According to the most recent Vision Zero report by the North Dakota Department of Transportation’s Highway Safety Division, 65 bicycle-related crashes occurred throughout the state in 2021. Sixty-three of these accidents involved injuries, with one fatality being caused by a crash with a motor vehicle. This means that, on average, one bicyclist is involved in an accident nearly every six days in North Dakota. Additionally, the total number of bicycle accidents in 2021 was higher than the previous year, with 53 bicycle-related crashes resulting in 51 injuries and one death.
As part of its efforts to curb accidents throughout the state through Vision Zero, the North Dakota government encourages bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists alike to follow the rules of the road. As such, the Peace Garden State has a number of regulations specifically directed toward bicyclists. These rules cover helmet and equipment use, as well as electric bikes and proper bicycle operation on state roads.
In order to guide and help those involved in accidents, North Dakota also has insurance and legal guidelines that allow accident victims to gauge their options for a lawsuit or personal injury claim. These guidelines refer to the state’s damage caps, the statute of limitations, and possible insurance policies that bicycle accident victims can use to recover some of their losses.
North Dakota Bicycle Helmet and Equipment Regulations
North Dakota is one of the few states in the country that does not require bicyclists to wear helmets. This means bikers will not be penalized for not wearing a helmet while operating their bicycles. However, the state still recommends that people wear helmets to prevent the likelihood of serious injuries.
However, North Dakota imposes various regulations concerning bicycle equipment, particularly for those who ride a bicycle at night. The state requires that bikes have a front lamp that can emit white light up to a minimum distance of 500 feet. They must also have a red rear reflector, and an additional rear lamp with a red light visible from up to 500 feet away is optional. Furthermore, bicycles must have functioning brakes that will allow them to skid to a halt on dry, clean, and level pavement.
Ordinances on Bicycle Operation in North Dakota
North Dakota has different bicycle-related ordinances that focus on helping cyclists mitigate the risk of an accident as they navigate state roads. These rules align with the state’s laws, which posit that bicyclists have the same rights and duties on the road as drivers of motor vehicles.
Primarily, bicycles cannot be used to carry more people than they were designed or equipped to carry. A cyclist may also not ride a bike any other way except astride and upon a permanent and regular attached seat. In addition, a bicyclist may not carry an article, package, or object that prevents both hands from gripping the bike’s handlebars.
On the other hand, it should be noted that North Dakota law does not require bicyclists to ride exclusively on designated bicycle paths, meaning it is up to a bicyclist to decide where to traverse. However, the state does not allow bikers to ride on sidewalks.
Other ordinances concerning bicycle operation include the following:
Bicyclists must stay on the right side of the road and ride alongside traffic, not against it.
Bicyclists must yield the right-of-way to approaching vehicles before crossing a road.
Bicyclists must come to a complete stop when approaching an intersection with a stop sign and three or more lanes for moving traffic.
Bicyclists may only ride up to two abreast on roadways designated as bicycle paths.
Bicyclists may not attach their bicycles or themselves to a moving vehicle except a sled being pulled by a snowmobile.
When bicyclists enter an intersection approximately the same time as a vehicle on a different road, the one on the left must yield the right-of-way.
All bicyclists must obey traffic signs and signals; if a bicyclist fails to halt at a stop sign or light and becomes involved in a collision, the collision will be considered prima facie evidence of the bicyclist’s failure to yield the right-of-way.
North Dakota Electric Bicycle Ordinances
In addition to rules for ordinary bicycles, North Dakota has specific regulations in place for electric bikes. In the state, e-bikes are considered bicycles equipped with an electric motor of 750 watts or less. They are divided into three classes based on their functions, as follows:
Class 1 electric bicycles only provide assistance to their riders while they are pedaling; their motor ceases to provide assistance once they reach a speed of 20 miles per hour.
Class 2 electric bicycles do not require their riders’ pedaling in order to propel themselves; like class 1 e-bikes, their motor ceases to provide assistance once they reach 20 miles per hour.
Class 3 electric bicycles also provide assistance to their riders only while they are pedaling, similar to class 1 e-bikes; their motor ceases to provide assistance once they reach 28 miles per hour.
Those riding electric bicycles are subject to the same duties and rights as those on ordinary bicycles. They can ride on designated bikes or multi-use paths unless specified otherwise by local ordinances, and they cannot ride on sidewalks. Anyone under the age of 14 must wear a helmet, and those under the age of 18 may not ride e-bikes.
Electric bicycle riders must also take note of the following rules:
An e-bike must have a permanent label that shows its designated class, the wattage of its electric motor, and its maximum assisted speed.
