Missouri Car Accident Law - Fault, Insurance Claims & Settlements, & Missouri Car Accident Lawyers
There were over 77,000 traffic accidents in Missouri in 2008. If you are injured in a car accident in Missouri, take care of your medical needs, and then focus on receiving compensation for your injuries and property damage. It is important to understand the following concepts when working with an insurance company to recover money from your damages:
- Proving fault: Fault determines how much your insurance settlement will be worth.The more you contribute to the cause of an accident, the less the insurance company will pay for your injuries. Insurance companies are adept at finding ways to increase your level of fault and reduce their payout.
- Insurance companies profits by paying less:If the car insurance claims process is easy, it is most likely for the insurance company's benefit and not yours.
- Your insurance claim can be valuable:Insurance companies typically set a lower claim value than you do. In major car accidents or car accidents that include injuries, speak with a Missouri car accident lawyer to receive an estimated value of your car accident claim. .
- A majority of Missouri car accident lawyers offer a free initial consultation: It always makes sense to contact a car accident attorney in Missouri if you have been in a major accident or accident involving injuries.
How Is Fault Determined in a Missouri Car Accident?
Missouri uses a pure comparative faultsystem which awards money damages based on what percent of fault the drivers were. For example, Tom and Beth collide with each other's vehicles and Tom suffers $100,000 in damages and Beth suffers $40,000 in damages. Tom is found to be 40% at fault for the collision and Beth is found to be 60% at fault. Therefore, Tom can recover $60,000 for his damages from Beth and Beth can recover $16,000 in damages from Tom. The fault percentages are typically determined during the insurance claims process, however, fault will be determined by a judge or jury at trial if the claim is not settled.
- Determining fault in a Missouri car accident is not a simple process. An experienced car accident attorney will give you a better chance at proving that you were less at fault than the other driver.
- Remember: the less at fault you are, the more money you can recover from the other driver.
- You can recover damages even if you were more than 50% at fault.In Missouri, even if you are found to be 99% at fault for a car accident, you can still recover 1% of your own damages.
- Helpful Missouri Car Accident Fault ArticleWho is at Fault in a Car Accident?
How can a Missouri Auto Accident Attorney Help Me Prove Fault?
A Missouri car accident attorney will know what to do after a car accident to preserve the value of your claim. Your attorney will perform the following for you -
- Collect the Facts:Because the amount of money you can recover in a Missouri auto accident case relies mainly on proving fault, you need to collect all the facts you can. Missouri car accident attorneys can help you collect all the relevant documents including:
- Missouri Police Reports
- Other Driver's Insurance Information
- Gather other forms of evidence:A Missouri car accident attorney will interview the police and witnesses at the scene of the accident and take pictures and gather the evidence you may need later if fault becomes a question.
- File a car insurance claim:You will have to file an insurance claim in order to recover for your injuries and damages.
Who Pays for the Car Accident in Missouri?
Missouri is an at-fault state. The driver who is responsible for the car accident must pay the other person's medical bills, lost wages and property damage costs.
- Who can be sued in a Missouri Car Accident? Potentially responsible parties in an auto accidentinclude the other driver, employers of the driver, car manufacturers, or the insurance company. A car accident attorney can help you identify the responsible parties in your accident and determine which of the parties is in the best financial situation to pay for your damages.
- Missouri Car Insurance Coverage Requirements:In Missouri, all drivers must be covered by a minimum of $25,000 in liability insurance and $50,000 in per incident insurance. If you are injured by another driver, these amounts, including any additional protection the at-fault driver may have purchased, will be fully available to compensate you for your damages. Proof of insurance must be kept in the vehicle at all times.
- What if the insurance limits are not enough to cover all of the damages?If this is the case, you must file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver to recover the excess amount directly from them. An experienced auto accident attorney can help you file an effective suit against an at-fault driver.
- What if the at-fault driver is uninsured or does not possess the required minimum coverage?It is wise to purchase uninsured or underinsured protection in your car insurance policy. If you purchase this type of protection and the at-fault driver is uninsured or underinsured, you can file a claim with your own insurance company. Otherwise, you will need to file a lawsuit against the party who caused the accident to recover for your injury from them personally.
- Additional Information:Car Insurance and Auto Accidents: Are You Covered?
What is my Missouri Car Accident Worth?
