Sorting Out Car Accident Liability in Missouri
Fatalities in Missouri due to traffic accidents rose for the fifth year in a row in 2022, coming in at 1,028 deaths on the highways and byways of the state. Most of the deaths arose from not wearing a seatbelt, but the second leading cause was distracted driving, often due to cellphone usage. In addition to the fatalities, there were 31,599 personal injury crashes.
No one expects to leave their residence and end up in an accident on the road—let alone one that causes injuries or death—but that’s the reality of modern vehicular usage. Your basic insurance policy is designed to protect you from liability from injuring others or causing property damage. It does not cover your own medical or other expenses if you were the at-fault driver.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident in or around Kansas City, Missouri – or worse, someone has lost a life – contact the personal injury attorney and wrongful death lawyer at Chionuma Law Firm. For more than two decades, our team has represented victims of vehicular accidents to recover compensation for their losses and medical expenses, as well as for the loss of loved ones. We proudly represent clients throughout the Kansas City metropolitan area, including those in Lee’s Summit, Independence, and Liberty.
Missouri Insurance Requirements
Missouri requires drivers to have at least 25/50 in automobile insurance. This means that each vehicle operator must have at least $25,000 in liability insurance for injuries they cause to another person; $50,000 in liability insurance for injuries caused to all persons in an accident.
Liability for Vehicular Accidents in Missouri
Missouri is an at-fault state, which means that the driver who causes the accident is primarily responsible for any resulting injuries or damages. Thus, if you are involved in an accident—say another driver rear-ends you—you have three options to recover for injuries and property damages. You can:
- File an Uninsured Motorist claim with your insurance company, which will then seek a subrogation claim against the other driver
- File a claim through the at-fault driver’s insurance company
- File a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault driver
Proving the Other Driver’s Liability
Each driver upon receiving a license is under a legal duty of care to avoid harming others. Thus, to prevail against the at-fault driver, you as the victim have to show that that person through negligence violated their duty of care. This can be done by showing their actions or inactions were the cause of the accident. For instance, they may have been speeding, following too closely, making sudden turns, being distracted, or otherwise violating driving laws or roadway signs of caution.
Assume you file a personal injury claim or lawsuit, you can recover for damages and losses. Damages refer to your injuries or anything that happened to your personal property. Losses can be wages lost because of an inability to work, or even from the consequences of your injuries. Recoverable damages include but are not limited to:
- Medical expenses
- Anticipated medical expenses
- Lost wages or lost earning power
- Property damage
- Cost of hiring others to do household chores and other tasks you once performed
- Pain, suffering, and emotional distress
- Loss of consortium (companionship)
Statute of Limitations and Comparative Negligence
Missouri allows five years from the date of your injuries to file a personal injury lawsuit. However, your insurance policy will likely require you to promptly report any accident, claim or lawsuit filed against you as a result of an accident.
Another aspect in any claim or lawsuit is Missouri’s reliance on the legal standard of pure comparative negligence. This legal principle means that you and the other driver may be assessed a percentage of fault.
For example, suppose you are rear-ended, but one brake light wasn’t working. A jury or even an insurance company claims adjuster might assign you a 20 percent proportion of fault. Thus, if the settlement or jury award is $20,000, you would receive 80 percent of the amount, or $20,000 minus 20 percent (or $4,000). You’d end up with $16,000.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits
If you’ve lost a loved one in a vehicular accident, you as a surviving spouse, parent, or child of the deceased can file a wrongful death lawsuit. The lawsuit can go forward so long as the deceased, had they lived, could have filed a personal injury lawsuit. If there are no surviving parents, spouses, or children, then siblings or their descendants may be eligible to file a lawsuit.
Protect Your Rights After an Accident
If you try to seek an insurance company settlement on your own, you will likely come face to face with the tactics of that company’s claims adjusters. These insurance adjusters are only looking after their company’s bottom line, and they will strive to make you admit guilt. Any settlement they offer will be on the low end of the spectrum.
On average, using an attorney to negotiate for you from beginning to end will result in a settlement four to five times greater than what you can achieve on your own. Engaging an attorney early in your case will often result in preservation of elements of your case that would enhance the value of your case and result in greater net proceeds than you can achieve on your own.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident in the Kansas City area, contact Chionuma Law Firm, LLC. Let us handle your claim and initiate a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit when either one is what is called for. Set up a consultation today.