Rhode Island Car Accident Laws

If involved in a car accident in Rhode Island, immediately pull over to exchange information with other drivers. Here’s what to do next.
Written by Sean Boehme
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
If you are in an accident while driving in Rhode Island, your first step should always be to make sure everyone is unharmed. After that, exchange information with the other parties involved and file an insurance claim for damages.
Car accidents can range from scary, life-altering events to minor inconveniences depending on if people or property are hurt or damaged. While every car accident might be different, you should generally follow the same steps after one occurs. 
Knowing the law is the best way to maintain composure in the heat of the moment. That’s why
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comparison app, has put together this guide with everything you need to know about car accident laws in Rhode Island. And if you're looking for the best rates on
Rhode Island car insurance
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What to do after a crash: Rhode Island accident reporting laws

After a car accident
, your first reaction should be to ensure no one in your vehicle is hurt. If everyone is alright, find a safe place to pull over and check if everyone else involved in the crash is okay. 
If someone is injured, it’s your responsibility to call 911 and inform emergency services of the accident. And even if nobody is hurt, Rhode Island recommends calling 911. 
Hopefully, nobody is injured. If that’s the case, your next step should be to provide the other driver(s) with your information and make note of theirs. The information you must exchange includes:
  • Name
  • Address
  • Vehicle registration number
  • Driver’s license
  • Insurance Information
MORE: 6 tips to survive a car crash

When to report an accident to the police

In many states, you only need to involve the police in a car accident if someone is injured or a vehicle cannot move. That said, the Rhode Island State Police’s official website states that you should call 911 even if nobody is injured. 
After you call the police, an officer will likely report to the scene of the accident. They will fill out an accident report. Be sure to ask the officer filing your accident report for the report number.
There are multiple ways to access accident reports when necessary, although they generally cost money. Check your city's website for more details. 

Financial responsibility and coverage minimums: Rhode Island's insurance laws

Rhode Island joins 47 other states in requiring all of its drivers to have a minimum amount of car insurance coverage. More specifically, Rhode Island drivers are required to have 25/50/20 liability coverage. This means:
Although you might find this requirement annoying, you’ll be thankful that you have it if you ever need it. And if you don’t have the required coverage, you could face a $1,000 fine and your
license could be suspended
In addition, failing to have car insurance coverage could mean you’re unable to claim damages if you are in an accident. You may be unable to file a personal injury lawsuit, as well.
It’s estimated that around
16-17% of all Rhode Island drivers are uninsured
. That’s a shockingly high number and could make things more difficult for you if you end up in an accident. To protect yourself, you can buy uninsured motorist coverage

Claiming damages after an accident: Rhode Island's personal injury laws

If you or your car incur damage or injury as a result of an accident, you’re probably wondering how you can recover your losses. The first thing you should do is contact your car insurance company about the accident and provide as many details about the crash as you can.
Beyond that, you might consider a personal injury lawsuit. These lawsuits can allow you to recoup the money you may have lost due to medical bills or missed work.
In some cases, you may be able to receive compensation for punitive damages. This essentially means you can receive money that is not direct compensation for something you lost. This only happens if another party was particularly reckless in their actions. 
Note that Rhode Island’s laws prohibit you from filing a lawsuit if it has been three or more years since the accident occurred, so you should do your best to get the process started as soon as you can. 
MORE: Can you turn right on red in Rhode Island?

Who’s to blame: Rhode Island’s pure comparative negligence law

Fault goes a long way in determining who is entitled to compensation after an accident, but how exactly that shakes out depends on the state’s negligence laws. There are three main negligence models currently in use by various states:
  • Pure comparative negligence: Individuals must compensate other parties for damages in proportion to their amount of fault for the incident.
  • Modified comparative negligence: Individuals must compensate other parties for damages in proportion to their amount of fault for the incident. However, individuals who are 50% or more at fault cannot receive compensation.
  • Contributory negligence: Individuals cannot receive compensation for damages if they are considered to be at fault at all for the incident. 
Rhode Island uses the pure comparative negligence model, meaning that drivers who are involved in an accident can be compensated in proportion to their fault. Let's look at an example.
Mark and Susan were involved in an accident where Mark was texting but Susan was driving 15 mph over the speed limit. The car insurance companies determine that Mark was 80% at fault for the accident while Susan was 20% at fault.
In Rhode Island, Mark would be responsible for compensating Susan for 80% of her damages. Susan would have to compensate Mark for 20%. If they were in a modified comparative negligence state, Mark would receive no compensation since he is over 50% at fault. 
There remains some serious debate about which of these systems is the most “fair,” with just 12 states opting for the pure comparative model. It’s worth remembering that, even if you live in Rhode Island, getting into an accident in another state means abiding by their rules

How to save money on car insurance in Rhode Island

Car accidents can be downright terrifying, so of course, drivers do everything in their power to avoid them. Unfortunately, some accidents are bound to happen, so one of the best ways you can prepare yourself is to have reliable
car insurance
If you already have good auto coverage, you probably don’t give your insurance much thought. But the reality is that drivers who don’t shop for car insurance every six months often end up overspending on coverage.
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It only takes a few seconds to sign up for free, and the average user saves over $800 on car insurance each year.
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