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Cause of Most Motorcycle Wrecks

Rider visibility, or rather the lack of visibility, is the underlying cause of most motorcycle wrecks in New York. Most riders who have gone down probably heard the tortfeasor (at-fault driver) say something like “I never saw you coming” or “You appeared out of nowhere.” Usually, drivers say these things to try and shift blame for the accident onto the victim. However, such statements usually have the opposite effect in an injury claim. These tortfeasors basically admit they didn’t maintain a proper lookout. That’s usually a breach of the duty of care.

The diligent New York motorcycle accident lawyers at the Pianko Law Group understand that admissions at the scene of the accident, by themselves, do not make a successful negligence case, although they do give a lawyer a head start. So, we quickly begin collecting evidence that supports your damages claims and refutes any possible insurance company defenses. Then, we put everything together when we go to court to uphold your legal and financial rights.


This acronym stands for “Sorry, Mate, I Didn’t See You.” It captures the factual essence of a left-turn wreck, which is one of the most common kinds of motorcycle accidents. Additionally, “SMIDSY” captures the cavalier attitude that many drivers have in these situations.

Here’s how these wrecks usually happen. When tortfeasors wait at lights to make unprotected left turns, they wait until they think they see a gap in traffic, then quickly accelerate so they can shoot through the perceived gap.

Because of the aforementioned lack of visibility, many drivers do not see oncoming motorcycle riders until they pull directly into their paths. These wrecks are especially common in places like New York City, where traffic is congested and many people drive large vehicles, such as SUVs, which are difficult for drivers to see around. Largely because of the vehicle’s sudden acceleration, these wrecks normally cause serious injuries.

Head Injuries

Motorcycle helmets do nothing to protect against motion-related head injuries. When riders fall off their bikes and land hard, their brains slam against the insides of their skulls. This violent motion usually causes permanent injuries.

Biker's Arm

Additionally, when riders fall off their bikes, they naturally extend their arms to break their falls. This reaction usually severs nerves in the brachial plexus nerve bundle, which is under the arms. Normally, this nerve damage is permanent.

Blood Loss

The aforementioned motion also causes internal organs to smash against each other as riders fall. Since these organs have no skin layer to shield them, they usually bleed profusely, even if the friction is rather mild. Many victims lose up to a fifth of their blood in these situations.
To improve their visibility, some riders wear bright-colored clothes or weave slightly inside their traffic lanes. But there is no hard evidence that these shortcuts work. Furthermore, these things might simply antagonize vehicle operators who already dislike motorcycle riders. More on that below.

Establishing Liability

Failure to yield violates New York’s traffic laws. So does speeding, making an illegal turn, and other traffic violations which often cause motorcycle wrecks. If police officers issue citations, the negligence per see rule could apply. Tortfeasors are liable for damages as a matter of law if they violate safety laws and those violations substantially cause injury.

However, many first responders don’t issue citations in these situations, even if the impact killed the motorcycle rider. Many responders believe that citations unfairly blame one person for the wreck. That may or may not be true. But it’s certainly true that the negligence actions our New York motorcycle accident lawyers file do not blame anyone for anything. Instead, a legal claim is simply about obtaining fair compensation for serious injuries.

On a related note, if the at-fault driver had insurance, the insurance company is financially responsible for both hiring a lawyer and paying damages.
If no one issued a citation, the ordinary negligence doctrine is usually available. Basically, negligence is a lack of care. Noncommercial motorists usually have a duty of reasonable care, and commercial motorists usually have a duty of utmost care. In either situation, failure to yield the right-of-way clearly violates this duty. So does driver impairment, such as driving while intoxicated, drowsy, or distracted.

Common Insurance Company Defenses

There are several formal defenses available in motorcycle crash claims. There are also some informal defenses which are not found in any law book.

Comparative fault is the most common formal defense. This legal doctrine shifts blame for an accident from the tortfeasor to the victim. For example, an insurance company lawyer might admit that the tortfeasor failed to yield the right-of-way, but blame the wreck on the rider’s excessive speed.

The motorcycle prejudice is the most common informal defense. Many jurors believe that motorcycle riders are thugs who operate recklessly and are therefore responsible for their own injuries.

Evidence is usually the key to refusing both these defenses. For example, speeding is a matter of degrees. There’s a big difference between traveling 5mph over the limit and 15mph over the limit.

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