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Massachusetts Moped Accidents Lawyer

Moped accidents in Massachusetts have become increasingly common as the motorized bicycles have surged in popularity in recent years.

Mopeds, identified in state statute as “motorized bicycles,” are lightweight, smaller vehicles that can be powered either by a small gas engine or with manual pedaling. They can be a cost-effective, convenient and enjoyable way for Bostonians to navigate urban streets. However, they can also be incredibly dangerous. Moped crashes can cause serious injuries and even fatalities because like motorcyclists, moped riders in a collision are largely unprotected from direct contact with the pavement, other vehicles and fixed objects.

The terms “moped” and “scooter” are used interchangeably, but they do differ in structure and capacity. Statutory requirements for registration, licensing and insurance under Massachusetts law are also different for mopeds and scooters.

One study published in the Journal Trauma analyzed thousands of moped crashes over a five-year period and discovered:

  • 90 percent of moped drivers weren’t insured;
  • 17 percent of moped drivers wore helmets;
  • Unpaved roads, higher speeds and poor lighting were associated with higher fatality rates.

Moped accident attorneys in Boston at The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman know that moped operators and passengers can usually still collect damages from other negligent drivers regardless of whether riders are licensed, registered or insured. However, aside from the likelihood of a traffic citation in that scenario, the greater potential for serious injury in a moped accident makes securing adequate auto insurance (bodily injury liability, UM/UIM coverage, etc.) a smart decision for moped owners and operators. Also, negligent moped operators who aren’t insured can be held personally liable for passenger injury costs, as well as injuries to pedestrians or other third parties.

Mopeds in Massachusetts: Definitions and Requirements

Mopeds, or “motorized bicycles,” as defined by The City of Boston, will have automatic transmissions and a cylinder capacity less than 50 cubic centimeters. They also must be incapable of traveling more than 30 mph.

Designs and manufacture of mopeds must meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). That agency also mandates each moped have a 17-digit VIN (vehicle identification number) displayed, as well as a license plate on the rear.

MGL ch. 90 s. 1B outlines all the additional state-level requirements and regulations for operation.

All motorized bicycle operators must be at least 16-years-old with a valid driver’s license or learner’s permit to legally ride. They can drive their mopeds on the road, but they can’t do so faster than 25 mph and they must follow all state traffic regulations, including following posted signs and electronic signals.

To be street legal, mopeds must be registered with the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles and they are required to have a valid registration sticker on display.

Operators can venture onto any public way, but not on limited access and express state highways (where no bicycles are permitted due to safety concerns stemming from close-proximity to high-speed motor vehicles).

Anyone operating a moped must wear a helmet that conforms to minimum safety standards and prohibit passengers from riding if they aren’t wearing a helmet.

In general, anyone on a motorized bicycle must be sure to follow all the relevant state traffic laws and regulations with two primary exceptions:

  • Unlike other motorized vehicles, mopeds can stay to the right when passing a vehicle on the road.
  • Motorized bike operators must signal with one of their hands any intention to turn or stop.

Another difference between mopeds and cars or motorcycles is that they are permitted to be operated in bicycle lanes on the road. However, they are not allowed on off-street recreational bicycle paths. The reason is these multi-use paths are used not just by non-motorized cyclists, but also by joggers, dogwalkers and people with strollers; an unexpected encounter with a moped at 25 mph has the potential to result in serious injury.

Fines for violations of Massachusetts moped laws aren’t steep ($25 for a first-time offender, maximum $50 for a second offense and maximum $100 for third and subsequent offenses). The more costly risk is a crash.

Massachusetts Moped Insurance

The Commonwealth does not require mopeds to be insured the same as other vehicles – unless the meet the criteria and are registered as a limited use vehicle (if it can exceed more than 30 mph but can’t go faster than 40 mph), in which case you’re required to get the same coverage as a motorcyclist.

Regardless of requirements, it’s a smart idea to protect yourself from the financial consequences of an injury crash. This means not only liability coverage for crashes you may case, but also additional coverage in case a negligent driver hits you and lacks enough insurance to cover your damages. Numerous auto insurers offer moped insurance in Massachusetts at reasonable rates, which usually cost less than motorcycle premiums, but provide more or less the same scope of coverage.

A typical moped insurance plan may include:

  • Bodily injury and property damage liability. This protects you from damages you might cause to another’s property, as well as damages for injuries suffered by other drivers and/ or passengers you injured. It may even cover your legal defense expenditures.
  • Comprehensive coverage. This covers repair and replacement of the moped if it’s lost, stolen or damaged (minus the deductible).
  • UM/ UIM (uninsured/ underinsured motorist coverage). This is good coverage to have, as outlined in MGL ch. 174 s. 113L, because it legally entitles the insured (and resident relatives in the crash) to recover the difference between what a negligent uninsured/ underinsured driver is able to pay (which may only be the statutory minimum of $20,000 per person) and your actual damages, up to the limits of the policy.

Unfortunately, you don’t have the option in moped crashes to pursue no-fault personal injury protection (PIP) benefits, so we generally will need to have a negligent defendant against whom we can file a case. Don’t worry too much though if you were only partially responsible. Massachusetts follows a modified comparative fault law with a 51 percent bar, which in layman’s terms means you can pursue moped injury lawsuits so long as you aren’t more to blame for causing the crash than the defendant.

If you have been injured in a moped accident, we can help you determine your legal rights to compensation.

Contact the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman today for a free and confidential consultation.
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