New York Motorcycle Accident Guide

On Behalf of | Nov 29, 2018 | Buffalo Law Blog, Motorcycle Accidents, New York Legal Guides

Motorcycle accidents cause some of the most serious life threatening injuries.  The New York Motorcycle Accident Guide was created by personal injury lawyer Daniel Chiacchia to help residents obtain maximum compensation.

Were you recently involved in a motorcycle accident? We know what you’re going through. Motorcycle accidents are often horrific and life-altering for victims. In the U.S., for example, nearly 80% of accidents result in injury or death. In New York, motorcycle accidents cause more than 150 deaths per year. Often, these accidents are of no fault of the motorcyclist.

In fact, around two-thirds of accidents are caused by other motorists failing to yield the right of way. If you’ve been injured in an accident, you and your family may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and suffering.

New York motorcycle accident lawyer can help. A qualified lawyer will protect you against undervalued settlements from insurance companies, ensure you receive the maximum compensation for your injuries, and manage the entire legal process, so that you can focus on getting better.

If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident in Western New York, we want to help. Call us today for a free case evaluation and to learn more about your rights.

Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents

Motorcycle accidents are common in New York, and often, they result in significant injuries for the motorcyclist. In fact, according to state statistics, motorcycle accidents result in nearly 4,500 emergency room visits each year and almost 150 deaths per year.

Unfortunately, this type of accident is rarely caused by the motorcyclist. The most common reasons for a motorist-caused accident include:


  • Unsafe lane changes, e.g. failing to check a blind spot or signal a lane change
  • Opening car doors into oncoming traffic
  • Reckless driving and excessive speed
  • Driving under the influence
  • Following too closely
  • Sudden stops
  • Driver inexperience

Ultimately, motorists who cause a motorcycle accident may face civil or criminal liability. When you hire a New York motorcycle accident lawyer, your attorney is responsible for determining fault and helping to protect your rights.

How an Experienced New York Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Can Help

A personal injury attorney helps you build a case and manage the legal process in a number of ways. Your attorney may help with:

  • Filing legal paperwork
  • Investigating the cause of your accident
  • Determining who is at fault
  • Contacting witnesses and law enforcement
  • Working with experts to recreate the accident
  • Filing claims on your behalf
  • Meeting with the negligent party’s lawyers
  • Negotiating with the negligent party’s insurance company

Unfortunately, victims are often harassed by insurance companies and lawyers of the negligent party. These companies often bully victims or offer undervalued settlements/compensation for your injuries.

Your lawyer is your advocate against aggressive behavior. You are not legally required to discuss your case with insurance companies or lawyers for the negligent party. Any correspond from these parties should be forwarded to your attorney.

Types of Compensation for Victims

Victims of motorcycle accidents face new financial and physical challenges. They may be suffering from horrific pain, disfigurement or emotional distress. Medical fees, lost wages, and vehicle repairs create new financial stresses.

Victims are entitled to compensation for any and all emotional, physical and financial costs associated with the accident. There are two types of compensation: Compensatory and punitive damages.

Compensatory damages. Compensatory damages cover any out-of-pocket and future costs related to the accident, and are provided to make a victim “whole” following an accident. Compensatory damages may help cover:

  • Medical bills and physical therapy costs
  • Lost wages, future loss of income
  • Property damage
  • Disability or disfigurement
  • Loss of normal life
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress

Punitive damages. Cases in which gross negligence or malice was a factor, victims may be entitled to punitive damages. This type of compensation acts as a financial punishment for the negligent party, and it is awarded by a jury if your case goes to trial. Your lawyer will help you determine if you are entitled to punitive damages.

