Recent crash data out of Idaho is underscoring the need for motorists to exercise heightened awareness of roadway laws and, should the unfortunate occur, knowledge of the legal remedies available to accident claimants and personal injury plaintiffs. The total number of traffic crashes in Idaho jumped by 22% in 2021 from 2020 — with property damage crashes increasing by 29% or a total estimated cost of $5.4 billion, serious injuries from crashes increasing by 24%, and traffic fatalities rising by 27%.
The following Idaho statutes that govern traffic systems, driver behavior, and driver accountability — all of which go hand-in-hand with regulations regarding insurance coverage and car accident victims’ avenues for filing a negligence lawsuit — uphold and protect the legal rights of Idaho citizens on the road.
Idaho Seat Belt Law
Idaho law requires everyone in a motor vehicle — the driver and all passengers, regardless of age — to wear a seat belt or a corresponding safety restraint or car seat for younger children. Adults are subject to a $10 citation, and the adult driver is handed a ticket for passengers under 18 who are not properly restrained.
The state’s observed seat belt use in 2022 was at an estimated 87.6% (up from 82.9% in 2021, a statistically significant increase), yet avoidable injuries still occur due to unrestrained drivers and passengers. Of the Idaho car accident victims killed in 2021, 64% were not wearing seat belts — and the Idaho Transportation Department notes that half of the fatalities could have been saved if everyone abided by seat belt best practices.
Idaho Seat Belt Defense Law
On top of being a standard safety procedure for motorists, wearing a seat belt can also protect car accident plaintiffs in a legal sense. The “seat belt defense” law arises from a section of the Idaho Statute that lets an at-fault driver of a car crash lower the amount of damages they must pay to their victim if they can show that the victim did not comply with Idaho state law's seat belt requirement. This would increase the difficulty of the injured to get their due compensation from insurance companies or through lawsuits, and the technical nature of the seat belt defense law often leads claimants and plaintiffs to seek assistance from car accident lawyers.
Idaho Speeding Laws
Idaho drivers must follow two overarching regulations regarding speeding: The basic rule that enjoins motorists to drive at a speed that is “reasonable and prudent,” with an eye on traffic and road conditions, and maximum speed limits, which are set according to what type of roadway is being traversed. The maximum speed allowed in residential, business, or urban districts is 35 mph unless otherwise indicated, while interstates allow drivers to reach speeds of 75 mph to 80 mph, as posted.
Idaho Aggressive Driving Statute
Speeding violations accounted for 14% of injury crashes in 2021. Excessive speeding — either driving over the posted speed limits or driving too fast for road conditions — is also often considered aggressive driving behavior. Idaho recorded a total of 13,633 car crashes that were caused by aggressive driving in 2021, leading to over 6,000 injuries. Car accident victims can cite how the at-fault driver’s flouting of traffic regulations led to property damage and their sustained injuries, and experienced personal injury attorneys often draw on driver behavior to prove negligence.
Idaho Road Rage Statute
Aggressive driving also poses a great risk of road rage — the deliberate use of a motor vehicle or other potentially lethal weapon by one vehicle's occupant against another vehicle's occupant. Road rage is assault, and thus criminal. The nature of the car accident changes for plaintiffs if road rage is central to the case, and Idaho lawyers take advantage of the understanding that victims who incite road rage may not have done so intentionally—rounding out all other behaviors that can prove liability.
Idaho Distracted Driving Laws
Idaho has straightforward, if uncompromising, laws on distracted driving to help curb the high incidence of road inattention. Idaho Statutes Section 49-1401A prohibits drivers from using a mobile electronic device while operating a motor vehicle. These devices are broadly defined to span smartphones, tablets, laptops, and the like; a driver cannot make a hand-held call, text, check apps, or peruse online posts. A driver is also considered “operating” a car even during temporary stops like at stop signs or stop lights—a driver must be parked or lawfully pulled over to use their devices legally.
In 2021, the Idaho Transportation Department credited driver inattention and distracted driving as contributing factors to 18% of all reported car accidents in Idaho and were responsible for 11% of car accident fatalities. The use of electronic communication devices was the reason behind 33% of all distracted driving crashes, and the state continues to crack down on phone use. An expansion of the distracted driving statute, through the Hands-Free Device Law, requires that all mobile electronic devices be in hands-free mode while operating a motor vehicle — so just holding a cell phone while at the wheel is illegal.
