In this post, we will provide an overview of the law of personal injury in Montana. We will also provide summaries of recent jury verdicts and publicly reported settlements in Montana injury cases.
Montana 3-Year Statute of Limitations in Injury Cases
Like all states, Montana has a strict deadline for how long a plaintiff can wait before filing a civil lawsuit. This law is known as a statute of limitations. If the plaintiff does not file their case before the statute of limitations expires, they will lose their right to sue.
Montana’s statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits is 3 years. Mont. Code. § 27-2-204. This means that all personal injury lawsuits must be filed within 3 years of the date when the “cause of action accrues” or all claims will be lost.
So when does the “cause of action accrue”? This is the key question when determining when the 3-year period expires. Montana is among the majority of jurisdictions that has adopted what it known as the “discovery rule” for calculating when a cause of action accrues. Under this rule, a cause of action in Montana accrues when the plaintiff first discovers (or reasonably should have discovered) that they had an injured caused by negligence.
In most personal injury cases, like auto accidents, the date of the accident and the date that the plaintiff discovers their injury are the same. In an auto accident case, Montana’s 3-year statute of limitation begins to run from the date of the accident. In more complex cases, such as medical malpractice, the date of discovery can potentially be months or even years after the negligence occurs.
One of the few exceptions to Montana’s 3-year statute of limitations applies when the plaintiff is a minor (under 18) when the cause of action accrues. In these situations, the 3-year statute of limitations does not begin to run until the plaintiff turns 18.
5-Year Statute of Repose in Montana Medical Malpractice Cases
Montana medical malpractice lawsuits are subject to the same general 3-year statute of limitations that applies to other personal injury claims. However, medical malpractice claims are also subject to another deadline called a statute of repose. A statute of repose is like a maximum deadline for bringing a claim that applies regardless of when the claim accrues under the discovery rule.
Under Montana’s statute of repose, all medical malpractice lawsuits must be filed within 5-years of when the injury occurs. This 5-year limit is applicable not matter when the plaintiff discovers or should have discovered the injury.
- Montana informed consent law (2023 court opinion)
- Wrongful death law in Montana (court opinion from 2022)
Montana Statute of Limitations for Birth Injury Cases
Montana also has a special statute of limitations rules for birth injury medical malpractice claims. In birth injury cases, Montana’s 3-year statute of limitations does not start to run until the child turns 8 (or dies). So the child has until their 11th birthday to bring a medical malpractice case involving birth injuries.
- 2023 Montana birth injury opinion on elements of a claim
Damage Caps in Montana Medical Malpractice Cases
Damage caps are law that impose a maximum limit of the amount of money a plaintiff can be awarded in damages. Montana has enacted a cap on damages but it only applies to pain and suffering damages awarded in medical malpractice cases. The maximum amount a medical malpractice plaintiff can receive for pain and suffering under Montana law is $250,000.
It is important to note that this cap on damages does not apply to economic damages (e.g., medial expenses, lost wages, etc.). Only non-economic damages for pain and suffering are subject to the cap.
Shared Fault Rules in Montana Injury Cases
Comparative negligence is a legal rule that apportions fault among multiple parties involved in an accident or injury. Under this doctrine, the fault of each party is assessed, and damages are apportioned according to that share of fault. For example, if the plaintiff is found to be 10% at fault and the defendant 90% at fault, the plaintiff’s damages would be reduced by 10%.
Montana follows a “modified” comparative negligence rule, which means that a plaintiff can recover damages only if their degree of fault is less than 50%. If the plaintiff’s fault is found to be 50% or more, they are barred from recovering any damages. Furthermore, if the plaintiff’s negligence is found to be less than 50%, their damages will be reduced in proportion to their degree of fault.
Montana Dog Bite Law
Montana has adopted strict liability for persona injury cases involving dog bites or dog attacks. Montana’s dog bite statute (Mont. Code § 27-1-715) makes owners strictly liable for all injuries caused by their dog regardless of whether the dog had a history of aggression.
To establish a claim under the dog bite statute, the plaintiff must prove three elements:
- The defendant is the owner of the dog.
- The dog attacked the plaintiff without provocation.
- The attack occurred on public property or the plaintiff was not a trespasser at the time it occurred.
If these elements are satisfied, the dog owner is generally liable for the plaintiff’s damages, regardless of the owner’s knowledge or negligence.
Montana Premises Liability Law
Montana premises liability law deals with the legal obligations of a property for ensuring that its premises are reasonably safe for visitors and guests. Most premises liability claims in Montana involve slip and fall claims.
In Montana, property owners have a duty to maintain their premises in a safe condition and to warn visitors of any hazards that are not obvious or would not be discovered by reasonable inspection. The duty of care owed by the property owner depends on the status of the visitor.
Montana Product Liability Cases
Montana product liability lawsuits involve claims by consumers who were injured by defective or dangerous products. Montana product liability claims are generally based on strict liability, which means that a plaintiff does not need to prove the defendant’s negligence to establish liability. However, some claims may also involve allegations of negligence, such as when a manufacturer fails to exercise reasonable care in designing or manufacturing a product or in providing warnings or instructions.
Montana residents are bringing product liability lawsuits, including several national mass tort cases that our firm is currently accepting:
- Tylenol autism lawsuit: there is a growing body of evidence showing that using Tylenol (acetaminophen) during pregnancy can increase the risk of autism or ADHD. This has prompted a growing class action lawsuit by parents of children with autism and ADHD.
