A crash scene between a white car and a motorcycle.

Regardless of the vehicles involved, accidents on the road can change someone’s life forever. Not only do you face medical bills and property damage costs, but you may also face physical or mental trauma that can take years to overcome. Despite some similar costs and damages the type of vehicle you’re operating during an accident may affect your personal injury claim. Although there are many similarities, there are some differences you should be aware of when comparing motorcycle accidents vs. car accidents.

The differences between motorcycle accidents vs. car accidents in New York can be significant depending on the circumstances of your case. Below, TonaLaw describes the similarities and differences between these two types of accidents. One of the most significant differences involves a car insurance claim versus a motorcycle insurance claim in New York. If you’ve been injured in an accident, you should speak with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys today for advice on your potential compensation.

What Are the Similarities Between Motorcycle Accident and Car Accident Claims?

Motorcycle and car accident claims share many common features, which we discuss below. Primarily, the common features deal with when an injured party brings a lawsuit in court. However in some situations a person involved in a car accident may be unable to file a lawsuit because of New York’s car no-fault insurance laws. 


Most accidents don’t happen because of someone purposefully trying to harm others on the road but from someone’s careless or thoughtless act. This is defined as negligence. Legal claims for motorcycle accidents vs. car accidents in New York generally use the legal negligence standard to prove liability and be eligible for compensation.

Negligence requires the injured party to prove the following elements:

  • Duty of care—the driver owes others on the road a duty of care to drive reasonably safely and not cause any undue risk of harm to others;
  • Breach of duty—the driver breaches that duty when they do something unsafe, such as break the traffic laws;
  • Causation—the driver’s breach must cause the accident and harm to the injured party; and
  • Damages—the injured party must have suffered some harm.

Regardless of whether the injured person was on a motorcycle or in a car, they must prove these elements to succeed in a personal injury lawsuit.

Comparative Negligence

Another similarity between motorcycle accidents vs. car accidents is how a court or insurance company allocates fault between the individuals involved in the claim, including the injured party. New York law uses the principle of contributory negligence. Essentially, if the injured party is partly to blame for the accident or their injury, a court will assign them a percentage of fault. Then, the court will reduce their compensation based on that percentage. For example, if an injured party’s damages amount to $100,000 and the injured party is determined to be were 40% at fault, the injured party could only recover $60,000, or 60 % of the claim’s damages.

Unlike some states, in New York, a person can recover compensation even if they are found to be mostly at fault. This means that even if the party was 99% to blame for the accident, they could still recover 1% from the other at-fault party.


The types of damages available to injured parties filing lawsuits are the same whether you’re in a motorcycle accident vs. a car accident. Generally, injured parties are eligible for compensatory damages, which consist of economic and non-economic damages.

Economic damages are fixed costs that are relatively easy to calculate. These include:

  • Medical bills and costs,
  • Lost past and future wages, and
  • Property damage.

Non-economic damages are more subjective and depend on how the specific injured person was affected by the accident. They include things like emotional distress and pain and suffering damages. Generally, to prove these damages, a claimant will need to hire an expert to discuss the damages.

Additionally, if the at-fault party acted particularly horribly, an injured person may seek punitive damages. The injured party must prove that the at-fault driver acted maliciously or particularly recklessly to recover punitive damages. In any motor vehicle accident case, punitive damages are rare to recover.

How Are Motorcycle Accident Claims Different From Car Accident Claims?

There are many differences between motorcycle accidents vs. car accidents. Many of these differences result in completely different procedures for those injured to collect compensation for their injuries. One of the most significant differences is a car insurance claim vs. motorcycle insurance claim.


Car insurance claims and motorcycle insurance claims work significantly differently in New York. New York has a no-fault insurance law for car accidents. This generally means that every driver involved in an accident files their claims for medical damages they have sustained with their own insurance companies. The insurance company is then supposed to pay out claims quickly, regardless of who is at fault. Passengers and pedestrians injured in a car accident will file claims with the driver’s insurance. In general, no-fault insurance claims in New York follow the car, unlike some other states where the claim follows the patient or the driver.

Generally, if you’re injured in a car accident in a no-fault state, your ability to file a lawsuit is relatively limited. For the most part, you can only file a lawsuit if:

  • Your costs exceed the amount that the insurance company pays for your claim,
  • You have a serious injury as defined under New York’s Insurance Laws, or
  • The insurance company denies your claim.

The idea behind no-fault is that people don’t have to wait for a finding of fault to be able to get compensation for their damages and injuries in a car accident.

However, you cannot file a motorcycle insurance claim under the no-fault system. Motorcycles are specifically excluded from New York no-fault insurance. This means that if a motorcyclist is injured by a car, they will have to file a claim against the driver’s insurance and prove fault before obtaining compensation. Otherwise, they’ll have to sue the driver for their losses and damages.

Some motorcyclists purchase supplemental insurance and then file a motorcycle insurance claim if they’re injured. However, these supplements are expensive and not included in the basic required motorcycle insurance requirements in New York. 

Injuries and Fatalities

Another significant difference between motorcycle accidents vs. car accidents is the rate of injuries and fatalities. Motorcycle accidents result in a disproportionate number of deaths. Although motorcycles comprise only 3% of all registered vehicles in the United States, they account for 14% of all traffic fatalities. Plus according to data collected by the United States Department of Transportation in 2020, motorcyclists were 28% more likely to die in a crash than car occupants per mile traveled. 

Sadly, this means that a motorcycle accident claim is far more likely to involve a wrongful death lawsuit than a car accident claim. In a wrongful death lawsuit in New York, the deceased person’s representative files a lawsuit on behalf of the deceased and their remaining family members. Wrongful death cases are complex and include the need to correctly identify the deceased’s proper legal representative. You should speak with an experienced attorney if you’re considering a wrongful death claim.

Contact TonaLaw for Help with a Long Island Motorcycle or Accident Claim

Whether you or a loved one has been in a car or motorcycle accident, you need a solid team to stand up to insurance companies and fight for compensation for your injuries. The TonaLaw team has extensive experience fighting insurance companies and other responsible parties to ensure our clients get the maximum compensation they deserve. Call us today to see the TonaLaw difference.

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