New York's Comparative Negligence and Its Role on Motorcycle Accidents

new york's comparative negligence - bike crash

A motorcycle collision involving a careless motorist can be life-altering, leaving you struggling physically, emotionally, and financially. Recovering the compensation you deserve can be challenging, especially if you don’t understand how New York’s comparative negligence rules may impact your case.

According to a recent Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee report, the number of motorcycle crashes in New York is rapidly increasing. The knowledgeable motorcycle accident team at Finz & Finz, P.C. wants to help you understand New York’s unique legal framework and how it may impact your case as you pursue maximum compensation for your financial losses.

New York’s No-Fault System and What It Means for Motorcycle Riders

Generally, the United States has two different insurance systems: a traditional fault-based system and a no-fault system. Only a handful of states subscribe to the no-fault car insurance system. New York is one of them. Under a no-fault car insurance structure, drivers file a compensation claim with their own personal injury protection (PIP) policy when injured in a car accident. This insurance covers a motorist’s reasonable and necessary medical expenses and a portion of their lost wages in the event of an accident, regardless of who was at fault.

New York’s no-fault car insurance system does not extend to motorcycle operators or their passengers. PIP coverage is not available on motorcycle policies in New York. If a motorcycle operator gets hurt in a crash, they must prove that the other driver caused the collision and file an insurance claim with the at-fault driver’s insurer or file a personal injury lawsuit to obtain compensation.

What Is Comparative Negligence?

Comparative negligence is a legal concept that helps determine how to allocate compensation in personal injury lawsuits. In a car accident lawsuit, comparative negligence means a judge or jury must assign blame to everyone involved in the collision. The percentage of responsibility each party bears for causing the accident determines what percentage of their compensable losses they can be compensated for.

There are two forms of comparative negligence: pure comparative negligence and modified comparative negligence. Most states enforce one or the other.

New York’s Pure Comparative Negligence Rule

New York is one of the few states that follows a pure comparative negligence rule. Since 1975, New York has subscribed to the pure comparative negligence model to allocate compensation to injured parties involved in personal injury lawsuits. Under the pure comparative negligence system, the court evaluates the total dollar amount of the plaintiff’s losses and the percentage of fault each party bears for causing the crash. For example, if you are 15 percent to blame for causing a motorcycle accident, your compensation decreases by 15 percent.

Under the pure comparative fault rule, even if you are significantly to blame for the circumstances of an accident, you are still entitled to collect compensation for your injuries. If you are 90 percent responsible, your compensation is reduced by 90 percent, but you can still collect ten percent of your compensable losses in damages from the other party. Although you can recover compensation while being mostly at fault, you may still be on the hook for most of the other party’s damages.

How Does Pure Comparative Negligence Impact Motorcycle Accident Cases?

New York motorcycle operators are exempt from the state’s no-fault car insurance system. As an injured rider, your avenues for pursuing compensation are filing a claim against the at-fault motorist’s insurance company or pursuing a personal injury lawsuit. Filing a personal injury lawsuit means your compensation rests on whether you can prove with evidence that the other driver was at fault for causing the accident.

Unfortunately, motorcyclists may still experience an unfair bias against them. For years, popular media has portrayed motorcyclists as renegades and rebels, thrill-seekers who ride recklessly through the streets. This unfair stereotype can impact your case and affect the compensation you may recover. Remember, under pure comparative negligence, a jury evaluates each driver’s share of responsibility. If a rider is painted as reckless, dangerous, or rebellious, it is feasible that a jury could assign a more significant portion of blame to the motorcyclist, intentionally or unintentionally.

Although pure comparative negligence only binds court cases, insurance adjusters also use this system to establish the value of insurance claims. Most adjusters consider how a jury would rule if a claim ever went to court. This information impacts the value an adjuster may assign to an accident claim.

How an Attorney at Finz & Finz, P.C. Can Help

Fighting against unfair stereotypes to get the money you deserve can feel overwhelming. That’s why motorcyclists injured by careless drivers must immediately call an experienced attorney for help. In addition to having an undeserved colorful reputation, motorcyclists may have difficulty pursuing the money they need because motorcycle accident claims tend to be much more complex than an average car accident claim. Taken altogether, the exemption of no-fault insurance, pure comparative negligence, plus more significant medical expenses and injuries than average accidents, these factors combine to complicate motorcycle accident cases.

Other New York laws, like the helmet law, may also play a role in your claim. An attorney knows how New York’s unique legal landscape may impact your claim and can build a compelling case in your favor giving you the best opportunity for recovering maximum compensation.

Having an experienced New York motorcycle accident attorney can make all the difference. Riders working with a knowledgeable attorney tend to recover more compensation than those riders who file a claim and negotiate independently. An attorney can be instrumental in helping you understand and protect your rights. Overall, a lawyer can thoroughly investigate the cause of the crash, outline your legal options for recovering maximum compensation, gather vital evidence before it is lost or destroyed, and aggressively negotiate on your behalf for the money you deserve.

Contact an Experienced New York Motorcycle Accident Attorney

 Where do you stand as far as getting the money you need to recover from a devastating motorcycle accident? Discuss your legal options with a skilled New York motorcycle accident attorney today. At Finz & Finz, P.C., we want to help you protect your rights.

Contact our New York office at 855-TOP-FIRM to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation.


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Finz & Finz, P.C. is a New York and Long Island personal injury law firm based out of Mineola, NY. It was founded in 1984 and is highly rated, with many honors and awards of excellence.