If you’ve been injured in a car accident in the State of North Dakota, you may have questions about how the laws will affect your property damage and/or personal injury claim. In this article, we’ll review the laws most commonly associated with car accidents. To read the entirety of each law, click the link to the specific State of North Dakota statutes in each section.
Here are the North Dakota car accident and traffic laws we’ll cover:
Pedestrians and Crosswalks
The driver of a vehicle must stop and yield the right of way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian has reached the halfway point of the crosswalk, or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the crosswalk as to be in danger.
Restrictions on Pedestrians Crossing Roadways
No pedestrian must enter any marked or unmarked crosswalk when traffic is so close that it might constitute an immediate hazard.
Pedestrian Control Signals
Whenever special pedestrian control signals, exhibiting the words “Walk” or “Don’t Walk” or the symbols of a walking person or an upraised palm are in place such signals shall indicate as follows:
- Walk or Walking Person. Pedestrians facing such signal may proceed across the roadway in the direction of the signal and shall be given the right of way by the drivers of all vehicles.
- Don’t Walk or Upraised Palm. No pedestrian shall start to cross the roadway in the direction of such signal, whether flashing or steady. Any pedestrian who has partially completed the pedestrian’s crossing on the Walk or Walking Person signal shall complete the crossing to a sidewalk or safety island while the Don’t Walk or Upraised Palm signal is showing.
Crossing at Other Than Crosswalks
Pedestrians intending to cross a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles on the roadway.
Pedestrians must use only the marked crosswalk to cross between two adjacent intersections that have traffic-control signals in operation.
Pedestrians can cross an intersection diagonally only when it is authorized by traffic-control devices.
Pedestrians on Roadway
Where sidewalks are provided, it is unlawful for any pedestrian to walk along and upon adjacent roadway.
Where sidewalks are not provided, pedestrians are permitted to walk only on or along the left side of the roadway or on it’s shoulder facing traffic from the opposite direction.
Pedestrians’ Right of Way on Sidewalks
The driver of a vehicle must yield the right of way to any pedestrian on a sidewalk.
Sections 39-10-33.1 and 39-10-45
Drivers to Exercise Due Care
The driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian upon any roadway and shall give warning by sounding the driver’s horn when necessary and shall exercise proper precaution upon observing any child or any confused, incapacitated or intoxicated person.
Pedestrians Under the Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance
The driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any confused, incapacitated or intoxicated pedestrian upon any roadway and shall give warning by sounding the driver’s horn when necessary and shall exercise proper precaution.
A pedestrian who is intoxicated and a hazard may not walk or be on a roadway.
Sections 39-10-30 and 39-10-33.4
Obedience to Traffic Control Devices
A driver must obey any traffic control devices applicable to the driver, unless directed by a traffic or police officer.
Sections 39-10-01.1 and 39-10-04
Driving on Right Side of Roadway
Drivers must drive in the right lane of roadways with the following exceptions:
- When passing another driver in the same direction
- When there is an obstruction in the right lane
- Upon a roadway with three marked lanes for traffic
- Upon a roadway restricted to one way traffic
Passing On the Left
Driver proceeding in the same direction must pass to the left at at a safe distance and shall remain in the passing lane until it is safe to return to the right lane.
Drivers being passed must not increase the speed of their vehicle until their vehicle is completely passed by the overtaking car.
Limitations on Overtaking on the Left
Drivers may drive to the left side of the center of the roadway in overtaking and passing another vehicle only if the left side is clearly visible and the overtaking vehicle can return to its lane without coming within two hundred (200) feet of oncoming traffic.
Passing On the Right
Drivers may pass on the right under the following conditions:
- When the driver about to be passed is about to make a left turn. However, the driver attempting to pass on the right must not do so without driving off the pavement of main-traveled portion of the roadway.
- When the roadway has two (2) or more lanes of traffic moving in the same direction.
Following Too Closely
A driver must not follow another driver more closely than is “reasonable and prudent”, having due regard for the speed of other drivers and traffic conditions along the roadway.
