Laws about Idaho vehicle accidents are governed by a combination of statutes, regulations, and legal precedents aimed at ensuring fairness and accountability on the roads. From determining fault to seeking compensation, here’s what you need to know:

Idaho’s Comparative Negligence Law

Idaho adheres to a modified comparative negligence rule in determining liability for vehicle accidents (Idaho Code § 6-801). This law significantly impacts your ability to recover compensation if you were involved in an accident where you might share some degree of fault.

  • Shared Fault: Even if you were partially at fault for the accident, you may still be able to file a claim and seek damages from other at-fault parties.
  • Reduced Compensation: Your financial recovery will be reduced in proportion to your percentage of fault. For instance, if you are awarded $100,000 in damages, but the court determines you were 30% responsible for the accident, your compensation will be reduced to $70,000.
  • Fault Threshold: Importantly, Idaho’s modified system means that if your percentage of fault is 50% or greater, you cannot recover any compensation (Idaho Code § 6-801).

Consider this: you’re in a car accident where another driver runs a red light. However, you were slightly exceeding the speed limit. Ultimately, you sustain $20,000 in damages from injuries and vehicle repairs. If the court finds you 25% at fault and the other driver 75% at fault, you could potentially recover $15,000 as your damages would be reduced by your percentage of fault.

Determining fault in vehicle accidents is rarely straightforward. Insurance companies often try to maximize their profits by placing a higher percentage of blame on you, minimizing their payout. An experienced personal injury attorney knows how to:

  • Thoroughly investigate the accident to build a strong case for your defense.
  • Gather evidence to demonstrate the other driver’s negligence.
  • Negotiate skillfully with insurance companies to minimize the percentage of fault attributed to you.

Even if you think you may have been partially at fault, don’t let that deter you from seeking legal advice. An injury and accident lawyer can make navigating Idaho’s comparative negligence laws easier and help maximize your chances of a successful outcome.

Determining Fault

Figuring out who is at fault in a vehicle accident is rarely simple. Insurance companies and legal teams will meticulously examine the accident details to assign liability.  At the core of this process is proving negligence, a legal concept central to Idaho personal injury law. To establish that a driver acted negligently, you must typically demonstrate the following four elements:

  • Duty of Care: All drivers have a legal duty to operate their vehicles with reasonable care to avoid causing harm to others on the road. (Idaho adheres to the “reasonable person standard,” where drivers must act as a sensible person would in similar circumstances).
  • Breach of Duty: The at-fault driver must have violated their duty of care through some specific action or inaction.
  • Causation: You must prove that the driver’s breach of duty directly caused the accident that resulted in your injuries.
  • Damages: You must have suffered actual harm or losses due to the accident, such as medical bills, lost income, or pain and suffering.

Numerous actions fall under negligent driving behavior. Some frequent examples that can lead to accidents include:

  • Distracted Driving: Texting, eating, adjusting the radio, or engaging in other activities that divert a driver’s attention from the road all represent a breach of their duty of care.
  • Speeding: Exceeding the posted speed limit or driving too fast for weather conditions significantly increases the risk of accidents (Idaho Code § 49-654).
  • Driving Under the Influence (DUI): Operating a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs is a serious offense and a clear violation of a driver’s duty (Idaho Code § 18-8004).
  • Traffic Violations: Running red lights, disregarding stop signs, failing to yield, making unsafe lane changes – all of these are breaches of duty that can cause accidents.
  • Aggressive Driving: Tailgating, weaving in and out of traffic, or displays of road rage demonstrate reckless disregard for the safety of others.

Statute of Limitations

Every state has statutes of limitations that dictate the deadlines for filing different types of lawsuits. In Idaho, the statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits related to vehicle accidents is generally two years from the date the accident occurred (Idaho Code § 5-219). This means you have a limited time window to pursue legal action.

If you attempt to file your lawsuit after the statute of limitations has expired, the court will almost certainly dismiss your case. This means you’ll likely lose your right to seek any form of compensation for your accident-related injuries, no matter how severe they are. There are a few circumstances where the statute of limitations may be extended or “tolled”:

  • Minor Involved: If the injured person was a minor (under 18) at the time of the vehicle accident, the two-year clock generally doesn’t start running until their 18th birthday (Idaho Code § 5-230).
  • Discovery Rule: In some cases, an injury may not be immediately apparent. The discovery rule may apply, starting the statute of limitations from the date the injury was discovered or reasonably should have been discovered.
  • Defendant Out-of-State: The statute of limitations may be paused if the at-fault party leaves Idaho for a period of time (Idaho Code § 5-231).

Types of Damages

If you’ve been injured in a vehicle accident due to someone else’s negligence, Idaho law allows you to seek different types of damages to help you recover from your losses and move forward. These damages fall into three main categories:

  1. Economic Damages

This category aims to compensate you for your direct financial losses stemming from the accident.  Examples include:

  • Medical Expenses
  • Lost Wages
  • Property Damage
  • Other Out-of-Pocket Expenses
  1. Non-Economic Damages

These damages recognize the intangible but very real ways an accident can impact your life and well-being.  Some examples are:

  • Pain and Suffering
  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life
  • Emotional Distress
  • Loss of Consortium
  1. Punitive Damages

In rare cases where the at-fault driver acted with extreme recklessness, malice, or willful disregard for others’ safety, the court may award punitive damages (Idaho Code § 6-1604). These damages are not intended to compensate the victim but instead act as:

  • Punishment
  • Deterrence

The Craig Swapp & Associates Advantage

At Craig Swapp & Associates, our personal injury attorneys have a deep understanding of Idaho’s vehicle accident laws. We are committed to fighting for our clients’ rights  and helping them obtain the maximum compensation they deserve.

If you’ve been injured in a vehicle accident in Idaho, don’t hesitate to contact us for a consultation. We will review your case, answer your questions, and help you explore your legal options. Let us help you navigate the legal maze after an accident.

Written By: Ryan Swapp     Legal Review By: Craig Swapp