In its latest accessible published report, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety recorded a total of 511 bicycle-related crashes throughout the state in 2021, with a crash occurring in each month of that year. Among these accidents, there were 458 recorded injuries and eight fatalities. At least 50% of the recorded crashes involved bicyclists cycling across traffic, with 47% occurring between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Because bicycle accidents continue on roads within the state, Minnesota and its government agencies remind bicyclists to obey and follow proper traffic regulations. It has guidelines that help people protect themselves against injuries and ordinances that inform them of the proper way to navigate roads and highways while riding a bicycle.
In addition to traffic regulations, Minnesota has legislation and insurance guidelines that affect claims proceedings after a bicycle accident. These enable accident victims to prepare their personal injury claims or lawsuits accordingly in terms of when they can file against an at-fault driver and how much of their losses they can recover.
Definition of a Bicycle in Minnesota
As defined by Minnesota law, a bicycle refers to a device with two tandem wheels (or one with two front or rear wheels) that can be ridden by a person and is propelled solely by human power. Minnesota also considers electric-assisted bicycles as standard bicycles, while it does not consider scooters, motorized foot scooters, and other similar devices as such.
While in some states, bicycles are considered motor vehicles, in Minnesota, the definition of motor vehicles is limited to self-propelled vehicles and those propelled by electric power from overhead trolley wires. Under state law, electric-assisted bicycles, electric personal assistive mobility devices, and vehicles propelled solely by human power are not considered motor vehicles.
However, even if bicycles are not classified as motor vehicles in Minnesota, bicyclists must adhere to the same laws as motorists when riding on public roads. If bicyclists use a crosswalk or ride across a roadway or shoulder while on a sidewalk, they have the same rights and duties as pedestrians under Minnesota law. The only exceptions to these rules are laws that cannot be reasonably applied to bicycles.
Minnesota Bicycle Helmet and Equipment Guidelines
Minnesota does not have any regulations that require bicyclists to wear helmets. However, people are encouraged to do so to prevent the risk of sustaining severe injuries in the event of an accident. Bicyclists can supplement their helmets with gloves to protect their hands and brightly colored or reflective clothing to ensure they are sufficiently visible to other motorists and riders.
Bicycles must also have rear brakes that enable their rear wheel to skid on dry, level pavement. If bicyclists ride at night, their bikes must be equipped with a front lamp that can shine a white light up to 500 feet away and a rear light or reflector visible from 100 to 600 feet away. Additionally, bicyclists may equip their bicycles with reflectors on their pedals or wheels for improved visibility to other vehicles. Other usable safety equipment includes a mirror on the bicycle’s handlebars and a bell or horn that a bicyclist can use to alert other riders, pedestrians, or motorists as they approach.
Minnesota Traffic Regulations for Bicyclists
Minnesota requires bicyclists to follow various traffic regulations while navigating roads and highways. This is to help them avoid potential accidents and maintain a safe flow of traffic alongside other motor vehicles. Bicyclists may ride on most roads and highways in Minnesota, except for those where it is explicitly prohibited, such as controlled-access highways. They may also ride on specific bicycle paths adjacent to a roadway.
Minnesota’s bicycle-related regulations include the following:
All bicyclists must ride on the right-hand edge or curb of the road and go with the flow of traffic, except if they are making a turn or overtaking a vehicle; they must also watch out for potential obstacles and other motorists while doing so
Bicyclists must obey all stoplights and signs
A maximum of two bicyclists may ride abreast as long as they do not obstruct the flow of traffic
Bicyclists may ride on a sidewalk only if it is safe and allowed to do so; they may not ride on sidewalks within business districts
Bicyclists must yield the right-of-way to all pedestrians on a crosswalk, and they must signal pedestrians when overtaking or passing them
Bicyclists must ride within a single lane; lane splitting is prohibited
Bicyclists must not carry any objects that prevent them from using their brakes or keeping at least one hand on their bicycle’s handlebars
Bicyclists must not cling onto any motor vehicle while riding
Is Minnesota a No-Fault State for Bicycle Accidents?
Yes, Minnesota follows no-fault guidelines for insurance claims stemming from road accidents. This means bicycle accident victims must use their own no-fault insurance policies or personal injury protection coverage to pay for their losses, regardless of who is at fault. Under state law, the minimum amount for PIP coverage is $40,000 per person per accident, $20,000 for medical expenses, and $20,000 for other damages such as lost wages and property damage.
