Last Updated on January 2, 2024

How New York Laws Determine Fault in Motorcycle Accident Cases

Motorcycle accidents in New York often lead to complex legal issues, primarily due to the critical task of determining who is at fault. This determination is not just a matter of legal procedure; it has profound implications on the lives of those involved, influencing compensation, insurance claims, and personal accountability.

If you or a loved one was injured in a motorcycle accident in New York, contact our experienced motorcycle injury attorneys. For a free consultation, contact us at 833-PORTER9

Understanding New York Motorcycle Accident Laws

Motorcycle laws in New York have evolved significantly over the years, reflecting changes in traffic conditions, safety standards, and public policy. This development is rooted in the state's commitment to ensuring safer roads and providing justice in the event of accidents. 

Historical Milestone in Helmet Law

  • New York was the first state in the nation to adopt a universal motorcycle helmet law.
  • This groundbreaking law, effective as of January 1, 1967, mandates that any person operating or riding a motorcycle must wear a Department of Transportation (DOT)-approved helmet.
  • This legislation marked a significant step in enhancing safety for motorcyclists and has influenced motorcycle laws across the country.

Key Statutes and Regulations

Several key statutes and regulations specifically address motorcycle accidents in New York. These include laws pertaining to helmet and safety gear use, standards for motorcycle operation, and guidelines for determining fault in accidents. For instance, New York's Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL) Section 381 outlines the requirements for motorcycle equipment, which can be a factor in accident liability cases. 

Determining Fault in Motorcycle Accidents

In New York, determining fault in motorcycle accidents typically involves understanding and applying the concept of negligence”. A party is considered negligent if they fail to exercise the level of care that a reasonably prudent person would under similar circumstances. This could include violations of traffic laws, such as speeding or failing to yield, which are often essential in motorcycle accident cases. 

Comparative Negligence in New York

New York follows the rule of comparative negligence, which means that an injured party can recover damages even if they are partially at fault, although their recovery is reduced by their percentage of fault. This principle is crucial in motorcycle accident cases, where fault might not be entirely one-sided. 

If a motorcyclist is found to be 30% at fault in an accident, their compensation will be reduced by 30%. This system ensures a more balanced and fair approach to accident liability.

The Process of Determining Fault

  • The initial step involves on-site investigation by law enforcement and insurance investigators.
  • They assess the accident scene, inspect the vehicles, and evaluate road conditions.
  • The application of negligence law is central, focusing on which party failed to exercise reasonable care.

Role of Evidence

Evidence plays a crucial role in fault determination. This includes data from traffic cameras, which can capture the accident as it happens, providing unbiased insights into the events leading up to the crash. Eyewitness accounts are also valuable, offering perspectives that may not be evident from the physical evidence alone. 

Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents

  • Distracted Driving
  • Drunk Driving
  • Speeding
  • Weather-Related Conditions (Slippery roads due to rain, snow, or ice)
  • Poor Road Conditions
  • Lane Splitting
  • Inexperienced Riders
  • Vehicle Malfunctions
  • Improper Lane Changes
  • Left-Turn Accidents

Motorcyclist's Responsibilities 

  • Following speed limits, traffic signals, and lane usage rules is essential.
  • Motorcyclists must also comply with specific laws, such as those regarding lane splitting in New York.
  • Helmets, protective clothing, gloves, and eye protection can significantly reduce injury risk.
  • New York law mandates the use of DOT-approved helmets and eye protection.
  • Regular checks and maintenance of the motorcycle, including brakes, tires, and lights, are crucial for safety.
  • Motorcyclists should ride within their skill limits and avoid risky maneuvers.
  • Using reflective gear and ensuring the motorcycle's lights are functional enhances visibility to other drivers.
  • Anticipating potential hazards and being prepared for the actions of other drivers is key.

Third-Party Liability in Motorcycle Accidents

In motorcycle accidents, liability isn't always limited to the drivers involved. There are situations where mechanical failures or poor road conditions contribute to the accident, potentially implicating manufacturers or government entities. 

