According to the Kansas Department of Transportation’s crash data, a total of 289 bicycle accidents happened throughout the state in 2021. Over 270 injuries and five fatalities were recorded, and expenditures from bicycle-related crashes amounted to more than $130 million. Bicyclists aged between 10 and 14 comprised the highest number of victims at 52, followed by those aged between 15 and 19 with 27.
Because bicycle accidents remain part of Kansas’s traffic-related concerns, state agencies and departments continue to work together to ensure the safety of riders and passengers. Part of their initiative is the Kansas Highway Safety Plan. Its goal is to improve the quality of life of pedestrians, riders, and motorists by minimizing traffic accidents, injuries, and fatalities.
The plan, submitted to the DOT and Federal Highway Administration, describes Kansas’s use of federal funds for highway safety projects and details priority areas where such efforts are carried out. In addition, the state has different regulations and ordinances to help bicyclists avoid injuries and navigate roads safely. These include guidelines on helmet use and regulations on how to properly ride a bicycle alongside other motorists and pedestrians.
This article aims to discuss these rules along with the laws that bicycle accident victims may encounter if they wish to pursue compensation for their losses. These involve the statutory limits on damages, the insurance policies that can be used to pay for a victim’s losses, and the amount of time allotted for a plaintiff to take legal action.
Kansas Bicycle Helmet and Equipment Guidelines
There is no statewide law mandating bicyclists in Kansas to wear helmets; the only location in the state that requires helmets specifically for those under the age of 16 is Lawrence. Regardless, government agencies encourage riders and passengers of all ages to wear a helmet that falls under the safety and quality standards of the Snell Memorial Foundation, the American National Standards Institute, or ASTM International.
While Kansas does not have strict regulations for helmet use, state laws do require bicycles used during the night to have a front lamp capable of emitting a white light visible from up to 500 feet away. Additionally, they must be equipped with a red rear reflector approved by the Secretary of Transportation and visible from 100 to 600 feet away when directly in front of a vehicle’s headlights.
Bicyclists can also use a rear lamp that emits a red light up to a minimum distance of 500 feet alongside the reflector. Moreover, those who sell bicycles must ensure they have pedals with reflectors that match KDOT’s standards and are visible from the front and rear up to 200 feet away.
Regulations on the Operation of Bicycles in Kansas
In order to prevent accidents and ensure the safety of bicyclists, motorists, and pedestrians alike, Kansas imposes a number of traffic ordinances related to how and where a bicycle must be operated. In addition to these regulations, people who ride bicycles are required to follow the same laws that drivers do when navigating the state’s roads.
Kansas’s bicycle-specific guidelines and rules are as follows:
Bicyclists cannot ride with more people than their bicycle is intended to carry. They may also not ride a bicycle in any other way except atop and astride a permanently attached and regular seat.
Bicyclists must ride to the right-hand edge of the road if they are moving slower than the flow of traffic, as deemed practicable; if they are navigating a one-way road, they can ride as close to the left-hand side of the road as is practical.
Bicyclists may only leave the right-hand edge of the road if they plan to make a turn or overtake a vehicle, if a hazard or obstacle is present, or if there is insufficient space within the lane to share.
Bicyclists must always use proper hand signals when coming to a stop or making a turn.
Bicyclists may not carry any object, article, or package that prevents them from keeping at least one hand on their bicycle’s handlebars.
Bicyclists may not cling to any moving vehicle in traffic.
Bicyclists may only ride more than two abreast if they are on designated bike paths or parts of roadways that are reserved for their exclusive use; they must also use a bike path instead of the road if there is one present.
Bicyclists must obey all traffic signals, including stop lights and signs; if they encounter a stop light that fails to turn green after a reasonable amount of time, they may proceed through.
Bicyclists must always yield the right-of-way to vehicles that are proceeding through a junction or intersection and to pedestrians on a crosswalk.
Is Kansas a No-fault State for Bike Accidents?
Yes, Kansas follows no-fault rules for insurance claims related to traffic accidents. This means that bicycle accident victims will have to use their personal injury protection coverage to pay for their medical treatment and other specific losses, regardless of who caused the accident in question. As required by the state, the minimum amounts for PIP coverage are:
$4,500 for medical costs per person.
$4,500 for rehabilitative costs.
$2,000 for funeral, cremation, or burial costs.
$900 per month for disability or loss of income for up to one year (the same is given as part of survivor benefits for family members in case the victim dies from their injury).
$25 per day for in-home services (the same is given as part of survivor benefits for family members in case the victim dies from their injury).
