In 2022, the Utah Department of Transportation and Department of Public Safety recorded 15 fatalities and 49 serious injuries in bicycle-related accidents throughout the state. These numbers were the highest that Utah had recorded since data-tracking efforts for bicycle crashes and collisions began under the DPS years ago. On average, 2% of the state’s total traffic fatalities involve bicycles, showing how relatively common these types of accidents can be.
To reduce the likelihood of bicycle accidents and prevent people from suffering serious or fatal injuries, Utah’s government agencies and local groups have continually educated bicyclists regarding proper road etiquette and helmet use. The state also has several laws and regulations that help riders navigate roads and highways alongside other pedestrians and motorists in a safe and trouble-free manner.
In addition to bicycle-related ordinances, Utah has insurance regulations and legal statutes that help guide those involved in bicycle accidents as they seek compensation from offending motorists. These rules affect various factors in personal injury claims and lawsuits stemming from such accidents, ranging from the amount of damages victims can recover to the time allotted for them to take legal action against the parties involved.
Utah Bicycle Helmet and Equipment Guidelines
Presently, Utah is one of the 29 states in the country that do not have any laws requiring bicyclists to wear helmets. However, because head injuries are common in accidents involving bicycles and motor vehicles, the state encourages helmet use as part of its initiatives and guidelines to preserve the safety of bicyclists and mitigate the risks of injury in a crash.
While Utah does not strictly require bicyclists to wear helmets, it does require bicycles to be visible at all times, equipped with a white headlight, a rear reflector or red tail light, and side reflectors. All these must be easily seen from a minimum distance of 500 feet, and they must be used if a bicyclist rides later than 30 minutes after sunset, earlier than 30 minutes before sunrise, or in any situation where it can be difficult to spot vehicles up to 1,000 feet away.
In addition to lights and reflectors, a bicycle must have brakes that enable it to stop within 25 feet on dry, clean, and level pavement at a speed of 10 miles per hour. In terms of prohibited equipment, a bicycle must not be equipped with a whistle or a siren.
Utah Ordinances Involving Bicycle Operation
Under Utah’s laws, a bicycle is considered a vehicle; thus, bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities on the road as other vehicle operators. As such, they must follow traffic signs and signals and adhere to ordinances, especially those specifically made for and imposed on them.
The state’s selection of cycling laws and ordinances includes the following:
Bicyclists cannot ride with more passengers than their bicycle was designed to carry. However, adult riders can take a child with them in a secured sling or child carrier backpack.
Bicyclists must ride to the far right side of the road except when avoiding obstacles, traversing narrow lanes alongside other vehicles, preparing to turn left, or overtaking another rider or vehicle.
Bicyclists must always ride in the same direction as motor vehicle traffic.
Bicyclists must make the proper hand signals when coming to a stop or making a left or right turn. They can also stop their bicycle for three seconds before making a signal. They are not required to continuously signal if they need both hands to control their bicycle.
Bicyclists aged 16 and above must first come to a complete stop for 90 seconds in front of a red signal or arrow and ensure that no vehicles or pedestrians are present before crossing an intersection.
Bicyclists cannot attach themselves and their bicycles to any moving vehicle.
Bicyclists cannot carry any object, package, or article that will prevent them from having at least one hand on their bicycle’s handlebars.
Bicyclists may only ride more than two abreast if they do not impede traffic flow.
Bicyclists must use designated bicycle paths instead of the roadway when directed to do so by a traffic control device.
Bicyclists can park their bicycles on a sidewalk next to a roadway as long as it does not impede the flow of pedestrian or vehicle traffic and as long as it is not expressly prohibited. They may also use the parts of roadways where parking is allowed, provided they do not block any legally parked vehicles.
Bicyclists must submit to an inspection if there is enough cause to believe that their bicycle is unsafe or lacks the proper equipment required by state law.
Is Utah a No-fault State for Bike Accidents?
Yes, Utah follows no-fault rules for insurance claims in bicycle accidents. As such, people use no-fault insurance coverage to address their damages in a crash, regardless of who is at fault. Bicyclists are covered by no-fault insurance in the state, meaning they can use this type of coverage for their losses if they get into an accident with a motor vehicle.
