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 personal injury attorneys at Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP. 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.
Were You in a Motorcycle Accident? Call Our 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 motorcycle accident attorney right away.
At Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP, 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.