Learn how to prove negligence after a car accident in Great Falls so you can recover the compensation you deserve and protect your rights
Have you been involved in a car accident in Great Falls, Montana?
Navigating the aftermath of a collision can be challenging and overwhelming, especially when it comes to proving fault. Fortunately, understanding your responsibilities after an accident and the elements required to prove negligence can significantly increase your chance of a successful claim.
At Murphy Law Firm, our team of experienced Great Falls car accident attorneys is dedicated to helping you navigate the personal injury claims process to minimize your liability so you can recover maximum compensation.
Contact us today for a free consultation and take the first step toward protecting your rights and recovering the compensation you deserve.
What is negligence?
When you hear the word “negligence” used in the context of a car accident, it typically refers to an act of carelessness that led to the accident. In legal terms, careless driving is called negligent driving. You may also hear the word “fault” used to identify the driver who caused the accident. Generally, whoever is deemed at fault is negligent, and vice versa.
Negligence can work in 2 ways: A driver may do something careless, like drinking and driving, which makes them negligent. Conversely, a negligent person may not do something that causes an accident, such as failing to signal before changing lanes.
How do you prove negligence in a car accident?
Proving that someone else was negligent, which caused you to become injured, requires proof for 4 different elements:
- The negligent driver had a duty of care. The plaintiff, or the injured party, must establish that the negligent person, or defendant, owed them a duty of care. The defendant must have been in a situation where they were required to exercise a certain level of care, such as driving the speed limit, to avoid harming the plaintiff. Driving laws require licensed individuals to use a standard of reasonable care while driving so they do not harm others on the road.
- They breached their duty. The plaintiff needs to provide proof that the defendant failed to meet the required standard of care. For example, they must show that the defendant breached their duty of reasonable care by speeding.
- The breach caused the plaintiff’s injury. The plaintiff must prove that the negligent situation created by the defendant caused their injuries or other damages.
- The plaintiff suffered damages as a result. The plaintiff must show that because of the defendant’s breach, they actually suffered some physical injury or damage to their property.
What types of evidence are typically needed to prove fault?
The elements of negligence may require different strategies to prove them based on the specifics of your accident or case. You may need to gather several different types of information as evidence, and the more you obtain, the stronger support you may have for your case.
The following list is not all-inclusive, but necessary evidence can include:
- Videos or photos you take immediately after the accident or later
- Witness statements
- Accident reports from the police
- Medical records and bills
- Accident reconstruction data and analysis
- Electronic crash data
- Traffic tickets or citations
Is Montana a no-fault state for car accidents?
When it comes to car accidents, Montana has a fault-based insurance system. The at-fault driver in the accident pays (or their insurance pays) the injured party’s physical and property damages. If you get into a car accident while driving in Montana, you must prove the other driver was negligent to receive compensation from an insurer.
However, fault in an accident does not always fall neatly upon one person. In this type of case, Montana’s fault-based system uses a modified comparative fault process to assign fault by percentage to each party involved in the accident.
In such cases, if you are determined to have partially caused an accident, your compensation will be reduced by your percentage of fault, and you can’t recover any compensation if you’re more than 50% at fault.
Here’s an example:
After reviewing your case, a judge determines that the other driver is 70% at fault for running a red light, while you’re 30% at fault for speeding. Under Montana’s modified comparative fault system, each driver is responsible for their percentage of fault in the accident. So, if your total damages amount to $100,000, the other driver would be responsible for $70,000 (70% of your total damages).
What to do after a car accident in Montana
If you are involved in a car accident in Montana, the first minutes and hours after your accident can make all the difference for a successful injury claim if you take the right actions. You may find it challenging to remain calm and collected immediately after an accident, especially if you have become seriously injured.
Keeping these 5 steps in mind can increase your chances of receiving appropriate compensation for your losses.
- Notify the police. This will provide crucial documentation for your claim. Additionally, Montana law requires you to fill out an accident report with the police if anyone is injured or if property damages exceed $1,000. Suppose you cannot do so because you lack cell service or for any other reason; in this case, you must file an accident report with the Montana Highway Patrol within 10 days of the accident.
- Gather evidence and information. Collect important information while at the accident scene if you can do so safely, without further harm to yourself. Use your phone to take pictures and videos of your and the other person’s vehicles, the accident scene and the surrounding area. Gather the other driver’s insurance information, name and contact details. If you are seriously injured or cannot otherwise gather this data, you can collect some of it as soon as possible afterward and include it in the police report you file.
- Get medical treatment. Even if you need to drive yourself to the hospital, seek medical care immediately after an accident. Many common car accident injuries are not immediately evident. You may have invisible injuries such as internal bleeding or head trauma, which can become life-threatening if not immediately addressed. You may have other injuries, such as whiplash, back or neck injuries, that you do not notice due to the adrenaline from the accident. If you do not seek medical care within 24 hours after your accident, insurers may attempt to use this as evidence to deny your claims, stating that your injuries could have been from another event.
- Let your insurance company know you’ve been in an accident. When providing insurers with information, regardless of what they say to you, only give the basic details of the car accident and your resulting injuries. You may not know until days or weeks later the full extent of your injuries, and you have a right to hold off on making a statement about your injuries to the insurer until a later time. Remember, anything you say could be used against you to reduce your compensation. For that reason, it’s essential that you consider seeking legal representation for assistance in filing a compensation claim with the insurance company.
- Speak with a Montana attorney specializing in personal injury claims. This crucial step helps ensure that you make a successful insurance claim to get the full compensation you deserve. An experienced attorney has been involved in many cases and knows how to help you prove who was at fault and aid you in figuring out the full extent of damages you have suffered.
How long do you have to report an accident in Montana?
In Montana, you must file a written accident report with the Montana Highway Patrol within 10 days of the accident if there were any injuries, fatalities or damages over $1,000.
What’s the statute of limitations for car accidents in Montana?
In most cases, you have 3 years from the car accident date to file your personal injury claim in Montana. If someone died due to the accident, the statute of limitations is 3 years after their date of death.
What types of compensation am I entitled to after a car accident caused by someone else’s negligence?
When you’ve suffered injuries and damages in an accident, you may not fully realize how much it has impacted your life. An attorney can work with you to identify these areas and help you seek adequate compensation and reimbursement. They will also help you deal with aggressive or unscrupulous insurers who might attempt to minimize your claim as much as possible.
An experienced attorney can help you recover compensation for the following:
- Medical bills
- Wages lost while you are unable to work
- Damage to personal property
- Emotional distress and pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium (companionship, love, shared activities, etc.)
- Punitive damages (an additional payment to punish the defendant on top of compensatory payment)
Because your compensation is heavily dependent on your degree of fault, it’s essential to involve a knowledgeable car accident attorney as soon as possible to protect your best interests.
Get help from an experienced Montana car accident attorney
If you’re dealing with the repercussions of a car accident in Great Falls, Montana, remember that you don’t have to face this challenge alone. The skilled Montana personal injury attorneys at Murphy Law Firm are here to guide you every step of the way.