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Missouri's scenic highways make it a favorite motorbike destination. In the Show-Me State, motorcycle enthusiasts will find plenty of places to ride. From Route 66 to Route 185, riders can enjoy a picturesque journey. They can also ride from St. Louis to the Grey Pass Summit, which crosses the Meramec River. Motorcyclists, however, are more vulnerable in a crash than car drivers and occupants because they are exposed and have less protection. Additionally, they are more likely to fall into other drivers' blind spots. 

Missouri ranks seventh in the nation for motorcycle fatalities. In its 2021 report, the National Highway Safety Administration described motorcyclists as 24 times more likely than passenger vehicle drivers and occupants to die in a crash. They were also four times more likely to sustain an injury. Preliminary data from the same year recorded 151 motorcyclists killed on Missouri roads. This accounted for 14% of the state's total road fatalities.

The state legislature has enacted motorcycle laws that benefit motorcycle accident victims. These regulations can help individuals injured in motorcycle accidents recover compensatory damages. They can also help riders avoid misdemeanor fines and penalties. 

Missouri Motorcycle Helmet Law

Missouri enacted a universal helmet law in 1967. The law required everyone operating a motorcycle or riding as a passenger to wear a helmet when traveling on state highways.

A more lenient helmet law went into effect on August 28, 2020. RSMo. 302.020(2) requires motorcyclists under 26 to wear helmets while riding on state highways. The statute also requires motorcycle operators with instruction permits to wear protective headgear. 

The Missouri Department of Transportation has specific guidelines for how helmets should look and feel to provide maximum protection. Helmets with a foam liner, firm chin straps, and solid rivets should weigh about three pounds and must be one inch thick. Helmets that meet the requirements have a DOT label on the back.

Also, House Bill 1963 modifies provisions relating to transportation. The bill allows qualified motorcyclists to operate a motorbike without a helmet if they carry a health insurance policy. Riders must provide proof of coverage to law enforcement officers upon request by showing a copy of an insurance card.

Since Missouri revised its helmet law in 2020, the number of serious head and traumatic brain injuries has skyrocketed. A motorbike rider's share of fault in an accident may increase if he or she does not wear a helmet. It also limits the amount of money the biker may get from at-fault parties and insurance providers. It is a misdemeanor to violate the state's helmet law. The fine is a maximum of $25.

Missouri Lane Splitting Law

Missouri's motorcycle laws are ambiguous when it comes to lane splitting. It is not permitted, but it is also not explicitly prohibited. This makes it difficult for people injured in lane-splitting incidents to obtain fair compensatory damages from at-fault parties and insurance companies. A motorcycle lane splitter travels between two lanes of traffic heading in the same direction. When a rider uses the middle line, he or she is also committing lane splitting. On the other hand, the state allows motorcyclists to share the same lane.  

The practice of lane splitting is dangerous. Lane-splitting riders ask whether they can still recover money from a traffic accident. Missouri's pure comparative negligence law allows them to recover compensation for their injuries. Insurance adjusters and the courts use the percentage of fault to compute compensatory damages. Lane splitting may increase motorcycle operators' percentage of fault and reduce their settlement.  

Missouri Motorcycle Passenger Law

RSMo Section 300.345  prohibits operators and passengers from carrying or riding a motorcycle whose design cannot hold more than one person. The statute also requires operators to provide passengers with their own seats and footrests. 

Passengers have no control over motorcycles. They can also do little to prevent motorcycle accidents. Passengers injured in motorcycle accidents can receive compensatory damages from several parties. These include reckless motorcycle operators, other vehicle drivers, and their insurance carriers. Injured passengers can also bring claims against those responsible for road maintenance. 

Motorcycle operators have a responsibility to their passengers and other motorists. They have to exercise reasonable care in the safe operation of their motorcycles. Motorcyclists may be held liable for speeding, running stop signs, or driving while impaired. Injured passengers can file a personal injury lawsuit against operators who violate this responsibility. 

Meanwhile, it is worth noting that passengers on motorbikes have their own set of responsibilities. There are several ways for passengers to share liability in a motorbike accident. These include leaning too far forward while stopped in traffic and distracting the driver. 

Children must be at least four years old to ride a motorcycle. They must also be of sufficient height to reach the footrests. The law requires children to wear the same safety equipment as the driver. In Missouri, riding a motorcycle with a little child between two people is illegal. If a child is hurt and requires long-term care as a result of negligence, the operator may be held accountable for any medical expenditures or charges. 

