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Montana highway deaths declined in 2014

The New Year brought some encouraging news for Montana residents. The Montana Highway Patrol reported that the number of people killed on the state's roads in 2014 was significantly fewer than in 2013. Motor vehicle accidents claimed 192 lives in 2014 as compared to 229 in 2013, a 16 percent drop.

The Billings District, with 30 deaths in 2014, had the most of any district. This was nonetheless a decline of about 10 deaths from 2012 and 2013.

Alcohol-related traffic deaths were a major exception to the overall positive picture. Crashes involving drunk drivers killed 43 people in 2014, two more than in 2013. There were 42 alcohol-related crashes in 2014, a slight increase from the previous year.

The most significant decline was in pedestrian deaths, which fell from 24 in 2013 to 10 in 2014. The number of accidents involving pedestrians fell from 23 to nine. Two bicyclists were killed in 2014; none died in 2013. Fatal accidents in which the victim was not wearing a seat belt dropped 34 percent to 156.

When a person is killed in a car accident caused by a negligent driver, Montana law allows surviving family members to bring a wrongful death lawsuit to recover compensation for their loss. Damages can be claimed for loss of financial support, loss of companionship, and funeral and medical expenses.

A financial recovery can't take the place of a loved one lost in an auto accident. But it can help a grieving family cope with the financial repercussions, especially if they depended on the victim for support.

Source: Billings Gazette, "37 fewer highway fatalities in 2014, MHP reports," Tom Lutey, Jan. 5, 2015

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