The Nebraska Department of Transportation recorded 30 motorcycle fatalities in the state in 2022, the second-highest number of cases since 2010. The latest data also showed that in 2020, 379 individuals were injured in motorcycle crashes.
Alcohol intoxication was involved in 32% of all fatal motorcycle accidents during the same year. Additionally, driver inattention, tailgating, and erratic driving were major contributing factors to the total number of cases.
To prevent motorcycle accidents throughout Nebraska, various local agencies continue to impose different traffic ordinances and guidelines for driving safely and responsibly. In case an accident does occur, the state also has laws that inform victims of the processes, restrictions, and factors involved in pursuing compensation from at-fault drivers.
Nebraska Motorcycle Helmet and Equipment Laws
All motorcyclists in Nebraska are required to wear a helmet when operating or riding a motorcycle. Helmets must meet federal standards by having padding and a lining, with the exterior designed to withstand penetration or deflect blows. Moreover, they should be secured to the wearer’s head with a proper chin strap to prevent them from flying off upon impact.
Despite these rules, seven of the 30 motorcyclist deaths in Nebraska in 2022 involved drivers who had no helmets or were wearing headgear that did not match the mandated safety standards.
In early 2023, Blair Senator Ben Hansen introduced a bill that may affect the helmet habits of motorcyclists in the state. If passed, riders aged 21 and over who have completed a certified motorcycle safety course would no longer be required to wear helmets as long as they wear protective eye gear.
Motorcycle Equipment Laws
Motorcyclists may also improve their protection against injuries by wearing proper clothing and protective eyewear along with a helmet. The state has several legal requirements concerning the parts and features a motorcycle should have:
One to two headlamps.
A red tail light that is visible from a minimum distance of 500 feet.
Working brakes on at least one wheel.
A horn that is audible from a minimum distance of 200 feet.
A license plate as proof of registration.
A working muffler.
Tires that adhere to proper quality and safety standards.
Handlebars that extend up to a maximum of 15 inches above their mounting point.
Proper seating and footrests for passengers.
An engine with a rated capacity of 45 cc or more.
Nebraska Motorcycle Operation Guidelines
To promote safe driving and prevent crashes, motorcyclists in Nebraska must practice proper road etiquette and obey various procedures. The state’s DMV, through the Motorcycle Operator Manual, reminds riders to adhere to the following guidelines:
Motorcycle operators must ride only on a regular and permanent seat; they can only carry a passenger if the seat is designed to accommodate more than one person.
Those riding a motorcycle must sit facing forward and astride the vehicle’s seat.
Motorcycle operators cannot carry passengers or objects in a position that will block their vision or impede the vehicle’s operation in any way.
Motorcycle operators cannot carry any object that prevents them from having both hands on the vehicle’s handlebars.
A motorcycle cannot overtake and pass another vehicle within the same lane.
A motorcycle can only carry passengers if it has footrests, a sidecar, or an enclosed cab.
A motorcycle cannot be driven between traffic lanes or adjacent rows/lines of vehicles.
A motorcycle cannot be attached to any vehicle on a roadway.
Nebraska Police Pursuit Policy
Nebraska law requires all police departments in the state to adopt and adhere to written policies for initiating, continuing, and terminating the pursuit of a fleeing suspect. These are implemented primarily to ensure that no other motorist or pedestrian is put in danger during the course of a pursuit. In line with state law, a pursuit commences when a police officer attempts to catch a suspect who is avoiding apprehension by ignoring the officer or increasing their vehicle’s speed past reasonable and safe limits. Some police chase incidents in the state involved the fleeing party riding a motorcycle.
In the Omaha Police Department’s case, the following regulations must be applied:
When engaging in a pursuit, all law enforcement vehicles must activate their emergency lights and sirens.
Unmarked vehicles with no emergency lights or sirens cannot join a pursuit.
Officers cannot participate in a chase while transporting civilians and/or prisoners.
Only two vehicles may engage in a pursuit unless authorized otherwise by a commanding officer for a life-threatening situation.
Police motorcycles and slick-top vehicles may only initiate or participate in a pursuit if it is confirmed that a violent felony occurred; these vehicles must terminate their pursuit once a marked police vehicle takes over.
When engaging in a pursuit, the department’s officers must also take various risk factors into account. These include:
Weather and road conditions.