If victims do not have no-fault insurance, they can turn to family members or relatives with such policies. If a victim’s family or relatives do not have no-fault insurance or if the victim lives alone, they can file a no-fault insurance claim against the offending driver’s insurer.
Victims may file a third-party insurance claim or lawsuit against an at-fault motorist if their total medical costs reach or exceed $4,000 or if they have been disabled, disfigured, or injured for at least 60 days due to the accident. In these cases, however, a liability claim can only be used to recover losses that exceed a victim’s PIP coverage.
In addition to PIP coverage, other types of usable insurance in bicycle accidents include liability, uninsured, and underinsured motorist coverage. The minimum liability coverage in Minnesota follows the 30/60/10 format, or:
$30,000 for bodily injuries or death per person
$60,000 for bodily injuries or deaths per accident
$10,000 for property damage
Meanwhile, uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage can be used if the at-fault driver in an accident has no insurance or lacks sufficient coverage to cover the victim’s losses. The minimum amounts for uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage are $25,000 and $50,000 for injuries per person and accident, respectively.
How Much Can Someone Sue for a Bicycle Accident in Minnesota?
Minnesota does not have caps on economic and non-economic damages in bicycle accident cases, allowing victims to obtain maximum compensation for their losses from defendants. The state also does not impose limits on punitive damages, which can be awarded to a victim if there is clear evidence that the at-fault driver in an accident deliberately disregarded or acted with indifference toward the safety and rights of others.
However, it should be noted that Minnesota follows the rule of modified comparative negligence for accident cases. Under this rule, a plaintiff’s total damages will be deducted if they are partially liable for an accident, depending on the percentage of their fault. For example, a victim who is 25% liable for an accident will have 25% deducted from a damage award worth $100,000, meaning they will only receive $75,000.
In addition, Minnesota adheres to a 50% bar rule for modified comparative negligence. This means that any plaintiff whose fault in an accident reaches or exceeds 50% will no longer be allowed to recover damages.
What Is the Minnesota Statute of Limitations for Bicycle Accidents?
The statute of limitations for personal injury cases in Minnesota lasts up to two years. Bicycle accident victims must file their claim or lawsuit within the given time frame, starting from the date of the underlying accident. If the victim of an accident dies from their injuries, their dependents can file a wrongful death claim within three years from the victim’s date of death.
If a plaintiff attempts to file beyond these given deadlines, the court will likely deny their claim or lawsuit. If, however, the defendant in an accident case is absent from the state or leaves the state before any legal action can be taken, Minnesota law dictates that their period of absence will not be counted toward the statute of limitations.
Other exceptions also apply if the person entitled to file a claim or lawsuit is under 18 or deemed legally insane due to disability. Such individuals will have up to one year to take legal action after they turn 18 or once they recover from their disability. However, Minnesota’s statute of limitations will not be extended beyond five years in cases where a plaintiff’s insanity is concerned.
Legal Resources for Minnesota Bicycle Accident Victims
The Minnesota State Bar Association website has accessible services for state residents with legal concerns. Its Find A Lawyer service is open to those who wish to find an attorney or a board-certified specialist within their respective county or city based on their case and the attorney’s practice area. The website also assists those who wish to represent themselves in District Court by redirecting them to the Minnesota Judicial Branch Self-Help Center website. Additionally, it can redirect website visitors to the Minnesota Lawyer Referral and Information Service, where legal counselors can help connect them with one of 200 private attorneys who practice in at least 50 areas of law.
State residents can visit the website of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Driver and Vehicle Services (DVS) division for information on how to obtain copies of filed reports concerning accidents within the state. Citizen and police reports are only available to those who submitted them, those involved in the accident in question, or individuals authorized to request a report copy. People who wish to obtain a copy must submit a Crash Record Request Form via mail or in person to the DVS Records/Evaluation Counter at 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul. Each copy costs $5.
The Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota is an organization that focuses on educating people regarding the guidelines and benefits involved in biking and walking. Its website provides access to various resources that provide new and experienced bicyclists with information concerning bicycle-related laws, regulations, requirements, and safety guidelines within the state. The organization also hosts educational programs where state residents may learn how to operate a bicycle, adhere to relevant ordinances, and obtain the equipment necessary for their riding endeavors. In addition, website visitors can refer to the organization’s online directory if they wish to join established bicycling clubs and teams within their respective cities and counties.
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