Navigating Idaho’s Auto Accident Laws: A Comprehensive Guide for Injury Victims

Unfortunately, auto accidents are a frequent occurrence in our everyday life in Idaho. More often than not, the people who are injured in these accidents are left in the difficult position of trying to navigate Idaho’s complex legal system on their own. Understanding the legal process without an attorney is a difficult task and one that we recommend you avoid due to the complexity of the process and the likelihood that you will not obtain a full recovery. The goal of this article is to explain some of the most important legal concepts involved in personal injury accidents in Idaho and help provide you with the steps necessary to protect your rights.

Steps to Take After an Accident
  1. Contact Authorities: Report the accident to law enforcement and seek medical attention for any injuries.
  2. Document Evidence: Take photos of the accident scene, gather witness contact information, and obtain the other driver's insurance details.
  3. Seek Medical Attention: Even if you don't have immediate symptoms, it's crucial to undergo a medical evaluation to detect latent injuries.
  4. Notify Your Insurance Company: Promptly inform your insurance provider about the accident.
  5. Consult with an Attorney: An experienced personal injury attorney can explain the legal process to you, negotiate with the insurance company, and advocate for you in court.
Legal Framework

In Idaho, personal injury claims arising from auto accidents are governed by tort law, which allows injured parties to seek compensation for damages caused by another party's negligence. Idaho follows a "comparative fault" system, meaning the at-fault driver who caused the accident is typically responsible for covering the damages resulting from the accident. Every case is different, however, and the small differences in your case may have a big impact on whether you can recover under Idaho law. Some important considerations about Idaho’s comparative fault system are discussed below.

Understanding Comparative Fault

Idaho has adopted the “modified comparative fault” system, which means that if your negligence is less than that of the person you are suing, you can pursue compensation. However, your recovery will be reduced in proportion to your degree of fault. For example, if you are found to be 20% at fault, your compensation will be reduced by 20%.

But not every case is this simple. Let’s say you are involved in a multi-vehicle accident with vehicles driven by Drivers B and C.  To recover against Drivers B and C, you will have to show that your negligence is less than each of those drivers’ negligence. For instance, if you are 20% at fault for the accident and Drivers B and C are each 40% at fault for the accident, you can recover against both Drivers B and C. On the other hand, if you are 20% at fault, Driver B is 20% at fault, and Driver C is 60% at fault, you can only recover against Driver C because your negligence is only less only than Driver C’s.

The type of legal complexity described above is why it is so important for you to consult an car accident attorney after you’ve been involved in an auto accident. Without an attorney, you are at an immediate disadvantage in our legal system and throughout the entire pre-suit process.

Who Decides the Issue of Fault

In Idaho, the issue of comparative fault is typically determined by a jury during a trial. The jury considers evidence presented by both parties, including witness testimony, expert testimony, and any other relevant documentation, to assess each party's degree of fault.

There are other situations where the parties may agree to have a judge decide the issue of fault instead of a jury, but this is not a typical practice for our firm. It is our practice to request a jury trial because we strongly believe in the collective wisdom of the individuals in our community.

What Damages are Recoverable

The two primary types of damages recoverable in Idaho are economic and non-economic damages.

Economic damages include:

  1. Medical Expenses: This includes the cost of medical treatment, hospitalization, surgery, medication, rehabilitation, therapy, and any other medical expenses related to the accident. These damages cover both past and future medical expenses related to the injury.
  2. Lost Wages: If your injuries cause you miss work temporarily or permanently, you may be entitled to recover compensation for lost wages and income. This includes wages lost during recovery, as well as future earnings that would have been earned if not for the injury
  3. Property Damage: If the accident resulted in damage to your property, such as your vehicle in a car accident, you may be entitled to compensation for the cost of repairing or replacing the damaged property.

Non-Economic damages include:

  1. Pain and Suffering: These damages compensate the injured party for physical pain, discomfort, and emotional distress experienced as a result of the accident. Pain and suffering damages are subjective and can vary based on the severity and duration of the pain experienced by the victim.
  2. Disability or Disfigurement: If the injury results in a permanent disability or disfigurement that affects your ability to work, enjoy life, or engage in daily activities, you may be entitled to compensation for these impairments.
  3. Aggravation of a preexisting condition: If the injury aggravates an injury that you had before the accident or makes it worse, you may be entitled to compensation for the aggravation of your injuries.

Under certain circumstances, you may be entitled to recover punitive damages as well. Punitive damages are limited to those cases involving outrageous misconduct or intentional wrongdoing. In those situations, the court may allow the jury to decide whether punitive damages should be awarded to punish the defendant and deter similar behavior in the future. The purpose of punitive damages is to deter future bad conduct and punish the bad actor.

It is also important to understand that Idaho has certain limits on the amounts of punitive and non-economic damages you may recover. Idaho’s non-economic damages cap sets a limit on the amount of money you can recover for your pain and suffering, disfigurement, and aggravation of previous injuries. However, the non-economic damages cap does not apply if the at-fault party is found to be “reckless,” which is defined under Idaho law. As you can see, Idaho law is very complex and this is why it is so important for you to speak with a personal injury attorney to help you understand your rights and the legal process.

Statute of Limitations

In Idaho, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit stemming from an auto accident is typically two (2) years from the date of the incident. Complying with this deadline is essential to preserve your right to pursue compensation.


Knowing what to do after an auto accident requires an understanding of Idaho laws and your rights as an injured party. The best way to protect your interests after you’ve been involved in an accident is to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced attorney. We are here to advocate for you throughout the legal process and make that process as efficient, and successful for you as possible. Our goal is to provide you with straight answers and sound advice.

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