If you've been injured in a car accident in the State of Utah, 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 Utah statutes in each section.
Here are the Utah 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, nor must any pedestrian enter any marked or unmarked crosswalk where traffic signs forbid such entry.
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:
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, bicycle lane, or bicycle path.
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 emerging from or entering an alley, building, private road, or driveway shall yield the right of way to any pedestrian approaching on any sidewalk extending across the alley, building entrance, road, or driveway.
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 obviously confused, incapacitated, or intoxicated person.
Pedestrians Under the Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance
A pedestrian who is under the influence of alcohol or any drug to a degree that renders the
pedestrian a hazard may not walk or be on a highway except on a sidewalk or sidewalk area.
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.
Driving on Right Side of Roadway
Drivers must drive in the right lane of roadways with the following exceptions:
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. Drivers must also not drive on the left side of the road under the following conditions:
Passing On the Right
Drivers may pass on the right under the following conditions:
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. Drivers must leave sufficient space ahead of their vehicle so that at least two seconds elapse before reaching the location of the vehicle directly in front of theirs.
Drivers and Mobile Electronic Devices
Drivers must not drive while using a handheld mobile electronic device to write or read text messages, instant messages, or email messages, to dial a phone number, to access the internet, to view or record a video, or to enter data into the device. Driver are permitted to use a handheld mobile device for voice communication, for GPS , for calling emergency services, or for reporting a safety hazard.
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 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, except penalties related to operator licenses under alcohol and drug-related traffic offenses.
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.
Motorcycles and Headlights
From thirty minutes after sunset until thirty minutes before sunrise, every motorcycle riding on a roadway must have their headlights turned on.
A driver is guilty of careless driving if the person:
A driver is guilty of reckless driving if the driver drives in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property or the driver violates three (3) or more acts of the Traffic Code in a continuous period of driving three (3) miles or less.
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 must immediately stop and remain at the scene of the accident until the driver has given to the persons involved their name, address, the registration number of the vehicle being operated, and the name of the insurance provider covering the vehicle being operated including the phone number of the agent or provider.
Upon request and if available, the driver must show their driver's or operator's license to any investigating peace officer present, the person struck, the driver, occupant of, or person attending the vehicle or other property damaged in the accident; and the owner of property damaged in the accident, if present.
The driver must immediately and by the quickest means of communication available give notice to the nearest law enforcement agency.
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 41-6a-401.7.1 to give information and render aid.
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.
The driver must also give to the persons involved their name, address, the registration number of the vehicle being operated, and the name of the insurance provider covering the vehicle being operated including the phone number of the agent or provider.
Upon request and if available, the driver must show their driver's or operator's license to any investigating peace officer present, the driver, occupant of, or person attending the vehicle or other property damaged in the accident; and the owner of property damaged in the accident, if present.
If the accident resulted in property damage of fifteen-hundred ($1,500) dollars or more, the driver must immediately and by the quickest means of communication available give notice to the nearest law enforcement agency.
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, and the registration number of the car being driven.
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, and the registration number of their car.
If the driver provides this information to an investigating peace officer, then the driver does not need to notify any other persons.
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 fifteen-hundred ($1,500) dollars or more must immediately by the quickest means of communication give notice to the nearest peace office.
If the driver is physically unable to give immediate notice and there is another occupant in the car, the other occupant must immediately by the quickest means of communication give notice to the nearest peace office.
The driver or the owner of the car must also report the accident to the department within ten (10) days of the date of the accident.
Sections 41-6a-401.7 and 41-6a-402
Accident Reports Filed By Police Departments
A peace officer who investigates an accident must file an electronic copy of the report with the department within ten (10) days of completing the investigation.
Accident Report Forms
The department must, upon request, supply to law enforcement agencies, justice court judges, sheriffs, garages, and other appropriate agencies or individuals accident reports forms.
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 moving, stopped, or parked on Utah roadways.
An opened alcoholic beverage container can be kept only in part of the vehicle that is not accessible to the driver or passengers who are inside the vehicle, such as the trunk. It cannot be kept in the utility or glove compartment.
Passengers of a motorboat, a motorhome, or a hired vehicle 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 Utah, 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.
Utah Dram Shop Law
Utah has a 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.
In Utah, it is illegal for a social host or a commercial establishment to serve alcohol to a minor or a person under the influence of an intoxicant, and the host or establishment is liable for the damages caused by the intoxicated person as a result of being intoxicated.
The statute of limitations on filing a lawsuit using the dram shop law are two (2) years after the date of injury or damage.
Sections 32B-12-201, 32B-12-202, 32B-12-301, and 32B-12-302
Financial Responsibility Car Insurance Minimum Limits
In the State of Utah, 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:
Drivers who do not have liability insurance at the time of an accident are required to personally compensation the victim(s) of the accident.
Utah Insurance Information
For information about buying auto insurance, see the Utah Department of Insurance website.
Comparative Negligence (51% Rule)
In Utah, 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.
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 78B-5-818
Right of Way: Section 41-6a-903
Drivers and Mobile Electronic Devices: Section 41-6a-1716
Utah's No Fault Car Insurance
In Utah, car owners must purchase car insurance. The Utah insurance claims system is based on no-fault. 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.
For information about insurance requriements, see the Utah Department of Insurance website.
Statute of Limitations
Utah has a three (3) year statute of limitations for property damage and and a four (4) year statute of limitations for personal injury claims. This means if a driver, passenger, or passerby is injured or sustains property damage at the hands of a negligent driver, the victim must file a lawsuit within the allowable period following the date of the accident.
Sections 78B-2-305 and 78B-2-307
Small Claims Courts
In Utah, victims of car accidents can choose to sue the negligent driver in small claims court. The jurisdiction of a small claims court regarding personal injury and property damage is limited to a maximum of $10,000.
Utah Government Tort Claims - Sovereign Immunity
In Utah, the law states that it is not 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. Yet, there have been several cases where the Utah courts did allow claims against the government and its employees.
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