New York City Motor-Vehicle Collisions with Bicycles

A recent law requires the New York City Department of Transportation to gather bicycle-related accident data. The first quarter of collected data was recently released, highlighting a serious traffic-safety risk for cyclists and motorists alike.

The data reveals that over a three month period in 2011 alone, New York City played witness to 754 bicycle accidents involving motor vehicles. These crashes were responsible for 755 cyclist injuries, ten injuries to motor vehicle occupants, and three cyclist fatalities.

Bike Use on the Rise

New York City reports that bicycle use has been on the rise since 2007. The city has more than 700 miles of bike lanes. In addition to commuting, bikes are also used commercially in New York for delivery and messaging.

Motorist Liability

Sometimes an accident is unavoidable. However, when a driver of a car, van, SUV, bus or truck strikes a cyclist, they may be held legally liable for the accident in a civil lawsuit if the motorist’s behavior was negligent. In New York, a driver is considered negligent when he or she does not exercise ordinary, reasonable and prudent care under the circumstances in which the accident took place. A violation of this duty of care that results in an accident that harms another creates legal liability to the victim.

Motorists have a duty to follow the wrongful death lawsuit. Additionally, a negligent driver may also be held in violation of traffic or criminal laws (for example, speeding or not driving safely for weather conditions).

Third-Party Liability

In addition to the driver of the motor vehicle, other parties may be potentially liable for bicycle accidents. For example, negligent maintenance may have been done on the car or bike that caused it to malfunction in some way. Additionally, the motor vehicle or bike may have been defectively manufactured or designed.

Such claims can often be complex. Another possible defendant could be a municipality or other public entity that negligently designed or maintained the roadway. The driver’s employer could be another potentially responsible party if the motorist was driving a company vehicle or carrying out work-related duties at the time of the accident.


Some of the types of damages that may be available to the victim of a motor vehicle-bike accident include compensation for medical costs, pain and suffering, lost earnings, property damage and more.

In a case where the accident results in a victim’s death, damages may be available for the loss of the victim’s contribution to the survivor’s lives. For example, in a 2002 New York lawsuit, two minor children received $2,200,000 for the loss of their mother’s nurturing and financial care when she was killed in a bike accident where the state was found to be at fault for not keeping a state-park road safely maintained. Other damages payable to survivors may include lost household services, lost wages, funeral expenses, loss of consortium and emotional distress.

Legal Advice for Victims

If you or a loved one has been involved in a bicycle-related motor vehicle accident, an experienced personal injury attorney can answer questions about potential legal rights and remedies. A knowledgeable lawyer can also help you deal with the insurance companies and investigate the details of the accident with your interests in mind.