Other types of applicable insurance policies in a bicycle accident include the following:
Medicaid or Medicare coverage pays for medical bills. (If the victim can recover damages from an injury claim, their insurer can receive reimbursement for the expenses it paid.)
Underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage pays for losses if the at-fault driver in the accident has insufficient or no insurance. The minimum amounts for both are $25,000 for injuries per person and $50,000 for injuries per accident.
It should be noted that bicycle accident victims can step beyond Kansas’s no-fault rules and take legal action against an offending motorist if their PIP coverage is not enough to cover their total losses. The same exception applies if a victim suffers a serious injury that falls under the following classifications:
Permanent bodily harm, disfigurement, or loss of bodily function.
Fractures on a weight-bearing bone.
Compound, displaced, or compressed fractures on any bone.
How Much Can Someone Sue for a Bicycle Accident in Kansas?
Kansas lacks any type of limitation for economic damages in a bicycle accident case. This allows victims to maximize the amount of compensation they can recover from an at-fault driver for losses related to medical treatment, repairs, and lost wages. However, the state does limit the total non-economic damages a victim can get. These types of losses stem from non-quantifiable factors like pain and suffering, the loss of companionship, emotional distress, and trauma.
According to state law, the limits for non-economic damages are as follows:
$250,000 for any injuries that occurred after July 1, 1988, and before July 1, 2014.
$300,000 for any injuries that occurred after July 1, 2014, and before July 1, 2018.
$325,000 for any injuries that occurred after July 1, 2018, and before July 1, 2022.
$350,000 for any injuries that occurred on or after July 1, 2022.
In the event that a bicycle accident results in the death of a victim, the cap for non-economic damages will remain at $250,000 since the aforementioned limitations do not apply in wrongful death cases. If an accident is caused by the negligence of a government agency or employee, the total amount of economic and non-economic damages a plaintiff can recover is $500,000.
In addition to these damage caps, a victim’s total compensation can be affected by Kansas’s modified comparative negligence rule. This legal principle dictates that a plaintiff who is partially liable for an accident will have their total awarded damages reduced based on the assigned percentage of their liability in the case. Moreover, if the plaintiff’s fault is equal to or greater than 50%, they will be barred from recovering any damages.
What Is Kansas’s Statute of Limitations for Bicycle Accidents?
Kansas’s statute of limitations for bicycle accident claims and lawsuits is two years, starting from the date of the accident in question. Victims must take legal action within this time limit or risk having their claim or lawsuit dismissed by the court. If an accident results in the victim’s death, their dependents or relatives also have two years to file a wrongful death claim, with the statute beginning on the date of the victim’s passing instead.
A bicycle accident case can progress differently in terms of allotted time if the victim involved is a minor. Under state law, the statute of limitations will only commence once the victim reaches the age of 18, after which they will have up to one year to take legal action. However, the statute cannot be extended for more than eight years from the date of the accident that caused the injury.
Alternatively, an underage victim can be represented by a parent or guardian in a “friendly suit,” where they will meet in court with the other parties involved in the case. A judge will then decide the settlement that will best fit the child’s interests and needs and bind them to its conditions.
Legal Resources for Kansas Bicycle Accident Victims
The Kansas Bar Association’s website provides accessible online options for state residents with legal concerns and queries. The association has a free Lawyer Referral service that allows potential plaintiffs to find and connect with an attorney for legal representation. The lawyers under the service have at least two decades of experience and practice in different areas, including personal injury. The website also has a Legal Resources section with a directory that connects visitors to the websites of legal organizations such as the Kansas Trial Lawyers Association and the Center for Civic Education. Those who seek to make a complaint against an attorney or judge may find instructions on how to do so in the website’s File A Complaint section.
People who are involved in traffic accidents throughout Kansas may search for an online copy of a crash’s report through the Highway Patrol’s website. Each report is made available 14 days after the crash has taken place, and it can remain on the site for up to 30 days. People can submit an online request for a report copy of any accident that occurred after May 2013, and they must pay $5 for the report’s reproduction and an additional $2 for each witness statement. Those looking for a report for a crash that occurred before May 2013 must submit a written request instead to the records division of the Kansas Highway Patrol’s General Headquarters at 708 SW Jackson, Topeka.
KDOT allows access to various resources detailing ongoing and future transportation plans for motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians through its website. This is part of the department’s efforts in maintaining the safety and security of people on the state’s roadways. The resources include the 2020-2024 Kansas Strategic Highway Safety Plan, where bicyclists can read relevant traffic and accident statistics, as well as the strategies that KDOT plans to implement to reduce the likelihood of bicycle-related crashes. There is also a Project Concept Form that members of local communities can use to relay their concerns regarding transportation infrastructure.
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