From Missoula to Billings to Great Falls, there are many miles of gorgeous roadways in Montana. These roads are currently used by more than 700,000 people with driver’s licenses in Montana, who drive an average of 11,600 miles per year. Unfortunately, driving that many miles each year leads to a high number of auto accidents. If you drive in Big Sky Country, you should be sure to know the current laws and regulations for driving in this state.
Montana Statute of Limitations
If you are in a car accident in Montana, you should be aware of the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit. The lawsuit must be filed within three years of the date of the accident to be considered in state court.
Auto Insurance Requirements in Montana
As with most states in the US, you must carry a minimum amount of auto insurance to drive legally. In Montana, the minimum coverage for drivers is as follows:
- $25,000 for bodily injury for each person per accident
- $50,000 in bodily injury for all people in each accident
- $10,000 for property damage liability
- $25,000 and $50,000 uninsured motorist protection
However, you do have the option to reject uninsured motorist coverage, and you also do not have to carry personal liability insurance. However, it is recommended to have more coverage than the above amounts. If you are injured by a driver without insurance, you may be required to pay for your own injuries and property damage.
If you do not carry auto insurance, you can be fined up to $500 and be put in jail for 10 days. Also, you will lose your driver’s license for 90 days for the 2nd offense. Montana law enforcement use an online web service to verify that you have insurance during a traffic stop.
Other Montana Driving Laws
Montana recently established a new threshold for THC for drivers who are thought to be driving under the influence of marijuana. Courts also may consider past DUI convictions when considering potential punishment for a current DUI conviction. Police also can issue permits to salvage dead animals (road kill) from certain species that will killed by motor vehicles.
There is no law at present banning distracted driving. Currently, texting and talking on the phone while driving is still legal. However, there are cities such as Bozeman where there is a ban on cell phone use for all drivers of all ages. There also are texting and driving bans in effect in Butte, Helena, Whitefish, Billings and Missoula.
Montana Car Accident Resources
If you have been in a car accident in Montana, below are some resources that may be able to help you deal with this stressful situation:
- Remember that you do have to report accidents to the police if it occurs in a rural area if the accident caused an injury or death, or property damage was more than $1000. However, if it happens in a municipal area, the local police must be informed if the accident caused death or injury, or property damage was more than $500.
- It is difficult to know what your personal injury case in Montana could be worth. You must factor in medical costs, pain and suffering and lost wages, among other variables. Check with Lawsuit Info Center today to get an idea of what your car accident claim is worth.
Statistics and Notable Accidents
According to the state government, roadway fatalities were up by 32 in 2015 compare to 2014. A total of 224 people died on Montana roads in 2015 and 192 in 2014. The fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles driven was 1.81. This rate continues to be higher than the national rate of 1.12. However, the rate in Montana was 4.92 in 1980 and 7.20 in 1966, so there has been progress in this regard. The higher average in rural states is typically due to more miles traveled, which means higher speeds. A full 89% of fatal crashes were in rural areas in this state in 2015, while across the country they were only 49% of fatal crashes.
- The number of all Montana car accidents involving a drunk or impaired driver increased by 3% in 2015 to 2172. The number of serious injuries reported due to drunk and impaired driving increased by 11% to 461. Drunk drivers were involved in 50% of all fatal accidents and 1/3 of serious injury car accidents.
- Drunk drivers caused crashes in rural areas 85% of the time and 57% of the accidents happened on weekends.
- Vehicles leaving the road were responsible for 67% of all fatal car accidents and 55% of serious injury accidents. More than 80% of serious injury and fatal accidents happened in rural areas.
- Single vehicle accidents were involved in ¾ of road departure accidents with fatalities.
- Crashes that happened in summer months were 51% of all fatal accidents.
- In 2015, nearly 20% of all traffic fatalities involved Native Americans. There were a total of 44 Native American deaths, which was an increase of 8% from 2014.
- Motorcycle deaths were up to 24 from 23 the year before. Approximately 68% of these accident deaths were because the motorcyclist did not wear a helmet.
- There were 3135 reported accidents with animals in 2015. There were two deaths and 30 serious injuries in these accidents.
- Drivers 20 and under were involved in 18% of fatal and serious injury crashes.
- Only 20-30% of occupants killed in car accidents in 2015 were properly wearing seatbelts. The level of obedience for seatbelt laws in Montana is lower than the national average.
A recent car accident in Helena, Montana led to the deaths of three people. As in many of the accidents in Montana, this one occurred on a rural stretch of roadway on Highway 12. It was a head on crash that was most likely caused by a tire failure.
Montana Negligence Laws
It is common to file a personal injury lawsuit and to hear from the defendant that you are partially responsible for the accident. This is important in Montana because there is a modified comparative fault rule in effect. This means that the amount of damages you receive depends upon your degree of fault for the accident. State law holds if you are zero percent to 49% responsible for the accident, you can receive damages in a lawsuit, reduced by your degree of fault. If you are 50% or more responsible for the accident, you cannot collect damages.
Montana courts are required by law to apply a modified comparative fault rule when there is an accident with shared blame. You should be prepared to hear about this if you are working with an insurance adjuster on a claim or have filed a lawsuit.
This state has a fault system when it comes to auto accidents and claims. This means that the person who caused the accident is responsible for paying for property damage and injuries. You have the option of filing with your insurance company, filing with the insurance company for the other driver, or filing a personal injury lawsuit. If your policy pays for damages and you were not at fault, your policy will seek reimbursement from the other insurer.