Mississippi provides ample bikeways for riders looking to enjoy the state’s natural views and historical sites. One of these trails is the Natchez Trace. It connects Natchez, Mississippi, and Nashville, Tennessee over a 444-mile route under the National Park Service's supervision. Jackson – Mississippi's largest city – also contains various bike paths. Among these is the Museum Trail, which links the Mississippi Farmers Market to multiple museums in the city.
Despite numerous bike paths across the state, only 0.08% of Mississippi commuters bike to work. The League of American Bicyclists gives an F to Magnolia State’s bicycle safety programs. It also gives an F to the state's use of federal funds for bicycle infrastructure. Meanwhile, Jackson saw an average of 7.7 bicyclist fatalities from 2017 to 2021. The number represented a 558% change from 2012 to 2016. These factors collectively contributed to The League ranking Mississippi a lowly 48th among the list of bicycle-friendly states.
If you find yourself in a bicycle accident, it is vital to have a clear understanding of your legal rights. This article provides information on various topics, from the state’s damage caps to its statute of limitations. You can also discover helpful links that will assist you in pursuing the compensation you deserve.
Mississippi Helmet Laws
Mississippi has no clear laws requiring all bicycle users to wear helmets. The absence of a statewide law is unlike its neighbors, Alabama and Tennessee, which mandate cyclists under 16 to use protective headgear.
Some municipalities in Mississippi, though, do make it mandatory to wear helmets. For instance, the state capital of Jackson makes it unlawful for bicycle riders or passengers to travel without appropriate headgear. However, unhelmeted cyclists are allowed on dead-end streets and cul-de-sacs across residential neighborhoods.
Another city, Hernando, mandates bicycle users under 16 use protective headgear. Meanwhile, Starkville, home of Mississippi State University, requires cyclists of all ages to don helmets.
Wearing protective headgear is essential to reduce the risk of severe injuries. According to a study by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the longer a mandatory helmet law is implemented, the more significant the reduction in severe accident injuries among bicyclists under 16.
To help prevent such incidents, some cities advise cyclists to buy helmets certified by organizations. These include:
U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission.
American National Standards Institute.
American Society for Testing and Materials.
Cyclists must also know that penalties exist for not wearing helmets. These depend on the municipality, though. For example, first-time offenders in Hernando face a written warning. The penalties increase to $25 plus court costs for second-time violators. Subsequent violators face $100 in fines on top of court costs. On the other hand, first-time offenders in Jackson face a $25 fine, while those in Starkville must pay a $15 fine.
Sharing the Road in Mississippi
All 50 states require bicyclists to follow similar laws as other drivers. Mississippi is no exception. Riders in the Magnolia State are advised to ride on the road’s right side. Cyclists should also travel in the same direction as traffic. They must likewise conform to stop signs and use hand signals.
Another restriction that cyclists should know about is three people riding side-by-side on roadways. The practice is only allowed on exclusive bikeways. Two people may travel abreast together but should not impede traffic movement. On multilane roads, cyclists should use a single lane.
Although Mississippi does not prohibit riders from using sidewalks, various municipalities do. Both Jackson and Gulfport forbid cyclists to use such paths within business districts. Bicycle users in these cities can use sidewalks as long as they provide the right-of-way to pedestrians. Other cities, like Hattiesburg and Starkville, disallow the practice altogether.
Safely sharing the road is essential for cyclists aiming to avoid crashes. Awareness of lane use regulations can decrease fatal accidents. Riders should remember that many collisions occur during the morning and afternoon rush hours.
Mississippi E-bike Laws
Similar to neighboring Tennessee, Mississippi regulates e-bikes the same as bicycles. The state groups e-bikes into three classes. These are:
Class 1. These consist of e-bikes equipped with a motor that helps riders when they are pedaling. Once the bike achieves a speed of 20 mph, the motor no longer provides assistance.
Class 2. These comprise bikes installed with a throttle-actuated motor. It ceases to assist riders once they go 20 mph.
Class 3. These cover e-bikes with motors that aid riders when pedaling and disengaging at a speed of 28 mph.
Users of e-bikes may ride on multi-use paths and bikeways across the state. Some local municipalities also allow electric bicycles on their sidewalks. For instance, Biloxi – the state’s fourth largest city – permits e-bike riders to utilize sidewalks as long as they yield the right-of-way to pedestrians. The city recommends that cyclists give an audible signal before passing and overtaking pedestrians.
Safe Following Distance in Mississippi
Through House Bill No. 559, traffic laws that apply to car, truck, and motorcycle drivers also affect bicycle users. As such, riders have the same duties and rights as other motorists with regard to areas like safe following distance.
One of these duties is maintaining an appropriate distance behind school buses. Cyclists should stop at least 10 feet behind buses when unloading or loading children. The state prohibits motorists from passing school buses. Those who do so and, in the process, get into an accident face a felony assault charge. Those convicted face a potential 20-year prison sentence. Riders must be aware that buses are equipped with cameras to catch violators in the act.