Data consistently back up the link between the prevalence of smartphone use while driving and car crashes. Car accident victims suffer property damage and threats to their lives due to at-fault drivers not going hands-free — cycling through apps on their phones, sending messages, or even manually toggling GPS navigation features. Experienced litigators can wield evidence of distracted driving in getting compensation for car accident plaintiffs, drawing on resources like witness testimonies and at-fault driver admissions, as well as cell phone records that show activity during the crash.
Idaho Car Accident Reporting Laws
In Idaho, drivers are legally obligated to report car accidents to law enforcement and to render assistance to victims on the scene. Failure to provide the authorities with “immediate notice” of a motor vehicle crash — considered concealing a crime — will subject an individual to charges on top of other violations within the incident itself.
Idaho has also instituted a workaround for at-fault drivers who may want to conceal evidence of a car crash, as car accident reporting laws extend to auto shops and mechanics. Idaho motor vehicle repair shops are required by law to report any car they receive that shows evidence of having been involved in a collision.
These laws are especially useful for ensuring that car accident victims are supported through official reports of the scene, which are an invaluable basis for reconstructing the incident and establishing negligence within possible lawsuits.
Idaho Hit-and-Run Laws
Another logical extension to holding Idaho at-fault drivers accountable through car accident reporting is the state’s robust legislation regarding hit-and-run incidents. Leaving the scene of a car accident that has caused property damage or injuries without offering reasonable assistance to victims is against the law. Fleeing the scene of a car accident is considered a hit-and-run misdemeanor if it results in property damage alone and a hit-and-run felony if the at-fault motorist was driving under the influence or if the accident resulted in victim injuries or death.
Car accident plaintiffs who have had to weather through iterations or combinations of these violations often seek legal counsel. Idaho car accident attorneys would know how to maximize the damages victims are entitled to—including the possibility of securing punitive damages on top of economic and non-economic damages—given their familiarity with Idaho’s stringent car crash reporting statutes.
Idaho Minimum Auto Insurance Requirements
Idaho drivers are required to maintain at least the minimum insurance coverage for bodily injury liability and property damage liability for each personal-use motor vehicle. Car insurance companies must also provide coverage for uninsured and underinsured motorists in an amount equal to the chosen coverage for bodily injury.
Bodily Injury Liability
When the policyholder is at fault in a collision, bodily injury liability coverage helps cover the costs of the injuries sustained by other drivers and passengers. Typically, this coverage pays for other persons’ medical expenses. Bodily injury coverage in an auto insurance policy must be maintained at a minimum of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident, according to Idaho law. The maximum sum of money that the insurance company is required to reimburse the other party on a driver’s behalf is specified in a policy's coverage limits. Larger limitations can be purchased.
Property Damage Liability
When the policyholder is at fault for the damage to someone else's property, such as other motor vehicles or the exterior of a home, property damage liability compensates for that damage. According to Idaho law, drivers must have property damage liability coverage with a minimum limit of $15,000 per accident. The maximum sum of money that the insurance company is required to pay to the other person on a policyholder’s behalf is specified in a policy's coverage limits. Larger limitations can be purchased for greater security.
Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist
Unless the car owner or driver has expressly refused the coverages in writing, insurance firms are required to offer uninsured motorist (UM) and underinsured motorist (UIM) bodily injury coverage. Although this may vary between insurance companies, in general, the coverage limitations for a UM/UIM bodily injury policy will mirror the coverage limits selected for the bodily injury liability coverage limits.
Idaho is a Fault-Based State for Insurance Claims
Idaho follows the fault-based statute for insurance claims. This means that the driver deemed at fault for the car accident is responsible for compensation, and their insurance company will pay for the victim’s losses according to the coverage limits.
Liability decisions generally take a while to determine, with many factors at play, on top of the distinct circumstances leading to the crash. The driver who received a ticket for a traffic infraction from the responding police officer may not automatically be held responsible by the insurance company. Before deciding who is to blame for an accident, the insurance company conducts an investigation into the car accident.