Mechanical failures, for instance, could lead to manufacturer liability under product liability laws, especially if a defect in the motorcycle played a role in the accident. Similarly, government entities might be held responsible for accidents resulting from negligent road maintenance. These cases often require thorough investigation and expert testimony to establish liability.

Insurance Considerations in Motorcycle Accidents

In New York, motorcyclists are required to maintain a specific level of insurance coverage, which is crucial for protection in the event of an accident. This mandatory insurance includes liability coverage for bodily injury and property damage. In some cases, it also encompasses uninsured motorist coverage, providing protection if the motorcyclist is involved in an accident with an uninsured driver.

Minimum Liability Coverage Requirements

  • Bodily injury: $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident.
  • Property damage: $10,000 minimum coverage.
  • Uninsured motorist coverage for bodily injury, aligned with minimum liability limits.

The type and extent of insurance coverage can significantly impact the compensation a motorcyclist can receive after an accident. Factors like policy limits, the extent of injuries, and fault determination play a role in the compensation process. Understanding these factors is crucial for motorcyclists to ensure they are adequately covered.

Importance of Legal Representation in Motorcycle Accident Cases

An attorney can provide valuable guidance through the complexities of New York's motorcycle accident laws. Legal representation is necessary in dealing with insurance companies, opposing counsel, and in court proceedings.

If you or a loved one are navigating the complexities of a motorcycle accident in New York, understanding how fault is determined can be challenging. The Porter Law Group specializes in these cases, working on a contingency basis with no upfront fees. We are committed to protecting your rights and ensuring you receive the compensation you deserve under New York's specific laws. 

For a free consultation, contact us at 833-PORTER9 or email Let us help you understand and navigate the legal process for the best possible outcome.

Written By
Eric C. Nordby
Personal Injury Attorney
Eric, with nearly three decades of experience in personal injury litigation, holds a law degree with honors from the University at Buffalo School of Law and a Bachelor's Degree from Cornell University. His extensive career encompasses diverse state and federal cases, resulting in substantial client recoveries, and he actively engages in legal associations while frequently lecturing on legal topics.
Legally Reviewed on December 10, 2023
Michael S. Porter
Personal Injury Attorney
Originally from Upstate New York, Mike built a distinguished legal career after graduating from Harvard University and earning his juris doctor degree from Syracuse University College of Law. He served as a Captain in the United States Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps, gaining expertise in trial work, and is now a respected trial attorney known for securing multiple million-dollar results for his clients while actively participating in legal organizations across Upstate NY.
This Article Was Professionally Reviewed
This page was Legally Reviewed by Michael S. Porter on December 10, 2023. Our experts verify everything you read to make sure it's up to date. For information on our content creation and review process read our editorial guidelines. If you notice an error or have any questions about our content please contact us.
PLG Personal Injury Logo

Get a Free Consultation

Contact us to schedule a free, no-obligation meeting to discuss your case and to gain some peace of mind from having all of your questions answered.
Our mission is simple: to defeat the powerful insurance companies that will stop at nothing to take advantage of our injured clients and their families.

If you or a family member has suffered a catastrophic injury or death due to someone’s negligence, you get only one shot to hire the best law firm for your family—the one with the experience and proven ability to get our clients the justice they deserve. Choose the Porter Law Group.
PLG Logo
Albany Office
69 State Street
13th Floor
Albany, NY 12207
Buffalo Office
50 Fountain Plaza
Suite 1400
Buffalo, NY 14202
NYC Office
1177 Avenue of the Americas, 5th floor
New York, NY 10036
Rochester Office
510 Clinton Square, Rochester, NY 14604
Syracuse Office
100 Madison Street,
15th Floor
Syracuse NY 13202
Avoid sharing confidential information via contact form, text, or voicemail as they are not secure. Please be aware that using any of these communication methods does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

The information contained on this site is proprietary and protected. Any unauthorized or illegal use, copying or dissemination will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. All content on this site is provided for informational purposes only. It is not, nor should it be taken as medical or legal advice. None of the content on this site is intended to substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Attorney Advertising.

Copyright © 2024, Porter Law Group. Personal Injury Lawyers
Made with 💛 by Gold Penguin
magnifiercross linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram