Motorcycling has multiple benefits—not only does it give adventure-seekers an adrenaline boost, but it also relieves stress and builds endurance. However, despite these advantages, motorcycling is also extremely dangerous. Motorcycles are prone to accidents because of their size, and the thrill that riding offers compels some drivers to engage in risky maneuvers, raising the likelihood of a crash.
In 2020, 62 people were killed in motorcycle accidents in Mississippi. The state has one of the highest rates of fatal motorcycle crashes nationwide. The Motorcycle Legal Foundation cited a study that put the motorcycle accident death rate in Mississippi at 12.7 per 10,000 registered motorcycles, just behind Louisiana and South Carolina, which ranked first and second, respectively.
To keep motorcycling fun and, more importantly, safe for riders and other road users, it’s paramount that they abide by the regulations and guidelines regarding the operation of motorcycles.
This article covers the legal aspects of motorcycling, from license requirements, standard gear and equipment, and driving practices to the filing of accident insurance claims and lawsuits. Knowing your responsibilities and rights as a rider will protect you from the risks associated with motorcycling, including potential legal liability in the event of an accident.
Mississippi Motorcycle License Requirements
To ride a motorcycle in Mississippi, one must be at least 16 years old and hold a Mississippi driver’s license with a motorcycle endorsement.
Drivers applying for a Mississippi motorcycle endorsement are required to pass the written and riding tests for motorcycle operators. Exceptions to this rule include the following:
If an applicant has a valid license with a motorcycle endorsement from another state, they are no longer required to take both the written and riding tests.
If an applicant has completed a motorcycle safety course recognized by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, they only need to take the written test.
The written or knowledge test covers topics in the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s Motorcycle Operator Manual, including riding tips and strategies. Individuals under 16 must first pass this test to obtain a learner’s permit. This permit allows the holder to practice operating a motorcycle on the road, subject to the rules set in Mississippi Code Section 63-1-6, until they feel they are ready to take the riding or skills test.
Mississippi Motorcycle Equipment
It’s not enough that riders hold the proper license to operate a motorcycle. They must also make sure that their motorcycles are fitted with warning devices and equipment. Under Mississippi state law, the following are required to be installed on motorcycles:
At least one working headlight and taillight
A horn audible at least 200 feet away
One or more rearview mirrors
Brakes that are functioning properly
In addition, all riders, whether operators or passengers, are mandated to wear a crash helmet while on a a motorcycle in Mississippi. The design and type of the helmet must adhere to the minimum standards set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Motorcyclists caught riding without a helmet can be fined up to $100 and spend time in jail for 10 days maximum for the first offense alone.
The NHTSA emphasizes the role of helmets in keeping riders safe, noting that in 2011, more than 1,600 helmeted motorcyclists survived crashes and at least 700 more could have evaded death had they also worn helmets.
Wearing protective headgear can also influence the outcome of motorcycle accident cases where the victim is seeking compensation for neck, facial, or head injuries. If you’re the plaintiff, a motorcycle accident attorney can help you obtain maximum compensation by proving in court that someone else is wholly liable for your damages.
Mississippi Road Rules for Motorcyclists
The state ensures order and safety on the road by enforcing the rules in Mississippi Code Section 63-3-1 through 27. Related topics on the common causes of accidents and how riders should behave on the road are listed below.
While motorcycling may be a more efficient way of traveling than, say, going by car, riders are subject to the same speed limits as other motorists in Mississippi.
The absolute speed limit on highways in Mississippi is 65 mph, as is established in Mississippi Code Section 63-3-501. This law also authorizes the Mississippi Transportation Commission to raise the speed limit to not more than 70 mph on interstate highways and controlled access highways with at least four lanes.
The following table shows the speed limits by zone or road type in Mississippi.
Less than 10 mph than the posted speed limit than the area
The state also has a basic speeding law. It requires riders to reduce their speed, regardless of the posted limits, when faced with conditions like severe weather, roads undergoing construction, and hard-to-navigate terrains.
Anyone violating these speed restrictions can be fined from $150 to $300, depending on the county and zone where the speeding occurred.
Mississippi state law also prohibits motorcycle racing on streets and highways. The first offense carries a fine of $250 to $1,000 and a jail term of up to 48 hours. The second offense is punishable by $600 to $1,500 in fines and 5 days to 1 year of imprisonment.
The police may pull over a rider who, based on their judgment, is driving recklessly. Reckless driving is a misdemeanor in Mississippi that carries a fine of $5 to $100 for the first offense and up to $500 for a second offense. Recurrent violations can lead to a license suspension. If another person is killed as a result of reckless driving, the at-fault driver will face a vehicular manslaughter charge. Because reckless driving can turn into a more serious offense, having a lawyer represent you will ensure that your rights are protected and severe penalties are avoided.
It is illegal to operate a motorcycle while under the influence of alcohol in Mississippi. The state considers driving with a blood alcohol content above 0.08 a DUI offense. This offense is punishable by a fine ranging from$250 to $1,000. The rider may also be placed in jail for a maximum of 48 hours. Other sanctions include:
Attendance at a victim impact panel in lieu of jail time
Mandatory participation in the Mississippi Alcohol Safety Education Program
Law enforcement officers are authorized to stop a motorcyclist if they have reasonable suspicion that the rider is under the influence of alcohol. According to Mississippi's Implied Consent Law, motor vehicle operators are deemed to have consented to a chemical or breath test for intoxication. If they refuse to take such tests, their license can be suspended for 90 days.
Riding between lanes of traffic, or lane splitting, is not legal in Mississippi, but neither is it strictly illegal. In other words, there is no law that expressly prohibits lane splitting in the state.
