Montana Car Accident Laws – A Complete Guide

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Laura Schaefer

Known as “Big Sky Country,” Montana is home to mountain ranges, Glacier National Park, and fast-growing cities like Missoula and Bozeman. However, with that growth, comes an increase in car accidents that affect Montana residents daily.

To understand your rights and responsibilities in the wake of a Montana car accident, read on to learn about the state’s comparative fault law, unique dram shop claim rules, and car insurance requirements.

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How to Report a Car Accident in Montana

You must report a car accident to Montana law enforcement by using your cellphone to call 911 if:

  1. Anyone is killed.
  2. Anyone is injured.
  3. The crash causes $1,000 or more in property damage.

If you don’t notify the police of the accident at the scene you must file a crash report with Montana Highway Patrol within 10 days of the accident.

What to Do at the Scene of the Crash

Ensure your safety and the safety of others involved in the accident. Move your vehicle out of the way of traffic if necessary (and possible).

Call the police to report the accident. They will create a police report.

Take photographs and videos of the accident scene, including:

  • Vehicles involved
  • Injuries
  • Relevant details
    • Get the contact and insurance information from all other drivers.
    • Get the names and contact information of any witnesses.

Is Montana a No-Fault State for Car Accidents?

No. Montana follows a fault-based system for car accidents. The driver who caused the accident is the one responsible for paying the damages, including medical bills. So, how is fault determined in Montana? Insurance company investigators look at the police report, talk to witnesses, look at footage from traffic cameras, and look at photos.

DRAM SHOP CLAIM: In Montana, liability for a car accident extends beyond the drivers involved to bars, restaurants, breweries, and distilleries proven to have supplied an alcoholic beverage to a driver that caused injuries.

Serving alcohol is not the only element necessary for a dram shop claim, however. There must be other factors such as:

  1. The defendant served alcohol to a person under 21 years of age despite knowing that the person was underage.
  2. The defendant served alcohol to a person who was visibly intoxicated.

Individuals – private party hosts – can also be implicated in a dram shop liability case in Montana if the party host kept serving alcoholic drinks to a guest who was visibly intoxicated.

Montana’s 51% Bar Rule

Only the driver who is less than 51 percent at fault in Montana can recover a settlement from the driver who was more at fault by percentage. That said, damages are reduced by one’s own percentage of fault, according to Montana Code Annotated Section 27-1-702.

Modified Comparative Negligence in Montana

Montana is a “modified comparative fault” state. This means the injured party’s damage recovery is limited in proportion to their degree of fault. If a driver is 51 percent or more at fault, they cannot recover any money. The judge or jury sets percentages of fault for each driver – unless a case settles first (which is the most common outcome).

Montana Car Accident Insurance Laws

Montana law requires drivers to carry car insurance. Failure to show proof of insurance during a traffic stop or after a car accident can lead to fines, driver’s license suspension or revocation. The mandatory liability insurance amounts in Montana are:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury per person
  • $50,000 for bodily injury per accident
  • $20,000 for property damage per accident

IMPORTANT: The penalties for driving without insurance in Montana include a fine between $250 and $500 for the first offense and $350 for the second offense.

Additional Insurance Coverage Options

Drivers in Montana can get extra insurance policies to protect themselves from financial losses. For example, you can get uninsured/underinsured motorist protection, collision coverage, and comprehensive coverage.

Never Speak to Insurance Companies Without an Attorney

Determining an appropriate settlement amount after a car accident can be complex and confusing. If you speak to an insurance company without an attorney, you will likely receive a smaller payment that may not cover all of your losses.

Types of Damages for Car Accidents in Montana

Car Accident Documentation

Economic Damages

These are measurable losses and include: property damage to your vehicle, medical expenses such as ambulance bills, hospital bills, medication, medical devices, and physical therapy.

This type of damages also covers lost wages and lost future income, if your injuries have affected your ability to work. They can also cover “replacement services,” such as childcare and cleaning, if you can’t do those things.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are less measurable and include pain and suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, and loss of quality and enjoyment of life. These can also cover something called “loss of consortium,” which refers to loss of intimacy and harm to family relationships.

Limits on Damages in Montana

There is a cap (a limit) on non-economic damages of $250,000 in Montana. In dram shop cases, a settlement is limited to $250,000 for punitive damages and $250,000 for non-economic damages.

Montana Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents

The statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit after a car accident in Montana is three years from the date of the accident. For damage to a vehicle or other property, Montana Code section 27-2-207 says your lawsuit must be filed within two years of the date of the crash.

The statute of limitations is shorter for dram shop claims. For these cases, you must give notice of an intent to sue within 180 days of the sale or service. Once the notice has been served, you are given a two-year period to actually file a lawsuit.

IMPORTANT: If the car accident resulted in a death, the family has three years from the date of the person’s death, not the date of the accident, to file a wrongful death claim. 

LegalASAP Will Connect You with an Auto Accident Attorney

If you are facing medical bills, lost income, property damage, other costs caused by your car accident, you have rights under Montana law. An auto accident lawyer will handle the complex legal process for you. You can receive a much higher payout with representation than if you accept the insurance company’s offer.

LegalASAP can connect you with an experienced lawyer near you in Montana who understands the state’s car accident laws to review your case for free. Click the button below to begin:

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 lauraschaeferwriter.com and linkedin.com.