Iowa Car Accident Laws – Guide to Iowa Car Crashes


Laura Schaefer

Iowa is known for its cornfields, pork production, and political prominence in U.S. elections. But for the nearly 3.2 million people living in the Hawkeye state, knowing Iowa’s car accident laws is also important.

People travel more than 33,039 million miles through Iowa each year, and with that kind of highway traffic, car accidents in Iowa are a regular occurrence.

To help simplify the process of dealing with a car accident, read through this complete Iowa car accident guide. You’ll learn what to do after an accident, how much insurance you need to carry, and how Iowa’s comparative negligence laws work.

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How to Report a Car Accident in Iowa

If you get into a vehicle collision, Iowa car accident law requires that you report to the police if it involves the following:

  1. Death
  2. Personal injury
  3. Total property damage of $1,500 or more

If authorities arrive at the scene, they will usually perform the paperwork necessary to report the accident. However, if the police cannot investigate the accident, you must report the crash through an Iowa Accident Report Form.

IMPORTANT: Failure to return an accident report form within 72 hours from the time of the accident may result in suspension of your driving privileges.

After signing the completed accident report form, mail it to Iowa DOT at:

Iowa Department of Transportation
Systems & Administration Bureau
P.O. Box 9204
Des Moines, Iowa  50306-9204

To obtain the police’s accident report to use as evidence, you can submit a written request with necessary accident information. Your attorney can use this report to prove your liability in court, strengthening your claim.

What to Do After a Car Crash in Iowa

Follow these steps after a collision to comply with Iowa’s car accident laws while legally protecting yourself:

  1. Stop your vehicle: According to Iowa Code § 321.261, all parties must remain at the scene of the accident if bodily injury or death took place. Fleeing the scene may result in a misdemeanor, or at worse a class “D” felony.
  2. Immediately contact emergency services or make a 911 call to provide the dispatcher with any important info like location and possible time of the accident.
  3. Exchange your contact information with the other driver(s). Get the other driver’s name, current address, vehicle registration number, driver’s license, and insurance.
  4. Finally, notify your insurance company even if the accident isn’t your fault. You don’t need to file a claim just yet, but file one when you have an attorney to represent you. This may raise your chances for a higher settlement when you can put on legal pressure through your attorney.

Is Iowa a No-Fault State?

No, Iowa has a “fault-based” auto insurance system. If you live in Iowa and you’re injured in a collision caused by another driver, you can file an insurance claim (or a lawsuit) against that driver to collect damages for your injuries.

To win, you must prove the other driver was at-fault for your accident and losses. This is when an auto accident attorney is vital. A professional who can analyze your case and pinpoint liability is crucial to maximizing your settlement amount.

This is even more key when states like Iowa measure liability through modified comparative negligence. When you get into an accident on modified comparative negligence states, you need every bit of evidence you can get.

Comparative Negligence Laws in Iowa

Iowa Code section 668.3 states that you can still recover damages in an Iowa car accident even when partially at-fault.

However, your award is reduced based on your share of negligence. Your share of liability must also not be greater than the other parties, while staying below 50% at-fault.

If you were 20 percent responsible for your crash, the total amount of your damages is reduced by 20 percent.

IMPORTANT: You cannot be more than 50 percent responsible for the crash. If you are, you can’t receive any compensation from the other driver’s insurance.

Iowa Car Insurance Laws

If you drive a motor vehicle in Iowa, you must comply with the state’s financial responsibility law. This means you need proof that you can compensate another driver if you get into an accident.

For most people, this means car insurance. Iowa Code § 321A.1.11 requires every driver to carry insurance coverages of:

  • $20,000 for injuries to, or the death of, one person in one accident
  • $40,000 for injuries to, or the deaths of, two or more people in one accident, and
  • $15,000 for property damages in one accident.

Or, you can file a certificate of insurance, a surety bond, or a $55,000 certificate of deposit (Iowa Code § 321A.25).

