You’ve just been in a car accident and your thoughts are going a mile a minute. You know you need to seek medical attention and talk to the other driver right away. You realize you’re experiencing some pain and think you might have injuries. You’re worried about medical bills and other financial burdens. Now you’re worried even more because you’ve just realized you may have partially caused the accident. What now?
Our Columbia, MO auto accident attorney is prepared to answer your questions. Keep reading to learn about Missouri’s car accident laws and how determining fault and receiving compensations works.
Contributory Negligence and Comparative Fault Laws
Contributory negligence and comparative fault laws are established at the state level. There are four systems for determining fault and allocating damages in the event of an auto accident or personal injury case.
Pure Contributory Negligence
Under contributory negligence, an injured party is not able to recover any form of compensation if they are deemed at fault at any percentage. This is the strictest system of the four, under which four states operate.
Pure Comparative Fault
Comparative fault is the system under which Missouri operates. The at-fault party is able to recover some damages; however, this is reduced by the degree of fault. A person may be able to seek compensation even if they were 99 percent at fault for the accident, under this system. 12 states operate under this system.
Modified Comparative Fault
33 states operate under a modified comparative fault system. There are two versions of this system. Under this system, each party is responsible for the damages in proportion to their individual percentages of fault unless the percentage is equal to 50 or 51 percent – depending on the state. If one party’s fault percentage exceeds that, they are not able to recover any damages.
Slight/Gross Negligence Comparative Fault
This system is criticized for being too vague and is only used in South Dakota. A party is only eligible to receive damages if their negligence is considered “slight,” while the other party’s is considered “gross.”
Understanding Pure Comparative Fault in Missouri
As mentioned above, Missouri operated under the pure comparative fault system in the event a car accident is the fault of multiple parties. This is in accordance with Gustafson v. Benda, 661 S.W.2d 11.
Essentially, you’ll be eligible for compensation equal to the percentage of the accident that was not your fault. If you’re deemed responsible for 20 percent of the accident, you’ll receive 80 percent of the damages. Because Missouri is an “at-fault” state, the negligent driver is responsible for paying the other party’s damages.
Dealing with Insurance Companies
If you’re partially liable for a car accident, your insurance company will likely pay for your medical expenses. Depending on your policy, you may be eligible for additional compensation.
Based on the pure comparative fault system, you are entitled to collect damages, including pain and suffering, from the other party’s insurance company.
Filing a Car Accident Claim in Missouri
In Missouri, you must file an auto accident report if it’s been less than a year since the accident, the other party was uninsured, and the accident resulted in injury or death or more than $500 in property damage.
Under Missouri’s “at-fault” system, you have three options if you’ve been injured in a car accident:
- File a claim with your insurance company
- File a claim with the other party’s insurance company
- File a lawsuit against the other party
Even if you know you partially caused a car accident, it’s important to remember that doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to compensation. You may be awarded compensation for medical bills, car repair expenses, the loss of wages, or pain and suffering. Seeking legal representation may be the only way to receive that award, as comparative fault cases can get tricky. Reach out to us today for a free consultation.