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Sinapi Law Associates, LTD

2374 Post Road, Suite 201
Warwick, Rhode Island 02886

401-739-9690

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Rhode Island Motor Vehicle Accident Laws and Safety Requirements

The death toll on Rhode Island’s roads is well short of a hundred most years, making it one of the top five safest places to drive in the U.S. These statistics mean little, however, to an injured motor vehicle accident victim seeking compensation. The major features of Rhode Island road accident law are composed of statutes and judicial precedents.

Statute of Limitations: In Rhode Island, you have three years from the date of an injury accident to file a personal injury lawsuit. Rhode Island allows an astonishing ten years from the date of an accident to file a lawsuit over property damage. The deadline to file a wrongful death lawsuit is three years after the date of death of the victim, or three years after the date that the wrongful act that caused the death was or should have been discovered.

When the Victim is Partly at Fault: Rhode Island is a “pure comparative negligence” state – when the victim is partly at fault, the court will simply subtract a percentage from the victim’s damages that exactly corresponds to the victim’s percentage of fault for the accident as assigned by the court. Unlike most states, in Rhode Island an accident victim can win damages even if he is mostly at fault for the accident.

Fault/No Fault Rule: Rhode Island is not a “no-fault” auto insurance state – if the other driver was at fault, you are entitled to file a claim against the other driver’s insurance policy without looking to your own insurance policy first.

Minimum Insurance Coverage: Rhode Island drivers must purchase auto liability insurance. The minimum coverage is $25,000 per injured victim, $50,000 per injury accident, and $25,000 for property damage.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage: Rhode Island drivers are not legally required to purchase uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

Types of Damages Available: Full compensatory damages are available. Although punitive damages are not allowed in wrongful death lawsuits, the minimum damages award is $250,000.

Product Liability for Defective Vehicles: Although strict product liability is available, damages can be reduced if the claimant was partially at fault (by failing to properly maintain the vehicle, for example).

Suing the Government over Defective Roadways (Sovereign Immunity): Normally, recovery against the state government or one of its subdivisions is limited to $100,000 per case.

Motorcycle Helmet Laws: All riders under 21 must wear helmets.

Seat Belt Laws: All occupants aged 8 and older must buckle up. The maximum fine for a first offense is $40.

Dram Shop Law: Licensed alcohol vendors can be sued by an injured third party if the third party’s injury was caused by the vendor selling alcohol to an under-21 minor or a clearly intoxicated adult. Social hosts face no such liability for serving alcohol.

DUI/DWI Penalties (first offense): Rhode Island can jail a first-offender for up to a year for DUI (known as OUI in Rhode Island). Fines range from $200 to $500, and the state may suspend the offender’s driver’s license for 2 to 18 months.

Penalty for Refusing a Sobriety Test:  The penalty for a first offense is a suspension of the offender’s driver’s license of six months, 10 to 60 hours of community service, and a fine of $200 to $500. The state can also prosecute the offender for OUI and use your refusal to be tested as evidence against him.

Distracted Driving (texting while driving, etc.): All texting while driving is banned in Rhode Island. On-duty school bus drivers and drivers under 18 may not use cell phones while driving (even non-hand-held models).