Additional Coverage Options

Liability insurance only covers the damage you may cause to someone else, but not your own damages. Therefore, you might want to consider these additional types of car insurance coverage to cover yourself in an accident:

  1. Collision coverage that pays for your own vehicle’s damages.
  2. Personal injury protection, which covers your own medical bills after an injury.
  3. Comprehensive coverage pays for damages unrelated to a collision, like acts of theft or vandalism.
  4. Uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage pays for property damage and medical expenses when an at-fault party has little or no insurance.

Types of Damages in Iowa After a Car Accident

During a car accident, you may be entitled to damages if you were not found at-fault under Iowa car accident law. There are two types of damages you may encounter in a car accident:

These are compensatory damages meant to cover your unjust losses caused by a car accident. If the accident involved egregious negligence or malicious conduct, you may qualify for punitive damages as well. These damages are meant to punish the defendant rather than compensate for losses.

Economic Damages

Economic damages are the measurable monetary damages a person experiences as a result of a car accident. These may include:

  • Medical bills (current and future)
  • Vehicle repair or replacement costs
  • Lost income/wages or job opportunities
  • Loss of use of property

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are harder to prove because they are less measurable than economic damages. These are the intangible losses you experienced in a crash. Examples include:

  • Physical and emotional pain and suffering
  • Physical impairment
  • Emotional distress
  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of enjoyment
  • Loss of companionship, services, and consortium

What to Do in a Hit and Run in Iowa?

It may feel like you’ll never receive compensation if this happened to you, but that might not be the case. Eyewitness accounts, traffic cameras, and dashcams may make finding the other driver possible.

First, contact law enforcement, seek medical attention, and call an attorney. If the identity of whoever is responsible for the accident can be found, their insurance will pay for the damages. If they are found and don’t have insurance, forcing the sale of their assets to cover damages might be an option.

The wages of the guilty party may even be garnished to compensate you. Also, they’ll face charges for violating the law by leaving the scene of the accident.

Iowa Statute of Limitations

According to Iowa Code section 614.1, there is a two-year deadline for filing most car accident injury lawsuits.

However, this extends to a five-year time limit on the filing of most lawsuits for any vehicle or property damage caused by a car accident. If you fail to file your legal claim before the statute of limitations ends, the judge may reject your case.

Average Car Accident Settlements in Iowa

Your car accident claim could be worth thousands of dollars – or more depending on the damages you sustained and your liability.

Insurance companies only consider short-term expenses. But you should receive compensation for your accident that covers all expenses…even future medical care if your injuries were severe. This is why it’s important to talk with an experienced car accident lawyer in Iowa.

Why You Need an Auto Accident Lawyer in Iowa

If you sustained injuries in an Iowa car accident that was not your fault, the at-fault driver is responsible for paying your medical treatment bills and property damage.

If liability is clear AND losses stay covered within the limits of the at-fault driver’s insurance policy, you may be able to reach a fair settlement.

But if there are questions as to the other driver’s amount of liability, the actual costs associated with your losses, or the extent of your injuries, you’ll need a lawyer.

IMPORTANT: If your injuries are severe (and require ongoing treatment), call a lawyer. They will help to ensure that your future costs stay covered.

How We Can Connect You With a Trusted Auto Accident Lawyer

Iowa’s insurance requirements and modified comparative fault laws can make dealing with a car accident by yourself feel overwhelming.

LegalASAP would be happy to connect you with a qualified auto accident lawyer in your area. Not only can an attorney help clear up confusion, but the whole process is free until you get your settlement in the mail.

So, you literally have nothing to lose and everything to gain —especially since lawyers usually secure higher settlements than just settling with your insurance. Let’s help start your claim today.

Laura Schaefer

Laura Schaefer is the author ofThe Teashop Girls,The Secret Ingredient, andLittler Women: A Modern Retelling. She is also an active co-author or ghostwriter of several nonfiction books on personal and business development. Laura currently lives in Windermere, Florida with her husband and daughter and works with clients all over the world. Visit her online at and