- Paraquat Parkinson’s Disease Lawsuit: Paraquat is weed killer used in commercial farming. New research linking Paraquat to Parkinson’s disease has led to a large wave of product liability lawsuits.
- Camp Lejeune lawsuit: A new law allowed individuals exposed to the toxic water at the Camp Lejeune marine corps base in North Carolina to file claims for compensation.
Montana Injury Verdicts and Settlements
- 2023, Montana: $425,000 Verdict. The plaintiff claimed to suffer occipital neuralgia as well as cervical and lumbar injuries after the vehicle he was operating, proceeding through an intersection, was struck by a vehicle driven by the defendant. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant was negligent in causing the accident by failing to stop for a stop sign, resulting in the plaintiff’s injuries and damages. The defendant admitted negligence but disputed the causation and extent of the plaintiff’s injuries, asserting that he sustained only a soft tissue cervical strain and no permanent injuries.
- 2022, Montana: $350,000 Verdict. The plaintiff reportedly suffered cervical disc herniation and a concussion with lesions to the upper cervical spinal cord and lower brainstem resulting in headaches, right-sided weakness, ocular dysfunction and anxiety disorder, his wife Marisa claiming loss of services when, while stopped at a red light, David’s vehicle was struck from the rear and pushed forward into the rear of the vehicle stopped ahead of him at the light by a vehicle owned by defendant.
- 2021, Montana: $12,410,067 Bench Verdict. A 27-year-old woman was struck by a snowplow driver. She suffered subarachnoid hemorrhaging, a traumatic brain injury, diffuse axonal tearing, right frontal intracranial bleeding, and brain atrophy. The woman spent two weeks in an induced coma. She was left with permanent scars, anxiety, depression. The woman also developed cognitive, emotional, physical, and behavioral impairments. Her mother became her conservator. She alleged negligence against the snowplow driver. The woman’s mother claimed the snowplow driver ran a stop sign and failed to maintain an appropriate lookout. She also made a vicarious liability claim against Gallatin County. The woman and her mother received a $12,410,067 bench verdict.
- 2020, Montana: $578,200 Verdict. A 63-year-old man suffered chest pain, shoulder pressure, fatigue, and heartburn. He presented to a federally funded clinic. A nurse made a gallbladder ultrasound referral. The following week, the man experienced chest pain while traveling. He was brought to the hospital. The man was diagnosed with a heart attack. He died while undergoing heart surgery. The man’s family alleged negligence against the federal government. They claimed its staff failed to order cardiac tests and make a cardiac workup referral. The family received $578,200.
- 2019, Montana: $409,000 Verdict. A man’s medical history included a stroke and cardiac and orthopedic issues. He was admitted to the hospital after feeling ill. A do-not-resuscitate order was entered into the computer system. The man became unresponsive two days later. He was resuscitated by the on-duty hospitalist. The man’s health deteriorated. He suffered an undignified death two years later. His family alleged negligence against the hospital. They claimed its hospitalist violated the man’s do-not-resuscitate order. The family received $409,000.
- 2019, Montana: $6,000 Verdict. A woman was struck in a supermarket parking lot. She fell backward. The woman injured her right foot. She alleged negligence against the at-fault driver. The woman claimed he excessively sped and failed to drive attentively. A jury awarded her $6,000.
- 2019, Montana: $2,000,000 Verdict. A 3-year-old cyclist was run over in a hit-and-run near his family’s trailer park home. He died from his injuries. The boy’s family alleged negligence against the at-fault driver and trailer park’s owners. They claimed the at-fault driver excessively sped and failed to maintain an appropriate lookout, while the trailer park maintained unsafe conditions. The family received a $2,000,000 verdict.
- 2018, Montana: $50,000 Settlement. A front-seat passenger was involved in a collision. The man suffered a right eye laceration, hand and wrist fractures, and cervical and thoracic fractures. He alleged negligence against his driver. The man claimed he drove while intoxicated and failed to yield the right-of-way at an intersection. This case settled for $50,000.
- 2017, Montana: $250,802 Bench Verdict. A woman suffered an asthma attack. She presented to a federally funded hospital’s ER. The hospital staff’s intubation and CPR attempts were unsuccessful. The woman died moments later. Her family alleged negligence against the federal government. They claimed the hospital staff delayed treatment and failed to use a paralytic to facilitate intubation. Following a bench trial, the court awarded the family $253,802.
- 2016, Montana: $435,518 Verdict. A 28-year-old man was hospitalized after falling off a roof. He received an IVC filter. The hospital staff failed to tell the man that it needed to be removed within 23 days. His orthopedic surgeon detected the device during a follow-up appointment 118 days later. The man underwent three IVC filter removal attempts. The first two were unsuccessful, while the third was partially successful. However, a fragment remained in the IVC wall. The man alleged negligence against the hospital. He claimed its staff failed to inform him that the filter required a timely removal and timely remove the device. The jury awarded the man $435,518.
Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer in Montana
Our firm deals with cases of severe injury and wrongful death in Montana, collaborating with reliable colleagues from the state who also have a track record of success. Who pays for the local lawyers? Our Montana attorneys’ fees are covered by our firm, meaning you don’t have to pay additional contingency fees for having two law firms involved. Also important: you only have to pay if you receive compensation through a settlement or a jury payout.
If you’ve been injured and think you have a possible civil tort claim, get a free no-obligation consultation or call our trial attorneys today at 800-553-8082.