Under the NYS Insurance Law, motorcycle operators and their passengers are not able to obtain no-fault insurance coverage which pays for medical bills, lost income and other expenses. However, there is a potential benefit to a motorcyclist who is hurt in a motorcycle accident and seeks to file a lawsuit for “pain and suffering”.
§ 5104(a) of the New York Insurance Law provides that when no-fault insurance is available, such as for an operator or passenger of a car, the injured person will not have a right to recover money for personal injuries unless that person has a serious injury.
§ 5102(d) of the New York Insurance Law defines what a “serious injury” is. Unfortunately, just in the last few years, New York courts have interpreted the law in a way to make it very difficult to prove an injury is serious and the courts have dismissed many cases with injuries you would think are serious.
Even some injuries that a rational person or doctor would consider to be serious, such as a serious back injury; torn rotator cuff (shoulder); torn meniscus (knee) or any other torn ligament, have been ruled by the courts to not be serious enough under the no-fault law and those cases were dismissed.
The benefit to motorcycle riders and passengers is that since they are excluded from obtaining no-fault benefits, when hurt in an accident, a motorcycle occupant does not have to prove that an injury is serious. Thus, a lawsuit on behalf of a motorcyclist cannot be dismissed because the injury is not serious enough. As long as someone else was negligent in causing the accident, the motorcycle occupant will be able to recover money for pain and suffering even for a scratch.