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In a car accident, the last thing you want to be wondering about is whether or not you’re at fault. Unfortunately, car crash cases aren’t always straightforward, and there are some Montana laws that you might not realize could come into play. Here are a few laws to take into account if you’re ever involved in a car accident, and you might need to pursue a legal case.
When a car accident happens, tend to immediate health and safety needs first, before worrying about who’s at fault. That means assisting anyone involved, if needed. Montana law defines this as “rendering reasonable assistance,” which means you should help yourself first, and don’t provide first aid unless you have training in emergency medicine. Some examples of reasonable assistance might include driving a person involved in the accident to the doctor, calling emergency services, or putting out road flares to help prevent hazards. And remember, it’s the law.
It’s true that you’re not required by law to report every accident. But according to Montana law, you do need to report any accident that results in the death or injury of a person, involves a vehicle striking a dead body, or results in damages over $1,000. The first two should be relatively easy to identify, but the question of cost of damages might be a bit more difficult to determine. Auto repairs can add up quickly, so even a small fender-bender might cross that threshold.
When in doubt, it’s best to call the highway patrol, police or county sheriff from the scene.
By law, you must give relevant info to the other driver involved in the accident, which includes your name, address, and vehicle registration number. If the other driver asks for it, you also have to show them your driver’s license.
If you hit an unoccupied car or cause property damage along a highway, you also need to do your best to find the owner. If you can’t locate them, leave a note with your information and the circumstances of the accident. In any situation, be sure to keep from admitting fault, sticking just to the facts.
Just as you’re required to give certain information to other drivers involved, they are also required to give you the same. Exchanging information protects you in case you have to follow up and pursue payment for damages later. Don’t skip this critical step in the event of an accident.
If you do have an accident involving contested or unclear liability or unpaid damages, it might be necessary to pursue a legal case. In that situation, some Montana laws apply to the timing of your case with a statute of limitations, a law setting a time limit on how long you have to bring a lawsuit to court.
The clock starts ticking with reporting to your insurance, which usually needs to happen within hours or days. Then, according to Montana Code section 27-2-204, you’ll have three years from the date of the accident to seek a remedy from Montana’s civil courts in case of injury. If property damage is your primary concern, you’ll have two years under Montana Code section 27-2-207 to seek restitution.
Modified comparative negligence applies in Montana under Montana Code section 27-1-702, so it’s important to keep that in mind if you do wind up taking a case to court. Under the law, a court could find you partially responsible for the accident, even if the other driver is at fault. If that were to happen, your settlement would be reduced by how much fault the judge or jury establishes that you bear.
So if you’re pursuing damages for $10,000, but the court determines you’re 20% at fault in the accident, you would only receive $8,000 in damages. That’s where having a skilled attorney to build your case can help you win in the long run.
Cok Kinzler can set you on the path to justice following an accident in Montana. If you experience a vehicle crash and need legal assistance, get in touch with Cok Kinzler today for your free consultation.