While lane splitting keeps motorcyclists from getting stuck in traffic jams, the practice is not without risks. Riders who split lanes should proceed with great caution and pay attention to their surroundings and any careless drivers.
If you split lanes and cause an accident, you might not be able to recover full compensation for the injuries you sustained. Your fault in the accident will increase, and the payment you are supposed to receive will be reduced.
Mississippi Motorcycle Insurance Requirements
A motorcycle accident can place a huge financial burden on the rider and their family. Treating a motorcyclist’s fatal injuries costs around $1.2 million, according to a Government Accountability Office study. For a non-fatal motorcycle crash, the cost ranges from $2,500 to $1.4 million. This is why it is important that every rider is covered by insurance.
Under Mississippi state law, motorcycle operators must have the following minimum insurance liability coverage:
$25,000 - bodily injury per person
$50,000 - bodily injury per accident
$25,000 - property damage per accident
Police officers investigating a crash will ask the parties involved for proof of liability insurance. Failure to present a physical or digital copy of the insurance card is considered a misdemeanor. The operator, if convicted, will be required to pay a fine of $100. They also risk getting their license suspended for one year or until they show proof of liability insurance.
In addition to liability insurance, it is recommended that riders get additional coverages, like medical payment, collision, uninsured motorist, and underinsured motorist insurance. These extra insurance policies can cover medical and other injury-related expenses of the rider, especially situations like:
Severe crashes that leave victims with catastrophic injuries
Collisions where the at-fault party cannot be located (hit-and-run)
Accidents caused by uninsured or underinsured motorists
It is worth noting that Mississippi has one of the highest rates of drivers with no motorcycle insurance. This makes it all the more necessary for riders to acquire additional protection to help them deal with the staggering cost of crash injuries.
Mississippi Is an At-Fault State for Insurance Claims
Mississippi is a traditional tort liability state, or an "at-fault" state. This means that, in the event of a motorcycle accident, the responsibility to pay for the victim’s injuries and losses falls on the at-fault driver or their insurance company.
The police, insurance providers, or the court (if the victim files a civil claim) determines who is responsible in a motorcycle crash. Therefore, collecting evidence is critical. If you figure in a motorcycle accident, document the scene by taking pictures of the crash and your injuries, unless it’s physically impossible to do so. Immediately call for medical assistance and let your insurer know what happened.
Regardless of whether you or another driver caused the accident, it’s advisable to consult with a motorcycle lawyer who can represent you during police questioning, negotiations with insurance companies, or filing a case in court. Your attorney can assist you in obtaining the compensation you deserve if you are the victim or minimizing your liability if you happen to be at fault.
How Much Can Someone Sue for a Motorcycle Accident in Mississippi?
Accidents involving motorcycles frequently lead to severe, long-lasting injuries. Many motorcycle crash victims end up with permanent disabilities due to the injuries they sustained, such as head trauma, spinal cord damage, nerve injuries, paralysis, and amputated limbs. These injuries are part of economic and non-economic damages the victim can recover by suing the at-fault party.
There is no limit to how much the plaintiff can demand as compensation for economic damages like lost wages, loss of future income and benefits, property damage, and past and future medical bills.
However, for non-economic damages, such as loss of enjoyment of life, emotional distress, disfigurement, and pain and suffering, plaintiffs cannot collect more than $1,000,000.
Mississippi Is a Pure Comparative Negligence State
If a motorcycle rider contributed to the cause of their injuries in a crash, they are still eligible for compensation, even if they are 99% at fault. This is the rule under Mississippi’s comparative negligence law. The court reduces the amount the plaintiff will receive by the percentage of their liability. Therefore, if the damages in a case come to a total of $100,000 but the court finds the plaintiff to be 75% responsible for the accident, $75,000 will be subtracted from the total, leaving the rider with $25,000 instead of the full amount.
Mississippi Statute of Limitations for Motorcycle Accidents
Filing a motorcycle accident claim in Mississippi is subject to the provisions of Mississippi Code Section 15-1-49. Under this law, if someone is injured or killed in a motorcycle crash—whether as a rider or as a passenger—the aggrieved party has three years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury or wrongful death claim. This legal time limit, also known as the statute of limitations, is tolled in the following situations:
If the victim is age 20 and below at the time of the accident, the statute of limitations starts running when they turn 21.
If the injury is not yet visible at the time of the accident, the three-year countdown begins from the date when the injury is discovered or should have been reasonably discovered.
Another exception to the three-year limit is when the defendant is a government employee or agency in Mississippi. In this case, the victim must observe two deadlines:
Notifying the responsible government entity not later than 90 days after the date of the injury
Filing a claim within one year of the accident
Legal Resources for Mississippi Motorcycle Accident Victims
In lieu of a Legal Referral Service, the Bar maintains an online list of attorneys licensed to practice in Mississippi. Citizens in need of legal representation can search the directory by state, county, city, first name, or last name of the attorney. Additional information is available at the Membership Department, which can be reached by phone at 601-355-4619 or email at email@example.com.
This web service provides access to information on motor vehicle crashes in the state. Mississippi Uniform Crash reports are restricted to parties involved in the crash, their representatives, and their insurance companies. A copy of the crash report is downloadable from the site and available for 24 hours. Users are advised to save a copy when downloading the document.
The MID helps motor vehicle operators with insurance matters. The auto insurance page contains links to resources covering a wide range of topics, from shopping for insurance to filing a claim with insurance companies following an accident. The site also allows users to file a complaint about an insurance company or agent.
The MVLP is a non-profit organization that gives free legal advice to the less privileged in Mississippi. The group partners with the Mississippi Bar Association and the Legal Services Corporation to represent clients in court. It also offers legal assistance to individuals who choose to appear in court on their own.
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