If You’re Involved in a Motorcycle Accident
If you’re a motorcyclist who’s involved in an accident and suffered an injury, the first step is always to seek medical attention. You can call 911, and when you make the call, you can report the accident to the police as well. The police may or may not come depending on the severity of the accident, but if they do come, you can request a copy of their report once it’s been filed.
While at the scene, be sure to document everything that took place, including using your cell phone to take pictures of the accident scene. Get photos of all physical damage and personal injury, even of road signs that may have been disobeyed. Make notes of everything that happened as you remember things. If there are witnesses, try to get their statement and contact information.
Since New York is a no-fault insurance state, you must then report your accident expeditiously to your insurer.
New York Motorcycle Laws
The same laws that apply to motor vehicle operators apply to motorcyclists, but in addition, there are motorcycle-specific laws. For one, lane splitting is illegal. Motorcyclists cannot drive between vehicles in the space where the two lanes intersect. Motorcyclists must also use their daytime headlights at all times. The cyclist must also always wear a motorcycle helmet that is stamped with approval by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). You cannot carry a passenger unless the motorcycle is equipped with a passenger seat and footrest.
There are also technical specifications for the motorcycle itself, such as the handlebars must reach shoulder height, not above or below. Headlight, taillight, stop lamp, license plate lamp, and reflectors are also mandated. Depending on the year of manufacture, other requirements come into effect regarding directional signals and brakes on both wheels.
Remember that New York is a no-fault accident state. Fault can be claimed only if the accident results in a serious injury, which is defined as:
- Significant disfigurement
- Bone fracture
- Permanent limitation of use of a body member or organ
- Significant limitation of use of body function or system
- Substantial full disability for 90 days or longer
If you want to pursue compensation from the other vehicle’s driver for a serious injury, you must then prove that the other driver’s negligence caused the accident and resulting injury. This is where your documentation, photos of the scene, witness testimony, and police report will help you.
Recovering Damages in Fault Claim
You can seek injury compensation by making a claim against the other driver’s insurance company, or you can pursue a personal injury lawsuit. Either way, you can be compensated not only for your economic losses – medical bills, time lost from work – but also for non-economic losses such as pain and suffering (which isn’t available under a no-fault claim).
New York is also a pure comparative negligence state, meaning that a percentage of fault can be assigned to both drivers involved. If you as the motorcycle operator are deemed 20 percent at fault for the accident, for not having your headlights on, for instance, your compensation will be reduced by that percentage. If the insurance adjuster or jury in a lawsuit awards you $30,000 for your compensation, you will receive only $24,000 -- $6,000 being deducted for your 20 percent fault.
Certainly, if a loved one dies as a result of a motorcycle crash with another vehicle, you can pursue a wrongful death lawsuit, but in New York, a wrongful death lawsuit can be brought only by the personal representative of the deceased’s estate, not by family members. Personal representatives are named in wills or trusts. If there is no will or trust, the probate court will appoint an administrator to act as a personal representative. The appointee might well be a family member.
Getting the Legal Guidance You Need
If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle accident and you try to go it alone against an insurance claims adjuster assigned to your case from the other party’s insurer, you’re not only going to have to fight the built-in prejudice against cyclists, but you’re going to be subject to every trick in the adjuster’s book. They’ll try to get you to say or do something they can use to lowball or even deny your settlement.
Let us at Raskin & Kremins LLC handle the claims adjusters. Bring the accident to our attention immediately, so we can assess matters and advise you of your options going forward. We can then negotiate with the insurers or prepare a personal injury lawsuit to pursue just compensation.