As most motorcycle accident lawyers will tell you (if they’re being honest), motorcycle cases present challenges that do not exist in similar car accident cases. Fair or not, the public (and therefore juries) often maintain predetermined opinions about motorcycles and their riders, even if that potential juror has never been on a motorcycle and does not know any riders. Defendants in motorcycle cases, and their insurance companies, know this, and they try to use it to their advantage both in negotiations and in front juries.
But every argument has a counterargument. The Dearie Law Firm, P.C., has three decades of experience representing injured riders and their passengers involved in New York motorcycle accidents. We know that the vast majority of riders are reasonable people who operate their motorcycles in a reasonable manner. And we know how to successfully demonstrate this to defense insurance companies and juries.
Motorcycle Laws in New York
Motorcyclists in New York are protected by the same laws, and must follow the same traffic laws, as other vehicles on the roads. But there are some New York laws that apply only to motorcycles, and these are found primarily in New York Vehicle and Traffic Law §381. Here are the laws regarding required motorcycle equipment:
- Helmets are required for all riders;
- Eye protection is required for all riders;
- Daytime headlight use is required;
- If riding with a passenger, a passenger seat and footrest are required;
- Helmet speakers may only have one earphone;
- Only two motorcycles may operate side-by-side in a single lane;
- The following equipment is required:
- 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;
- A muffler;
- Handlebars or grips less than 15 inches above than the driver's seat;
New York State No-Fault Laws Do Not Apply to Motorcycle Riders or Passengers
Many states in the Tri-State area, including New York, are “No-Fault States.” That means, generally, that motorists and pedestrians injured in car accidents are entitled to $50,000 in Basic Economic Loss regardless of which driver was at fault.
It also means that injured parties in car accidents cannot sue other drivers unless they have what the law defines as “Serious Injuries.”
However, motorcycles are not considered “Motor Vehicles” under New York Insurance Law §5102 (aka, the New York No-Fault Law).
As a result, motorcycle riders and their passengers are not entitled to No-Fault benefits.
That means two things:
- Motorcycle riders, and their passengers, injured in an accident are not entitled to the $50,000 Basic Economic Loss available under No-Fault Law to injured parties in car accidents;
- Riders and passengers can sue the operator or owner of other involved vehicles, even for injuries that do not meet the Serious Injury Threshold required for injured parties in car accidents.
Pedestrians Struck by Motorcycle
Even though motorcyclists and their passengers are not entitled to No-Fault benefits, pedestrians struck by motorcycles may be entitled to the $50,000 No-Fault benefits through the rider’s insurance policy.
If the motorcyclist was uninsured, or it was a hit-and-run and you did not obtain the motorcyclist’s insurance information, you may file a claim with the insurer of a household family relative who had an auto policy at the time of your accident (i.e., the car insurance company of a family member you live with, like a spouse, parent, child, etc.).
If no family member in your household had an auto insurance policy at the time of your motorcycle accident, you should file a claim with the Motor Vehicle Accident Indemnification Corporation (MVAIC).
Compared with cars and trucks on the road, motorcycles are smaller, lighter, have two wheels as opposed to four, and riders are more exposed. Because of these inescapable facts, motorcycle riders and passengers can be seriously injured in otherwise minor accidents.
It can be difficult for motorcycle accident victims to get the compensation they deserve, so you need a personal injury lawyer in New York City who is well versed in state law and the local legal system. We're here to help you with your motorcycle accident case.