What to Do If You’ve Been in a Motorcycle Accident

In the immediate aftermath of an accident, your health and safety are the most pressing concerns. Seek medical attention immediately. If you’re unable to contact first responders, witnesses or other motorists should contact authorities for you. A few other helpful tips include:

  • Move from Harm’s Way – If you’re able to, you should move to a safe place near the accident scene if you’re in the path of oncoming traffic.
  • Call 911 – Even in minor accidents, you should contact police. Do not walk away from an accident without talking with law enforcement, even if you do not notice physical pain or property damage.
  • Talking with Investigators – Police officers on the scene will collect statements from affected parties. Provide as much detail as you can remember regarding the steps that led up to the accident, but do not admit fault.
  • Collect Evidence – If you’re able to, take photos and videos from the scene using your cellphone. Additionally, collect names and phone numbers of any witnesses, note the weather and road conditions, and document any physical or property damage. Be sure to ask for the name and insurance information for other motorists involved in the accident.
  • Do Not Admit Fault – When talking with law enforcement, other motorists, witnesses at the scene, or insurance companies, do not admit fault. This is important. Any admission of fault can hurt your case.
  • Seek Legal Advice – Contact a motorcycle accident lawyer as soon as you’re able to. Your lawyer will file claims on your behalf, manage any negotiations, and serve as your advocate throughout the process.

Frequently Asked Questions | New York Motorcycle Accident Guide

Should I Hire a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer?

If you’re seriously injured in a motorcycle accident, hiring an attorney early on is very important. The problem with motorcycle accidents is that they are not like a regular motor vehicle automobile case because there usually is not no-fault coverage on a motorcycle to protect you from increased medical expenses. With no-fault, there are no deductibles and things such as that.

With motorcycle cases, if you don’t have private health insurance, you are going to have a difficult time getting your medical expenses paid for. You want to get an attorney involved right away because we want to make sure there’s proper coverage to make sure those expenses are paid, and we want to get our investigation done as soon as possible. Many times with motorcycle cases, the injuries are more severe than with a car because, of course, you lack protection from seat belts and a metal frame.

We want to make sure that we have all the witnesses’ information that saw the accident and can tell us exactly what they saw to make sure that the responsible party is held accountable. If you wait too long to get witness statements and find witnesses, number one, you may not find the witness, and number two, even if you have witnesses’ names and you wait six months to talk to them, their memory of what happened may be a lot worse than it would have been a couple days after the accident.

What Should I Know About Motorcycle Accidents?

If you are injured on a motorcycle, keep several things in mind. Number one is that the no-fault law in New York State does not apply. Most of the time, you’ll be on the hook for your own medical bills – unless you purchase specific coverage through your own insurance to cover your bike. We always encourage our clients who ride motorcycles – or who are frequent passengers on motorcycles – to make sure that they and their family members have adequate coverage in case of an accident. Needless to say, you should always wear a helmet, and get on a bike only with someone who’s safe, knows how to operate the bike, and follows the rules of the road. Keep those things in mind.

Are Motorcycle Accidents Different Than Car Accidents?

People have asked me about the differences between motorcycle cases and car accident cases, and one of the major differences is the fact that motorcyclists are not covered by no-fault insurance. We’ve talked about this before. When you’re in a car, certain insurance coverage protects you when it comes to paying for medical expenses, replacing lost wages, and covering incidental expenses to a certain extent. With motorcycles, however, there is none of that because no-fault protection doesn’t apply. If you don’t have good health insurance of your own, you could be in big trouble as far as your medical problems are concerned.

My experience has shown me that the injuries related to so many motorcycle claims can be very, very catastrophic. If you don’t have health insurance available to help you with these things, it could put us in a deep hole as far as your lawsuit is concerned because the coverage on the other side may be limited. If you get hurt because of someone’s negligence, they may have only $500,000 in coverage – and your injuries are likely to be worth far more than that. If that’s the case, you may have so much in medical expenses that weren’t covered by insurance that we could be in a difficult situation. I tell all people with motorcycles that they should make it their number one priority to have proper health insurance in place. You can buy extra medical coverage on your motorcycle policy; however, it’s somewhat expensive.

The biggest thing, when it comes to coverage on your motorcycle – as we’ve talked about before with regard to auto cases – is to carry supplemental coverage for your motorcycle. If you’re injured and the person who injured you has only minimal coverage – say $25,000 – as a motorcyclist, your supplemental insurance can be a lifesaver. I tell everybody to get up to half a million dollars in coverage, and have half a million dollars in supplemental coverage.

If you’re on a motorcycle, you need to have that coverage just in case you are hit by somebody who doesn’t have a sufficient amount. Once you get the $25,000 from that other driver, you go back to your own company for the difference. That’s $475,000 you can get from your own insurance company to compensate you for your injuries. It’s very important that motorcyclists carry proper health insurance and that they include the proper supplemental underinsurance coverage.

