Iowa Auto Accident Laws and Resources

Iowa is home to 114,782 miles of roadways spread across diverse geographies. Unfortunately, Iowa roadways can be dangerous. Since 1924, Iowa has experienced at least 300 traffic fatalities every year

If you live in or plan on visiting Iowa, it is a good idea to become familiar with Iowa auto accident laws. Iowa auto accident laws give car accident victims important rights. Yet Iowa auto accident laws are complex. Those that do not have a lawyer often do not know what their options are. 

This guide will cover some important Iowa auto accident laws. The guide provides a brief overview of laws that will likely be important to your case. For more information, discuss your case with an  experienced Iowa car accident lawyer.

Iowa is an At-Fault State

Like most states, Iowa auto accident laws operate on a fault-based system. This means that the party that was at-fault for causing the accident must pay for resulting harm. Those costs include medical expenses, lost income, and property damages. 

In most cases the at-fault driver’s insurance company will pay for all damages. But Iowa’s comparative negligence rule may impact the victim’s damage award. 

Comparative Negligence in Iowa Auto Accident Cases 

Iowa follows a “modified comparative negligence” rule. Iowa Code Section 668.3 sets forth the standard. A car accident victim can sue the other driver, her insurance company, and third parties. But only if the victim is not more than 50% at-fault for the accident. If the victim is less than 50% at-fault, his damage award may reduce. 

For example, suppose another driver crashes into your car on U.S. Highway 30. You suffer significant injuries in the car accident. Afterwards, you attempt to settle with the insurance company but they are not budging. You hire an experienced Iowa car accident lawyer and file suit. The lawsuit names the other driver and her insurance company as defendants. 

After a trial the jury finds that the other driver was at-fault. The jury  determines that your damages are $150,000. But the jury also finds that you were 10% at-fault for the accident. This means that the court will subtract $15,000 (10% of $150,000) from your award. Your total award is $135,000. 

But suppose the jury finds that you are 60% at-fault for the car accident. Under the Iowa modified comparative negligence rule, you would recover nothing. Note that there is no exact science to calculating fault. Fault determinations come down to your ability to persuade the jury. Or the insurance company. Although the rule does not bind insurance companies, they will still allocate fault. An Iowa car accident lawyer can help you prove your case at trial or to the insurance company. 

Iowa Auto Accident Laws Statute of Limitations 

The Iowa statute of limitations sets a deadline for car accident victims to file a lawsuit. If you fail to file a lawsuit by the deadline, then you will likely lose your claim.  Iowa Code Section 614.1 gives accident victims two years to file a lawsuit for a personal injury. This same deadline applies to a wrongful death lawsuit. 

For a personal injury the two-year period begins running on the day of the car accident. In a wrongful death claim, the deadline is two years from the date of the victim’s death. The deadline to file a lawsuit for property damages is different. Under Iowa Code Section 614.1 parties must file a lawsuit within five years from the day of the accident. 

The Iowa statute of limitations does not apply to car insurance settlements. But if you fail to file a lawsuit by the deadline the insurance company has little incentive to settle. They will know that you lack recourse through the court system. 

Even if you believe that your case will settle, you should be mindful of the deadline. Missing the deadline set by the statute of limitations can have disastrous consequences. Consult with an experienced Iowa car accident attorney to protect your rights. 

Iowa’s Minimum Insurance Liability Coverage Amounts

Iowa auto accident laws require drivers to buy liability insurance coverage. The minimum amounts of coverage are:  

  • $15,000 for property damage caused by the driver of the insured vehicle
  • $20,000 for bodily injury or death caused by the driver of the insured vehicle
  • $40,000 for total bodily injury or death liability caused by the driver of the insured vehicle

Liability coverage covers medical expenses, property damage, and other damages to third parties. The insurance company will pay damages up to the coverage limits.  Some drivers buy policies with higher coverage limits. This shields them from personal liability for serious car accidents.   

There are some other ways drivers can meet financial responsibility requirements. For example, under Iowa auto accident laws drivers can: 

  • Post a bond with the Iowa Department of Transportation; 
  • File an agreement to pay the other parties’ damages; or 
  • Show evidence of settlement of all damages. 

Failing to Take Financial Responsibility Under Iowa Auto Accident Laws

Drivers must show financial responsibility under the Financial and Safety Responsibility Act. There may be consequences for those that cannot show financial responsibility. For example, the Iowa DOT could suspend your driver’s license. You could also receive a fine up to $1,000. Or law enforcement may inbound your vehicle. 

Under Iowa law you will need to show proof of financial responsibility to get your license back. You do this through special insurance called SR-22. This form verifies that you have car insurance. Many insurance companies consider SR-22 to be high-risk. This could cause your insurance premiums to increase. 

If you cause a car accident and do not have insurance, you may be personally liable for damages.  

Reporting Requirements for Car Accidents in Iowa

Drivers involved in car accidents in Iowa must report an accident if: 

  • The accident causes death or personal injury, or 
  • Property damages of more than $1,500. 

Drivers should contact the nearest law enforcement agency. If the accident is not investigated, report the accident using the Iowa Accident Report form. Drivers must report the accident within 72 hours. Failure to report the accident can result in suspension of driving privileges. 

Recovering Damages in an Iowa Car Accident Case 

There are several ways that car accident victims can recover damages. The first step is usually to report the car accident to your insurance company. Your insurance company will work with the other driver’s insurance to determine fault. 

If the other driver is at-fault her insurance company will pay for damages. However, if you are at-fault, then you must turn to your own insurance company for compensation. For instance, you may have purchased collision coverage. Collision coverage will cover the costs of repairing or replacing your vehicle. 

If the other driver is at-fault her insurance company will often try to settle. They will usually send you a written offer. This initial offer is often a lowball figure. Insurance companies attempt to limit their liability by getting you to settle fast. 

You can also try to settle with the insurance company. One option is to send a formal demand letter. A demand letter details your damages and requests a specific amount to settle your case. You may be unsure what damages to request. An experienced Iowa car accident lawyer can help you determine what your case is worth. 

Another option to recover damages is to file a lawsuit. Accident victims usually list the other driver and his insurance company as defendants. Some cases may also involve third-party defendants. There are two main reasons why car accident victims file a lawsuit. First, it may be necessary to file a lawsuit to stop the statute of limitations from running. Even if you plan on settling, filing protects your right to go to trial. After filing, you can continue negotiating. If you reach a settlement, you can withdraw your lawsuit.  

The second reason is that the insurance company is unwilling to offer more money to settle. Consequently, you can go to trial to attempt to get more compensation from a jury. In Iowa there is no cap on economic or non-economic damages. 

Damages

Economic damages are those that are easy to document. For example, medical bills or lost wages. Non-economic damages are not easy to document. A common type of non-economic damages is pain and suffering. Since there is no cap on damages, a jury can award you any amount. 

To recover damages at trial, you must prove that the other driver was negligent. This means that the other driver failed to exercise a reasonable standard of care. And his failure must have caused the accident. Remember that the other party must be more at-fault for the accident. If not, you cannot recover under Iowa auto accident laws.

Iowa Car Accident Settlement Calculator 

Did you or someone that you know suffer an injury in a car accident in Iowa? Use our free online Injury Settlement Calculator to see what your case might be worth.