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Legal Ramifications of Cool Weather Motorcycle Accidents

There is an assumption that motorcycle riders disappear in the Fall and Winter months. It is true that when the weather begins to cool down, fewer motorcycle accidents normally occur in the northeastern United States. Unlike states such as California or Florida, cooler weather in the Northeast tends to mean fewer motorcyclists are on the road, according to statistics gathered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

A majority of accidents occur from April to September each year. However, even though we can expect a drop-off in these accidents in the colder months, they do not disappear. In fact, changing road conditions, related to weather, may actually increase these accidents and may become relevant in any subsequent legal case stemming from the accident.

Recent Examples in New York

For example, a recent article in the New York Post reported on a fatal motorcycle accident in Brooklyn in which a young couple plummeted off the Gowanus Expressway onto the street, which was located 36 feet below them. This is not the only serious motorcycle accident to happen in New York this fall. Indeed, a number of collisions have occurred upstate. The Albany police have been investigating the motorcycle-related death of a 32-year-old rider that occurred at the end of September, while the Syracuse Post-Standard published a recent report about the life-threatening injuries sustained by a child passenger when a motorcycle collided with an automobile.

Cold Weather and Motorcycle Accident Lawsuits

Various legal issues may arise in the aftermath of a motorcycle accident that results in property damage and personal injury. Negligence of some kind is usually at the root. In the most basic sense, any motorcyclist (or passenger) can seek compensation for their losses from any and all parties whose negligence may have factored into the accident.

This means that drivers who fail foresee or account for potential cold weather related driving impairments and cause a motorcycle accident may be required to pay for the consequences of their actions. The U.S. Department of Transportation notes that roughly 23% of auto accidents are weather related. Of that group about 17% are connected to snow and sleet, 14% are related to slush, and 12% are attributable to icy pavement.

As a legal matter, drivers are required to account for these risks in a reasonable fashion. It is usually not sufficient for travelers to simply blame “unpredictable” weather for the accident. Instead, travelers must adjust their conduct.

Actions that may be deemed negligent if they cause a motorcycle accident include:

  • Driving too fast for the snowy or icy conditions;
  • Following too closely when there is a risk of ice or black ice;
  • Failing to keep a car in proper winter maintenance condition;
  • Using cruise control on icy roads (making it harder to stop quickly);
  • Failing to keep windshields and mirrors clear of snow and ice; and
  • Failing to drive with lights on in dark or foggy conditions.

Unique Legal Rules Apply to Motorcycle Accidents

While motorcycle accidents are treated similarly to all other auto accidents, New York law makes some distinctions that make it important for those affected to seek the help of a legal professional. For example, under New York law, motorcycles are not deemed “motor vehicles” within the meaning of the state’s “No Fault” law. This means that those hurt may not be entitled to the relevant benefits that apply under the law; specifically – medical and lost wage benefits. Yet, because motorcyclist are not bound by the NY no fault law they may be able to bring a lawsuit for minor injuries that would not meet NY’s “serious injury” threshold. Therefore, it is particularly important for other avenues to be pursued and you should contact a motorcycle accident attorney to understand your rights.

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