Can I Get Motorcycle Accident Compensation?

If you’re seriously injured in a motorcycle accident, there are certain types of compensation that you can receive. The two basic ones are your medical expenses and your lost wages. When I include medical expenses, I’m talking about expenses for rehabilitation, and expenses related to whether or not – if you’re seriously injured – you need somebody to take care of you. Do you need someone to take care of your home? Mow your lawn? Plow your driveway? Expenses like that can all be part of a lawsuit. We call that loss of services type damages, where you need people to help you do what you used to do before the accident.

The other part is the lost wage component. The lost wage component is not only your past wages, but going into the future. If you’re a construction guy and you have a broken leg that prevents you from carrying things, you might be out of luck and have to be retrained and seek different employment, or you may not be employable at all in the future. There could be a significant lost wage component into the future.

The other part of it, of course, is pain and suffering damages. Your pain and suffering damages may be the biggest part of your case, especially if you’re not able to do what you used to do socially, and if you’re not able to do the things that you used to love to do. Say you’re a very active athletic person and you can’t do those things anymore, you may have substantial pain and suffering damages. A lot of times, people that have these pain and suffering damages become depressed and their relationships with their family become strained. There’s a value to that, and you have to make sure that you’re fully compensated for all of those losses.

What if I’m Forced Off the Road on Motorcycle?

Many times, drivers of motorcycles are forced off the road by other vehicles – because maybe that other vehicle didn’t see them – and they’re injured. The question becomes, can you recover in that situation? If there was no contact between the vehicle and your motorcycle, and that vehicle takes off and leaves the scene and we never find out who it was, you may be out of luck because there are provisions in the New York State Law that says unless there’s contact between a vehicle and the motorcycle – and we don’t know the identity of that vehicle that may have ran you off the road – then you’re going to be in trouble.

It’s important to try to at least get some identification of that vehicle. If that does happen to you, maybe there’s some video in the area. Many people have their own home security systems that have video and show the road, and it might be the difference between finding a car and not finding a car. Many times, there isn’t contact with the motorcycle, but the motorcycle has to take evasive action and ends up in a ditch, seriously injured. We want to make sure that we can find that vehicle – especially if there’s no contact – to make sure that you’re compensated.

Can I File Because of Hazardous Roads?

Many times, motorcycle accidents happen because roads are poorly maintained. When that happens, you have to make sure that your investigation is done even quicker because usually you’re talking about a municipality being responsible for what happened in the roadway. A municipality has an obligation to maintain the roads so you have to make sure that you identify which municipality owns the road. It sounds simple, but it isn’t always simple sometimes. Sometimes you have municipalities caring for and having maintenance contracts on certain roads, and things of that nature, so we need to identify that.

We have to file what’s called a notice of claim with the municipality to make sure that they’re on notice of the claim, and then you might only have a year and 90 days from the date of the accident to file your lawsuit. We want to make sure those things are done in a timely fashion. The big thing, too, is we want to get an investigation done. If your injury was caused by a hole in the road, or your injury was caused by some construction activity that was going on in the road at the time, we want to make sure that we can identify who these construction companies were, that caused your accident.

We had a case like that recently where we got an investigation done right away and we were able to determine the exact construction company that put down the loose stone on the roadway, and we ended up getting a nice recovery for a client. It’s important to get those investigations done early so we can identify who is responsible for the defect in the roadway.

How Does a Motorcycle Accident Insurance Investigation Work?

After a motorcycle accident, many times you’ll see insurance companies for the vehicle that may have hit the motorcycle reach out to you. My hard advice is not to talk to them, especially until you’ve talked to a lawyer. You have to understand that the insurance company for the other vehicle does not have your best interest at heart. Insurance companies make money by not paying out claims, and not paying money to people that may have been injured, so whatever you say to them early on may be locked in and used against you for the rest of your case. Before you go talking to an insurance company, you should be talking to a lawyer first.

Many times, these insurance carriers want to offer what’s called a quick settlement – “Here, here’s a few thousand dollars.” – and some people are desperate because they don’t have medical insurance, they’re out of work because of their injuries, and they take a small settlement, and then they’ve extinguished their rights going forward with a claim. Our best advice is not to speak with the insurance carrier. If you do, you want to be there with a lawyer so the lawyer can kind of control the conversation and make sure that they’re not delving into areas they shouldn’t.

