In 2022, over338 fatalities resulting from car accidents were logged in Iowa, showing a 3.43% decline from the previous year’s cases. During the same year, more incidents occurred in urban areas compared to rural locations, with the total numbers being 235 and 103, respectively.
Interstate 380, part of Iowa’s urban landscape, is considered one of the most dangerous places for car crashes in the state. Consequently, measures have been taken to raise the level of safety for road users in this area through automated traffic enforcement systems. According to a report published by Iowa’s Governor's Traffic Safety Bureau (GTSB), this project resulted in a decrease in car accident incidents and related injuries on the interstate.
If you ever find yourself involved in a car crash, it is important to know the steps to take and the information to remember, including the rules for reporting an accident, the deadline for filing a lawsuit, and Iowa’s comparative negligence rule. Understanding these laws and how they may impact your case is essential in ensuring you receive the compensation you deserve.
Because vehicular accidents can have consequential effects — ranging from property damage to injuries and death — every motorist should see it as their responsibility to know about the state’s traffic rules and ways to maintain road safety.
Iowa’s Move Over Law
Iowa enforces strict laws to ensure the safety of motorists and pedestrians on its roadways. One such rule is the Move Over Law, which mandates drivers to move over one lane or slow down to a safe speed when approaching emergency or non-emergency vehicles with activated flashing lights while stopped or parked on the roadside. These include passenger cars with hazard lights on.
This rule is crucial in safeguarding the lives of emergency responders, highway workers, and stranded motorists who may be working or standing on the side of the road. When driving near a nonmoving vehicle with blinking lights, it is imperative to give it enough room to work and maneuver safely.
Drivers are advised to comply with the law to avoid serious repercussions. Those who break Iowa Code 321.323A or 321.324 will be fined $100 in addition to other fees and surcharges. Furthermore, the Iowa Department of Transportation (Iowa DOT) will suspend the driver's license or operating privileges of offenders without a preliminary hearing after 30 days' notice if their violation has caused property damage (90-day suspension), bodily injury (180-day suspension), or death (one-year suspension).
If a violator causes bodily injury or death, they may also be subject to an extra fine of $500 or $1,000, respectively. Drivers must always abide by the law to ensure their and others' safety.
The Seat Belt Law of Iowa
In 2022, 45.78% of Iowa car accident fatalities — translating to 114 individuals — involved not wearing a safety belt.
In line with this, Iowa has had a primary safety belt law since 1986 to prevent serious consequences from car crashes. The state’s regulation allows law enforcement officials to stop motorists who are not wearing a safety belt while in a moving vehicle. Moreover, a law passed in 2018 mandates that all passengers under 18 years old riding in the backseat must be properly belted to prevent injuries and fatalities.
Various organizations and government agencies have also started initiatives to promote the proper use of safety belts and child restraint systems in the state. The GTSB, responsible for conducting a yearly seat belt usage survey on Iowa's public roadways, has a car seat calculator on its website showing which type of car restraint system is appropriate for a child based on age and weight. Additionally, Blank Children's Hospital coordinates Iowa's Child Passenger Safety program to help parents and caregivers install and use child restraint systems.
Iowa also hasCarFit stations, which are free educational events for older drivers to learn about the right positioning in a vehicle. Its 12-point checklist covers matters like seat position, mirrors, and safety belts. This program is also essential for Iowa's aging population, which constitutes a significant portion of motorists in the state. More than half a million Iowan drivers are over 65 years old.
Iowa’s Vulnerable Road User Law
According to Iowa DOT, the total number of bicycle fatalities in Iowa in 2022 was three, while the logged pedestrian fatalities were 17. These statistics reflect the unfortunate reality that both bicyclists and pedestrians remain vulnerable on Iowa's roads.
To reduce the risks they face on state roadways, the Vulnerable Road User Law prioritizes the safety of pedestrians, bicyclists, and other unguarded road users. Drivers who cause accidents resulting in serious injuries or fatalities face severe penalties under this law.
The penalty for violating the law depends on the severity of the injury. Drivers may receive a $500 fine, a suspension of their driver's license or operating privileges for up to 90 days, or both in case of serious injuries. If the violation results in death, a driver could be fined $1,000 or suspended for up to 180 days. These penalties are added to any other punishments imposed.
