According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, there were 56,882 motorcycles registered in Montana in 2017. The amount of registered motorcycles has gone up every year since 2002 when there were only 18,334.
Unfortunately, more motorcycles on the road means more potential for accidents. What's more, motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable to injuries. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motorcyclist deaths occur roughly 28 times more than fatalities in other vehicles.
If you’re involved in a motorcycle accident in Montana, whether it’s as a motorcyclist or as a motor vehicle driver, it’s important to understand the laws governing motorcycles and the damages that might be available.
In the United States, a total of 5,172 motorcyclists died in crashes in 2017. While motorcyclist deaths had been declining since 1980, the number of deaths have been steadily increasing since 1998. In 2017, the number of deaths were more than double the number of deaths in 1997.
In Montana, there were 373 motorcycle crashes in 2017 (the last year for which data is available). The severity of those crashes breaks down as follows:
|Motorcycle Crashes & Injury Statistics (2017)|
|Crash Severity||Number of Crashes||Percentage of Total Crashes (Motorcycle and Car)|
|Serious Injury Crash||94||14%|
|Other Injury Crash||199||4%|
|No Injury Crash||56||1%|
There’s a stigma against motorcyclists in the US. When a motorcycle accident occurs, people (including insurance companies) are quick to blame the motorcyclist. But motorcycle crashes aren’t always the fault of the motorcyclist.
Common causes of motorcycle accidents that aren’t the fault of the motorcyclist include:
In general, older motorcyclists sustain more serious injuries than younger riders. A Brown University study found that declines in vision and reaction time, along with a preference for larger bikes (which tend to roll over more easily), are the reasons behind this statistic.
Other common characteristics of motorcycle crashes in Montana include:
|Common Motorcycle Crash Characteristics in Montana (2017)|
|Characteristic||Number of Crashes||Percentage of Total Motorcycle Crashes|
|Motorcycle speed over 35 miles per hour||192||51%|
|Friday noon to Sunday noon||133||35%|
|Impaired motor vehicle driver||51||13%|
Motorcyclists, like drivers of motor vehicles, must follow all the Montana traffic laws. In addition, Montana has some motorcycle-specific laws. Compared to many states, these laws are pretty lax. Here are the highlights:
In Montana, a personal injury lawsuit based on a motorcycle accident must be filed within 3 years of the date of the accident. If this deadline is missed, your case will likely be dismissed and you won’t recover any compensation for the accident.
Motorcycle insurance isn’t required in Montana. However, if you opt to purchase coverage, your policy must meet the same minimum coverage requirements that apply to motor vehicles.
Montana has a fault-based insurance system. This means that if you get into an accident in Montana, you’ll have to show that the other driver was negligent in order to receive compensation.
Examples of actions that might result in a motorcyclist or motor vehicle driver being found negligent include:
Montana follows the modified comparative fault theory. Under this theory, the amount of damages a plaintiff can recover is reduced by a percentage that reflects their own degree of fault – so long as that percentage doesn’t exceed 50%.
If your percentage of fault exceeds 50%, then you can’t recover ANY damages.
The latest data from the Government Accounting Office shows that motorcycle crashes cost $16 billion in costs such as emergency services, medical costs, property damage, and lost wages.
In Montana, there are three types of damages available to a plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit:
Economic damages are fairly objective and easy to calculate. The most important thing you can do for your case is to keep track of your expenses. This means saving all of your medical bills and receipts.
Non-economic damages are more difficult to prove than economic damages. But again, keeping good records can help.
Punitive damages are rarely awarded in personal injury cases. In Montana, punitive damages are only available in cases involving fraud or “actual malice.”
A defendant acts with actual malice if the defendant:
Motorcycle safety should be a top priority in Montana. Do your part by taking a look at the safety resources below: