Montana Motor Vehicle Accident Laws and Safety Requirements

Montana is one of the most dangerous states in the U.S. to drive. Nevertheless, because of its relatively small population, traffic deaths normally fail to reach 200 per year. If you believe you have a personal injury or wrongful death claim arising from a Montana vehicle accident, the following legal rules can help you decide whether or not it’s with it to file a lawsuit:

What is the Montana Statute of Limitations for a Personal Injury Lawsuit? In Montana you have three years from the date of an accident to file a personal injury lawsuit, and two years to file a lawsuit for property damage. If you plan to file a wrongful death lawsuit, you have three years from the victim’s date of death.

When the Person Injured in the Car Wreck is Partially at Fault: Montana has adopted the modified comparative fault system. If the court determines that you were partly (but not mostly) at fault for the accident, it will determine your percentage of fault and deduct the same percentage from your damages. If you were mostly at fault for the accident, you will receive nothing. However, even if you think that the car wreck was your fault, it still pays to consult a Montana auto accident attorney because the attorney may be able to determine that the wreck was caused by a defective vehicle or by a defective roadway.

Fault/No Fault Rule: Montana is a “fault” auto insurance state, meaning that you have the freedom to pursue a claim directly against the other party without having to exhaust your own insurance coverage first.

Minimum Insurance Coverage: Montana requires its drivers to carry liability insurance in case they are at fault in an accident that harms someone else. The minimum coverage limits are $25,000 per injured victim, $50,000 total personal injury payout per accident (in case more than one person is injured) and $10,000 for property damage.

Uninsured/Underinsured Drivers Coverage: Montana does not require its drivers to carry uninsured or underinsured motorists insurance.

Types of Damages Available: Compensatory damages are available. Non-economic damages for losses such as pain and suffering are capped at $250,000 for malpractice claims. Punitive damages are available if you submit “clear and convincing evidence” of actual fraud or malice on the part of the defendant; however, punitive damages are capped at the lesser of $10 million or 3 percent of defendant’s net worth.

Product Liability for Defective Vehicles: No-fault product liability is available in Montana

Suing the Government over Defective Roadways (Sovereign Immunity): Lawsuits for defective roadways are generally permissible (although the law is complex and not all claims are allowed). Damages are capped at $750,000 per claim and 1.5 million per occurrence. No punitive damages are allowed.

Motorcycle Helmet Laws: Riders under 18 must wear helmets.

Seat Belt Laws: Occupants six and older must buckle up. The maximum fine for a first offense is $20.

Dram Shop Law: Both alcohol vendors and social hosts can be held liable to an injured third party for selling alcohol to a minor under 21, whose resulting intoxication injures the third party (a DUI accident, for example). Vendors face similar (although more limited) liability for serving obviously intoxicated adults, while social hosts face no third-party liability for serving intoxicated adults.

DUI/DWI Penalties (first offense): A first offense DUI results in a jail term of two days to six months, a fine of between $300 and $1,000, and a six-month driver’s license suspension.

Distracted Driving (texting while driving, etc.): Montana is currently the only state in the U.S. with no restrictions on the use of electronic devices while driving. Nevertheless, if an accident occurs, the use of such a device while driving could have negative consequences in a civil lawsuit.