“At-fault” and “no-fault” are two terms that are especially relevant to an automobile accident victim’s ability to file an insurance claim and seek personal injury damages. Because of the significant differences between these two systems, victims sometimes ask: is Missouri an at-fault state?
Retaining a skilled car accident attorney in Kansas City, MO, will increase the chances that you will recover the compensation you deserve. Aramjoo Law Firm can help.
Is Missouri a No-Fault State for Car Accidents?
No, Missouri is an at-fault state. Missouri follows a fault-based system that requires all drivers to carry minimum amounts of liability coverage as part of their automobile insurance policies.
In Missouri, a driver’s liability insurance policy pays for other people’s medical expenses, lost wages, and related losses if the driver causes an accident that hurts someone else. The injury victim, who would be the plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit, must show that the defendant driver was at fault for the accident.
Missouri requires motorists to maintain the following car insurance coverage:
- $25,000 for bodily injury per person
- $50,000 for bodily injury per accident
- $25,000 per accident for property damage
- Uninsured motorist insurance ($25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident)
A driver’s own liability coverage does not pay for the expenses he or she incurs in an accident. Because of the state’s at-fault system, a car crash victim must prove that some other person or entity is at fault or liable for the wreck. At that point, the victim can file a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company and/or sue them for monetary damages in civil court.
In general, an accident victim would seek to recover compensation for both economic damages (which are fairly easy to calculate) and non-economic damages (which are more subjective in nature), such as:
- Medical expenses, including hospitalization, surgery, adaptive medical equipment, prescription medication, in-home nursing care, and more
- Long-term nursing or personal care, including for disability resulting from the accident
- The loss of future salary, income, wages, and benefits
- Physical pain and discomfort
- Emotional distress and mental anguish
- Reduced quality of life and loss of enjoyment of life
In the event the policy limits of the at-fault driver’s insurance do not fully compensate the accident victim, he or she can file a lawsuit against the driver personally. A judgment can then be used to reach the personal assets of the driver so the victim can be made whole.
What Would Recovering Damages Look Like in a No-Fault State?
There are significant differences between at-fault states and no-fault states, particularly with respect to insurance and the ability to file a personal injury claim against another driver.
Concerning insurance, no-fault policies are often known as MedPay or PIP (which stands for Personal Injury Protection) insurance policies. An accident victim files a claim with his or her insurance provider. The insurer then pays the benefits under the no-fault policy to the policyholder, irrespective of who was responsible for the wreck. This means the victim gets covered regardless of whether he or she caused the accident.
This may seem like a good system, but there are drawbacks. No-fault insurance policies usually only pay for medical expenses and lost wages. While significant, these are by no means the only losses that most automobile accident victims will incur. Coverage likely won’t pay for such damages as pain and suffering, permanent impairment, and other types. Moreover, there’s a good chance the policy will cover just a fraction of medical bills and lost income.
How Is Fault Determined in a Car Accident in Missouri?
Remember, in an at-fault state like Missouri, the car accident victim has to demonstrate that another party was at fault or liable for causing the wreck. And while the other party is often another motorist, this isn’t always the case.
One or more of these other parties could share the blame:
- An automobile or parts manufacturer, in the case of a defective vehicle
- A negligent mechanic or repair shop
- A bar or restaurant if the driver was over served alcohol and got into an accident
- An employer, in the event the at-fault driver was on the job at the time of the accident
- The government entity responsible for road maintenance
Your attorney will investigate the circumstances surrounding the collision to determine who is or may be, at fault. Other parties, such as law enforcement officers, opposing legal counsel, and insurance adjusters will also investigate. However, if the accident can’t be settled, then a court will need to make a legal determination of fault. After hearing the evidence and arguments presented by both sides, the judge and jury will then have the final say on fault.
Fault, therefore, determines which party will be held legally and financially accountable for the consequences of the accident. It is an essential component to recovering compensation for your car accident injuries. If you can demonstrate the other driver’s fault or the fault of some other party, those individuals or entities and their insurance companies will be liable for your medical bills, lost wages, lost future income and benefits, pain and suffering, and other damages.
Types of Evidence Used to Prove Fault in an Automobile Accident
Since every car accident is different, so too is the evidence used to establish fault. These are some common types of evidence that may prove the defendant to be liable for your injuries:
- Police accident reports
- Photos and videos of the accident scene, including vehicle damage
- Traffic and dashboard camera videos
- Skid marks and other forensic evidence
- Eyewitness testimony
- Expert witness analysis and testimony
- Automobile repair and maintenance records
- Toxicology test results
- Cell phone records
What Is Comparative Negligence in Missouri?
There are some cases in which the at-fault driver attempts to blame the victim driver for contributing in some way to the accident. This is where the notion of comparative negligence is relevant. Missouri law allows the at-fault party to present evidence that the victim was partially at fault for the accident, for example, by speeding.
A jury will determine what, if any, percentage of fault to assign the victim. The victim’s damages will then be reduced by whatever percentage that is. Since this could spell a significant decrease in a victim’s compensation, it’s essential to have strong legal counsel.
Contact Our Kansas City Car Accident Attorneys About Fault for Your Case
Fault makes a difference in whether and to what degree you can recover damages after being in a car accident. Evidence of negligence will determine which party or parties are at fault and are therefore responsible. If you or a loved one have been hurt, Aramjoo Law Firm is here to serve you. Contact us today at 816-326-2968 or online to schedule your case evaluation.