Lane splitting is a traffic violation in Manhattan. It can have severe consequences for motorcyclists, including devastating injuries and financial losses. If you suffered an injury while lane splitting and believe the other driver was negligent, you likely have questions about your right to compensation. Thankfully, most personal injury lawyers will allow you to call and ask all your questions at no charge. That is the first step in getting the help you need to get back on your feet physically, emotionally, and financially.
What is Lane Splitting?
The act of driving a motorcycle between two lanes is lane splitting, commonly occurring during stopped or slow-moving traffic. Motorcyclists have the advantage of bypassing other vehicles to get further ahead, and given the near-constant traffic in a congested area like Manhattan, it happens often. However, it is illegal and can result in a severe accident.
What Makes Lane Splitting Dangerous?
There is little research on how safe or dangerous lane splitting is, but there are a substantial number of risks associated with the practice in New York City. Large vehicles, such as commercial trucks, tractor-trailers, and even full-sized SUVs, present the most danger because motorcycles are almost invisible to them. Lane splitting or passing in moving traffic with bigger automobiles could be deadly for riders. Additionally, New York City drivers have a reputation for being aggressive on the road, making them highly unpredictable in frustrating situations like traffic.
Even on the highways, traffic in Manhattan is typically heavy and can move fast. Motorcyclists who do not know how to lane split can be even more dangerous to themselves and other drivers. They often do it in the wrong lanes and at speeds that make it impossible to stay as centered as they should. Additionally, streets in NYC are narrow, allowing very little space between parallel vehicles and making it even more hazardous. The risks are too high to attempt lane splitting, which is why New York and nearly every other state made it illegal.
Lane splitting also makes riders more vulnerable to other drivers violating traffic laws. For example, drivers can quickly lose patience in slow-moving traffic, and road rage is a serious issue. As a result, they may start changing lanes erratically or speeding unnecessarily. Drivers like that present an even greater danger to motorcyclists under normal conditions.
Do No-Fault Insurance Laws Affect Motorcyclists?
In New York, motorcyclists must license and register their vehicles and purchase no-fault auto insurance. However, the same no-fault insurance laws that apply to standard passenger vehicles do not apply to motorcyclists. No-fault insurance, also known as personal injury protection insurance, covers a driver’s medical bills, lost wages, and other out-of-pocket expenses following an auto accident. This form of insurance allows the policyholder to bypass the fault-based system and access coverage for damages even if they are entirely at fault.
However, motorcyclists do not need to carry PIP insurance in New York, so most do not. Given their vulnerability on the road, many companies will not offer PIP insurance to motorcyclists. If they do, the cost is generally much higher because of the risk, especially if there is a history of traffic violations. This means that motorcyclists rely on the fault-based system to recover compensation for their losses following an accident, and if the accident occurs while lane splitting, the motorcyclist is already at least partially at fault, reducing the damages they can receive.
Who Is at Fault for a Lane-Splitting Accident?
In any state where lane splitting is a violation, the rider would be at least partially responsible for any accident that occurs during the act. However, the other driver could share some responsibility if their actions also violated the duty of care owed to other drivers on the road. For example, if they chose to drive recklessly, weaving in and out of heavy, slow-moving traffic and endangering you and other drivers, that constitutes partial responsibility. When both parties are at fault, the comparative negligence rule applies.
Comparative Negligence Rule in Manhattan
When applied, comparative negligence allows the injured party to recover a portion of their losses equal to the other party’s percentage of fault. For example, you can still sue for damages if you were lane splitting in Manhattan and a car driving recklessly changed lanes without signaling and hit you while speeding. The court will determine what percentage of the fault belongs to both of you and accordingly distribute an award for damages. Additionally, because New York follows the pure comparative negligence rule, your percentage of fault will not disqualify you from receiving a portion of the total damages as long as you are not entirely at fault. This differs from states that follow the modified comparative negligence rule, where you cannot be more than 49% or 50% at fault to recover losses.
How Can a Motorcyclist Safely Split Lanes?
The reality is that making an action a traffic violation will not completely rid the road of that action. For a long time, lane splitting was a controversial topic. However, it was not yet illegal, and as it continued, motorcyclists learned ways to make it safer. Best practices from riders in states where lane splitting is legal include:
- Remaining on high alert, watching the vehicles around them
- Avoiding lane splitting or returning to their lane when traffic speeds reach up to 30 miles per hour
- Wearing reflective clothing and using headlights
- Honking when cars get too close
- Avoiding lane splitting when the distance between vehicles is exceedingly narrow
- Never riding in a vehicle’s blind spot
- Looking for signs that vehicle will change lanes
While these practices can make lane splitting less hazardous, riders in Manhattan still risk a traffic violation, even without an accident. Therefore, the only way to guarantee you will not suffer an injury or face any legal trouble for lane splitting is to avoid it altogether. However, suppose you have an accident and believe the other vehicle involved is at least partially responsible for your injuries and damages. In that case, a motorcycle accident lawyer in NYC can help you.
Can a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Help You Build a Case?
If you recently suffered injuries in a motorcycle accident while splitting lanes in Manhattan, you may be able to recover at least some of your losses using the civil court system. Even though lane splitting is illegal in Manhattan, that does not immediately absolve the other driver if you suffer injuries in an accident. These cases can quickly become complex, but a motorcycle accident lawyer can help you navigate the legal system and determine what you need to create a case. At Cellino Law, we represent victims of all auto accident cases and understand the nuances of laws that govern tort cases in Manhattan. You may have a stronger claim than you realize, and the only way to find out is to speak with an experienced attorney at our firm. We are prepared to answer all your questions and at least provide you with peace of mind and a better understanding of what you should do next. Contact Cellino Law at (800) 555-5555 today to schedule your free case evaluation and speak with a legal expert about the details of your case.