Generally, the owner and operator of a motor vehicle registered in Montana must maintain insurance against loss. M.C.A. §61-6-301(1). Insurance may not be less than $25,000 per person, $ 50,000 per accident, and $10,000 for property damage. M.C.A. §61-6-103(2)(b).
Advance Payment of Medical Expenses and Others
When liability is reasonably clear, an insurer has an obligation to pay a third party claimant’s medical expenses in advance of final settlement or judgment. See Ridley v. Guaranty National, 286 Mont. 325, 951 P.2d 987 (1997), interpreting UTPA M.C.A. §33-18-201 (6) & (13). Such medical expenses, however, must be causally related to the accident.
DuBray v. Farmers Insurance and Ridley v. Guarantee National Insurance
The Montana Supreme Court has recently handed down a decision which bears extensively on an insurer’s duty in a personal injury claim. In DuBray v. Farmers Insurance Exchange (307 Mont. 134; 36 P.3d 897 (2001)), the Montana Supreme Court ruled that an automobile insurer’s duty to advance pay expenses where liability and causation are reasonably clear extends not only to medical expenses, as had been previously established in Ridley v. Guarantee National Insurance Co. (286 Mont. 325, 951 P.2d 987), but also extends to lost wages. The Montana Supreme Court further implied that other kinds of expenses which will ultimately be included is still open an open question. However, it is now clear under Montana law that an automobile insurance carrier has a duty to advance pay both medical expenses and lost wages in cases where liability and causation are reasonably clear.