What is the Car Accident Statute of Limitations in Montana?
First off, we should explain that a “statute of limitations” is a state law that sets a strict deadline for the filing of a civil lawsuit after you have suffered some type of harm. These deadlines differ depending on the kind of case you want to file, but the time limits are almost always expressed in years.
Montana Code Annotated section 27-2-204 sets the statute of limitations that will apply to almost all injury lawsuits arising from a vehicle accident. This law gives you three years to ask Montana’s civil courts for a remedy for any kind of personal injury caused by someone else.
So, in the context of a car accident, any lawsuit by any driver, passenger, motorcycle rider, bicyclist, or pedestrian injured in the crash will be subject to this three-year filing deadline, and the “clock” starts running on the date of the accident.
The same statute also governs any Montana wrongful death lawsuit that might be brought by the family of anyone who was killed as a result of the car accident. The only difference is that for these wrongful death claims, the three-year “clock” starts running on the date of the accident victim’s death (as opposed to the date of the accident itself).
Finally, if you had your vehicle or other personal property damaged as a result of the car accident, Montana Code Annotated section 27-2-207 says that any lawsuit over the damage must be filed within two years of the date of the accident.
(Keep in mind that regardless of the basis for bringing the lawsuit -- whether it’s an injury, a death, or just damage to a vehicle -- the success of the case will almost certainly hinge on your ability to prove that the defendant’s negligence was the cause of the crash. Learn more about Proving Fault for a Car Accident.)
If you try to file your lawsuit after the statute of limitations deadline has already passed, the defendant is sure to ask the court to dismiss the case, and the court is very likely to agree that a dismissal is appropriate.
From a strategy standpoint, you always want to make sure you have plenty of time to file a lawsuit, even if you’re pretty sure you’ll reach a car accident settlement. If you have all of your options open -- and the other side knows it -- you’ll have more leverage during settlement talks. So if the three-year deadline is approaching, it may be time to talk with an experienced Montana car accident attorney.
by: David Goguen, J.D.