Pedestrian and vehicle traffic.
The location where the pursuit commences.
The speed and condition of the vehicles involved.
The maneuvers used by the suspect to evade capture.
Additionally, officers must determine whether the severity of a suspect’s offense or violation warrants the initiation and continuation of a pursuit. An officer or supervisor can terminate it at any time if the risks escalate and begin threatening the safety of other motorists and pedestrians. No officer may reinitiate a pursuit unless they are given a specific order.
Nebraska Speed Limits
The state imposes a number of statutory speed limits to ensure that traffic flow is maintained at a safe and reasonable pace. These established limits may be modified based on factors such as traffic volume, road condition, and pedestrian activity, as well as a road’s crash history.
Nebraska’s statutory speed limits are as follows:
Within business districts
Within residential districts
Gravel roads not part of the state highway system
Dustless/paved roads not part of the state highway system
Other roads that are not freeways or expressways and are part of the state highway system
Freeways and expressways that are part of the state highway system
Rural interstate highways
In addition to statutory speed limits, Nebraska has advisory speed limits indicated by yellow traffic signs with black lettering. These are occasionally imposed if the conditions and factors present on the road require motorists to drive at a safe and reasonable speed.
Any motorcyclist who violates these will have to pay a fine ranging from $10 to $300, depending on how much they exceeded any given limit. Fines are doubled if the offense occurred within an area where road construction, repair, or maintenance is taking place. Violators will also be given four demerit points, and their licenses will be suspended if they accrue too many points.
Nebraska DUI Law
Nebraska law prohibits motorcyclists and other motorists from operating a vehicle under the influence of liquor, drugs, or any mixture of these substances. A driver will be charged with a DUI if a breath or blood test reveals their BAC level is 0.08% or more. For those below the age of 21, BAC levels must not reach or exceed 0.02%. Additionally, for commercial drivers, the legal threshold is 0.04%.
A DUI offender faces various penalties depending on how many offenses they have committed. These include $500 to $25,000 in fines, 90 days to 20 years in prison, and a license suspension for a minimum of 6 months. Stiffer penalties are imposed if the offender’s BAC reaches or exceeds 0.15% or if their impaired driving causes an accident that results in injury or death.
Implied Consent Law
The state follows the rule of implied consent, which means drivers automatically agree to undergo a blood or breath test once they choose to operate a vehicle. Those who decline a test will be penalized with a fine of $1,000 and a license suspension lasting at least 18 months. They will also be imprisoned for a minimum of 90 days.
Nebraska Motorcycle Insurance Requirements
As part of the vehicle registration requirements in Nebraska, motorcycle owners should have proof of financial responsibility, which must be submitted to their location’s county treasurer. This ensures that motorists who cause an accident that results in injury or death can pay for the victim's losses. The state counts both certificates of insurance and self-insurance as valid proof of a motorist’s financial responsibility.
Motorcyclists who wish to fulfill the requirements involving their proof of financial responsibility may do so by purchasing auto liability coverage. Under state laws, the minimum required amounts for auto liability coverage follow the 25/50/25 format:
$25,000 for the death of or bodily injury to one person.
$50,000 for the death of or bodily injury to more than one person.
$25,000 for damage to property
In addition to auto liability coverage, Nebraska law requires people to have uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. These help accident victims cover their losses in case the offending driver in a crash has insufficient or no insurance. The minimum amounts required for both options are $25,000 and $50,000 for bodily injury or death per person and per accident, respectively.
Motorcyclists have the option to obtain auto liability coverage worth more than the minimum and supplement it with add-ons such as collision and comprehensive coverage. Collision coverage is used to address any repairs on the policyholder’s vehicle. In contrast, comprehensive coverage pays for damages caused by factors unrelated to accidents, such as bad weather and theft.
Any motorist who fails to obtain or show any proof of financial responsibility will have their driving privileges suspended. They must also pay a $50 fee and submit an SR-22 form by mail for each vehicle registered under their name before the DMV can reinstate their driving privilege.
Nebraska Is an At-Fault State for Insurance Claims
Nebraska adheres to at-fault rules for insurance claims in motorcycle accident cases, which is why it requires motorists to have proof of financial responsibility. Under the at-fault system, those who cause an accident must use their insurance coverage to pay for the losses incurred by the victims.
