Car accidents are one of the most common ways that people across Missouri suffer personal injury. The accident happens in a blink of an eye, but determining who is at fault and who is legally responsible for the resulting damages can take many months to years to sort out. This is especially the case if there are multiple parties involved.
There are many different methods in place across the country for determining negligence and how compensation is awarded based on those findings. Each state controls how to determine negligence and award compensation to victims.
If you were in an accident in Kansas City and are wondering how much compensation you may be able to recover for your injuries, contact a Kansas City lawyer who can explain the process for determining negligence and help you determine how much your case may be worth.
Types of Negligence Systems
The doctrine of negligence is based on the premise that people should behave in a manner that does not cause harm or injury to another person. If someone’s negligent or intentional behavior causes you irreparable harm or injury, there may be grounds for a lawsuit against the other person for their negligent action.
To receive compensation for your damages (medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, mental and emotional distress, household assistance, travel expenses) under the doctrine of negligence, you must first prove that someone else was at fault in causing your injury, and that person’s actions were directly responsible for the injuries you are experiencing.
Three Main Types of Comparative Negligence
- Pure comparative negligence. An injured party may recover damages as long as they are not found to be 100% at fault.
- Partial or modified comparative negligence. An injured party may recover damages unless they are found to be more than 50% or 51% at fault, depending on the state.
- Contributory negligence. An injured party may recover damages only if they do not bear any fault in the accident.
The majority of states have adopted a partial or modified comparative negligence system. There are 12 states, however, that practice pure comparative negligence and 5 states that practice contributory negligence.
Missouri’s Comparative Negligence Fault Laws
In Missouri, if you have been injured because of another person’s negligent or intentional behavior, you may be able to recover damages from the other person based on comparative negligence. Missouri is one of the dozen states that uses a pure comparative negligence system. This means, a driver is entitled to recover damages from an accident even if they are partially at fault.
After you’ve successfully proven that another person’s actions caused you harm, a court in Missouri will use a percentage system called “comparative fault,” which looks at the total loss incurred and assigns a percentage that the person causing the harm was responsible for. The percentage is then used to distribute recovery of damages.
For example, if you’re found to be 30% at fault for an accident, you are responsible for covering 30% of the damages. In this situation, the other driver who bears the remaining responsibility would be responsible for 70% of the damages because they are found to be 70% at fault. Even if you were in an accident and it was determined that you were 70% at fault, you are still able to file a claim for damages. Because you are 70% at fault, however, you would be responsible for covering 70% of the other driver’s damages, while the other driver would be responsible for covering 30% of yours. Because Missouri uses a pure comparative negligence system, an injured party can recover damages even if they are found to be 99% at fault for an accident. As long as a party is not fully to blame for an accident, they may still file a claim and receive compensation in proportion to the other driver’s fault.
In Missouri, comparative negligence is used in both personal injury lawsuits and third-party insurance claims. In a lawsuit, the percentage of fault is assigned by a judge or a jury. In an insurance claim, the insurance company determines the percentage of fault of each party to determine what percentage of damages they will pay. Insurance companies determine the percentage of fault by reviewing the evidence gathered by the claim adjuster that was submitted with a claim, along with evidence from police reports.
What to Document as Car Crash Evidence
- Makes and models of the cars involved
- Time and weather conditions when the accident occurred
- Photos of the damage each vehicle received
- Possible statements from witnesses
- Any police involvement
Once the insurance companies have assigned percentages of fault, they will use them to determine how much money to distribute to the necessary parties. This process can, of course, be more complicated the greater the number of parties that were involved in the accident. When multiple parties are involved in an accident, the percentage of fault will be divided amongst them. When there are multiple parties at fault, you may file a claim with one or all of the involved parties’ insurance providers—the amount of money you will receive for your damages will be in proportion to the percentage each driver is determined to be at fault. This can be a complicated process that takes months or even years. When there are multiple parties responsible, there are multiple insurance companies, who are ultimately competitors, but yet all have the shared interest in wanting to minimize the amount of money they must pay out on a claim. If the insurance parties do not agree on the percentage of fault, the claim may go to trial, where a judge or a jury decides the question of fault based on the evidence the parties present.