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Thousands of people are seriously injured or killed on New Jersey’s roadways every year. The New Jersey Highway Safety Plan 2023 shows an average of 74 motorcycle fatalities from 2016 to 2020. Motorcycle deaths also accounted for 13% of all motor vehicle fatalities throughout the state in 2020. According to the Department of Law and Public Safety, more than half of motorcycle crashes involving other vehicles occur at intersections. Some of the most dangerous intersections throughout the country are located in New Jersey, based on fatal crash data from the National Highway Traffic Administration. These intersections include Route 129 and Lalor Street in Trenton; East Jersey Street and U.S. Route 1 and 9 in Elizabeth; Route 70 and Massachusetts Avenue in Toms River; U.S. Route 1 and 9 and East Grand Street in Elizabeth; U.S. Route 1 and North Oaks Boulevard in North Brunswick; and U.S. Route 1 and 9 at North Avenue in Elizabeth. 

The New Jersey Department of Transportation, along with the NHTSA, DLPS, and Federal Highway Administration, is committed to zero fatalities on all public roads by 2050. This is why they developed the state’s HSP to identify activities and programs to effectively reduce deaths and serious injuries. 

One proof that this vision is attainable is the City of Hoboken, which hasn’t reported any roadway fatalities since 2018. Hoboken City Mayor Ravi Bhalla highlighted that lower speed limits, bike lane installations, and road improvements are some strategies they implemented to zero out roadway fatalities in the city.

This article discusses the various laws and policies that govern motorcycle operators in New Jersey. It also details motorcycle insurance requirements and applicable information that can help injury victims in their cases.

New Jersey Motorcycle Endorsement and License Requirements

Any person aged 17 and above who wants to operate a motorcycle in New Jersey should have a motorcycle endorsement added to their existing driver’s license or a separate motorcycle license.

Motorcycle Endorsement

The process for obtaining a motorcycle endorsement involves completing a Basic Rider Course or applying for a motorcycle permit, practicing riding for at least 20 days, completing skill and knowledge tests, passing a vision exam, and paying a motorcycle license endorsement fee. The applicant should also have 6 points of ID. Completing the BRC will waive the practice riding and motorcycle skill and knowledge tests. 

Motorcycle License

Individuals with no driver’s license will be required to get a motorcycle license. The process involves obtaining a New Jersey motorcycle permit, passing knowledge and vision tests, performing practice riding for at least six months (for people under 21 years old) or three months (for those over 21), completing the BRC, passing the road test, and paying the fees to obtain a probationary motorcycle license. In addition, 6 points of ID are required. After a year of probationary riding, the motorcyclist may apply for an unrestricted license by paying an additional fee.

New Jersey Motorcycle Gear and Equipment Law

Based on New Jersey’s HSP, there were an average of 74 motorcycle fatalities on the state’s roadways from 2016 to 2020, 9.7% of which involved unhelmeted riders. The number of unhelmeted motorcyclists killed on New Jersey's roads in 2019—15 or 17.6% of all riders deaths—was the highest since 2009. 10.3% of all motorcycle-related deaths in 2020, or eight riders, were not wearing helmets at the time of the crash.

To prevent further fatalities, the state requires motorcycle riders and passengers to wear a protective helmet. It should be equipped with a neck or chin strap and reflectorized on both sides. The state also requires motorcyclists to wear a face shield and protective goggles or have an approved windscreen on their motorcycle. In addition, the motorcycle’s handlebar grips should not be higher than the shoulder height of the operator. For the motorcycle to demonstrate that it complies with Federal Motor Safety Standards, the original manufacturer must permanently attach a certification label that NHTSA has prescribed.

New Jersey Motorcycle Lane Splitting

Lane splitting is defined as riding a motorcycle between lanes or rows of stopped or slow-moving traffic traveling in the same direction. It is not explicitly prohibited in New Jersey, but riders should take extra precautions when changing lanes. Although not illegal, lane splitting may result in a citation if the rider changes lanes dangerously or fails to keep right. If you get involved in an accident while lane splitting, it does not automatically make you at fault for the accident. 

In addition, motorcyclists are considered the most vulnerable among road users throughout the state. This is why New Jersey promotes the Share the Road initiative, which posits that motorcyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as other motorists. 

New Jersey Vehicular Pursuit Policy

New Jersey’s vehicular pursuit policy aims to secure a balance between the safety of citizens and police officers. Under certain circumstances, police officers are authorized to pursue any person driving a motor vehicle. These situations include when the police officer believes that the person has committed a traffic violation or criminal offense or when the violator poses an immediate threat to the safety of the public or other police officers. 

