What To Do If You’re In a Car Accident Without Insurance But Not At Fault In Montana

Driving without insurance in Montana is a misdemeanor and if you’re in an accident while uninsured, your license could be revoked and you could face jail time.
Written by Talullah Blanco
Reviewed by Shannon Martin
background
You can face harsh consequences for driving without insurance in Montana and if you are involved in a car accident, the penalties can be even more severe. If you’re not at fault, you’ll be able to claim damages up to the percentage you contributed to the accident with the other driver’s insurance company but you’ll face serious penalties for driving without insurance. 
Even the most minor car accident is a very stressful situation. However, if you are in a car accident while driving without insurance, the concerns over paying for damages and the legal repercussions you face worsen the situation. 
This guide will cover your options to claim damages, legal consequences for driving without
car insurance
, and we’ll even show you what additional coverage Montana has to offer drivers looking for more protecton on the road.
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What to do if you’re in a car accident without insurance in Montana and not at fault

Driving without car insurance in Montana is a misdemeanor; if you’re in an accident, it could add to your expenses and you could even face serious legal penalties such as jail time. Here is what you should do if you’re in a car accident in Montana and don’t have insurance:
No matter what: do not leave the scene of the accident. The potential legal consequences of leaving the scene of a crash (i.e. a hit-and-run) are far greater than those of driving without insurance. Regardless if you’re at fault or driving without insurance, fleeing the scene of an accident is always a serious offense in Montana. Here’s what you could receive if you leave:
  • A maximum $5,000 fine and a minimum of 30 days and up to one year in jail if the accident involved minor injuries or property damage
  • A felony
    hit-and-run charge in Montana
    , a maximum fine of $50,000, and up to 10 years in prison if the accident serious injury or death
That’s why, if you’re in an accident without insurance, you need to stay at the scene no matter what. Pull over to check yourself and your passengers for injuries and call 911 if necessary. While you are waiting for the police to arrive, exchange information (name, phone number, license plate number, insurance) with the other driver involved in the accident. 
Be sure thoroughly document the accident—you’ll need to take photos and collect evidence to prove you weren’t at fault. 

Who decides fault in a car accident in Montana?

Even if a police officer is called to the scene of the accident and passes out a ticket, the insurance company will determine the at-fault driver by conducting a comprehensive investigation. That’s where your thorough documentation of the accident comes in. 
If you are not the at-fault driver in a car accident but are uninsured, you’ll need to provide evidence to prove the other driver’s fault in your claim with their insurance company. Once you file a claim, an adjuster will review all evidence such as photographs submitted, police reports, vehicle and property damages, driver testimonies, third-party witness statements, and other relevant details to determine who is at fault. 

Do you need to report a car accident in Montana? 

It depends on the result of the accident. If the accident didn't cause any injuries or death and resulted in less than $1,000 in property damage, you don’t need to report an accident to the police or Motor Vehicle Division (MVD). 
However, accidents resulting in more than $1,000 of property damage, injury, or death, must be reported to the Montana police through the quickest means possible. If law enforcement doesn’t file an accident report with the MVD you’ll be responsible for doing so within 10 days

What if you’re at fault?

Because
Montana is a modified comparative negligence state,
you’ll be financially responsible for your portion of the other driver’s damages if you are deemed 51% negligent for the accident. If you don’t have insurance, the not-at-fault driver can file a lawsuit against you to recover these damages. 
You’ll also face harsh legal penalties if you’re found to be driving without valid insurance such as fines up to $500 or a maximum of six months in jail, and 90-day driver license suspension or complete revocation

What if you’re hit by an uninsured driver in Montana?

If the other driver doesn’t have insurance but you do, you can pursue them directly for damages by filing a personal injury lawsuit which can be an extremely exhausting process. Luckily, you can add additional car insurance coverages to your policy to protect yourself. 
Medical payments (MedPay)
is an optional coverage that will protect you and your passengers in the event of an accident regardless of who was at fault. With this coverage, your car insurance will make the initial payments towards your hospital bills up to the policy limit. If your policy includes
collision coverage
, your insurance will pay for your vehicle repairs as well, minus the
collision deductible
.
Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM)
are additional coverages that cover the medical expenses for you and your passengers if you are hit by an uninsured driver or one who doesn’t carry enough
bodily injury liability
to pay for your medical bills and related expenses. 
Montana insurance providers are required to offer at least $25,000 in uninsured motorist coverages per person, and $50,000 per occurrence, but these are optional and can be rejected in writing.
Suppose the other driver has car insurance and you weren’t at fault but don’t carry valid insurance. In that case, you can file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company to cover vehicle repairs and medical bills resulting from the crash. 
Let’s say the other driver is uninsured too. You’ll need to file a personal injury lawsuit for economic and non-economic damages. Here’s what those damages include:
  • Economic damages include vehicle repairs, medical expenses, lost wages, and burial expenses
  • Non-economic damages include pain and suffering, emotional distress, humiliation, diminished earning capacity, humiliation, and other long-term effects of a car accident
According to a study conducted by the Insurance Information Institute (III) in 2019, 8.5% of drivers in Montana are uninsured. With that many uninsured drivers on the road, it’s worth your while to get uninsured motorist and collision insurance.

Penalties for driving without insurance in Montana

While driving without insurance is a misdemeanor in Montana, the penalties can be serious depending on if you’re a repeat offender. Here are the penalties you can expect to receive:
  • First offense: A fine between $250 and $500 or up to 10 days in jail
  • Second offense: A minimum fine of $350 or 10 days in jail, five points on your driving record, and a 90 day license suspension
  • Third or subsequent offense: A $500 fine, up to 6 months in prison or both, and additional points on your driving record
A total of 30 points on your driving record will result in a revocation of your driver's license. 
Once your driver's license is suspended or revoked in Montana, you’ll have to submit an
SR-22 certificate
to the MVD. This certificate is required to reinstate your license and verifies that you have the necessary insurance required to stay on the road. However, an SR-22 will come with sky-high insurance premiums. In addition to the penalties listed above, if you’re in an accident without insurance, police can impound your car
Unfortunately, there is no way to get out of these penalties–you can’t purchase insurance after the citation and apply it retroactively and the charges can’t be appealed. With penalties that severe, it’s worth carrying at least the minimum coverage required in Montana. 
MORE: The penalties for using fake proof of insurance

Minimum required car insurance in Montana

Unsure how much insurance you’re legally required to carry in Montana? We’ve got you covered! State car insurance laws require Montana drivers to have a minimum of 25/50/20 liability coverage, which is:
These limits will only cover minor accidents. Experts recommend buying limits of $100,000 per person, $300,000 per accident for bodily injury liability, and $100,000 for property damage liability to cover costs in most situations. Remember, liability coverage only protects others if you are involved in an accident; you’ll have to pay for damages to your vehicle if you are at fault. 
To protect yourself and your car, it’s always in your best interest to go beyond the minimum required insurance.
Comprehensive coverage
protects your car from potential losses like natural disasters, theft, fire, or vandalism, while collision coverage will pay for losses incurred in an accident even if you were at fault.

Driving without insurance can increase premiums

Another reason to purchase the minimum liability insurance required in Montana? Your insurance premiums will increase if you’re caught driving without it. Any violations could cause your insurance rates to go up and a citation for driving without insurance is no different.
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