Car Insurance Requirements in Iowa
Mandatory Auto Insurance Coverage
In Iowa, the law requires all drivers to carry minimum liability insurance. This type of coverage provides financial protection in case you are responsible for causing an accident that results in property damage or bodily injury to someone else. The minimum liability coverage amounts in the state are:
$20,000 for bodily injury or death of one person in an accident.
$40,000 for bodily injury or death of two or more persons in an accident.
$15,000 for property damage.
While these may be sufficient for some drivers, others may need more coverage, such as comprehensive or collision insurance. It's important to talk to a licensed insurance agent about your options to ensure you follow Iowa law and get enough protection for yourself and your property.
Meanwhile, if a property and casualty insurance company becomes insolvent in Iowa, the Iowa Insurance Guaranty Association provides coverage for residents who have claims against or are insured by the insolvent insurer. The funds utilized are obtained from assessments levied on member insurers, and no public funds or tax revenues are involved in the process.
Optional Auto Insurance Policies
Rental Car Insurance for Road Trips
Planning a road trip requires you to consider several factors, including insurance. It's essential to ensure adequate coverage for your rental car to protect you from liability in case of an accident or damage to the vehicle. Before purchasing one, it is important to check with your current auto insurance provider to see if rental cars are covered under your policy. If they are not, acquiring rental car insurance may be necessary.
Insurance Considerations for Transportation Network Company (TNC) Drivers
TNCs, such as Uber and Lyft, have become popular options for transportation in Iowa. TNC drivers should be aware that their personal automobile policies do not apply to their cars when used for commercial purposes. Iowa implemented a law in 2016 that established insurance coverage guidelines for both TNC passengers and drivers. Drivers working for TNCs are advised to consult with a licensed insurance agent if their current insurance does not fulfill the minimum requirements or if they need extra coverage.
Reporting a Car Accident in Iowa
In the event of an accident in Iowa resulting in personal injury, death, or total property damage of $1,500 or more, the driver involved is required to notify the nearest law enforcement agency to conduct an investigation. If the agency is unavailable, the driver must complete and submit an Iowa Accident Report form. Failure to do so within 72 hours of the accident may result in the suspension of their driving privileges.
It is crucial to fill out the report in full, especially the insurance section on page four. If you don't give your insurance information, your driving and registration privileges could be taken away. After signing the report, pages 3 and 4 should be mailed to the Iowa DOT using the following address:
Iowa Department of Transportation
Systems & Administration Bureau
PO Box 9204
Des Moines, Iowa 50306-9204
The Statute of Limitations in Iowa
Iowa’s statute of limitations refers to the time limit given to individuals who want to pursue legal action after being involved in a car accident. This law, governed by Iowa Code Section 614.1, establishes a two-year filing deadline for personal injury. It applies to all plaintiffs involved in a car accident, whether they are drivers, passengers, motorcyclists, bicyclists, electric scooter riders, or pedestrians.
The two-year "clock" starts running on the date of the accident. This means if someone has been injured in a car collision in Iowa, they have two years to file a lawsuit. The same timeframe applies to wrongful death claims, with the clock starting on the date of the victim's death. Meanwhile, Iowa Code section 614.1 establishes a five-year deadline for any lawsuit related to vehicle or property damage caused by a car accident.
To avoid the risk of having your case dismissed at the defendant's request, you should adhere to the statute of limitations that pertains to your circumstance. It would be smart to talk to an experienced Iowa car accident lawyer, especially if you aren't sure if you will make the deadline. Even if you think filing a lawsuit is unnecessary, it is still essential to look into the process to determine if it is the right course of action for your situation. Doing so may provide additional leverage during settlement negotiations.
It is also important to note that these statutes of limitations do not apply to car insurance claims since insurers can set different deadlines. Moreover, they often require claimants to make a claim or give notice of an incident that could trigger a claim process quickly after the accident.
