Photo of motorcycle accidentMotorcycle Crashes and Cars Making Left Hand Turns

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that almost 90,000 motorcyclists are injured in crashes every year. Almost 40% of those injuries occur when a motorcyclist collides with a car that is turning left. Those collisions happen when:

  • The car turns left in front of a motorcycle in an intersection
  • A motorcyclist is in a car’s blind spot and the car turns left into the motorcyclist’s lane
  • A motorcyclist is passing a car and that car suddenly turns left

The Rockland County and Bergen County motorcycle accident lawyers at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman (KGG) are devoted to protecting motorcyclists that have suffered injuries in left turn accidents with cars. More than 500,000 motorcycles are registered in New York and New Jersey, and that density alone makes motorcycle accidents inevitable. KGG’s attorneys understand and appreciate the extra risks that are imposed upon motorcyclists by drivers that make unsafe left turns. They work tirelessly to collect the largest damage awards for bikers that are injured by the negligence of those motorists.

How Left Turn Accidents Happen

Motorists that make dangerous left turns almost universally claim that they did not see the motorcycle before they turned into it. Motorcycles are not invisible, but motorists are not trained to watch for them. Distractions such as cell phones, adverse weather, other cars, and music further reduce a driver’s potential awareness of motorcycles.

In left turn accidents in which a driver turns in front of an oncoming motorcycle in an intersection, a driver’s poor depth perception or inability to judge the speed of an oncoming motorcycle will exacerbate the motorcyclist’s accident risk. The single headlamp on a motorcycle can confuse a driver and prevent him or her from accurately assessing the speed of the oncoming bike.

Allocating Fault in a Left Turn Motorcycle Collision Liability Case

Motorists and their insurance companies will go to great lengths to shift the blame for a left turn accident onto the motorcyclist with, for example, arguments that the cyclist was riding too fast or did not wear bright clothing that the driver could see. New York and New Jersey treat the motorcyclist’s contribution to an accident differently.

New York State – Pure Comparative Fault.  A motorcyclist’s damages award will be reduced in New York State in proportion to his or her relative contribution to the left turn accident. Even if the motorcyclist’s actions were the predominant cause of a left turn accident, he or she can recover a proportionate damages award that corresponds to the driver’s relative fault.

New Jersey – Modified Comparative Fault. If a motorcyclist is deemed to be more at fault than a driver for causing a left turn accident in New Jersey, the State’s modified comparative fault rules will preclude the motorcyclist from recovering any damages.

Regardless of whether a left turn motorcycle collision happens in New York or New Jersey, establishing relative fault is a critical component in a motorcyclist’s ability to recover damages. The evidence and police report that document the accident and the skills and ability of the attorney that represents the motorcyclist will have a direct impact on how fault is allocated.  

What a Motorcyclist Should Do After a Left Turn Car Accident

In addition to exchanging contact and insurance information with the driver that made a dangerous left hand turn, a motorcyclist can best preserve his or her opportunity to recover damages for property loss and injuries by following a solid protocol after any accident:

  • Do not discuss or admit fault with the driver or any witnesses.
  • File a police report immediately or at least within 24 hours after the accident.
  • Get the names and addresses of any witnesses that might have observed the collision.
  • Make notes of weather and traffic conditions.
  • Take photographs of all vehicles involved in the accident.
  • Have a medical examination to evaluate injuries, and adhere to any treatment plans prescribed by physicians;
  • Contact a motorcycle accident attorney as soon as possible after the accident.

How Motorcycles Can Avoid Left Turn Collisions

A motorist might attempt to mitigate responsibility for a left turn accident by arguing that he or she looked but failed to see the motorcycle due to weather or traffic conditions. A motorcyclist can counter this visibility problem with an “anti-SMIDSY” maneuver (SMIDSY is an acronym for “sorry mate, I didn’t see you”.) When a motorcyclist sees an oncoming car that appears to be preparing to turn left, the motorcyclist should slightly wobble the front of the bike. That wobble gives the driver more perspective to judge the motorcycle’s speed and distance and to determine if the left turn in front of the motorcycle can be safely made.

Studies show that a rider has less than two seconds to react when a collision becomes apparent. Taking steps to prevent accidents will always be the better strategy. Apart from practicing the anti-SMIDSY maneuver, motorcyclists can adopt other practices to avoid collisions and reduce injuries:

  • Adhere to all speed limits and other traffic laws.
  • Wear bright clothing.
  • Know and respect the power and operational limits of the motorcycle.
  • Maintain an adequate distance from other traffic.
  • Avoiding riding when weather or visibility conditions are poor.
  • Take frequent breaks to reduce fatigue while riding long distances.
  • Wear a helmet that meets or exceeds federal safety standards, and replace that helmet if it is damaged or more than four years old.

KGG Motorcycle Accident Attorneys Are a Rider’s Best Friend

The New York & New Jersey motorcycle accident attorneys at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman know how to preserve and marshal accident evidence to get riders the compensation they deserve when motorists injure them by making unsafe left turns. We will evaluate your case for free and you will pay nothing unless we recover damages for you. Call us as soon as possible after you have had an accident in Rockland County, Bergen County, or anywhere else in NY or NJ.

Additional Resources:

  1. NHTSA.gov, Consumer Advisory: Safely ‘Share the Road’ With Motorcyclists. https://www.nhtsa.gov/press-releases/consumer-advisory-safely-share-road-motorcyclists
  2. RideApart.com, 10 Common Motorcycle Accidents and How to Avoid Them. https://rideapart.com/articles/10-common-motorcycle-accidents-and-how-to-avoid-them
  3. MotorcycleCruiser.com, 11 Tips for Motorcyclists to Avoid Accidents https://www.motorcyclecruiser.com/11-tips-for-motorcyclists-to-avoid-accidents