Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire are the only states that have no helmet laws at all.
If you plan to ride your motorcycle to or through another state, visit the Governor's Highway Safety Association to learn about compliance with that state's helmet laws.
Who decides if the other driver is responsible for my Brooklyn motorcycle accident injuries?
When you're involved in an accident, an insurance claim representative is usually the first person to decide whether to pay your claim. Insurance company claim departments conduct liability investigations. A claim investigator obtains police reports, scene photos, and witness statements and may even want to talk to the people in the accident. This process can get a bit complicated, especially since investigators usually want to take recorded statements.
Once an insurance company concludes its investigation, the person handling the claim usually decides liability. If the insurance company believes that its insured party caused or contributed to the accident, you may receive an offer to settle your claim. If the company believes that its insured isn't at fault, however, it will likely deny your claim.
Why shouldn't I give a claim investigator my recorded statement after a Brooklyn motorcycle accident?
Often a recorded statement doesn't work in your favor. An insurance company's liability claim representative will likely represent the other driver. It's this representative's job to listen for inconsistencies or contradictions in your story. As legal issues are often complicated, you could easily say something inappropriate or incriminating without realizing it. When an insurance representative is recording you, he will use anything you say to deny liability or reduce your claim settlement.
An insurance claim investigator will likely contact you during the early days after your accident. In the immediate aftermath of your accident, you may not remember all of the important details of the accident. If your memory is foggy, it's easy to respond inaccurately to a question or forget a relevant fact. If you say you're doing fine, and you wind up having surgery six months later, your statement gives the insurance company ammunition to dispute the severity of your injury.
Do I have to file a lawsuit to get a settlement after my Brooklyn motorcycle accident?
When an insurance company determines that its insured party is liable for your injuries, the company will likely attempt to settle your claim. If you're unsatisfied with the offer, or if the company denies that its insured party is liable for your damages, a lawsuit is likely your only option. A motorcycle accident injury attorney will help you determine your best option for resolving your case.
Should I accept an insurance company's settlement offer for my Brooklyn motorcycle accident?
You may choose to negotiate with an insurance company. Unfortunately, it's often difficult to determine whether the company is negotiating fairly. Insurance companies know that their offers sound more reasonable when an injured individual needs the money to pay important bills. Unless you understand the factors that go into evaluating injuries, you won't know if your settlement is adequate.
What if the other driver has no insurance to pay my Brooklyn motorcycle accident damages?
If you have Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage on your motorcycle policy, you present your injury liability claim to your own insurance company, and it will handle the claim based on liability issues and damages, just as the other driver's insurer would have. If the other driver was legally responsible for your injuries, then your insurance company should negotiate an injury settlement with you.
UM coverage applies under several circumstances, including:
- The other driver/owner had no insurance in force at the time of the accident.
- A hit-and-run driver injured you and left the scene unidentified.
- The insurance company declined the responsible driver's coverage.
- The responsible party's insured is insolvent or bankrupt.
Should I report my Brooklyn motorcycle accident to my insurance company?
Even if you believe an accident is the other vehicle driver's fault, you should report it to your motorcycle liability insurance carrier anyway. A lot of things happen during an accident. The other person might sincerely believe that you are the one who's at fault. You need your insurance company to investigate the accident on your behalf and defend you if necessary.
Accident reporting is a policy requirement for several additional reasons.
- When you don't turn in a claim, and the other person files a suit against you, it may jeopardize your insurance company's rights.
- When you jeopardize your insurance company's rights, it may consider declining your coverage.
- Your insurance company must verify that you comply with the state's financial responsibility laws.
- If you sustain injuries, and the other driver has no insurance, you have a potential Uninsured Motorist claim.
Do I need a lawyer after my Brooklyn motorcycle accident?
Yes, you do. If a motorcycle accident injures you in Brooklyn, never try to handle your injury claim without legal assistance. Contact Dolman Law Group for a free consultation with our Brooklyn attorneys. We've recovered millions for our injured clients. Let us determine if we can help you.
Were You in a Motorcycle Accident? Call Our Brooklyn Motorcycle Accident Attorneys Today!
Immediately after an accident, call 911. Check yourself and others for injuries. If possible, move to a safe area. Take pictures of the accident scene from all angles. Remember that fault is a legal issue, so do not apologize or admit fault to anyone.
New York has time limits, called statutes of limitations, which set a strict deadline for filing lawsuits. In New York, the time limit that applies to a vehicle accident case depends on whether the crash resulted in injury and property damage or death. If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle accident, you should consult an experienced Brooklyn personal injury attorney right away.
At Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, we are committed to providing the highest quality of legal services to all of our clients. For more information or to schedule a free consultation, call us at 833-552-7274 (833-55-CRASH) or contact us online. We are here to help you.