An e-bike must operate in such a way that its motor stops functioning or disengages once its rider stops pedaling or applies the brakes.
Those who own and ride a class 3 e-bike must ensure that their bicycle has a functioning speedometer.
An individual may not modify or tamper with an e-bike’s speed capability or engagement unless the bicycle’s label is replaced accordingly to show its new classification.
Is North Dakota a No-Fault State for Bike Accidents?
Yes, North Dakota follows no-fault rules for injury claims caused by bicycle accidents. This means bike crash victims must use their own insurance to cover their losses, like medical costs and lost income, regardless of who is liable for the crash. Victims can use personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, which will reimburse up to $30,000 in economic damages.
Victims may also use uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage if they have such policies. These apply if the offending driver in an accident has no insurance or if their insurance is not enough to shoulder all of the victim’s losses. The state’s minimum amounts for uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage are $25,000 and $50,000 for bodily injuries per person and per accident, respectively.
Bicycle accident victims in North Dakota may bypass the state’s no-fault rules and file a third-party insurance claim or lawsuit against at-fault parties. They can bring a suit if they have suffered serious and permanent disfigurement or disability lasting at least 60 days due to the accident. This also applies if they incur more than $2,500 in total medical expenses. The claim would allow victims to pursue compensation for non-economic damages, which are not addressed by PIP coverage.
How Much Can Someone Sue for a Bicycle Accident in North Dakota?
North Dakota only imposes damage caps on personal injury cases involving medical malpractice. Hence, bicycle accident plaintiffs may pursue maximum compensation for both economic and non-economic losses from at-fault parties in a personal injury lawsuit or claim.
It should be noted that while North Dakota does not limit the total damages bicycle accident victims can recover, the state imposes the rule of modified comparative fault. Under this system, if a victim is partially liable for an accident, the damages they receive will be deducted by the court based on the percentage of their assigned fault. Additionally, North Dakota’s modified comparative fault rule has a legal threshold of 50%. Any victim whose apportioned fault reaches or exceeds this limit will no longer be allowed to recover any damages.
If there are multiple liable parties in an accident, each party will only be held responsible for their respective share of the victim’s damages. An exception applies if all parties involved acted in concert to harm the victim or encouraged the act, in which case they will be jointly liable for the resulting losses.
What is the North Dakota Statute of Limitations for Bicycle Accidents?
In adherence to the state’s statute of limitations, bike crash victims have up to six years to take legal action against liable parties for injuries and damaged property. However, if the injuries result in death, the victim’s dependents or relatives will only have up to two years to file a wrongful death claim or lawsuit.
North Dakota’s statute of limitations allows exceptions in certain situations. These include cases where the person entitled to file a claim or lawsuit is under 18, deemed legally insane, or serving a prison sentence. In such scenarios, the statute will not count the period of the disability, insanity, or imprisonment; instead, the person will have an extension of one year to take legal action after they turn 18, recover from insanity, or finish serving their sentence.
Another exception to the statute of limitations applies if the defendant in a bicycle accident case leaves the state and remains absent for more than one year after legal action has been taken. In these cases, North Dakota’s statute of limitations may not count the duration of the defendant’s absence.
Legal Resources for North Dakota Bicycle Accident Victims
The State Bar Association of North Dakota’s official website is open to residents with various legal concerns. The association helps individuals find specific lawyers throughout the state through its Lawyer Referral & Information Service, where they can consult with attorneys within their respective towns or counties for 30 minutes for a fee of $30. In addition, low-income North Dakotans can apply for pro bono representation under its Volunteer Lawyers Program. Citizens can also find information on how to file complaints against lawyers, which will be handled by the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of North Dakota.
People involved in a vehicular accident in North Dakota can visit the state DOT’s website to purchase a copy of an accident report. Those who wish to obtain a copy must pay a fee of $7 and provide relevant details concerning the date and location of the accident in question, as well as their last name. Reports require a minimum of 10 days to be processed. Additionally, the NDDOT does not process reports of accidents that do not involve injuries, fatalities, or property damage worth at least $4,000. For additional inquiries, people can contact NDDOT through its website.
State residents can visit the North Dakota Insurance Department website if they wish to submit complaints regarding insurance coverage, agents, and companies. People can file their complaint to the department on its website or via e-mail by submitting a Consumer Complaint form alongside other relevant documents, including letters from their lawyer or those written to their insurer. North Dakotans may also visit the website for information on how to report potential cases of insurance fraud, including the exaggeration of a claim and the staging of an accident or incident. The department can be reached for additional insurance-related queries via telephone at (701) 328-2440 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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