Motorcyclists often mistakenly think that if they are partly to blame for an accident, they cannot recover any compensation for their injuries. This is not necessarily the case in New York. Although New York laws are often biased against motorcyclists and motorcyclists are excluded from coverage under no-fault insurance, motorcyclists, like any other injury victim, have the right to pursue compensation from other parties even if they are partially responsible for their own accident or injury.

Below, the attorneys at TonaLaw explain an injured motorcyclist’s ability to collect compensation even if they may be partly at fault for an accident. We also describe circumstances where courts may hold motorcyclists partially liable for their injuries.

Further, we discuss the controversial question of whether motorcycles can split lanes in NY. 

Motorcyclists Accident Statistics

Motorcycle fatality rates are significantly higher than the fatality rates of drivers of other motor vehicles. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motorcyclists accounted for 14% of all traffic fatalities in 2021. In many instances, the motorcyclist was partly responsible for these accidents. Unlicensed motorcyclists accounted for 36% of fatal motorcycle accidents in 2021. Additionally, 29% of these deadly accidents involved drunk motorcyclists.

Those wondering can you lane split in New York often ask about lane-splitting statistics. Although there are no recent New York lane-splitting studies, the University of California at Berkeley studied California motorcyclists and lane-splitting in 2015. They found that injuries to motorcyclists were generally less severe when they were lane-splitting. Thus, the answer to can motorcycles split lanes in NY has become controversial.

What Happens if You’re Partially Responsible for a Motorcycle Accident?

In many motorcycle accident claims, the injured party uses the law of negligence to prove the responsible party’s liability. Generally speaking, if a motorcyclist is pursuing a claim of negligence against a driver for an accident, they must prove the following:

  • Duty—the driver has a duty to the motorcyclist and others on the road to operate their vehicle reasonably safely and to follow the law;
  • Breach—the driver breaches their duty when they break the law (e.g., speeding) or are unsafe (e.g., driving while distracted);
  • Causation—the driver’s breach caused the accident; and
  • Damages—the motorcyclist was injured as a result.

Sometimes more than one party’s negligence causes an accident. For example, a driver may be texting and driving while another driver may be speeding. If they collide and injure a motorcyclist, they may both be responsible for the accident.

Damages Generally Available in Motorcycle Cases

Normally, when someone else causes an accident, the motorcyclist can recover all of the damages from the responsible party. These damages include:

  • Medical bills,
  • Lost wages,
  • Emotional distress,
  • Pain and suffering, and
  • Property damage.

Because motorcyclists are exempt from New York’s no-fault insurance coverage, they can sue the responsible party for all monetary damages.

Damages Available to a Partially Responsible Victim

If the motorcyclist is partly responsible for their injuries or the accident, their ability to collect damages against the other at-fault party changes under New York’s contributory negligence rules. What happens is that a court will assign the motorcyclist a percentage of fault. Then, the court will reduce their damages by the percentage of fault. For example, if a motorcyclist is 30% responsible for their accident andtheir total damages amount to $100,000, a court will reduce their damages by 30%, and they can only receive $70,000 in damages.  

Damages with Two Equally Responsible Parties

If a motorcycle and car collide, and the court finds that the driver and rider are equally at fault,do they cancel each other out? Not necessarily. An injured motorcycle rider can still recover 50% of their damages from the partially at-fault driver.

Damages When the Injured Motorcyclist Is Mostly Responsible

People often mistakenly believe they have no case if they are more at fault than the other party. That is not necessarily true. New York law does not prevent an injured rider from filing a lawsuit and recovering damages against another party, even where the injured rider is more than 50% at fault for the accident. Even if the injured rider is 99% to blame for the accident, they can still recover 1% of their damages against the other responsible party.

What May Be Considered Contributory Negligence for Motorcyclists

Although you’re not barred from recovering damages if you’re partly at fault for an accident, you still don’t want to cause an accident. And, if you’ve been injured, you will need every last penny that you can possibly recover for your medical bills and unpaid wages. There are some activities that judges and insurance companies may use to determine that you are partly or mostly at fault for an accident, such as:

  • Splitting lanes—when a motorcycle rides between two lanes, it could cause an accident;
  • Traffic violations—speeding, reckless driving, or ignoring traffic signs or signals could be considered negligent;
  • Riding under the influence—although you’re not barred from bringing a lawsuit for an accident if you’re riding under the influence, this could significantly reduce your compensation; and
  • Not wearing a helmet—a helmet doesn’t necessarily prevent an accident, but it could reduce the extent of your injuries, and accordingly, not wearing one could be used against you to reduce the amount of your recoverable damages based on New York Laws.

Many other circumstances could cause a court to find that the motorcyclist was partially at fault for an accident. The most important thing to note is not to assume you have no case just because you may have been partly at fault for the accident. 

Can You Lane Split in New York?

Sometimes a motorcyclist may be considered partly responsible for an accident if they are lane splitting. Lane splitting is when a motorcycle rides between two lanes and, potentially, between two cars. It’s also called lane-sharing. Many states allow motorcyclists to lane split. Visiting motorcyclists wonder, can motorcycles lane split in NY? New York strictly prohibits lane splitting.

Those wondering can you lane split in New York often see motorcyclists sharing lanes every day. Some studies have shown that lane splitting may reduce the risk of a motorcycle crash. Nevertheless, lane splitting is illegal in New York. For this reason, a motorcyclist could potentially be found partly at fault for an accident if they were lane splitting. You should speak with an attorney familiar with the law and contributory negligence regarding lane splitting, especially because lane splitting impacts your ability to get compensation. 

Contact TonaLaw to Recover the Compensation You’re Due

One of the biggest mistakes motorcyclists make after an accident is thinking they cannot recover compensation if they acted in a way that helped cause the accident. You do not have to carry the weight of your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering alone if someone else shares responsibility in your accident. Contact our experienced motorcycle accident attorneys at TonaLaw today. We know the New York accident compensation system and can fight for every penny you’re due. Contact us today.

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