Motorcyclists are among the most vulnerable parties in a traffic accident. The fact that their bodies aren’t protected by the enclosure of a vehicle makes them more prone to serious injury – even while wearing a helmet. If the accident is the fault of another party, the motorcyclist should consider filing a personal injury lawsuit.
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Insurance and NY Motorcycle Accidents
New York requires motorcyclists and motorists to meet basic insurance requirements. The state’s minimum coverage includes:
- Bodily Injury Liability. This pays up to $25,000 for bodily injury and $50,000 for death of one person involved in an accident. For two or more people involved in an accident, it pays $50,000 for bodily injury and $100,000 for death in an accident caused by the insured.
- Property Damage Liability. This pays up to $10,000 for property damaged by a single accident caused by the insured.
Does the No-Fault Law Cover Motorcycles?
The ‘no-fault’ law exists to ensure that accident victims receive up to $50,000 for their losses – regardless of who was at fault. All motorists are required to carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance, which provides the no-fault compensation.
Unfortunately, motorcyclists are not protected under New York’s no-fault law. New York State Insurance Law 5103(a)(1) states that “persons, other than occupants of another motor vehicle or a motorcycle,” are entitled to no-fault protections. This means that the most a rider can expect from an accident is the $25,000 bodily injury liability coverage from the other driver (assuming he/she has minimum coverage). However, due to the high likelihood that a motorcycle accident will cause serious injury, $25,000 will not be enough to cover all of the out-of-pocket costs.
Fortunately, motorcyclists, unlike those covered by no-fault, don’t have to prove they suffered a “serious injury” in order to file a personal injury lawsuit. This makes it much easier for riders to pursue just compensation. An experienced motorcycle accident lawyer can clarify these complex policies.
How Much Is a Motorcycle Injury Case Worth?
Every case is different so it is not easy to provide a clear figure on how much any one person could receive for a motorcycle injury. The final number will depend on the type and severity of the injury, the insurance policy of both the rider and other parties, and other factors. A report by Jury Verdict Research (published by Thomas Reuters) found the median motorcycle injury verdict over a seven-year period was $73,000. However, this figure is misleading as many settlement amounts are confidential.
Fault can also be a factor in determining how much money is awarded in motorcycle injury cases. In Lang v. Bouju, the jury found a motorcycle rider 28% liable for an accident that claimed his life when he collided with a pickup truck. Just before the accident, the truck made a left turn while looking for a parking spot. In his periphery, the defendant saw the motorcycle approaching and reacted by stopping. The motorcycle’s rear tire started smoking, causing it to tip and fall, with the rider still aboard. He slid into the truck and died on impact. The victim’s father filed a suit for pain and suffering as well as pecuniary (financial) loss but the settlement was adjusted downward to reflect his son’s 28% fault in the accident.
How Long Will a Motorcycle Accident Claim Take?
An accident case can take anywhere from 30 days to several years to resolve. Broadly, there are two approaches to consider: settlement or trial. Generally, settling is the quicker option.
A trial will take much longer. Before going to trial the insurance or other parties will likely attempt to settle, so this negotiating process will have to occur first. If it is determined that the settlement is inadequate, the parties will gather additional evidence (called the “discovery phase”) as they prepare for trial.
Discovery alone can take up to 12 months. In some cases, the courts may ask both parties to attempt to mediate again in order to make one last attempt to avoid trial. This may add a few more days to the process.
Finally, if the mediation is unsuccessful, a court date will be scheduled. It can take as long as 2 years before the trial starts. Depending on the complexity of the issue, it could take many more months before a verdict is reached.
There are certainly cases where this process is worth the time and effort. However, most cases are relatively minor and can be resolved with aggressive negotiation during the settlement phase.
Should My Motorcycle Injury Case Go to Trial?
The question of whether a case should be brought to trial is best answered by one’s personal injury attorney. Many clients are under the impression that if the case goes to trial, he/she can win more money than in a settlement. This is not necessarily the case.
Insurance companies rarely want to go to trial because the trial process is costly and time-consuming. An insurance company or other defendants in a case that ends up at trial will fight significantly harder to ensure a favorable outcome. Likewise, a judge and jury are going to consider all of the ways in which the plaintiff (the person suing) may have contributed to the accident. The final result could be a much smaller figure than the settlement offered.