A driver who is towing another vehicle must leave sufficient space ahead of their vehicle to allow an overtaking vehicle to enter and occupy this space without danger.
Drivers and Mobile Electronic Devices
Drivers may not use a wireless communications device to compose, read or send an electronic message, except for the sole purpose of calling for emergency assistance. Drivers are permitted to use a read, select, or enter a telephone number for the purpose of making or receiving a telephone call.
Drivers under eighteen (18) years of age must not drive while using a mobile electronic device to talk, compose, read or send an electronic message, except for the sole purpose of calling for emergency assistance.
Sections 39-08-23 and 39-08-24
Drivers and Intersections
When two (2) drivers approach an intersection at approximately the same time the driver on the left must yield to the driver in the right.
Drivers Intending to Turn Left at Intersections
A driver who intends to turn left at an intersection, or into an alley, private road or driveway must yield the right of way to drivers approaching from the opposite direction.
Drivers Entering or Crossing a Roadway
A driver about to enter or cross a roadway from any place other than another roadway must yield the right of way to all other drivers and cyclists on the roadway to be crossed.
Bicyclists must obey the same traffic laws as drivers of cars, and are subject to the same penalties as are drivers for violating traffic laws.
Bicyclists must obey the same traffic laws as drivers of cars, and are subject to the same penalties as are drivers for violating traffic laws.
Motorcyclists and Lanes of Traffic
Motorcyclists are entitled to the full use of a traffic lane and drivers must not take any action to deprive a motorcyclist of his or her right to use a full lane on a roadway. A motorcyclist must not pass another driver in the same lane. Motorcyclists must not ride more than two (2) abreast in a single lane.
Motorcyclists must not pass another driver in the same lane. Commonly known as “lane splitting,” motorcyclists sometimes attempt to pass other drivers when traffic is slowed, or bumper to bumper. To move forward through traffic motorcyclists sometimes drive between cars. Doing so is not only illegal, but quite dangerous.
All motorcyclists under the age of eighteen (18) must wear helmets while riding on roadways. If the driver of the motorcycle is required by law to wear a helmet, the passenger is required to wear one too, regardless of the passenger’s age.
Motorcycles and Headlights
From thirty minutes after sunset until thirty minutes before sunrise, every motorcycle riding on a roadway must have two lighted headlights turned on.
Section 39-21-01 and Section 39-21-02
Driving Offenses and Accident Requirements
A driver who drives in disregard for the safety of others, without due caution, or at a speed that endangers or likely to endanger others is guilty of reckless driving, and can be fined and imprisoned.
Alcohol and Minors
A driver under the age of twenty one (21) must not drive upon any roadway after drinking any measurable amount of alcohol.
Driver’s Duty to Give Information and Render Aid
A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury or death to any person, including other drivers, passengers, and/ or passersby must give their name, address and the vehicle registration number, and insurance policy information, and exhibit their driver’s license to any person injured in the accident, or to the driver, passengers, and/or police officers investigating the accident.
Moreover the driver must render to any person injured in the accident reasonable assistance, including making of arrangements to transfer the injured person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent medical treatment is required.
Accidents Involving Death, Personal Injury, or Substantial Bodily Injury
A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury or death of any person must immediately stop and remain at the scene of the accident until the driver has fulfilled the requirements of Section 39-08-06.
Section 39-08-06 reads in part that the driver must give their name, address and the registration number of the car they are driving, and must upon request exhibit their driver’s license and insurance information to any person injured in the accident or to the driver of the car involved in the accident.
Sections 39-08-04 and 39-08-06
Accidents Involving Only Damage to Another Car or Property
A driver involved in an accident resulting only in damage to property or another car which is driven or attended by any person must immediately stop at the scene of the accident or as close to it as possible and must remain at the scene of the accident until the driver has fulfilled the requirements of Section 39-08-06.