Mississippi – like Alabama and Tennessee – has a law that makes it mandatory for motorists to keep three feet of distance before passing cyclists. The law, also known as the John Paul Frerer Bicycle Safety Act, additionally allows drivers to pass riders even in non-passing zones as long as it is safe.
Another matter that cyclists should be informed of is the following distance between them and the vehicle ahead. Interestingly, unlike other states, Mississippi does not have an explicit seconds-based rule. Neighboring Tennessee, for example, recommends a three-second distance between drivers. The Magnolia State, meanwhile, encourages motorists to follow vehicles at one car length per 10 mph. The length increases to two car lengths per 20 mph, three car lengths per 30 mph, and so on.
Mississippi Bicycle Equipment Requirements
Under Mississippi law, riders must install various equipment on their bicycles to travel across the state. These include a white lamp in front of the bike. It should be visible from a minimum of 500 feet under normal weather conditions. The bicycle should also have a reflector or red lamp on the rear. Motorists or pedestrians from 500 feet away must see the rear component under similar conditions. Cities like Gulfport have similar requirements.
Some municipalities have additional or different requirements. For instance, drivers of cars using their high beams in Jackson must be able to see the red reflector that cyclists must install on the back of their bikes from a distance of 50 feet. Southaven residents, on the other hand, should possess rear lamps or reflectors noticeable from 100 feet.
A similarity among Mississippi municipalities is the requirement for bicycle brakes. These parts should enable the rider to skid on dry pavement. State law additionally prohibits the use of sirens, horns, or whistles.
Mississippi Is a Fault State for Insurance Claims
The state follows the at-fault system. Cyclists in Mississippi can recover damages for accident-related injuries from liable parties. These damages help plaintiffs handle expenses related to their medical treatments. The at-fault system allows plaintiffs to file claims with the defendant's insurer.
In some cases, plaintiffs can file a claim with their own insurance company. An example is when a bicyclist gets into an accident with an uninsured driver. Cyclists may be able to have their medical expenses covered if their policy includes coverage for such situations. Having uninsured motorist coverage is essential, especially in Mississippi, where almost 30% of motorists do not have insurance.
How Much Can Someone Sue for a Bicycle Accident in Mississippi?
Mississippi does not impose a cap on economic damages a plaintiff may receive from defendants. These damages are defined by state law as costs directly related to the plaintiff’s accident, such as medical care, loss of income, and property replacement.
However, the Magnolia State does have a cap on non-economic damages. Plaintiffs in bicycle accident cases receive a maximum of $1,000,000 for their pain and suffering from defendants. Unlike Tennessee, Mississippi caps the punitive damages a plaintiff can obtain through the defendant’s net worth. For example, plaintiffs may receive 2% of the defendants’ net worth as damages if they are worth $50 million or less.
What Is Mississippi’s Statute of Limitations for Bicycle Accidents?
Victims of bicycle accidents have three years from the accident date to take legal action against liable parties. People hurt in a cycling crash – including pedestrians, passengers, and electric scooter riders – have a three-year window to file claims before the relevant courts. The same window applies to wrongful death suits.
In some cases, the timeline is different. Claims against negligent government entities should be brought within a year. Meanwhile, bicycle accident victims with unsound minds have 21 years from the accident date to file a claim. The same timeline applies in cases where the victim is under 18.
Legal Resources for Mississippi Bicycle Accident Victims
Part of the agency’s duties is to provide an intermodal transport network safe for various users, including bicyclists. It runs Safe Routes to School, a program that aims to educate children about the benefits of biking to school. It also manages a website where individuals can check for resources regarding cycling safety. Those seeking to comment about their biking experience may contact the agency’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator by phone at 601-359-7685 or by mail at P.O. Box 1850, Jackson, MS 39215.
Since its start in 1938, the agency has been assisting law enforcement organizations and promoting travel safety. It also operates a division called CRASH, or Collision Reconstruction Analysis on State Highways, that conducts thorough investigations of accidents. In addition, the agency provides crash reports to victims. Mississippians injured in cycling accidents may receive a copy of their report online.
The agency has been regulating insurance companies and agents across Mississippi for more than a century. It also investigates insurance fraud cases and works with organizations like the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office to help victims. Cyclists seeking to report fraud can call the agency’s toll-free helpline at 800-562-2957. Likewise, individuals may file a report against fraudulent agents and companies online.
The website is managed by the staff of multiple organizations, including the Mississippi Center for Legal Services, the Mississippi Volunteer Lawyer Project, and the North Mississippi Rural Legal Services. It helps low-income Mississippians understand how to file claims against at-fault parties for consumer fraud and unfair sales practices. The website also educates individuals on how to appeal civil claims.
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