A car accident can turn your life upside down. The immediate confusion and shock are enough to cause lasting damage, let alone any injuries you might experience. You must follow some laws if you’re involved in a car accident. Knowing these laws could save you from legal trouble and help you seek compensation for your injuries.

Reporting an Accident

You must report a car accident or other motor vehicle accident to Montana law enforcement if anyone is killed, anyone is injured, or if the crash causes $1,000 or more in property damage. A person involved in a crash must report the wreck if any of those events happen. Failing to report such accidents is against the law, and it is also against your best interest. An official police report is part of your evidence should you seek compensation for your injury. 

You sometimes may be unable to file a report on the scene. One example would be if you suffer a severe injury and must be immediately transported by ambulance to receive medical care. If you are taken to the hospital because of a crash, consider whether to make a statement to law enforcement as soon as you are able. If you are hurt in a crash, and the other driver is not, too often law enforcement will only get to talk to the person who is not injured and is still at the scene. That person will get to tell their side of what happened. Consequentially, law enforcement may compile their report before the person who has been hurt can present their recollection of what happened. But be careful – you may want to consult an attorney before providing any statement to law enforcement or an insurance company. A personal injury law firm, like AFJ Law Firm PLLC, can help you decide the best option. While Montana law does not require you to report every accident, you might find that a police report can be helpful regardless of whether you file a claim.

Modified Comparative Negligence

Montana has a comparative negligence rule that assigns fault and determines who is able to seek compensation for death, injuries, or property damage. Under Montana’s comparative negligence structure, a plaintiff may recover in a negligence action unless the plaintiff’s comparative negligence is greater than fifty percent. That means that even if you were determined to be partially at fault for an accident, you may still be able to seek compensation for any losses or injuries. A jury finding you partially at fault will reduce your compensation. You can’t recover any losses if the jury assigns the majority of the fault to you. 

Montana’s comparative negligence may differ from who your insurance determines is at fault. A personal injury law firm, such as AFJ Law Firm PLLC, can help you fight insurance if they improperly deny or reduce your claim due to fault. 

Duty to Give Information and Render Aid

If someone is injured during an accident, no matter who was at fault, Montana law requires anyone who is able to render reasonable assistance. That could be as simple as calling an ambulance. All parties involved in an accident must exchange information, including insurance details and driver’s license numbers, and remain on the scene until police arrive. The only time it’s acceptable to leave the scene is to seek emergency medical care or notify law enforcement of the collision.

Montana does have a “Good Samaritan” law that may protect someone who renders assistance. While there are exceptions, the general rule under Montana law is that any person who, in good faith, renders emergency care or assistance without compensation at the scene of an emergency or accident is not liable for any civil damages for acts or omissions other than damages occasioned by gross negligence or by willful or wanton acts or omissions by the person in rendering the emergency care or assistance. Consequently, a person who renders assistance may have certain protections under Montana law.

Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents

Sometimes, your injuries don’t become severe until long after an accident. Maybe you weren’t aware that you could seek compensation for your injuries. Both are reasons for Montana’s statute of limitations for car accidents, which is generally three years from the date of the accident. That means you can sue the other party involved in the accident up to three years after the accident occurred.

When should you hire a Montana car accident attorney?

Not all car crash cases are the same. Sometimes, you might find that the other driver’s insurance is offering a settlement amount that doesn’t even cover your medical costs. Other times, you may have ongoing rehabilitation, pain and suffering, multiple surgeries, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) costs that your insurance refuses to cover. You may need an attorney to help prove your case. There are countless instances when a car accident attorney can help, so if you feel you aren’t compensated fairly and fully after a Montana accident or have questions about your legal rights, AFJ Law Firm PLLC can help. Contact us for a free consultation to learn more about how we can advocate for you.