In the latest published report of the South Dakota Department of Public Safety, the state recorded a total of 62 injuries from bicycle accidents in 2021. Though there were no recorded fatalities during that year, the number of injuries was higher compared to the previous year, where there were 41 bicycle-related injuries in total. According to the report, over 17% of the total accidents for 2021 were caused by the failure to yield the right-of-way. Additionally, 27.4% of these accidents involved children who were between 5 and 13 years old, while 22.6% involved riders who were 25 to 34 years old.
Taking these statistics into account, South Dakota’s government agencies and local groups alike continue to encourage people to follow safety regulations and traffic ordinances when riding their bicycles. Such rules help bicyclists become mindful of other riders, motorists, and pedestrians as they navigate roads and highways within the state, reducing the risk of a crash or collision occurring.
In addition to bicycle-related regulations, South Dakota has insurance and legal guidelines that bicyclists can refer to in case they get injured in an accident. These cover a variety of relevant factors in a resulting personal injury claim or lawsuit, including the time victims have to file a case and the total amount of damages they can potentially recover from at-fault parties.
South Dakota Bicycle Helmet and Equipment Guidelines
Currently, South Dakota does not have any laws requiring bicyclists to wear helmets when riding on state roads. However, the state’s government, local groups, and stakeholders execute programs promoting safety initiatives to continue to encourage cyclists to wear a helmet, including the “Don’t Thump Your Melon” program that was launched in 1994.
In terms of equipment, however, South Dakota requires bicycles to have a front lamp with a light that is visible from a minimum distance of 300 feet. They must also be equipped with a rear light that can be seen by motorists, pedestrians, and other cyclists from up to 200 feet away. Side and pedal reflectors are not explicitly required, though the state encourages bicyclists to enhance their visibility to other vehicles and people, especially if they are riding at nighttime.
South Dakota Regulations Involving Bicycle Operation
Under the laws of South Dakota and areas like Rapid City, bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as pedestrians and motorists when navigating roadways, sidewalks, crosswalks, and bicycle paths. As such, they must adhere to local traffic regulations, including those specifically made and enforced for bicycles. These rules allow them to navigate roads in a safe manner and ensure that no crash or collision occurs. Anyone who fails to comply can be charged with a misdemeanor or a petty offense.
The state’s bicycle-related regulations include the following:
Bicyclists must always yield the right-of-way to other motor vehicles and pedestrians if they are on a sidewalk or crosswalk.
Bicyclists must use the proper hand signals when turning left or right during the last 100 feet they are traveling before they turn; they do not need to give continuous hand signals if both hands are needed to maintain control over their bicycle.
Bicyclists are allowed to park their bikes on a sidewalk unless they are explicitly prohibited by local ordinances or traffic signs and signals; their bicycles must be parked in a way that does not impede the flow of pedestrian or vehicle traffic.
Bicyclists must maintain a distance of three feet from motor vehicles when navigating roads with a maximum speed limit of 35 miles per hour; the distance increases to six feet on roads where the speed limit exceeds 35 miles per hour.
Bicyclists must obey all traffic signs and signals.
Bicyclists must always stay at the right-hand curb or edge of the road and ride along with the flow of traffic.
Bicyclists who engage in approved racing events on state highways may be exempt from most traffic laws as long as local authorities take measures to ensure the safety of other people. Local government agencies and the Transportation Commission may prohibit bicyclists from entering and riding through controlled-access highways with the use of traffic signs and ordinances.
Certain cities within South Dakota also have their own regulations involving bicycle use. For example, Rapid City prohibits riders from attaching their bicycles or themselves to any moving vehicle. Additionally, it does not allow bicyclists to ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways that are exclusively designated for the use of bicycles. Meanwhile, Sioux Falls states that cyclists must move to the left and take the lane on narrow streets if it is unsafe for them to share lanes with other vehicles.
Is South Dakota a No-Fault State for Bike Accidents?
No. South Dakota adheres to a traditional fault-based system for bicycle accident cases, meaning victims can file personal injury claims or lawsuits against at-fault motorists to recover their losses. The state requires motorists to have proof of financial responsibility by obtaining liability coverage, which they will use to shoulder the damages of victims if they cause an accident, including one involving bicycles.
