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Montana Car Accident Reporting Basics

There's lots of room to drive under Big Sky Country, but that doesn't rule out the possibility of an auto accident. Saying that a car crash can ruin your day is an understatement. Even if you don't suffer an injury, the damage to your car and the ensuing battles with insurance companies are headaches you don't need.

You have certain legal obligations after being in a motor vehicle accident in Montana. You'll also encounter the auto accident report, an extremely important document that's a big part of how insurance companies determine who was responsible for the accident and how much they should pay.

While this article will focus on giving you an understanding of Montana car accident reports, we'll also discuss some of the relevant auto laws in the state. You'll learn about insurance requirements, what to do after an accident, and how fault and negligence affect settlements.

Read on to discover what you need to know about Montana car accident report basics.

Montana Car Accident Laws

As a driver in Montana, you, along with all other motorists, are required to follow the state's laws. For example, you must have a valid driver's license, and your vehicle must be registered. When it comes to accidents, understanding the Montana laws you'll run into is a good idea.

Montana Liability Auto Insurance Requirements

Montana law states that all drivers must carry liability auto insurance. If you're determined to be the main reason for a motor vehicle accident, your insurance will pay for the medical bills and property damage repair or replacement for the accident victims.

There are state-mandated minimums for auto liability insurance in Montana:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury/death liability of one person in one accident
  • $50,000 for bodily injury/death liability of two or more persons in one accident
  • $20,000 for injury/destruction of property of others in one accident

While these are the required amounts, you can get higher coverage amounts. While this will raise your premium amounts, if you're responsible for damages that exceed your coverage limits, the balance will come out of your pockets.

For a step-by-step breakdown of what to expect while dealing with insurance companies after an accident, check out FindLaw's Montana Car Accident Settlement Process and Timeline article.

Montana Auto Fault and Negligence Laws

If someone hits your car, it makes sense that they should be responsible for fixing it. As a fault state, Montana agrees with that line of thinking. The person determined to be the most responsible for causing the accident is the at-fault driver. They're on the hook to cover the property damage and medical expenses of the other drivers.

Dakota's modified comparative negligence system calculates how much they're required to pay. The driver determined to be more than 50% at fault for causing the crash is barred from recovering any damages. Other drivers will have any money awarded reduced by the percentage they were responsible for the accident.

What does this mean? Let's say you're determined to have been 25% at fault for the accident, and your damages are settled at $6,000. Your final award would be $4,500 (25% of $6,000 is $1,500, so $6,000 - $1,500 = $4,500).

Montana's compensation laws can be frustrating. FindLaw's Montana Car Accident Compensation Laws article can help cut through the confusion. If you're still uncertain, consider speaking with a car accident attorney.

After a Montana Car Accident: What To Do

It can be difficult to know what to do in the aftermath of an auto accident. Learning what to do ahead of time can make things much easier.

First and foremost, do not leave the scene of the accident. You face hit-and-run charges if you do. Even if it's a minor accident, at the very least, you're required to exchange contact information and insurance information and check on the well-being of the other drivers. If anyone is injured, offer the level of first aid you feel qualified to give.

In Montana, you are required to call law enforcement if certain conditions are met. These are:

  • If there is an injury
  • If there is a fatality
  • If there is more than $1,000 of property damage
  • If the body of a deceased person has been struck

If the accident occurred in or near a municipality, the local police should be called. If the crash is on a highway, contact the Montana Highway Patrol. It's a good idea to contact law enforcement for any accident.

When calling 911, alert the operator to any serious injuries. Take pictures of the scene of the accident before moving the involved vehicles to a safe location, if possible. As mentioned before, exchange information with the other drivers regardless of whether the police are coming or not.

Let your insurance carrier know about the accident as soon as possible. If you've suffered any personal injuries, seek medical attention. Keep copies of all medical bills for your claim.

Montana Auto Accident Reports

The accident report, whether it's a police report or one you file instead, will combine data gathered from the accident scene with statements from drivers, passengers, and witnesses in an attempt to recreate the circumstances of the crash.

The law enforcement officer who arrives on the scene will write a police report if the accident meets the requirements. Some of the observational information gathered includes:

  • Diagram(s) showing the type of collision, the vehicles involved, and their positions
  • General information such as weather, time of day, road conditions, traffic signals, and more
  • Data from all involved drivers, including driver's license numbers, addresses, insurance information, date of birth, and contact information
  • The visible damage to all vehicles
  • Any injuries and where any victims were taken for medical care

They will also take statements from all people involved. While the statements will carry personal bias, the police report should otherwise be an objective examination of the incident. Unless the officer was present at the time of the accident, they shouldn't try to determine fault. The police report cannot be used as evidence in a court of law.

If the police aren't summoned, all drivers are required to file an accident report of their own. The report, known as the White Form, is available on the Montana Department of Justice (DOJ) site and in local police stations.

You will need copies of the police report for your insurance claim and any property damage or personal injury lawsuit you file. You can get one at the police department of the jurisdiction your accident happened in or file a request on the Montana DOJ site if your responding officer was from the Montana Highway Patrol.

Montana Car Accident Report Summary

The chart below recaps what you've learned above in an easy-to-read format.

Relevant Montana Automotive Statutes (Laws)

Montana Title 61. Motor Vehicles:

Montana Uniform Accident Reporting Act

When To Report

A driver must report a crash if the accident results in:

  • Death or injury of any person

  • A vehicle striking the body of a deceased person

  • Property damage to a seeming extent of $1,000 or more

Unless the accident was investigated and reported by law enforcement, the driver must file a written report, known as the White Form, with the Montana Motor Vehicle Division within 10 days if the accident:

  • Killed or injured a person

  • Caused property damage over $1,000

How To Report

  • The driver must report the accident by the fastest means of communication

  • If the accident occurred within a municipality, the driver must report the accident to the local police department

  • If the accident occurred outside of a municipality, the driver must report the accident to the county sheriff's office or the closest Montana Highway Patrol office

Note: State laws are subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts that include federal decisions, ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Related Resources

Problems With Your Car Accident Claim? A Montana Attorney Can Help

Car accidents can cause devastation in your life. You can't go back and erase what happened, but you can get compensation for your losses if someone else is liable. Consider seeking professional help with your accident claim by contacting a Montana personal injury attorney

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