A Guide to Personal Injury Laws In Missouri

A Guide to Personal Injury Laws In Missouri
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Personal injury is a broad area of the law, also called tort law. In tort law, someone who is injured can file a civil lawsuit. The legal remedy for the injuries and harm they suffer is known as damages.

An Overview of Personal Injury Law

The personal injury system is meant for an injured person to be compensated financially when they're harmed due to the intentional or negligent behavior of another person.

Accidents are the most common reasons for personal injury claims.

Examples include car accidents, medical malpractice, and slip and fall accidents. Also falling under the umbrella of personal injury law are intentional acts, such as assault and battery, and defective products.

The general steps of a personal injury case usually begin when a defendant does something that injures the plaintiff. Then, the plaintiff determines that the defendant breached their legal duty. On the roadways, for example, drivers have a duty to operate their vehicles with a certain level of care.

From there, settlement talks begin. Most personal injury claims settle outside of court, so the insurance company or the party responsible for the damages would make a monetary offer to the injured person. If the settlement offer is accepted, the injured person signs something saying they legally are prohibited from filing a lawsuit due to the injury.

If a settlement can't be agreed on, the case may go to court, and a judge or jury makes a determination on whether or not compensation is owed and, if so, how much.

While there are general similarities in the underlying legal concepts and the process, every state has its own set of personal injury laws.

The following highlights the laws in Missouri, particularly as they relate to car accidents, which are the most common reason for personal injury claims to be filed.

Missouri is a Fault State

When it comes to car accident claims, Missouri is a fault state. That's one of the more critical distinctions in state law. In a fault state, the driver responsible for causing an accident has to pay for the damages.

Compensation can come from insurance, or the at-fault driver may have to pay the injured party out-of-pocket. If you cause an accident and your insurance covers the damages, then the property damage liability part of your coverage is meant to cover damage to the other driver's vehicle. Bodily injury liability is to pay for medical expenses.

You have limits on your insurance policy, so your coverage will pay only up to those-anything else you may have to pay out of pocket.

By contrast, in a no-fault state, drivers are still liable for property damage if they hit someone. However, the no-fault part of the law refers to any injuries that might occur.

If you're in a no-fault state and you're involved in an accident, then each drivers' insurance should cover their medical expenses with their personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, no matter who caused the accident.

Usually, in these states, the at-fault driver does have to compensate the driver of the other vehicle for car repairs with their property damage liability insurance.

In Missouri, drivers are required to have basic liability insurance at least.

There are minimum coverage amounts.

You're required to have $25,000 for bodily injury per person and $50,000 per accident. The minimum for property damage is $10,000 per accident.

How Do Settlements Work In Missouri?

If you're in a car accident in Missouri and you're injured, you can take one of three options.

You can file a claim with your insurance company. You can file a third-party claim with the insurance company of the other driver. The third option is to file a lawsuit against the other driver in court.

Most car accidents, again, are settled before they reach a trial. If you file a claim with the insurance company, the company will assign an adjuster to investigate the case. The adjuster will either offer you a settlement or deny your claim.

A personal injury lawyer can negotiate on your behalf, either to get a higher settlement or to prevent the insurer from denying the claim.

As a side note if you're in an accident, you have to report it to the police right away if there was property damage of more than $500, an injury or a fatality. You're also required to report an accident if it's with an uninsured driver.

You have 30 days to file a report with the Missouri Department of Revenue if you're in an accident too.

While you do have to report accidents in these cases, that doesn't mean that the police will always respond to the scene. If they don't, you need to do your best to get your own evidence that you're likely to need later.

Statute of Limitations

Finally, something else that varies between states as far as personal injury and specifically car accident claims is the statute of limitations.

Statute of limitations is a term that refers to how long you have to sue for something or the window of time available to begin legal proceedings.

If you're in a state where the statute of limitations is two years, as an example, then you can't file a lawsuit after this time unless it's a rare exception.

The idea behind a statute of limitations is that it helps prevent evidence from being lost or witnesses changing their testimony. Also, if you wait too long to file a claim, it can indicate you didn't care about a settlement initially, reducing the credibility of your case.

In Missouri, for personal injury claims, the statute of limitations is two years. This is pretty common across the board in most states.

Because of how complex and nuanced the law can be and how much it can vary depending on the state you're in, it's a good idea if you have any questions about Missouri personal injury laws to talk to an attorney experienced in this area.

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