In 2013, Missouri enacted what has become known as the “No Pay, No Play” law. Intended to discourage driving without liability insurance, the law forbids uninsured motorists from collecting non-economic damages (such as pain and suffering) incurred during an automobile accident.
Despite the stated purpose of the Missouri No Pay, No Play Law, there are exceptions and conditions that limit its application. There are also legitimate questions about the effectiveness, fairness, and constitutionality of the law.
Many individuals don’t carry automobile liability insurance, but not necessarily because they are intentionally disregarding the law. It’s important to seek legal counsel after being in an accident, no matter your insurance status. The Kansas City, MO, car accident attorneys of Aramjoo Law Firm discuss what No Pay, No Play could mean for you and your loved ones.
Is Missouri a No Pay, No Play State?
At least on paper, the answer to this question is yes. Section § 303.390 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri provides:
“An uninsured motorist shall waive the ability to have a cause of action or otherwise collect for non-economic loss against a person who is in compliance with the financial responsibility laws of this chapter due to a motor vehicle accident in which the insured driver is alleged to be at fault.”
In other words, an accident victim who does not carry automobile liability insurance as required by law is ineligible for what are known as non-economic damages. These are subjective damages such as pain and suffering, mental and emotional anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Such damages are considered waived under the No Pay, No Play statute because the victim failed to carry automobile insurance. The victim can still recover economic damages such as medical bills, lost wages, and property damage.
There are a number of exceptions to the Missouri No Pay, No Play law. For example, it doesn’t apply where:
- The party that was at fault for the accident was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time.
- The at-fault party is convicted of either involuntary manslaughter or assault stemming from the accident.
- The accident occurred during a six-month grace period that runs from the date the driver received notice of insurance nonrenewal or termination for not paying the insurance premium.
Has the Missouri No Pay, No Play Law Resulted in More Insured Drivers?
No Pay, No Play states do report a modest decrease in the rate of uninsured drivers. According to some studies, the percentage of uninsured motorists drops by 1.6%, at most, in response to such laws.
But the flip side is that at-fault drivers get a break because they don’t have to pay an entire category of damages. Actually, it’s the insurance companies that come out on top. That’s because it’s not the at-fault driver but the insurer who must pay the victim’s damages.
Is the No Pay, No Play Law Fair?
Missouri no insurance laws, such as No Pay No Play, are intended to deter and punish individuals who don’t carry automobile liability insurance. By law, motorists must carry these minimum levels of accident coverage:
- $25,000 per person for bodily injury
- $50,000 per accident for bodily injury
- $25,000 per accident for property
- Uninsured motorist coverage of $25,000 for bodily injury per person
- Uninsured motorist coverage of $50,000 for bodily injury per accident
Many observers question the fairness of drawing a link between failing to have insurance and sustaining injuries due to someone else’s negligence. They argue that regardless of why someone doesn’t have insurance, they should have the right to seek all personal injury damages normally available under the law.
There are cases in which people lose insurance coverage through no fault of their own. For instance, they may experience a job loss, miss their premium payments, and have their coverage dropped.
In other cases of lost insurance coverage, people earnestly try to recover from past mistakes but find themselves unable to. For instance, an individual might have multiple traffic tickets, which have resulted in unaffordable insurance premiums. The person may want insurance but just cannot afford it. And they can’t simply quit driving to work, school, and other places.
Is the No Pay, No Play Law Constitutional?
Several lower courts in Missouri have questioned whether No Pay, No Play states violate the constitutional rights of accident victims by denying them the right to a jury trial. Some state trial courts that have declared the statute unconstitutional have done so on the basis of a Missouri Supreme Court case, Watts v. Lester E. Cox Medical Centers. This case determined that a cap on non-economic damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit was unconstitutional.
More specifically, it was held that the cap violated the victim’s right to a jury trial. The cap in question was especially harmful because it applied no matter the circumstances of the case and regardless of wrongful conduct by the parties involved. The No Pay, No Play laws similarly act as caps on non-economic damages no matter the circumstances of the case.
It’s noteworthy, however, that the Missouri No Pay, No Play statute has never been struck down as unconstitutional by a court of appeal or by the state Supreme Court. A number of courts have upheld these laws by contending that knowingly violating the automobile insurance requirement can validly be construed as a waiver of certain rights — in this case, the right to collect non-economic damages.
In a June 2023 opinion issued by the Missouri Supreme Court, the Court chose not to strike down the statute. Bridegan v. Turntine challenged the affirmative defense to bar recovery of noneconomic damages for an uninsured motorist, as established by RSMO 303.390.1. The Court declined to address whether the statute violated the Missouri Constitution since the plaintiff’s argument wasn’t preserved for appellate review.
As such, the No Pay, No Play statute remains in the state laws. The debate over these laws and the ultimate question of its constitutionality remains unresolved.
It should also be mentioned that Kansas has a similar law but with a significant exception. A driver may be able to recover both economic and non-economic damages if he or she:
- Was uninsured for fewer than 45 days at the time of getting into an automobile accident; and,
- Had car insurance continually for one year prior to becoming uninsured.
Talk to a Kansas City, MO, Accident Attorney About The Circumstances of Your Accident
Let the auto accident attorneys of Aramjoo Law Firm review your case, whether you had insurance at the time of the wreck or not. The ongoing constitutional debate over this law is not settled and could ultimately work in your favor. In every case, we will seek the maximum damages available from the party or parties responsible for your injuries. Contact us today.