Rhode Island Car Accident Laws & Resources
What's In This Article
From Pawtucket to Woonsocket to Newport, you can find thousands of miles of roads to explore in Rhode Island. You can go from Narragansett Bay to Jerimoth Hill, and they are used by 750,000 drivers in the state, who drive an average of 7500 miles per year. In that amount of traveling, these drivers are involved in plenty of serious auto accidents each year. Many of them result in serious injury and death. Wherever you drive in this state, it is important to carry enough auto insurance to handle any auto accident you are in. It also is critical to know the driving rules and legal underpinnings of personal injury and liability in Rhode Island, so you know what to do if you are in an accident.
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Statistics and Notable Car Accident Lawsuits
Recent media reports suggest deadly crashes were on the rise in Rhode Island in 2017. RIDOT statistics at the end of 2017 showed that 61 people were killed in such accidents through the end of September 2017. That was a 50% increase from 2016 when 41 people died over the same span of time. Of the deaths that happened in 2017, approximately 25% were hit by vehicles. Others who were killed were drivers, bicyclists, passengers and motorcyclists.
Experts in the state in public safety say driver distraction through the use of cell phones and other electronic devices is a major concern on the roads of Rhode Island. Also, a recent review of news stories in the state found that many crashes for 2017 involved excessive speed, aggressive driving and alcohol.
Other statistics online state that 131 pedestrians died in car accidents in Rhode Island from 2003 to 2013. Most of the people who were killed were white men from 45 to 54. But most of the pedestrian fatalities were 75 years old. The top towns for pedestrian deaths were Providence, Cranston and Warwick.
Another recent report indicated that 38% of deaths on the roads in the state in recent years are from drunk driving. This has been rather embarrassing for state officials here because the national average for impaired driving accidents is 31%. However, the percentage of alcohol related crashes in the state did drop by 4% from 2010 to 2011.
Another problem in this state is motorcycle fatalities. It was determined in 2013 that there was a 38% increase in these accidents from 2012 to 2013. Also, unhelmeted deaths increased by 20%. However, Rhode Island does not have a universal helmet law at this time.
A deadly Rhode Island crash that received attention in 2017 was a crash that killed an unlicensed 16-year-old who spun out on Route 95 in Warwick. Also, a man from New York City was hit in a road rage incident on Route 295 and three female passengers died when a car hit a telephone pole in Pawtucket. Plus, a 19-year-old pedestrian was hit by a pickup truck in Coventry.
Another major accident in Rhode Island that may result in a personal injury lawsuit involved a Warwick man who was involved in a hit and run in February 2018. The 58 year old man named James Pinel was arrested and was charged with one count of duty to stop, accident resulting in personal injury and death. The police noted that accidents are accidents in the state, but when you leave the scene, you are committing a crime.
Police said the man struck a 31 year old pedestrian on Post Road near Walmart just before 9 PM on Feb. 16. The vehicle was a gray Acura SUV, which is a rare vehicle in this small state. While the man was not in a cross walk at the time, the driver still was required to stop and render aid under state law. The man who was struck was taken to a local hospital and now is in stable condition. Pinel was placed under arrest and was released on a bond of $2000. He will be back in court in March 2018.
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Auto Insurance Requirements in Rhode Island
This state requires you to have a minimum level of car insurance. If you do not have enough auto insurance, you can receive severe penalties including jail time and monetary fines. Under the tort system of Rhode Island, you could be held liable for damages in a car accident. These include medical costs, property damage, economic damages and physical and mental pain and suffering.
The minimum level of auto insurance you are required to have in this state is:
- $25,000 in bodily injury for each person per accident
- $50,000 in bodily injury for all parties in an accident
- $25,000 in property damage liability
- $25,000 and $50,000 uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage
- $25,000 in uninsured motorist property damage
- $3000 for medical payments coverage
You can reject the uninsured motorist property damage and medical coverage if you choose to not purchase them. You also do not have to carry additional coverage in Rhode Island such as personal liability insurance or comprehensive and collision coverage.
Legal experts in Rhode Island recommend that people with more assets should probably carry more insurance coverage. You can be held liable for another person’s injuries in this state if you are in a serious accident. This state has a comparative negligence standard as noted below, so even if you have injuries yourself, you still could be sued in a legal action if you shared responsibility for the accident.
Rhode Island Accident Settlement Taxes
Were you injured because of another party’s negligence? Then you may be entitled to a personal injury settlement. If you receive a settlement, be aware that some parts of it can be taxed as income.
The IRS states that most compensation related to a physical injury or illness is not taxable as income. But if you receive compensation only for mental anguish and pain and suffering not related to a physical injury, this is taxable as income.
If you receive any money for punitive damages that were intended to punish the defendant, these are taxable as income because they were not for any damage you suffered.
In Rhode Island, lost wages compensation is taxable as income because you would have been taxed on that income anyway if you had been working.
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Negligence Laws in Rhode Island
People who have been in a car accident in Rhode Island have the right to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover damages for their personal injuries. However, you should know this state has a comparative negligence standard. This means that if you are partially responsible for the accident that caused your injuries, your potential award in a lawsuit will be reduced by a percentage representing your degree of fault.
For example, if you have $10,000 of personal injury damages awarded and you were 25% responsible for the accident, you will receive only $7500 for your injuries at the end of the case. This is an important part of any personal injury case in Rhode Island. You only are entitled to 100% of the damages you are awarded in the case if the other driver is 100% responsible for the accident.
Car Accident Statute of Limitations in Rhode Island
This state has a statute of limitations for personal injury claims. It is three years from the date of the accident. Also, if you have property damage, your claim must be filed within 10 years.
There is no cap on personal injury damages in the state, but if there is a claim against the state, the limit is $100,000.
Other Rhode Island Driving and Accident Laws
Below are laws that have been passed in Rhode Island you should be aware of that affect driving in this state:
- There is now a ban on all cell phone use for new drivers in the state.
- There is a ban on texting and driving for all drivers.
- There is a click it or ticket law that makes driving with no seatbelt on a primary offense. This means you can be pulled over if you are observed not wearing a seatbelt.
The new ban on texting and driving in Rhode Island has received a lot of attention. Texting and driving was illegal for years in this state, but the new law that was signed by the governor last year made it illegal to use any device that is not hands free when you are behind the wheel.
Rhode Island law breakers will face a fine as high as $100 starting on June 1, 2018. If you are a first-time offender, you can provide proof of having bought a hands-free accessory for your phone. This will result in the fine being suspended. However, public safety personnel and emergency situations have been exempted from this new law.
Rhode Island Car Accident Resources
If you have been in a car accident in Rhode Island it is recommended to review the resources below.
- Drivers, passengers or pedestrians who have been hurt in a car accident in Rhode Island could have a pile of medical bills, lost earnings and a lot of pain and suffering that could be mental and physical. If you are thinking about a personal injury claim, you should review the helpful resources at Lawsuit Info Center. This no-cost website is made to help drivers in all US states to find a good personal injury attorney in their area. You also can use the site to get a rough idea of what your claim could be worth.
- If you were in a car accident in Rhode Island, you need to ensure that you have filed the car accident form for any car accident in the state. If the police responded to the crash, they filed the form for you. If not, you can get a copy of the form here.
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