How Much You Can Sue for a Car Accident in Iowa
When you are involved in a car accident in Iowa, the amount of compensation you are entitled to will depend on various factors, such as the extent of your injuries, damage to your vehicle, and other accident-related expenses. The at-fault driver's insurance company will likely make a settlement offer soon after the accident, which you can accept or reject. Once an offer is accepted, the claim is settled, and you cannot request additional compensation in the future. You also have the option to file a lawsuit if the settlement offer is inadequate or if the insurance company refuses to negotiate a better offer.
An experienced car accident lawyer can help you determine the value of your claim and the expenses for which you are eligible to receive compensation. In a personal injury claim in Iowa, damages can be categorized as either economic or noneconomic:
Economic damages refer to the monetary losses and costs directly related to an injury. In the case of a car accident, some examples are medical care costs, both past and future, as well as the cost of modifying one's residence or vehicle due to injuries sustained in the accident. Additionally, economic damages may include replacement income or lost future income if the victim can't work while getting better or can't go back to work in the future because of their injuries.
Noneconomic damages refer to losses that cannot be quantified in terms of money, such as emotional distress or pain and suffering. These are often more difficult to calculate and can vary greatly depending on the circumstances of each case. Pain and suffering can include not only physical pain but also emotional pain and mental anguish. Emotional distress can include feelings of anxiety, depression, or trauma resulting from the accident.
Iowa Is an At-Fault State
Iowa is not a no-fault state. Since it operates on a fault-based system for car accidents, the driver found to be responsible should pay for the other party's losses. Fault can be complex and shared between parties, and drivers should understand their legal obligations and the potential consequences of violating them.
Iowa’s Comparative Negligence Rule
Iowa CodeSection 668.3 outlines the rules for comparative fault in tort liability across the state. According to this law, a car accident claimant may still recover damages even if they are partially responsible, as long as their percentage of fault, as determined by the court, is less than the combined fault of the defendants and other involved parties.
The law also states that the damages a plaintiff receives will be reduced proportionally based on their share of fault. For instance, if they are found to be 20% responsible for a car collision and are awarded $100,000, they are only entitled to the total amount after 20% has been deducted, which is $80,000.
If deemed fair and viable, the court may direct payments for a judgment or award to be made in a structured, periodic, or alternative manner rather than as a lump sum. However, this option will not be pursued if it is deemed unjust, if there are concerns about the future collection, or if there are competing claims for the funds.
Additional Legal Resources for Iowa Car Accident Victims
Iowa Insurance Division
The Iowa Insurance Division is a government agency that controls the insurance industry in the state. It is responsible for enforcing Iowa's insurance laws; regulating insurance companies, agents, and brokers; and protecting consumers in insurance transactions. The division's primary mission is to ensure that insurance products and services are available, affordable, and reliable for Iowa residents. It operates under the Iowa Department of Commerce.
Iowa Legal Aid
Iowa Legal Aid is a valuable resource for individuals who cannot afford legal services. It offers a range of services, including advice, representation, and referrals to other organizations that can provide further assistance. It covers a variety of areas, such as family law, housing, employment, public benefits, and consumer issues. Additionally, Iowa Legal Aid has several resources on its website, including answers to frequently asked questions, self-help guides, and other information to help people navigate the legal system. If you need legal assistance, you can contact Iowa Legal Aid at 1-800-532-1503 to schedule a consultation.
The Iowa DOT's website has relevant content for individuals involved in car accidents in the state. It offers detailed information on what to do after a car accident, including how to report it and what information to gather at the scene. In addition, the website provides its readers with guidance on obtaining a copy of an accident report, which is a crucial document for anyone seeking compensation for their losses. Other resources available on the Iowa DOT's website include insurance requirements, driver's license reinstatement, and the state's fault-based system for financial responsibility in car accidents.
Iowa Courts Online
Iowa Courts Online provides access to court records and case information for all Iowa courts. This website may be helpful if you are looking to file a lawsuit or obtain information about a case.
Iowa Driver’s License Manual
The Iowa Driver's Manual is a comprehensive guidebook for drivers in the state. It discusses traffic laws, safe driving practices, and road signs and signals. It has been designed to help drivers pass the written knowledge test required for obtaining a driver's license in Iowa. The manual was prepared by the Iowa DOT's Motor Vehicle Division, which is responsible for licensing and regulating drivers and vehicles within the state.
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