In Missouri, the law attempts to make the injured party whole. In other words, you will be able to collect all the damages necessary to restore you back to the position you were (monetarily) prior to your injuries. You can be made whole through different types of damages. Some of these types of potential damages try to account for future conditions and the value of physical and/or emotional injury. As a result, it is in your best interest to consult an experienced auto accident attorney who can advise about which damages you should seek and help you calculate the exact value of your claim.
- Economic Damages:
- Medical expenses - past and future
- Lost wages - past and future
- Lost future earning capacity
- Loss of ability to provide household services (i.e., stay at home moms or dads)
- Damage to Car, Property in the Car, or Home
- Loss of use of real and personal property (Rental Car)
- Lost profits (i.e. from a home business that you cannot put time into due to your injuries)
- Non-Economic Damages (*these can be the trickiest damages to calculate):
- Physical pain and mental suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium (loss of spousal companionship and services)
- Helpful Articles on Calculating the Value of a Missouri Car Accident
How to Handle Car Insurance Claims and Companies in Missouri
An attorney can be an asset when communicating and negotiating with insurance companies.
- Missouri Insurance companies make money by reducing their claim payments. Never lose sight of this reality when speaking with any insurance representative, whether it is your own or the at-fault party's agent.
- Auto Accidents: Options if You're at an Impasse with the Insurance Adjuster
- Keep ALL claim records in writing: Save emails, get everything anyone says about the accident put into writing, and keep everything organized.
Contacting a Missouri Car Accident Attorney
What can an attorney do for you?Because an attorney has experience communicating with insurance companies and handling the legal system, in many cases, the attorney will increase your car accident settlement amount.
- When to consult an attorney:You can bring any question to an attorney, regardless of the value of the case. Review the following articles for more information
- How your attorney is paid:Most attorneys who handle auto accidents in Missouri work for a contingency fee. This means that your attorney will cover the costs associated with your case through an insurance settlement or a trial, and then will take a percentage of the damages you receive as compensation. Because an attorney working for a contingency fee is invested in your case, this type of pay structure can work to your benefit.
- FREE initial consultation: Many attorneys in Missouri offer a free consultation during which you can talk about your case and get their opinion.
Other Important Points Regarding Missouri Car Accident Law
Missouri Statute of Limitations defines the time period within which you must file a lawsuit from the time of your injuries. In Missouri, you must file a car accident lawsuit within 3 years of the date of the accident if the accident resulted in a fatality, or within 5 years of the date of the accident if the accident was non-fatal.Talk with a Missouri car accident attorney to find out how you can avoid missing this deadline.
If you are involved in a car accident with a Missouri government vehicle then you can sue the State or the County employing the driver, but there are special rules to follow. The process can be complex, and a Missouri car accident attorney familiar with the process can help make sure you don't miss any steps.
- Suing the State of Missouri:Consult the State Vehicle Policy SP-4 to get started!
- How to sue a county:In Missouri, suits against counties are governed by county specific rules. As a result, if you were injured by a county owned vehicle, contact the county directly for information about the process of filing a claim.
- Accidents involving government entities and workers always involve special notices that need to be filed against the appropriate government unit responsible. These notices could need to be filed in risk management, the attorney general's offices, or a local agency, and the time periods are limited in all cases (as little as 30-180 days). A Missouri car accident attorney can help you determine which time period applies to your case.
Missouri Small Claims:Small claims court hears cases for that are not worth a lot of money. An attorney can still help you with these cases if you have questions. In Missouri, any claims under $3,000 in damages will be heard in small claims court.
Missouri Car Accident Resources
Missouri Department of Revenue
Motor Vehicle and Driver Licensing Division
Harry S. Truman State Office Building
301 West High Street
Jefferson City, MO 65101
Missouri DOR Driver's Guide for 2009
Missouri Department of Transportation Central Office
105 W. Capitol Avenue
Jefferson City, MO 65102
Missouri DOT Traffic Accident Statistics 1999 - 2010
Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions & Professional Registration (for mailing complaint forms:)
Attn: Consumer Affairs
PO Box 690
Jefferson City, MO 65102-0690
Missouri Statutes Online: A link to Missouri codes online.
Missouri Auto Accident and Personal Injury Laws: Missouri Revised Statutes 516.105, 516.120, 516.140 (Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury), Missouri Revised Statutes 482.315, 482.320, 482.325 (Small Claims Limits), Missouri Revised Statutes 482.305, 482.310, 482.315 (Small Claims Procedure), Missouri Revised Statutes 379.201, 379.203, 379.204 (Insurance Requirements)