The minimum amount of no-fault insurance required in Utah is $3,000. This will cover victims’ medical expenses and part of their lost wages for a maximum of 12 months. However, if the total medical expenses exceed $3,000, they can go beyond Utah’s no-fault rules and pursue a liability claim against the at-fault parties. The same applies if their injuries result in permanent disfigurement, impairment, or disability. Additionally, victims may file a claim for the damage or total loss of a vehicle against offending motorists since no-fault rules do not apply to property damage.
In addition to no-fault insurance, Utah motorists must have liability coverage to pay for any damages in case an accident leads to a liability claim or lawsuit. The state has the following minimum requirements for liability coverage:
$25,000 for bodily injuries per person
$65,000 for bodily injuries per accident
$15,000 for property damage
How Much Can Someone Sue for a Bicycle Accident in Utah?
Utah imposes no caps on recoverable damages in personal injury cases, except for those involving medical malpractice. This allows bicycle accident victims to maximize the total economic and non-economic losses they can recover from at-fault parties if their case results in a claim or lawsuit.
Utah law defines economic damages as those involving measurable monetary losses caused by a victim’s injuries. They can include medical expenditures, lost income, and repair or replacement costs for damaged property. On the other hand, non-economic damages are influenced or caused by non-measurable factors like pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and loss of enjoyment of life.
If the court finds that the defendant in a bicycle accident case acted with reckless indifference or willful and malicious intent, punitive damages can also be awarded alongside compensatory damages. The court will calculate these damages based on the extent of the victim’s losses, the at-fault party’s financial assets, and the type of misconduct involved. In a punitive damage award, a person can receive up to $50,000, with any amount in excess being divided equally between the victim and the state. This is because punitive damages focus more on punishing the defendant for misconduct than compensating the victim.
It should be noted that Utah follows the rule of modified comparative negligence for personal injury cases. This allows bicycle accident victims to recover damages even if they were partially at fault for the accident. However, their total damage award gets deducted based on the percentage of their liability, as determined in court. Victims will be barred from recovering damages if their fault percentage reaches or exceeds 50%.
What Is Utah’s Statute of Limitations for Bicycle Accidents?
The statute of limitations for injury claims or lawsuits involving bicycle accidents in Utah is four years, or three years if an accident only damages a person’s property. In both scenarios, the statute begins on the date of the accident. However, if an accident results in the victim’s death, the dependents or relatives have two years to file a wrongful death claim, starting from the date of the victim’s passing.
Utah’s statute of limitations is “tolled” or paused in some instances where the person entitled to file a claim or lawsuit is a minor or declared mentally incompetent. The statute will only start once the person involved reaches the age of 18 or recovers from their mental incompetence. State law also dictates that when two or more disabilities coexist during the course of the statute, these disabilities must first be removed before any limitations can be applied.
In addition to minority and mental incompetence, the statute of limitations works differently in cases where the defendant is absent from the state. For example, if the defendant leaves the state before any claim or lawsuit has been filed against him while the statute is ongoing, the period of his absence will not be counted towards the statute’s duration. If he leaves the state before any cause of action accrues against him, the statute will not begin until after his return.
Legal Resources for Utah Bicycle Accident Victims
The Utah State Bar website provides people access to some online services and resources. Those with legal concerns can use the website to find licensed lawyers based on their practice areas, with options available for those seeking legal help at reduced rates. They can also find information on applying for pro bono help under the state bar’s programs and local organizations. The website also allows state residents to file complaints against attorneys and paralegal practitioners suspected of ethical misconduct through the Office of Professional Conduct.
People can visit the Public Records Center on the Utah Department of Public Safety’s website to submit requests for crash reports. Website visitors who wish to do so can register on the website using their e-mail address, and they will be able to use their account to track their public records requests. The Public Records Center also has informative sections that address inquiries on obtaining copies of videos recorded by law enforcement personnel and incident reports from the Utah Highway Patrol.
Bike Utah is an organization that works with government entities and local associations to launch initiatives that promote and improve bicycle safety for riders throughout the state. It hosts various programs that allow children and adults to learn about proper bicycle operation and engage with other bicyclists from different groups and clubs. Its website also has some accessible resources for those who wish to learn about Utah’s bicycle laws and active transportation plans, as well as the background and relevant advocacies of other organizations, like Bicycle Collective, Safe Routes Utah, and the Utah High School Cycling League.
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