In light of bike safety month, let's talk about what happens if you get hit by a car while riding your bike. In New York, the No Fault Law protects individuals injured in motor vehicle accidents – whether they are cyclists, pedestrians or other drivers or passengers. If you are injured in an accident with a motor vehicle, you make a claim for No Fault benefits – typically to the insurance company for the owner of the vehicle that hit you. No Fault insurance will compensate you for medical expenses related to your injury as well as lost wages up to $50,000.00.
Can I sue for my injuries?
In New York, you can sue a negligent driver for injuries arising out of a motor vehicle accident if you have sustained a “serious injury” within the meaning of the Insurance Law. Not every injury is “serious” within the meaning of the law.
Insurance Law Section 5102 defines a serious injury as follows: “[A] personal injury which results in death; dismemberment; significant disfigurement; a fracture; loss of a fetus; permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function or system; permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ or member; significant limitation of use of a body function or system; or a medically determined injury or impairment of a non-permanent nature which prevents the injured person from performing substantially all of the material acts which constitute such person's usual and customary daily activities for not less than ninety days during the one hundred eighty days immediately following the occurrence of the injury or impairment.”
A plaintiff has the burden of demonstrating that he or she suffered a serious injury. If a plaintiff does not have a serious injury, the case can be dismissed prior to trial upon the defendant's request.
What if I did something wrong?
If you are injured in an accident with a car, but you are also at fault (maybe you were not riding your bike in the correct direction of traffic or didn't stop at a stop sign), you can still sue. In New York, your own negligence can be but is not always a bar to recovery. A jury is allowed to apportion fault between you and the defendant so that you can still recover something from a driver who also was negligent. This is called “comparative negligence”. Of course, a jury can elect to deny you recovery completely.
What kind of damages can I recover in a lawsuit?
Injured persons can recover their lost wages (into the future, if appropriate), other economic damages including medical expenses, damages for “pain and suffering” and, in some egregious situations, punitive damages. Attorneys' fees are not available in negligence cases.
If you have been injured in a bike accident, give us a call. We are happy to see if we can help.