Comparative Negligence in Montana

Montana follows the 51% bar rule of comparative negligence law. If you are 50% or less to blame for an accident, you are eligible to recover damages.
Written by Mary Cahill
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
If you have a car accident in Montana, you are eligible to recover damages if you are no more than 50% to blame for its occurrence. This is because Montana follows the 51% bar rule of comparative negligence law. 
So you’ve been in an accident. Maybe you were traveling a little too fast or the other driver was distracted behind the wheel. The part you play in causing a collision is commonly referred to as negligence—and sometimes the situation isn’t exactly black and white. 
To gain a better understanding of the comparative negligence law in Montana,
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What is comparative negligence? 

Comparative negligence is a legal principle that permits those who are injured in a traffic accident to recover damages in conjunction with how much they are to blame for the collision happening in the first place. 
Consider the following example: you've been in a collision and are determined to be 15% at fault. This means you have an obligation to pay for 15% of the incurred damages. Since the other party was found to be 85% at fault, they’ll pay the remaining 85%. 
Comparative negligence is typically utilized in third-party insurance claims (as in one driver putting in a claim with the other driver’s insurance) and personal injury lawsuits. In a lawsuit, each party’s respective percentages of blame will be decided in court. With an insurance claim, the insurance companies will apply comparative negligence to determine how much of the damage they will pay for.   
MORE: How to file a car insurance claim

Comparative negligence vs. contributory negligence

Although comparative negligence laws are a little different in each state, they all employ one of the three following variations: pure comparative negligence, modified or partial comparative negligence, or contributory negligence. 
Here’s what each one means: 
  • Pure comparative negligence: Individuals who suffer injuries as a result of an accident may be eligible for compensation after their portion of the blame is deducted. 
  • Modified or partial negligence: The injured party is permitted to collect damages in relation to their percentage of responsibility so long as it does not exceed 51% (depending on the state). 
  • Contributory negligence: The injured party will not be compensated if they are assigned any percentage of blame in a motor vehicle accident. 
Most states recognize modified or partial comparative negligence. Pure comparative negligence is utilized in 12 states, and contributory negligence is used in 5 states

What is Montana’s comparative negligence law?

Montana uses the modified comparative negligence law. Here, the 51% bar rule applies, meaning that if your level of negligence in an accident falls below 51%, you’re entitled to recover damages.   

What happens if there are more than two responsible parties?

If a collision involves more than two drivers, you can submit a claim with both of their insurance companies. How much compensation you receive depends on the designated amount of responsibility of each party. 

How is fault decided in a comparative negligence case?

When there’s an accident, insurance companies gather all the available data. They look over the insurance claims, police reports, and any evidence provided by the involved parties. For this reason, it’s in your best interest to present some viable documentation to help your case. 
This includes: 
  • The makes and models of the other parties’ vehicles
  • What date the accident occurred and the time of day
  • What the weather was like when the accident happened
  • Statements from witnesses, if possible 
  • Photos that depict damage to your vehicle 
  • A copy of the police report from the responding officer if police were called

How does car insurance work with comparative negligence?

Under the rule of modified comparative negligence in Montana, once you put in a claim with the other driver’s insurance, you may be compensated if you are found no more than 50% responsible for the collision. 
Here’s a scenario: you’re in the right-hand lane at a busy intersection waiting at a red light. Just as the light changes to green, the car beside you—which is in the center lane—cuts you off in an attempt to get into the turning lane. She hits the front of your car. 
Immediately afterward, you submit a claim against her insurance company. Based on the corroborating evidence provided in the police report, the other driver is found to be 100% at fault. All damages to your vehicle are covered.  

How to find affordable car insurance

Unfortunately, motor vehicle accidents happen every day—if you happen to find yourself involved in one, you should at least feel good about your insurance coverage. Look no further than
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