None of this means that a settlement amount is necessarily the best option either. In Firmes v. Chase Manhattan, a motorcyclist decided to take his case to trial after he was hit by a pickup truck that resulted in the loss of his left leg. The rider had been traveling in the southbound lane while the pickup truck was heading northbound on the same street. Both parties’ vision was obstructed by a large truck at an intersection. When the motorcyclist attempted to turn at that intersection, the pickup truck driver did not see him and the two collided. The jury found the truck driver to be 90% at fault for the accident and awarded the motorcyclist $40,000 for past medical expenses, $65,000 for loss of past earnings, $5,475,000 for future medical expenses, $66,000 for future loss of earnings, and $5,200,000 for future pain and suffering.
Ultimately, an experienced personal injury attorney can provide clear guidance on one’s specific case and recommend the best strategy for receiving just compensation, whether it’s by way of a settlement or trial.
How Long Do I Have to File a Claim in NY?
New York allows a motorcyclist to file a personal injury claim against another person within 3 years from the date of the incident. This is known as the “statute of limitations.”
Personal injury claims against the state have a shorter timeline. If the victim is filing a claim against a state agency, he/she has only 90 days to notify the agency. If the victim and the agency don’t settle after 30 days, the claim can be taken to court but it must be filed within one year and 90 days.
It is expected that a person first makes every effort to receive adequate compensation from the insurance companies before filing a personal injury claim. This can be very time consuming so it is important that a person gets started right away. Those who miss the three-year cutoff may not be able to file a claim, although some exceptions apply. Always discuss the situation with an attorney before assuming a case is, or is not possible.
Types of Injuries Caused by Motorcycle Accidents
A motorcycle crash can cause more than a bad case of road rash. Since the rider of a motorcycle has less physical protection in a crash, common injuries in motorcycle accidents tend to be more serious. Motorcyclists are far more likely to suffer broken bones, muscle damage, loss of limbs, spinal cord injuries, and traumatic brain injuries. Moreover, these injuries can lead to long-term or lasting health issues.
After a serious wreck, a motorcyclist broke his leg and underwent surgery to insert a metal plate and screws. After the surgery, he suffered from intense headaches as a reaction to the anesthesia. The jury in the case of Diaz v. Dabado awarded the rider $162,500 for past pain and suffering and $67,500 for future pain and suffering. The defendant challenged the verdict but the court maintained that the decision was up to the jury.
Helmets and other safety gear can only do so much. It is not uncommon for motorcycle accidents to result in permanent disability, which can require a lifetime of ongoing medical treatment, including surgeries, medication, and physical therapy. In addition, depending on the injury and occupation, the motorcyclist may not be able to return to work or to even perform basic everyday activities. In such cases, a New York personal injury attorney is usually required to help recover the damages for such injuries.
New York Motorcycle Accident Statistics
New York streets saw over 19,000 motorcycle accidents between 2016 and 2019. Nearly 5,000 occurred in 2019 alone. Unlike two-car collisions, more than 75% of motorcycle accidents result in injury or death.
Nearly half (46%) of fatal accidents list unsafe speeds as a factor. However, a rider doesn’t have to be going fast to get injured; most motorcycles are going less than 30 mph when the rider is injured in a crash.
The New York State Department of Health published the following statistics for motorcycle riders in 2014:
- 113 motorcycle accidents caused rider fatalities.
- 1,417 riders were hospitalized after a motorcycle crash.
- 4,267 motorcyclists had to visit the Emergency Room.
Frequently Asked Questions
In many cases of a car making a left in front of a motorcycle, the driver of the car is at fault. However, one should never presume this to be the case every time. There may be reasons the motorcyclist was partially or entirely at fault regardless of the car driver’s actions.
Theoretically, a motorcycle rider can still sue for injuries sustained in an accident even if he/she was not wearing a helmet or other protective gear. However, this decision will count against him/her. Many common head injuries can be attributed to not wearing a helmet, so the other party may not be liable for them.
A traffic ticket issued in connection to an accident can and likely will be used against a driver or motorcyclist. Past traffic tickets should not be used against a person to determine fault in an unrelated accident. However, insurance adjusters may try to use them to their advantage in negotiating a settlement. A good attorney can argue against this tactic and seek to obtain a more justifiable award.
There is no way to know for sure if a case will have to go to trial. Most personal injury cases are settled without trial, but some, especially those involving large awards, may end up before a judge and jury. It is often preferable that a case not go to trial as it can delay the time it takes to receive any kind of compensation. It is best to defer to one’s attorney before deciding to take a case to trial.
Who Should I Contact About My Motorcycle Accident Injuries?
If you or someone you love has been injured or killed in a motorcycle accident, contact the attorneys at Rosenblum Law. Our experienced and skilled attorneys have won many cases with positive results. To speak directly to one of our attorneys call 888-235-9021 or email us today.