Hawaii Motor Vehicle Accident Laws and Safety Requirements

Roughly 10,000 people are seriously injured in Hawaii traffic accidents every year. Alcohol is involved in a disproportionate number of these accidents compared to the national average. If you have been injured (or if your loved one has been killed) in a Hawaii traffic accident, you are likely to need to file a claim for compensation. Your claim will be governed by the following rules and legal principles:

Statute of Limitations: You have two years from the date of an accident to file a lawsuit seeking redress for personal injury or property damage. If you are filing a wrongful death lawsuit, you have two years from the date of the victim’s death.

Shared Liability: Hawaii is a modified comparative fault state – when the plaintiff is partially at fault for the accident, his damages are reduced by his percentage of fault. If his degree of fault exceeds 51 percent, he will be completely barred from compensation.

Fault/No Fault Rule: Hawaii is a “no fault” auto insurance state, which means that you must rely on your own insurance policy and refrain from filing a lawsuit unless (i) your claim exceeds the Personal Injury Protection (PIP) amount in your no-fault insurance policy or (ii) your injury is serious enough, as defined by Hawaii law, to be eligible to exit the no-fault system.

Minimum Insurance Coverage: Hawaii drivers must carry no-fault auto insurance with coverage limits of not less than $20,000 per victim, $40,000 per accident and $10,000 for property damage per accident.

Uninsured/Underinsured Drivers Coverage: Hawaii does not require drivers to purchase uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

Types of Damages Available: Full compensatory damages are available, including compensation for psychological losses such as pain and suffering. Punitive damages are awarded only when the defendant’s conduct was reckless and deplorable, and these damages are capped at 10 times the amount of compensatory damages.

Product Liability for Defective Vehicles: No-fault product liability is available, and the existence of a product defect can be established using either the “consumer expectation test” or the “risk/benefit test”.

Motorcycle Helmet Laws: Motorcyclists under the age of 18 are required to wear helmets.

Seat Belt Laws: All occupants 8 years old or older must wear seat belts. The maximum fine for a first offense is $112, including court costs.

Dram Shop Laws: Both licensed alcohol vendors and social hosts can be held liable to a third party, if the vendor or the host serves alcohol to a minor (under 21 years old) and the minor injures the third party in an accident due to his intoxication. There is no third-party liability for serving alcohol to an obviously intoxicated adult.

DUI/DWI Laws: It is illegal to drive in Hawaii with a BAC of 0.08% or higher (0.02% for a minor under 21 years old), and stricter penalties kick in with a BAC of 0.15% or higher. Although first offenders receive no jail time, they can be fined anywhere from $150 to $1,000 and they can lose their driver’s license for up to 90 days.

Distracted Driving (texting while driving, etc.): Hawaii completely bans texting and driving and using hand-held electronic devices. Drivers under 18 cannot use cell phones while driving, even if they are not hand-held devices.