An insurance company may decide that both parties are partially to blame, with each driver committing a traffic infraction that led to a collision, and allocate a percentage of blame to each involved driver. In cases like this, claimants may want to defer to the counsel of car accident attorneys to ensure that they get the compensation that they are due from insurance companies and to explore the possibility of filing a lawsuit against the at-fault driver for particularly egregious losses.
Idaho is a Modified Comparative Negligence State for Car Accident Lawsuits
Idaho follows the modified comparative negligence rule regarding car accident lawsuits. The courts will determine fault, and a car accident victim’s portion of responsibility for the crash would not bar them from receiving compensation — but “any damages allowed shall be diminished in proportion to the amount of negligence or comparative responsibility attributable to the person recovering.”
There is a caveat, though. The modified comparative negligence law allows Idaho car accident victims to still receive damages through a lawsuit, even if they acted irresponsibly on the road or share partial blame for the crash — but their portion of the responsibility or blame must not exceed that of the other driver, or there’s no case.
Idaho Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents
Idaho has set two different time limits or statutes of limitations for car accident lawsuits. Plaintiffs with property damage cases have three years from the date of the car collision. Car accident victims who intend to sue for compensation or damages for physical injuries have two years from the date of the crash — but this statute adjusts in incidents of wrongful death stemming from car crash injuries, as the two-year time limit begins on the date of the victim’s passing.
Average Settlements for Idaho Car Accident Lawsuits
Because of the modified comparative negligence statute that governs car accident lawsuits, the amount of compensation a plaintiff receives is computed according to the percentage of fault between the parties. For example, plaintiff Jane Doe has sustained losses that require $100,000 in compensation from defendant John Doe. If a jury decides that Jane Doe was 40% at fault for the car accident and John Doe was 60% at fault, then Jane’s damages are reduced according to their own determined negligence, and Jane will only recover $60,000 in compensation.
The actual computation of a settlement that a car accident victim can receive varies, taking into consideration the losses they sustained, the circumstances of the collision, and any lingering effects of the incident — and all this would be calculated against the modified comparative negligence statute. Personal injury litigators like car accident attorneys will have the best insight on how to maximize settlement figures.
Legal Resources for Idaho Car Accident Victims
The Lawyer Referral Service (LRS) operates as a public service of the Idaho State Bar. All members of the LRS are members in good standing with the Idaho State Bar with no pending public disciplinary complaints and carry professional liability insurance. LRS attorneys have agreed to provide clients with a free initial half-hour consultation. Personal injury cases receive a free referral. After the initial consultation, any further fees are to be negotiated between the lawyer and the client.
Look for car accident attorneys through the Idaho State Bar to verify their name, admission date, and licensing status. The online records include former members going back approximately to 1994.
The Idaho Legal Aid Services is a nonprofit statewide law firm that provides equal access to legal aid for low-income individuals and senior citizens facing civil legal issues. The website details how to apply for free legal counsel and provides access to free legal advice lines according to practice area.
The Court Assistance Office of the State of Idaho Judicial Branch provides tools and information for people who want to represent themselves in court or who are unable to afford an attorney and would otherwise be unable to get their day in court.
DisAbility Rights Idaho helps people with any type of disability assert and defend their legal rights. Though it cannot directly assist with personal injury lawsuits, it provides people with disabilities with the information, tools, and necessary referrals for an advocate or legal help that takes their condition into consideration.
Idaho has transitioned statewide to the new iCourt system, where citizens can search for court records, make payments, or get county contact information. It also accommodates the online filing of legal documents. Please note that there is a 3.5% credit card transaction fee on all online payments.
The Idaho Transportation Department has made available an online portal to apply for crash reports. Collision records are considered public information, but it may take a few weeks for reports to be uploaded online. There is a $9 charge for a copy.
The Idaho Department of Motor Vehicles’ online portal allows drivers to check the status of their licenses, renew their licenses, and update private information. For those requiring documentary support in car accident claims and lawsuits, the DMV site also allows motorists to check the status of their driving privileges, as well as purchase driving records and vehicle records.
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