Montana law requires that all drivers carry a minimum amount of car insurance in order to protect all drivers on the road. Any driver that does not carry the required coverage will face legal consequences.
The law in Montana sets out basic liability limits that every driver must carry at all times. This coverage provides for injuries and death to other people in an accident as well as property damage.
The legal minimum coverage is:
- Bodily Injury coverage in the amount of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per incident to pay for injuries done to others as a result of an at-fault accident
- Property damage coverage in the amount of $10,000 to pay for damage to another person’s vehicle
While this is the coverage required in order to be legal in Montana, most people recognize that these limits are very low, particularly considering how quickly a serious accident can add up. As a result, many Montana drivers choose to increase their limits above the minimum in order to be better protected.
In addition to increasing liability limits, many people choose to add more optional coverage in order to create a comprehensive policy. There are a number of options available to Montana drivers to make up a full coverage policy.
The most common coverage options include:
- Collision coverage, which pays for damage to your vehicle in the event of an at-fault accident.
- Comprehensive coverage, which will pay for damage or loss of your vehicle in any non-accident event, such as a theft, vandalism, fire, or weather-related damage. This coverage usually also pays for windshield repair and replacement and other glass damage
- Uninsured/Underinsure Motorist, a coverage that pays for bodily injury and property damage done by another driver who is either uninsured or does not have enough insurance to cover the damage done.
- Rental Reimbursement, which pays for a rental car during a covered claim.
- Towing & Labor, which will pay for towing and roadside assistance costs in a non-accident incident.
Insurance companies in Montana may offer a range of other coverage options as well, depending on the company. These can include new car replacement, accident forgiveness, stereo equipment coverage, and many more.
Proof of Insurance Laws and Penalties
All Montana drivers are required to not only have insurance but also be prepared to provide proof of insurance upon request of a law enforcement officer. Failure to provide proof may result in several penalties.
In 2012 the state introduced the Montana Insurance Verification System. This electronic system allows law enforcement to quickly determine whether or not a vehicle is insured. Insurance companies in Montana submit information to the system confirming insurance coverage for each vehicle on the road. Cancellations and lapses in coverage are also reported.
Drivers who are caught driving uninsured can face the following penalties:
- For a first offense, a fine of $250-$500 and a possibility of up to 10 days in jail
- For a second offense the fine is raised to a minimum of $350. In addition, the driver’s license will be revoked for 90 days and there will be 5 points levied against the driver’s license. Again, there is a possibility of jail time
- For a third or any subsequent offense, fines are raised to $500 with the possibility of jail time for up to 6 months
A driver who is involved in an accident while uninsured can be held financially responsible for all damage caused in the accident, in addition to facing charges for driving uninsured.
Shopping for Car Insurance in Montana
Montana is the second most expensive state in the nation for car insurance according to a 2015 Insure.com survey. The reasons for these high rates may include an incredibly high rate of car accident fatalities as well as loose driver safety laws. The average annual car insurance premium in Montana came in at around $500 more than the national average.
This means that Montana drivers need to make more effort to obtain a good rate – by keeping a clean driving record and shopping around for car insurance. The widespread population, leaving many in rural areas without access to multiple insurance agencies, may also impact Montana’s high rates. This makes online shopping even more important for Montana drivers.
High Risk Drivers in Montana
High-risk drivers, who may have issues such as multiple accidents, tickets, or major violations may find it difficult to obtain insurance. Montana assists these drivers by offering an assigned risk program that allows all drivers to get the coverage they need to drive legally.
The Montana Automobile Insurance Plan, part of the Western Association of Automobile Plans, is designed for drivers who have been turned down for insurance on the voluntary market. This is a last-resort option and will still be expensive, but ensures that the driver will not be denied coverage.
Teen Drivers in Montana
Montana’s Graduated License Law helps teen drivers to build the driving skills they need safely over time. Each stage of the licensing process has specific requirements, rules, and restrictions that help teens stay safe on the road.
There are two paths to licensing for Montana teens, each beginning with a learner license.
There are three types of learner license:
- Teacher Education Permit (TEP) – includes only driver education instructor supervision
- Traffic Education Learner License (TELL) – allows for a parent or guardian to supervise
- Learner License – this license must be applied for with parental permission to allow other drivers to supervise
A teen can obtain the TELL at the age of 14.5, if they meet the following requirements:
- Enroll in a Montana high school driver education course
- Pass the written knowledge test
If the teen chooses not to take driver education, they must wait until the age of 16 to obtain the TELL, and must still pass the knowledge test.
With the TELL, teens can drive with a parent, guardian, or driving instructor as they learn how to drive. The teen is required to spend at least 50 hours practicing driving skills, and 10 of those hours must be at night, before moving on.
The next step in the licensing program is the restricted license. This license allows the teen to drive without supervision, and can only be obtained after:
- At least 6 months with a learner license
- 50 hours of practice with 10 hours at night
- Successful completion of a road test
With this license, teen drivers are still required to follow a set of restrictions:
- Driving is not permitted between 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., with the exception of approved school, work, farm, or religious activities
- There can’t be more than one passenger in the car outside of family members for the first 6 months
- There can’t be more than three passengers in the car outside of family members for the second three months
After one year with a restricted license, or at the age of 18 – whichever is first – the teen can graduate to the full license, at which point all restrictions are lifted.
Teen drivers in Montana are subject to the same insurance laws as any other driver. A teen driver can stay on that policy even when away at school, until they have established a permanent residence away from home.
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