Under state law, the minimum liability coverage required for motorists follows the 25/50/25 format, or:
$25,000 for bodily injuries per person
$50,000 for bodily injuries per accident
$25,000 for property damage
How Much Can Someone Sue for a Bicycle Accident in South Dakota?
In personal injury claims or lawsuits concerning bicycle accidents in South Dakota, there is no limit on the total amount of damages that plaintiffs can recover. This means that they can potentially be reimbursed in full for their economic and noneconomic losses. However, if a product liability claim or lawsuit is filed for an accident that is caused by a defective bicycle, South Dakota limits a victim’s economic and noneconomic damages to $1 million.
Economic damages refer to actual monetary losses suffered by victims in terms of expenditures related to medical treatment, lost wages, and rehabilitative care, as well as repairs and replacements for damaged property. On the other hand, noneconomic damages include losses that are caused by intangible factors like pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and emotional distress.
In terms of negligence, which can reduce the total damages that plaintiffs can recover in an accident case, South Dakota is the only state in the country that follows the principle of slight or gross negligence. It is a hybrid of partial and contributory negligence, but the terms “slight” and “gross” are not definitively explained. The legal rule dictates that a plaintiff who is partially liable for an accident may only recover damages if their negligence is “slight” while the defendant’s negligence is “gross” or greater. A plaintiff with “slight” negligence will have their total damage award deducted in accordance with their partial liability. However, if the court finds that the plaintiff’s negligence is “gross,” they may be barred from recovering any damages.
What Is South Dakota’s Statute of Limitations for Bicycle Accidents?
South Dakota has a statute of limitations of three years for injury-related claims or lawsuits stemming from bicycle accidents, beginning from the date of the accident. If a crash results only in property damage, the statute of limitations lasts for six years. Bicycle accident victims who fail to file within these deadlines will likely have their claim or lawsuit dismissed if they attempt to file.
If a bicycle accident case results in a victim’s death, the dependents can take legal action for wrongful death within three years, starting from the date of the victim’s passing. A wrongful death claim or lawsuit can be put forth by a named representative of the deceased victim’s estate or someone appointed by the court in the event the victim does not have an estate plan.
In the event that the individual who is entitled to take legal action in a bicycle accident case is a minor or someone who is mentally ill, South Dakota’s statute of limitations will be “tolled” or paused. The deadline will resume when the person reaches his eighteenth birthday or recovers from his mental illness. However, the victim can only take legal action within a maximum of one year after he turns eighteen or recovers. The statute also cannot be extended beyond five years by any sort of disability other than infancy.
In addition, South Dakota’s statute of limitations can work differently if the defendant in a case is absent from the state. The local laws dictate that the statute will only begin upon the defendant’s return. In cases where the defendant leaves the state before any legal action can be taken, the period of his absence will not be counted toward the duration of the statute.
Legal Resources for South Dakota Bicycle Accident Victims
The State Bar of South Dakota’s website has a number of public services and sections available for those with legal concerns and inquiries. People can use the website’s Lawyer Referral Service to connect with attorneys for consultations involving various areas of the law, including traffic offenses and personal injury. Additionally, visitors can access the Court Information section for resources detailing the backgrounds, functions, and contact information of different courts in the state. Lastly, those who wish to report an attorney’s misconduct may visit the Lawyer Discipline section for details on how to submit their complaint.
Those involved in vehicular accidents in South Dakota may obtain a copy of the crash report online or by mail through the Office of Highway Safety’s Accident Records section. Reports are maintained on the office’s database for up to 15 years, with each report requiring at least 10 days before it is made available. In line with Marsy’s Law, there is also a three-day holding period after a report has been submitted and accepted. When submitting a request for a report copy, a person must provide the accident’s date and location, as well as the driver’s last name. Additionally, he must pay $4 to have a report located and obtained and an additional $6 for its purchase. Report copies requested through the mail must be paid for via check, cash, or money order.
The South Dakota Department of Public Safety offers access to different safety resources for bicyclists and pedestrians alike through its website. These free resources cover different topics, including helmet fitting and use, proper bicycle operation, and safety guidelines for young bicyclists. For additional inquiries concerning relevant rules and regulations, people can contact the SD DPS by completing and submitting an online contact form or dialing 605-773-3178.
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