Missouri Drunk Driving Law 

The legal limit for motorcyclists is the same as for motor vehicle drivers in Missouri. RSMo Section 577.012 contains sentencing restrictions for driving with an excessive blood alcohol concentration (BAC). It states that conviction is possible without further proof if a person's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) hits 0.08%. The courts consider this a "per se DWI." Negligence per se is a doctrine in Missouri tort law that places accountability on a person who breaks the law and injures another. The doctrine stipulates that anyone who drives drunk breaches the duty of care. 

The legal limit for those under the legal drinking age of 21 is 0.02% or higher. If they operate a vehicle while inebriated, they may be charged with DWI. This is known as an "impairment DWI." To demonstrate impairment for DWI, the prosecution must prove several elements. These include the defendant's impaired ability and the presence of drugs, alcohol, or a controlled substance in their system. The relationship between the impairment and the presence of the substance is also considered.

In drunk driving lawsuits, a plaintiff can seek punitive damages. This is also called exemplary damages in Missouri. Punitive damages aim to punish the defendant for misconduct, deter future misconduct, and set a public example. The Missouri state legislature passed Senate Bill 591 to raise the burden of proof for awarding punitive damages. The bill came into effect on August 28, 2020.

According to RSMo Section 510.261, a claimant must receive compensatory damages to be awarded punitive damages. Under Missouri law, half of the punitive damages awarded will go to the Tort Victims' Compensation Fund.

Missouri Motorcycle Speed Limit Law

Every driver in every state and road must adhere to the established speed limit. In Missouri, motorcycle speed limit laws are the same as those for trucks, cars, and other vehicles. Drivers and motorbike operators must stay within a safe speed limit depending on current road and traffic conditions.

In 2021, the state saw an increase in speeding and other risky driving behaviors. During the first half of the year, more than 450 people perished in car accidents on Missouri highways. The leading causes of fatal traffic accidents include excessive speed, distraction, and impairment. Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers issued more than 16,000 tickets to drivers who exceeded the speed limit. This represents a 9% increase over the same period in 2020. 

The speed limit on rural freeways and interstates in Missouri is 70 mph. The state allows drivers to move at faster speeds on routes that pass through sparsely populated areas. The maximum speed on urban freeways is 65 mph. This is because large sections of freeways are located in populated areas or within cities. In residential areas, the maximum speed limit is 40 mph. Residential roads have strict speed limit enforcement mechanisms. These roads have the greatest risk of speed-related accidents.

Driving beyond the posted speed limit or moving too fast for road conditions can result in penalties. Violators can receive a speeding ticket, points on their driver's licenses, or license suspension. Repeat offenders may lose their driving privileges entirely. Negligent drivers may be held liable for injuries, property damage, or even fatalities. 

Missouri Motorcycle Insurance Requirements

Each state has its own minimum liability coverage requirements. Like most states, Missouri requires drivers to carry a minimum amount of motorcycle insurance coverage. When a policyholder causes an accident and injures others, liability coverage kicks in. It also protects policyholders' assets if they are found to be at fault in an accident.

Missouri’s mandatory motorcycle insurance laws require operators to have minimum coverage limits. Motorcyclists must carry $25,000 in physical injury coverage per person and $50,000 per accident. The law also requires operators to carry $25,000 in property damage coverage per accident. Motorcycle operators must also have uninsured motorist coverage of $25,000 for bodily injury per person. This coverage has a maximum liability insurance limit of $50,000 for physical injury per accident. 

The required basic insurance coverage amounts only cover liability. Other coverage options are available to protect operators and their bikes from accidents. Collision coverage, which may or may not include uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, is one example. Another option is comprehensive coverage, which covers threats like fire, water, and vandalism.

Missouri is an at-fault motorcycle insurance state. This means that negligent operators may face fines, penalties, and license suspensions if they do not have the right coverage.

Missouri Is an At-Fault State for Insurance Claims

Missouri has a fault-based insurance system. At-fault states allow crash victims to pursue a claim against a motorist who caused a collision that resulted in injuries or deaths. Negligent parties or their insurance companies pay for damages caused by the accident.

Injured victims have several options to recoup losses after a motorcycle accident. They can file a claim with their own insurance carriers or the at-fault party’s insurance providers. Motorcycle accident victims may bring a personal injury claim against the negligent party. In this case, the at-fault party’s insurer needs to defend its client if coverage is imminent.

Missouri is a tort state. It is critical to prove fault before filing compensation claims or lawsuits. The courts consider motorists who hit motorcyclists as at-fault parties. Negligent parties’ potential infractions include distracted driving, reckless driving, and cutting off motorcyclists. 

