Emergency responders are gathered around an accident between a red motorcycle and a car.

New York motorcycle accidents often involve multiple parties. New Yorkers aren’t quick to take the blame. After an accident, you’ll often find each party pointing the finger at someone else. This article answers the question, how does the law determine who is at fault in a motorcycle accident in New York?

Determining fault in a motorcycle accident can be complex. It involves knowledge of specific legal standards and an understanding of New York’s no-fault insurance system. The experienced motorcycle accident attorneys at TonaLaw can explain the factors involved in determining who is at fault in a motorcycle accident in New York. We also answer questions such as, “Is New York a no-fault state for motorcycles?” If you have questions about liability in a specific case, contact our office today for more information.

Are You At Fault in Your Motorcycle Accident? 

Determining Liability

Perhaps you aren’t sure who is at fault in a motorcycle accident. Motorcycle accident liability in New York is typically viewed through the legal standard of negligence. This means that courts and insurance companies will examine several legal factors to decide who is at fault in a motorcycle accident or how much liability responsible parties bear.

The Negligence Standard for Finding Fault

Who is at fault in a motorcycle accident is typically determined through the legal standard of negligence, just like other motor vehicle accident claims. To prove negligence in New York, you must show the following:

  • Duty: The responsible party, such as the driver or rider, owes others on the road a duty to follow traffic laws and operate their vehicle in a reasonably safe manner.
  • Breach of Duty: The responsible party breached their duty by speeding, driving under the influence, or otherwise driving carelessly. This is not an extensive list of all the possible breaches of the duty to drive in a reasonably safe manner.
  • Causation: The party’s breach of duty caused the accident or injuries.
  • Damages: The accident caused you or others harm.

In a case where a driver veers from their lane because the driver was texting while driving and hits a motorcyclist under the negligence standard, it would be relatively straightforward to show that the driver was at fault for the accident.

Sometimes more than one party is negligent and all negligent parties contributed to an accident. For example, if in the above example where a driver was texting and driving, a drunk driver was in front of them and the drunk driver stopped short it’s possible that both drivers contributed to the accident and are both partially liable for the motorcyclist’s injuries.    

But what happens if the victim plays a role in the accident? Then, New York’s comparative fault rules must be considered, which we describe below.

What Happens If the Injured Motorcyclist Is Partly Responsible?

Who is at fault in a motorcycle accident when the victim is partly responsible? 

New York state uses the principle of contributory negligence in cases such as this. For example, if an intoxicated driver veers into the motorcyclist’s lane, but the motorcyclist is speeding. The motorcyclist and the drunk driver may both be responsible for the motorcyclist’s injuries.

Under New York’s contributory negligence law, the motorcyclist can still recover compensation from the intoxicated driver, even if the motorcyclist was partly to blame for the accident or injuries. Under contributory negligence, each party is assigned a percentage of fault. If the victim is assigned a percentage of fault, their compensation will be reduced by that percentage. For example, if a motorcyclist’s damages are $100,000, but they were 50% responsiblethey would only be able to obtain $50,000. New York, unlike some other states, allows you to recover damages from another responsible party as long as you aren’t 100% at fault for the accident. This means in New York, you could have been 90% responsible, but you can still recover some compensation for your injuries.   

Does Insurance Play a Role in Motorcycle Accident Fault?

Perhaps you’ve heard of no-fault insurance in car accidents. You may wonder, is New York a no-fault state regarding motorcycle accidents? We described New York’s no-fault system and its applicability to motorcycle accidents below.

No-Fault Insurance

If you wonder, “is New York a no-fault state,” you must first understand the difference between an at-fault and a no-fault state. In an at-fault state, the driver deemed responsible for an accident must pay the injured parties’ damages.

In a no-fault insurance system, however, each driver must file a claim with their own insurance company for any injuries they sustain in an accident, regardless of who is at fault. Drivers purchase “personal injury protection” along with their car insurance. The idea behind no-fault insurance is that it allows people to get medical coverage and other compensation for their injuries more quickly because no one has to wait for an insurance company to determine fault first and go through the extended and slow moving litigation process for necessary medical treatment to be paid. The ability to bring a lawsuit in a no-fault state is relatively limited.

Is New York a no-fault state? Generally, for passenger vehicles, the answer is yes. Passenger vehicle drivers must have auto insurance that covers at least $50,000 in personal injury protection. If they’re in an accident, the driver and the other passengers in the vehicle must file a claim with the driver’s insurance company if they’re injured in an accident.

The Exception to No-Fault: Motorcycles

However, is New York a no-fault state when it comes to motorcycles? Motorcycles are the exception to New York’s no-fault insurance rules. If you are a motorcyclist injured in an accident, New York’s no-fault rules do not apply. The basic insurance requirements for motorcycles do not cover any costs that a motorcyclist sustains due to an accident, even if someone else was at fault. Motorcyclists generally must purchase supplemental insurance for this type of protection.

If a motorcyclist is injured in an accident, they must pursue the at-fault party or their insurance company for compensation. Depending on the at-fault party’s insurance coverage and the insurance company’s willingness to pay, a motorcyclist may have to bring a personal injury lawsuit to recover damages and avoid paying medical bills through their private medical insurance.

Do I Need a Lawyer in a New York Motorcycle Accident Claim? Call TonaLaw Today

Due to the limitations of no-fault insurance, if you’re a motorcyclist who was injured in an accident, you need an attorney to help you file and fight your claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Insurance companies will try anything to minimize their liability, even if their insured caused the accident. You need a strong lawyer who is willing to push back against an insurance company’s lowball offers. Plus, you may need to file a lawsuit if the insurance company or responsible party doesn’t cover the costs of your injuries. You should not have to navigate the judicial process while recovering from your injuries.

Fortunately, the motorcycle accident lawyers at TonaLaw are here to help. We’ll aggressively fight for you and explore all legal strategies to help you get fair compensation. Contact us today.

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