Sections 39-08-05 and 39-08-06
Accidents Involving Damage to Unattended Car or Unattended Property
A driver who collides with a parked car or who collides with other property which is unattended must immediately stop at the scene of the accident or as close to it as possible and must attempt to locate and notify the driver or owner of the damaged car or damaged property.
Once located the driver who caused the accident must give their name, address, insurance policy information, and the name and address of the owner of the vehicle that caused the accident.
If the driver or owner of the damaged car or property cannot be located, the driver who caused the accident must attach a written note to the damaged property in a conspicuous place giving their name, address, insurance policy information, and the name and address of the owner of the vehicle that caused the accident.
Driver’s Duty to Notify Police Department
A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury, death, or total damage to all property resulting in one thousand ($1,000) dollars or more must immediately by the quickest means of communication give notice to the nearest police department, county sheriff, or state highway patrol.
If the driver is physically unable to give notice, then another occupant in the car must give notice.
Sections 39-08-09 and 39-08-11
Accident Reports Filed By Police Departments
Every police officer who investigates a vehicle accident for which a report is produced must forward the report to the department within ten (10) days of the accident.
Open Alcohol Container Law
A driver or passenger must not be in possession of an opened container of an alcoholic beverage or consume a controlled substance while the car is traveling on North Dakota roadways.
An opened alcoholic beverage container can be kept only in the trunk of a vehicle or behind the rearmost upright location of the vehicle where a person would not normally sit. It cannot be kept in the utility or glove compartment.
Passengers of a hired vehicle or a motor home can consume and possess an opened container.
Driving Under Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance
A driver must not drive after drinking an alcoholic beverage or consuming an intoxicant in an amount which renders the driver incapable of driving safely along roadways.
In North Dakota, a driver is guilty of the offense of Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence of an Intoxicant if the driver has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08 or higher.
Ignition Interlock Device
A driver who is guilty of driving while under the influence of an intoxicant may be ordered to have installed at his or her own expenses an ignition interlock device. The ignition interlock device will serve to restore the driver’s driving privileges during the pendency of the driver’s probation. If an ignition device is installed, it must be installed in every car owned or operated by the driver.
An ignition interlock is a device which measures any amount of alcohol contained in a driver’s body. Before starting the car the driver must blow into a tube emanating from the ignition interlock device. If the device then detects a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) higher than is permitted by law the car will not start and the violation will be reported to the prosecutor, the probation officer, and/or the judge.
At that point the driver may be subject to loss of driving privileges, immediate arrest and incarceration up to the maximum term provided by law.
North Dakota Dram Shop Law
North Dakota has a modified Dram Shop Law. Dram Shop Law refers to the liability of private social hosts, bars, hotels nightclubs and other commercial establishments who serve alcohol to patrons or to minors for injuries intoxicated patrons or minors cause to third parties such as in car accidents.
A private social host is the host at a private party, such as a wedding reception, a corporate sponsored event, a gathering of friends at a private residence, where alcohol is served not for profit.
Under North Dakota law, it is illegal for a social host or a commercial establishment to serve alcohol to a minor or an intoxicated person, and they are liable for the actions of the intoxicated person.
Financial Responsibility Car Insurance Minimum Limits
In the State of North Dakota, each motor vehicle must be covered by an insurance policy that includes liability coverage of the following amounts for all damages resulting from an accident:
- At least $25,000 per person
- At least $50,00 for two (2) or more people
- $25,000 per occurrence for property damage
For more information about auto insurance in North Dakota, see the North Dakota Auto Insurance Consumer Guide.
North Dakota Insurance Information
For information about auto insurance in North Dakota, see the North Dakota Auto Insurance Consumer Guide.
Comparative Negligence (51% Rule)
In North Dakota, the victim in a car accident can sue the negligent driver for compensation. The victim’s liability in causing the accident, their comparative negligence, affects the amount of compensation the victim receives.
If the victim contributed less than 51% of the negligence that caused the accident, then their compensation is reduced by the amount they contributed to the accident.
If the victim contributed 51% or more of the negligence that caused the accident, then the victim is barred from receiving any compensation.