Under the state’s fault-based insurance system, motorcyclists must exercise caution when discussing an accident with police officers and insurance companies. The admission of fault for a crash may jeopardize potential injury claims. Motorcycle operators need to seek skilled legal representation before discussing the accident.

How Much Can Someone Sue for a Motorcycle Accident in Missouri?

Legislators set compensation caps to avoid disproportionate judgments based on emotion. A damage cap is a statute that limits the amount of compensation an injured victim can receive from an at-fault party in a personal injury claim. 

Missouri does not impose a cap on economic or non-economic damages in personal injury claims. This means that motorcycle accident victims can collect the full amount of their economic damages after an accident. The severity of injuries determines economic damages. Compensation might be in the millions of dollars, depending on the seriousness of the injuries. 

Missouri is a Pure Comparative Negligence State for Motorcycle Accident Lawsuits

Missouri has adopted a pure comparative negligence rule for personal injury claims. This rule allows motorcycle accident victims to pursue compensation even if they were up to 99% at fault for the accident. Injured plaintiffs may only recover damages in proportion to the defendant's degree of fault. 

The law assigns both parties a percentage of fault from 1 to 99%. It may entitle both parties to damages if they played a role in the accident. For example, a driver who was hurt in an accident that another driver was 40% responsible for causing may recover compensation for 40% of his or her total damages.

RSMo Section 537.055 is a statute that protects motorcyclists from insurance companies that assign partial fault to them for simply riding a motorcycle. Insurance providers tend to place liability on motorcycle riders based on the risk involved in motorcycle riding. The statute states that owning and operating a motorcycle shall not be considered evidence of comparative negligence.

Missouri Statute of Limitations for Motorcycle Accidents

Injured plaintiffs have five years from the date of the motorcycle accident or discovery of the injuries to pursue personal injury claims under Missouri Code Section 516.120. Meanwhile, relatives of people killed in motorbike accidents have three years from the date of the accident to file a wrongful death claim. The statute of limitations starts on the date of death.

The statute of limitations applies to both civil and criminal causes of action. It contributes to the efficiency of the courts by limiting old claims. The prescribed period also aids in the preservation of evidence and testimony. Furthermore, the statute of limitations helps potential plaintiffs assert their personal injury claims.

It is possible to extend the deadline for filing claims or lawsuits against at-fault parties and insurance firms. The discovery rule states that the statute of limitations begins when the individual becomes aware of or should have become aware of the injury. The deadline can also be extended if the defendant leaves the state for more than two years. Furthermore, minors or those who are mentally disabled can file claims after the deadline. The five-year limit begins when they reach 21 or are declared competent. In Missouri, incidents on government or public property have a statute of limitations of only 90 days. The Office of Administration’s Risk Management Division handles personal injury claims instead of a typical civil court.

Legal Resources for Missouri Motorcycle Accident Victims

Revised Statutes of Missouri

The Revised Statutes were first published in 1825. The General Assembly usually publishes them every 10 years. The Revisor of Statutes and the attorneys on the committee staff work for the Missouri General Assembly. They edit and publish the Revised Statutes with subsequent supplements. The staff also maintains the official electronic statute database for drafting legislation each session.

Missouri Department of Revenue Motorcycle Operator Manual

This manual aims to educate the reader on avoiding crashes while safely operating a

motorcycle. The National Public Services Research Institute developed the original “Motorcycle Operator Manual.” The institute is under contract with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and within the terms of a cooperative agreement between NHTSA and the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF). For the current edition, the MSF has updated and expanded the content of the original manual. 

Missouri Department of Insurance

The department receives, investigates, and resolves individual consumer complaints against insurance companies, agents, and brokers. It also provides consumers with educational resources and assistance regarding insurance questions and policy provisions. The state insurance department is located at 301 W. High St., Room 530, Jefferson City, MO 65101. It can be contacted at 573-751-4126. 

Missouri Department of Transportation

The Missouri Legislature created the department on March 22, 1913. The department’s main mission is to provide a world-class transportation system that is safe, reliable, and innovative for the state of Missouri. The MoDOT Open Records Center accepts records requests from the public. It is located at 105 W. Capitol Avenue, Jefferson City, MO 65102. Residents can call 1-866-831-6277 for motor carrier services.

The Missouri Bar's Lawyer Referral Service

The Missouri Bar Association sponsors the Lawyer Referral Service. The program connects individuals and businesses with local and qualified attorneys. It serves counties throughout the state. It is located at 326 Monroe Street, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0119. It can be reached at 573-636-3635.

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