In this article, we'll look at a few key Montana laws that apply to personal injury cases. These laws may come into play whether you take your personal injury case to court or you're just seeking a settlement from an insurance company.
Like other states, Montana has a time limit on filing personal injury cases in court. This law is known as thestatute of limitations. In Montana, you have three years from the date of your accident or injury to bring a lawsuit to court. If you don't file before the end of the three-year time limit, the court may refuse to hear your case.
You can read the full text of Montana's statute of limitations online in Part 27-2-204 of the Montana Code Annotated.
In some injury cases, you may file a lawsuit or insurance claim, only to hear the other party argue that you are partly at fault for the injuries or the accident that caused them. Montana uses a modified comparative fault rule in cases where the injured person shares some of the legal blame.
Simply put, Montana's modified comparative fault rule reduces the amount of damages you can receive if you are more than 0 percent but less than 50 percent at fault. If you are 50 percent at fault or more, however, the rule bars you from collecting any damages at all.
Here's an example. Suppose that you're shopping in a grocery store one day when you trip and fall on a broken floor tile. You didn't see the tile before you tripped because you were busy texting a friend. You seek compensation from the grocery store in court, where it is determined that you are 20 percent at fault for your injuries, and the store is 80 percent at fault. Your total damages come to $10,000.
Here, Montana's modified comparative fault rule applies to reduce the damages you can receive by $2,000, or 20 percent of the $10,000 total -- the same amount of fault you were assigned. You will be able to recover the remaining $8,000 from the store. If you had been assigned 50 percent or more of the fault, however, you would not be allowed to receive any compensation.
Montana courts are required to apply the modified comparative fault rule when the parties share the fault in an injury case. It's wise to prepare yourself to hear an insurance adjuster bring up comparative fault as well.
Caps on damages in personal injury cases limit the amount of compensation an injured person can receive. Each state has its own rules for damage caps, which often affect things like non-economic or "pain and suffering" damages.
Montana caps non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases at $250,000. The cap is applied per-patient, so if multiple patients are harmed by a single act of medical malpractice (for instance, failure to sterilize a piece of equipment), each patient's damages are capped at $250,000.
If your injury involves the negligence of a state-level employee or agency in Montana, you'll have to play by a different set of rules. Injury claims involving the Montana government must generally be filed within 20 days of the injury. Claims are filed with the state's Department of Risk Management and Tort Defense.
More detailed information on filing claims against a unit of government can be found in our article Injury Claims Against the Government.
In many states, dog owners are protected (to some degree) from injury liability the first time their dog injures someone if they had no reason to believe the dog was dangerous. This is often called a "one bite" rule. In Montana however, a specific statute (Mont. Code Ann. § 27-1-715) makes the owner "strictly liable", meaning regardless of the animal's past behavior, the dog owner is responsible for a personal injury caused by his/her dog.