The damages may not be diminished according to the comparative negligence rule if any o f the following are true:
- The person seeking damages is seeking to recover property damages resulting from a motor vehicle accident in which two people are at fault.
- The person seeking damages is seeking to recover property damages resulting in not more than five thousand ($5,000) dollars in direct damages and not more than one thousand ($1,000) dollars in indirect damages.
- The percentage of fault of the person who is being sued is over fifty (50) percent.
Example of Comparative Negligence (51% Rule)
One morning, Jackson was driving north on his way to work. At an intersection, he pulled into the left turn lane. At the same time, Melanie approached the intersection from the opposite direction. Suddenly, Jackson turned left into Melanie’s lane and their cars collided.
Melanie sustained serious brain injuries and damage to her car, totalling in $100,000 dollars worth of damages.
After their investigation, the police determined that Jackson had failed to yield according to traffic laws. A pedestrian witness told police he saw Melanie texting at the time Jackson’s car crashed into Melanie’s. As a result, the police issued Melanie a citation for using a mobile device while driving.
Melanie sued Jackson for $100,000 and claimed he was 100% at fault for the accident because he did not yield to her right-of-way. At trial, the jury found Jackson liable for failing to yield the right-of-way. However, the jury also found Melissa liable for using a mobile device while driving and partially responsible for the accident.
The verdict stated Jackson’s negligence equaled 70% of the accident, and Melanie’s equaled 30%. The jury awarded Melanie only $70,000 dollars.
In the event the jury had found Jackson’s negligence equaled 49% of the accident, and Melanie’s equaled 51%, the jury would be barred by law from awarding Melanie any compensation for the damages.
Comparative Negligence: Section 32-03.2-02
Right of Way: Section 39-10-23
Drivers and Mobile Electronic Devices: Section 39-08-23
North Dakota’s No Fault Car Insurance
In North Dakota, the law gives car owners the option of purchasing no-fault car insurance. No-fault insurance allows a person, who is injured in a car accident or whose property is damaged, to file a claim with their own car insurance company.
No-fault insurance allows a person to avoid pursuing a negligent driver for compensation for damages. No-fault insurance does not compensate for pain and suffering, and the amount of personal injury protection (PIP) insurance purchased by the injured party determines their coverage.
Statute of Limitations
In North Dakota, a driver, passenger, or passerby who is injured or sustains property damage at the hands of a negligent driver, must file their claim within two (2) years after knowing they have suffered a loss as a result of the accident, or within four (4) years after the accident, whichever is earlier.
Small Claims Courts
In North Dakota, victims of car accidents can choose to sue the negligent driver in small claims court. In North Dakota, the jurisdiction of a small claims court regarding personal injury and property damage is limited to a maximum of $5,000.
North Dakota Government Tort Claims – Sovereign Immunity
In North Dakota, it is possible to submit a claim against a governmental agency or its employees for personal injury or property damage as a result of negligence on the part of the governmental agency or its employees. The claim must refer to an lawful action on the part of the governmental agency or employee performed in the scope of their duties.
If the injury or property damage occurred as a result of an unlawful action, then the claimant can sue only the person(s) who caused injury or property damage individually. The governmental agency would not be liable.
If Melissa, an engineer with the Fargo Planning Department, ran a red light on her way to a worksite and caused an accident, then the City of Fargo would be liable for the property damage and personal injuries caused her.
If Melissa stopped for a few drinks and became intoxicated before heading to a worksite and causing an accident, then the City of Fargo can claim sovereign immunity. Melissa performed an unlawful act and was not acting in the scope of her duties when she became intoxicated on her way to the worksite.
To seek compensation for damages, injured parties would have to sue Melissa personally. The determination of whether or not Melissa was acting within the scope of her duties would have to be decided during a trial.
North Dakota places a cap on the amount of damages that can be claimed against a government agency or its employees to two-hundred and fifty thousand ($250,000) dollars in compensation for one person and one million ($1,000,000) dollars for one occurrence.
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