Iowa Auto Accident Laws

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.

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Iowa is an At-Fault State

There are many states in the US that operate on a fault based system and Iowa is one of them. This means that whoever is deemed responsible for the accident is also responsible for paying the damages. Damages can include medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If the at-fault driver has insurance, their policy will cover most if not all of the settlement owed.

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.

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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

In Iowa, drivers are required to buy liability insurance. This coverage has minimums for property damage, bodily injury, and death. You must carry at least $15,000 to cover property damage resulting in negligence of the insured driver. $20,000 is needed for bodily injury and death caused by the insured driver. $40,000 coverage for total bodily injury or death liability.

Any damages claimed will be limited by the policy limits. So if a driver only carries $15,000 in property damage coverage, you will only be able to recover $15,000. If your property damage exceeds the amount available, you may have to file a claim with your own insurance or file a lawsuit against that at-fault driver. The negligent driver could also be financially responsible to cover the remaining damages out of pocket. The ways to enter an agreement to settle the personal liability are:

  • 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.

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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.

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Recovering Damages in an Iowa Car Accident Case

Recovering damages means getting a payout to cover all of the costs incurred as a result of a car crash. If you are responsible for the accident, you will have to file a claim with your own insurance and work with them within the limits of your own policy. If your vehicle is damaged, your collision coverage will provide funds to repair or replace it. You may have medical coverage to handle the medical bills from your injuries. Keep in mind though that if your policy limits are low, you will not be able to claim more money.

You may choose to reach out to your insurance company after the accident, even if you are not at-fault. In that instance, they will likely work with the other driver’s insurance company to come to a settlement agreement. You can also choose to file directly with the other insurance company. Sending a demand letter is a great way to lay out exactly what you expect to receive in your settlement. The other party will likely try to negotiate in the hopes that you will accept a smaller settlement.

If trying to settle a claim with the insurance isn’t giving you a result that you are happy with, you can choose to sue the driver instead. You also may be able to file a lawsuit against another third party that was also responsible for the accident. This could be a tire manufacturer that put out a defective tire that blew, causing the crash. Or the city for not fixing a faulty stop light. If you win a lawsuit, you are likely to be awarded even more money than if the insurance company settled with you. Because of this, insurance companies typically don’t want to go to court unless they are sure they will win. Many companies will settle once a lawsuit is filed, before the trial even begins. Iowa has no caps on the amount of damages that you can claim in a lawsuit, so the potential for a large payout is there.


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.

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