Police officers should also terminate the pursuit when instructed by their superior; when the violator’s identity is established and there is no immediate safety threat; when the pursued vehicle’s location is no longer known; or when someone is injured during the pursuit. It is good to remember that using an authorized tire deflation device is not allowed to stop motorcycles or mopeds. 

New Jersey Distracted Driving Law

Distracted driving refers to any activity that may divert a person’s attention from driving. These include texting, using a cell phone, eating and drinking, talking to passengers, grooming, or using a navigation system. New Jersey law prohibits the use of wireless telephones or electronic communication devices in moving vehicles. If you violate this law, you will be required to pay fines amounting to $200 to $400 for the first offense, $400 to $600 for the second offense, and $600 to $800 for the third and subsequent offenses. Additional penalties for the third offense include three motor vehicle penalty points and a 90-day license suspension.

New Jersey Drunk Driving Law

New Jersey law prohibits motor vehicle operators, including motorcycle riders, from driving while intoxicated. A person with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or greater who operates a motor vehicle is considered to be driving while intoxicated. Motorcycle riders who violate this law will face serious penalties, including hefty fines, probation or jail time, community service, license revocation, and ignition interlock device usage. 

New Jersey Speeding Law

New Jersey is one of the states with relatively low maximum speed limits. Even so, the state’s HSP reports that approximately 6.5% of all road accidents and over 24% of all traffic fatalities were due to speeding (up from 5.4% in 2019). From 2016 to 2020, the average number of speed-related crashes was 16,346, while the average number of speed-related deaths was 125.8.

Motorcycle speed limits are the same as those for cars, trucks, and other motor vehicles. Drivers need to follow the basic speed law that prohibits them from exceeding a safe speed based on the current traffic and roadway conditions. The maximum speed limits in the state are as follows:

  • 65 miles per hour on rural freeways

  • 55 mph on urban freeways

  • 55 mph on divided and undivided roads

  • 35 mph in residential areas

  • 25 mph in school zones

  • speed limits on state roads

Based on the New Jersey motorcycle driver’s manual, low-speed motorcycles are prohibited from driving on any state toll road, limited-access highway, or public road with a posted speed limit greater than 35 mph. Penalties for speeding include fines up to $260 (doubled when driving 10 mph or more over a 65 mph speed limit or above), court costs, surcharges, and demerit points on the driving record.

In line with the increased speeding-related accidents, funds were allocated for the municipal and country police departments to support ongoing education programs and enforcement efforts in high-speed crash regions. The state also supports the radar speed enforcement efforts of the NJ State Police on major highways.

New Jersey Motorcycle Insurance Requirements

New Jersey law stipulates that all motorcyclists must carry an insurance policy with the following liability limits:

  • $15,000 for bodily injuries per person

  • $30,000 for bodily injuries to two or more persons

  • $5,000 for damage to property

Personal injury protection coverage, or PIP, pays for the medical expenses of the person injured in an accident. However, this does not apply to motorcyclists in New Jersey. They can purchase the Med-Pay coverage that some insurance companies offer, but the premiums are typically high. Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, on the other hand, pays for the damages when the driver who caused the accident is either uninsured or underinsured. Underinsured motorist coverage can only be used once the other driver’s insurance policy limits have been exhausted.

Two options may affect a person’s right to sue another driver for additional costs related to the collision: unlimited and limited rights to sue. The unlimited right to sue allows an injured person to seek compensation for pain and suffering against the negligent party without limitations. On the other hand, the limited right to sue only enables a person to file a claim against the negligent party when they suffer from a loss of a body part or loss of a fetus, extreme scarring or disfigurement, a displaced fracture, permanent injury, or wrongful death.

In some cases, these limits are not enough to cover the damages. Motorcycle owners may opt for optional insurance coverages, such as:

  • 1st party medical payments - pay for medical bills of the motorcycle rider or passenger involved in an accident. 

  • Comprehensive coverage - pays for damages resulting from non-collision incidents, such as glass breakage, vandalism, explosion, earthquake, smoke, or theft.

  • Collision coverage - pays for losses resulting from an impact with another object or vehicle.

  • Rider roadside assistance - pays for help when a motorcycle is disabled. This includes battery jumpstart, lockout service, emergency fluid delivery, and electrical breakdown assistance.

  • Helmet coverage - covers damage to DOT-approved safety helmets five years old or less.

  • Motorcycle safety riding apparel coverage

The state requires motorcycle riders to have their insurance identification card, in paper or electronic form, readily available before an inspection. It also needs to be provided by the rider when involved in an accident, stopped for a traffic violation, or stopped by a police officer for a spot check. Failure to do so may result in community service, fines, insurance surcharges, or license suspension. 

