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How Negligence & Fault Are Determined in Montana Auto Accidents

What the state’s modified comparative fault system means

Car crashes are the leading cause of accidental injuries in our region. According to data provided by the Montana Department of Transportation, 22,939 traffic collisions were reported in the state in 2019 alone. A major accident can disrupt your entire life. You need money to pay your bills. This raises an important question: Who is liable for a car accident? In this article, you will find an overview of how negligence and liability are detected after a Montana car accident.

Montana is a Fault-Based Auto Accident State

First and foremost, it is important to emphasize that Montana is a fault state motor vehicle accident state. In effect, this means that the driver deemed at-fault for causing a crash will be held responsible for the damage. Fault arises based on negligence. A driver, truck company, vehicle manufacturer, or other party is negligent when they fail to take proper safety precautions. To determine who was responsible for a crash, a comprehensive investigation is needed by an adjuster. Insurance companies will review all evidence, including:

  • The police report
  • The vehicle and property damages
  • Photographs
  • Testimony of the drivers
  • Third party witness statements
  • Any other details deemed relevant

If you were involved in a serious crash that was not your fault, it is imperative that you consult with an experienced Montana auto accident attorney. Your lawyer will ensure that the collision is properly investigated and that all evidence needed to prove liability is uncovered, secured, and prepared. Most lawyers offer a free consultation, and may provide legal advice about a potential personal injury claim or accident case. 

Montana Uses a Comparative Negligence Standard

Not every accident is the fault of one party. Quite the contrary, many multi-vehicle collisions happen because two (or more) people failed to take proper care. Under Montana law (Mont. Stat. § 27-1-702), liability for a multi-vehicle crash is divided using the Montana comparative negligence system. Under comparative negligence rules, every party to a crash is liable for their proportional share of the blame.

Understanding Comparative Fault Through an Example

For example, imagine that you sustained $25,000 in total damages in a multi-vehicle accident in Montana. If the other driver was found liable for 100 percent of the crash, you would be entitled to seek compensation for 100 percent of your damages.

However, under the comparative fault standard, your recovery would be reduced by any finding of fault made against you. If you were found at fault for 20 percent of the accident, your recovery would be reduced by a proportional 20 percent—meaning it would drop from $25,000 to $20,000.

The bottom line is that fault matters. Every percentage point of blame you are assigned for a crash will take money out of your settlement or verdict. If you or your loved one was hurt in an auto accident, a Law firm or an experienced Montana personal injury lawyer or car accident attorney who will protect your rights and help you recover compensation.

If you’re interested in learning more about this area of the law, please see our overviews on personal injury law and motor vehicle accident law.

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