Motorcycle accident victims can recover damages by filing a lawsuit against the at-fault party or a third-party claim against the offender’s insurance provider. They can also file a claim with their own insurer to reimburse their expenses if their insurance policies can cover their damages. Their insurer will then file a subrogation claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company after paying for the victim’s losses.
How Much Can Someone Sue for a Motorcycle Accident in Nebraska?
Except for cases concerning medical malpractice, Nebraska has no limits on the total amount of damages that can be recovered in a personal injury lawsuit. This means motorcycle accident victims can pursue and be reimbursed in full for their losses in terms of both economic and noneconomic damages.
Economic damages refer to the monetary losses a plaintiff has suffered as a result of an accident. They can include present and future medical expenses, repair costs for damaged property, and lost income stemming from the plaintiff’s inability to work due to injury. Noneconomic damages, meanwhile, include intangible factors like pain and suffering, emotional anguish, trauma, and the loss of enjoyment of life.
In personal injury cases, noneconomic damages are calculated using either the per diem method or the multiplier method. Under the per diem option, the court multiplies the number of days a victim will presumably experience pain and suffering by a monetary amount that fits their intangible losses. Under the multiplier method, the court multiplies the total economic damages awarded to a victim by a number between one and five, depending on the severity of their pain and suffering.
Nebraska Is A Modified Comparative Negligence State for Motorcycle Accident Lawsuits
Nebraska follows the modified comparative negligence system for personal injury lawsuits. Therefore, a motorcycle accident victim will have their total recoverable damages reduced if they were partially at fault for the accident in question. The proportion of their fault that the court assigns determines the amount subtracted from their damage award. For example, if a victim was 25% liable for an accident, they would have 25% deducted from a damage award worth $100,000, and they would only receive $75,000 as a result.
Nebraska also adheres to the 50% bar rule under modified comparative negligence; if a party’s apportioned fault in an accident reaches or exceeds 50%, they will no longer be able to recover any damages.
If multiple parties are responsible for an accident, the court will follow joint and several liability rules. This means all the defendants will share the responsibility of paying for the entirety of a victim’s economic damages. For noneconomic damages, the defendants will only be liable for their own share of a plaintiff’s intangible losses.
Nebraska Statute of Limitations for Motorcycle Accidents
In line with the state’s statute of limitations for personal injury cases, motorcycle accident victims are given up to four years to file a lawsuit against an offending driver. The same duration applies to property damage cases. The four-year timeframe begins on the date of the accident in question. Meanwhile, for wrongful death lawsuits, the duration for filing a case is two years from the date of the victim’s death.
If a victim learns about an accident-related injury at a later time, the discovery rule may not apply. The statute of limitations may be extended depending on the circumstances involved in such a case, and in most scenarios, it will begin on the date when the injury was discovered or when it should have been reasonably discovered. However, the timeframe can no longer be extended if 10 years have elapsed since the date of the accident that caused the injury.
Nebraska’s statute of limitations also varies in cases involving victims under 21 or those incapable of filing a lawsuit due to mental disability. In these scenarios, the statute only begins after they turn 21 or recover from their disability.
Legal Resources for Nebraska Accident Victims
The Nebraska State Bar Association has several online services available on its website. Its Find-A-Lawyer page allows locals to search for specific attorneys throughout the state based on their location and practice areas. All lawyers within the association are available for 30-minute consultations, which cost $50 or less. The site also allows potential clients to contact specific lawyers who offer limited-scope representation for different types of cases. In addition, the organization’s website has a directory of external links regarding various legal procedures and relevant information.
The Nebraska Department of Insurance helps residents of the state address their concerns and complaints regarding insurance-related matters. Through its collaboration with state-based systems, the department allows people to search for insurance agents and companies within the state. Its Insurance Complaint Division is open to those who wish to file complaints against a specific firm or agent online.
The Omaha Lawyer Referral Service is a nonprofit launched by the Omaha Bar Association. Residents of Sarpy, Washington, Cass, and the local metro can dial 402-280-3603 or submit a request form to match with lawyers in their respective areas. Any citizen who has concerns involving personal injury, Social Security disability, or workers’ compensation may consult with a lawyer for up to 30 minutes without needing to pay the $40 consultation fee. The service can also redirect Nebraskans living outside the listed locations to other lawyer referral service programs within their cities or counties.
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