New Jersey Is a No-Fault State for Insurance Claims

New Jersey is a no-fault state for insurance claims involving cars, which means insurance companies are responsible for covering the injured person’s medical treatment bills regardless of who caused the accident. However, this system does not apply to motorcycle riders. Motorcyclists can recover compensation by filing a lawsuit against the negligent party or a third-party claim against their insurance company. Although motorcycle riders carry liability insurance, this will only cover injuries they cause, not those they sustain.

How Much Can Someone Sue for a Motorcycle Accident in New Jersey?

New Jersey does not impose limitations on the amount of compensation a motorcycle accident victim can recover. In a personal injury lawsuit, financial compensation can be categorized into economic, noneconomic, and punitive damages. Normally, lawyers estimate the applicable amount to seek in a motorcycle accident case. They must also wait until the victim reaches maximum medical improvement to assess the damages properly. 

Economic Damages

Economic damages include compensation for monetary losses and can be proved through bills, documentation, and receipts. The common types of economic damages are lost wages and healthcare expenses, such as medications, medical devices, and rehabilitation therapies.

Noneconomic Damages

Noneconomic damages refer to the intangible losses suffered by the victim. These include pain and suffering, disfigurement, diminished quality of life, and loss of consortium or companionship. The maximum settlement amounts for noneconomic damages are $650,000 for personal injury cases and $1,000,000 for wrongful death claims. The limits will also be subject to a 2% inflation adjustment on January 1 of each year beginning in 2034.

Punitive Damages

Punitive damages are meant to punish the negligent party for their reckless actions and willful disregard for the safety of other people or property. It also aims to dissuade other people from engaging in similar behavior in the future. New Jersey limits punitive damages to five times the amount of compensatory damages, or $350,000, whichever is higher.

New Jersey Is a Modified Comparative Fault State for Motorcycle Accident Lawsuits

New Jersey adheres to a modified comparative fault system for motorcycle accident lawsuits. If a motorcycle rider is partially at-fault for the accident, they can still seek compensation for damages as long as their percentage of fault is not greater than that of the other driver. The compensation they may receive will be reduced based on the percentage of their responsibility. 

For instance, if a motorcycle rider is entitled to $50,000 in damages and the judge determines they are 20% responsible for the accident, the total compensation will be $40,000. On the other hand, if the injured rider is found to be 51% at fault, then they will not be able to recover any compensation at all. In cases where several parties are involved, the court will allocate a percentage of the fault to multiple drivers or parties. 

New Jersey Statute of Limitations for Motorcycle Accidents

The statute of limitations for motorcycle accidents in New Jersey is two years. This means a person injured in a motorcycle accident should file a lawsuit against the negligent party within two years of the collision. The two-year deadline applies for wrongful death cases, but the clock starts at the date of the victim’s death. When suing a government entity, the plaintiff should file a notice of claim within 90 days of the accident date. Meanwhile, an exception applies when the victim is a minor and wishes to file a claim for their own injuries; in such cases, the statute of limitations starts when the minor turns 18. This means a motorcycle accident lawsuit should be filed before the age of 20.

It is crucial to bring forth a claim before the statute of limitations elapses; otherwise, there is a high chance that your case will be dismissed. Relevant evidence may also be lost, or the witnesses' memories may be less sharp after a significant passage of time. 

Legal Resources for New Jersey Motorcycle Accident Victims

New Jersey Motorcycle Manual

The New Jersey Motorcycle Manual outlines the requirements for acquiring a motorcycle license and permit. It also includes motorcycle operations, safe driving practices, rules of the road, traffic regulations, road signs, and the laws governing driver’s licenses. This document is a part of the 2022 New Jersey Driver Manual released by the state’s Motor Vehicle Commission.

Legal Services New Jersey

Legal Services New Jersey provides information, referrals, and advice to low-income New Jerseyans regarding civil matters. Its website also lists lawyer referral services for different counties. To connect to LSNJ, call their toll-free hotline at 1-888-LSNJ-LAW. Citizens may also apply for legal services online.

New Jersey Department of Transportation

The official website of the New Jersey Department of Transportation allows community members to file a crash report online. It provides an acknowledgment receipt, equivalent to the paper versions stamped by the department, which can be submitted to an insurance company.

New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety

The New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety oversees legal and law enforcement matters. It is headed by the attorney general, who is responsible for criminal, civil, grant-making, regulatory, and juvenile rehabilitation matters. The website also allows citizens to file a complaint or report insurance fraud

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