New York has a no-fault law for car accidents which requires that insurance carriers pay for medical expenses, lost wages, and other expenses related to car accidents regardless of who was at fault for the accident. New York State requires minimum no-fault insurance coverage of $50,000 for all automobiles. Typically, this coverage is paid by the insurance carrier for the vehicle you are driving or in which you are a passenger. Since you are not required to prove who is at fault for the accident, the coverage usually pays for associated expenses quite promptly and without the need to file a claim against the at-fault driver so long as you submit supporting documentation. This coverage also applies to a pedestrian hit by an automobile.
Sadly, the no-fault law does not apply to motorcyclists and their passengers, who are often left responsible to pay for medical treatment, lost wages, and other expenses associated with an accident themselves. Because these benefits are not available to motorcyclists, it is very important that riders carry private insurance to protect them in the event of a crash. While a motorcyclist can file a lawsuit to seek compensation for the injuries and costs caused by someone else’s negligence, this takes time and will not help with your immediate expenses. In addition, the burden of medical bills, prescriptions, food, and rent can be overwhelming when you are injured and out of work.
Every motorcyclist should consider the following to protect themselves in the event of an accident:
- Determine how you will pay for medical care if you sustain a motorcycle accident injury. Because no- fault benefits will not be available, you should consider purchasing extra medical coverage for your motorcycle policy, especially if you lack adequate health insurance. Even if you have health insurance, additional coverage may still be a good option if you have a high deductible health care plan or a plan with significant co-pays. In the alternative, an emergency savings fund can serve the same purpose.
- Consider the possibility that you may be unable to work for some time if injured on a motorcycle. Most people don’t have enough savings to support themselves for an extended period without an income. Because no-fault benefits will not be available, you should consider purchasing a short and long- term disability insurance policy. Many people believe they have adequate disability insurance through their employers. However, mandatory New York State disability insurance may only pay a small fraction of your lost wages. The time to inquire is before you are injured.
- Even if you bring a claim against another driver, that driver may not have sufficient insurance or assets to compensate you for your loss. Consequently, you should consider Supplemental Uninsured/Under-insured Motorist (SUM) coverage, if available. This type of coverage can pay you if a negligent third person does not have insurance or has inadequate insurance limits to compensate you for your loss.
- Motorcyclists often believe they have purchased no-fault insurance because their insurance policy face sheet shows that the coverage includes no-fault benefits. This occurs when a motorcyclist also has an automobile, and they are on the same insurance policy. The no-fault coverage applies to the automobile, not the motorcycle.
Special Laws Applicable to Motorcycles in New York
- Motorcycle drivers must carry a Class M or Class MJ (junior operator) license; this requires passing both a written and road test.
- All motorcycles must be properly registered with the State of New York on an annual basis. Unlike automobile registrations that have a rolling renewal date, all motorcycle registrations expire on April 30th each year. New York DMV | How to renew a registration (ny.gov)
- Everyone operating a motorcycle in New York must wear a U.S. DOT-approved motorcycle helmet with appropriate eye protection.
- All motorcycles must be inspected every 12 months.
- Every motorcycle is required to carry liability insurance. The minimum requirements are $25,000 for bodily injury per person per accident, $50,000 for total bodily injury per accident, and $10,000 per accident for property damage. Don’t be confused: this covers injuries to others, not the motorcyclist.
Common Injuries Sustained by Motorcyclists
The lack of restraints, airbags and a protective cabin leaves motorcyclists and their passengers particularly vulnerable to serious injury in a crash. They are often forced onto their sides during a collision causing trauma to the lower extremities from the ground or the bike itself. In addition, they are often ejected from the vehicle suffering severe injuries upon impact.
- Fractures to arms, hands, legs, pelvis, chest, ribs, spine, and facial bones are common.
- Pelvic injuries are common because of the forces involved in the crash. Therefore, motorcyclists often sustain hip or pelvic bone fractures and fractures or dislocations of the bones of the upper leg or femur.
- Soft tissue damage to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the hips, legs, back, or neck.
- Internal organ damage can occur, particularly with fractures to the sternum, ribs, or pelvis, which all act to protect the internal organs. Injuries to the spleen, bladder, kidneys, intestines, or genitals can have life-altering effects.
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or concussions can occur despite helmet usage and can result in devastating long-term effects. TBI can occur when the head strikes another object, or the brain impacts the inside of the skull during rapid deceleration. These injuries can result in memory loss, cognitive impairment, attention issues, tinnitus, headaches, dizziness, and sensitivity to light and noise.
Advocating for Injured Motorcyclists
If you have been injured on a motorcycle it is important to seek immediate medical attention. In the stress and confusion of the crash, you may not initially believe that you are injured. You may have serious or even life-threatening injuries that you do not immediately realize. It is important to be thoroughly evaluated by a medical professional so they can treat any immediate trauma and establish a long-term recovery plan.
After you have sought treatment, you should contact an attorney experienced in motorcycle injury cases. An experienced attorney knows the steps that need to be taken right away to protect your claim and to help you get the best recovery. The attorneys at Lacy Katzen LLP have been helping injured motorcyclists and their passengers for over 70 years. Please contact us for a free consultation.
Written by Jacqueline M. Thomas, Esq.