Can I File If I Was a Passenger?

Passengers of motorcycles have just as much rights as anybody else to recover for their injuries. In those situations, you may have two insurance policies to go after. Say it’s a motorcycle/car accident. If the car did something wrong, you may be able to find some coverage for your pain and suffering and other damages through that car insurance policy. You could also go after that insurance on that motorcycle if we can show that the motorcycle driver also did something wrong in causing the accident. As a passenger on a motorcycle, you might be in a better position than the rider as far as getting full compensation of your injuries, because there’s a couple different policies that we can go after.

As with the driver of a motorcycle, the passenger has the same kind of obligations that we would like to see as an attorney, and that’s getting somebody involved right away. Get an investigation going, find your witnesses, and get recorded statements. If we were representing a passenger on a motorcycle we’d want to get a recorded statement from that driver of that motorcycle immediately, and get recorded statements from the drivers of the cars and anybody else that may have saw things, so we can preserve your claim.

What If I Was Partially at Fault?

Under New York law, even if you’re partially at fault for causing an accident it doesn’t extinguish your right to recovery. There’s a thing called comparative fault, which means that more than one person can be responsible for an accident. Many times, jurors are left to determine how much a car was responsible for the accident and how much a motorcycle was responsible for the accident.

You may have done something in operating your motorcycle. Say that you were doing 52 miles an hour in a 45 mile an hour zone and a guy pulled out in front of you. Maybe you were doing something wrong because you were going a little fast, but still, this guy should have been aware of his surroundings and not pulled out in front of you. That may be a situation where you have two people held accountable. Just because you may have done something wrong doesn’t extinguish your rights, and you should still talk to a lawyer because we can help weed those situations out and make sure that you get a recovery.

Can My Insurance Help Me with Medical Expenses?

As the weather in Western New York breaks, we’re starting to see some good, warm weather. That presents the perfect opportunity for people in our communities to begin driving their motorcycles and enjoying that weather. Part of what that means, unfortunately, is that we will begin to see a lot more accidents involving motorcyclists.

As a motorcyclist, you need to know that, when you are injured in a motorcycle accident, you are not ordinarily covered by no-fault. That means you would have to pay for any medical costs incurred for injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident – either directly or by using your private health insurance – unless you purchase specific additional coverage to cover injuries that occur while you’re operating your motorcycle. If you are a motorcyclist who intends to enjoy the motorcycle season here in Western New York, you must make sure to consider talking with your insurance agent or contacting your insurance company about purchasing additional coverage that will pay your medical bills through your motorcycle insurance, as opposed to personal insurance, if you are involved in an accident.

Can I Still File if I Wasn’t Wearing a Helmet?

Clients sometimes ask whether they can still proceed with a motorcycle claim if they weren’t wearing their helmet. Although we always encourage our clients to wear helmets for their own protection and safety, it is still possible to bring a claim in situations where you’re injured on a motorcycle while you weren’t wearing your helmet.

Depending on the nature or extent of your injuries, and which body parts were injured, your damages may not be affected by whether or not you were wearing a helmet at the time. You shouldn’t limit yourself by deciding against bringing an action because you weren’t wearing a helmet. Instead, reach out to a lawyer, have them investigate, order your medical records, and get the facts of your case. Then, you can see whether failure to wear a helmet really makes a difference. Of course, we always encourage everyone to be safe on the roads and wear their helmets.

Request a Free Case Evaluation

If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident, we want to help. Our attorneys are experienced in motorcycle cases, and we can help you successfully protect your rights and earn maximum compensation for your injuries. We offer free, no-obligation case evaluations. Contact an experienced New York motorcycle accident lawyer today to learn more about your legal options.

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At Chiacchia & Fleming, LLP, our mission is to deliver the finest quality legal representation while providing clients with the personal attention they deserve.  Our experienced personal injury attorneys in Buffalo and the surrounding area have successfully handled every type of personal injury case from auto accidents, slip and falls, sex abuse, construction accidents, truck crashes, and dog bites.


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