Public Information and Education Division of the Missouri State Highway Patrol stated that over 90% of car accidents in Missouri are due to negligence. The negligent acts most commonly involved in these car accidents are driving under the influence, speeding, and driving while distracted.
If you were injured in a vehicle accident caused by another person’s carelessness caused your injuries, an experienced Missouri personal injury attorney from Peterson & Associates, P.C. can help you secure financial compensation.
Our lawyers have spent decades assisting injured crash victims throughout the state in exercising their right to pursue financial compensation, winning millions of dollars in awards and accident settlements. Contact the Columbia, Missouri car accident lawyers at Peterson & Associates, P.C. today to schedule your free consultation. Getting to work on your case as soon as possible helps ensure you collect the recovery to which you are entitled.
Common Causes of Car Accidents in Columbia, MO
The most common causes of Missouri traffic accidents include:
The Missouri Department of Transportation reported that the number of fatal vehicle accidents that involved drivers who were speeding or improperly restrained in Missouri rose 25% between 2019 and 2020. No matter how few vehicles are on the road, people can still cause accidents by participating in dangerous driving behaviors. Speeding reduces a driver’s reaction time, requires a greater braking distance, and causes the vehicle’s safety features, such as seat belts, airbags, and steel frame, to be less effective in an accident. Speeding also worsens the severity of the impact and makes it harder for other drivers to maintain a safe distance from the speeding driver.
Driving While Distracted
Even minor distractions can cause a driver to take their mind off of safe driving, their eyes off their surroundings, or their hands off the steering wheel. Sending text messages, making phone calls, or using a cell phone is hazardous driving behavior since doing so involves all three forms of distraction. In the time it takes for someone driving at highway speeds to read or respond to a text message, they will have traveled about the length of a football field without paying any attention to the road in front of them.
Driving Under the Influence
A publication by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that 28 people a day, or about 10,000 a year, die in accidents caused by drunk drivers. Alcohol impedes a driver’s skills to safely operate a vehicle, such as the ability to spot a turn indicator, use their peripheral vision, maintain their lane of travel, utilize effective braking techniques, and exercise good judgment. When people decide to drink and drive, the odds of a severe accident are high.
Driving While Drowsy
Drowsy driving occurs when physical or mental exhaustion hinders a driver’s ability to operate their vehicle safely. Although almost everyone has driven while tired at one point or another, drowsy or fatigued driving is different. This situation occurs most often among people traveling or working through the night when they would usually be asleep in bed. This includes swing shift and night shift workers and long-distance truck operators. Fatigued and drowsy driving comes with many of the same driving impairments as drunk driving, including difficulty maintaining their lane and speed, staying focused on driving, and making good choices.
Defective Car Parts
Not every Missouri car accident is caused by dangerous driving behaviors. When an auto part does not work as intended or is known to malfunction, serious vehicle accidents can occur. For instance, a tire blowout caused by a defective tire could cause the vehicle’s driver to lose control. Due to a manufacturer defect, a vehicle’s brakes might not work when needed, resulting in a collision because the driver could not stop their car. Distributors and manufacturers of automotive parts and the vehicles themselves must ensure that their product works appropriately and safely when used as intended.
Following too Closely
Following another vehicle too closely is often called tailgating. The problem with this negligent driving behavior is that the tailgating driver is almost always unable to stop in time if the lead vehicle stops or slows unexpectedly, leading to a rear-end accident.
Failing to Yield
Every driver is required to yield the right-of-way to another driver at certain times, such as at a stop sign, red light, marked crosswalk, train crossing, or when they are behind a stopped school bus that has its stop arm open. Accidents caused by a driver’s failure to yield frequently occur at intersections. Failing to yield at an intersection can result in a particularly fatal kind of accident known as a T-bone or broadside collision.
Common Types of Car Accidents in Missouri
There are numerous ways that car accidents can happen. The majority of accidents, however, fall under one of the following categories:
A head-on collision occurs when the front end of one automobile makes contact with the front end of another car. Head-on crashes happen when a driver enters the roadway from the wrong side, makes an illegal U-turn, or takes a turn too wide. The force generated by the impact of two vehicles coming together, especially at high speeds, makes these collisions extremely dangerous.
This kind of collision occurs when the front end of one automobile collides with the rear end of another. Rear-end collisions are the most common car accident in the United States. Although they are usually thought of as minor fender-benders, a study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration discovered that rear-end accidents account for almost 30% of all traffic accidents in which people are seriously or fatally injured.
Single-vehicle accidents are somewhat of a misnomer. Even though a single-vehicle accident may refer to an incident in which a driver loses control of their vehicle and crashes into an object like a building or a fence, it can also refer to an incident in which a driver strikes a cyclist or a pedestrian. According to the Missouri Department of Transportation, almost 130 pedestrians were killed in single-vehicle traffic collisions in 2020.
A sideswipe crash happens when the side of one automobile brushes against or collides with the side of another. Sideswipe accidents usually occur due to improper passing maneuvers, such as failure to look before entering a new lane or trying to re-enter a lane before a passing vehicle has been fully overtaken. An impaired, fatigued, or distracted driver who drifts or swerves out of their lane can also cause a sideswipe accident.
T-bone or broadside crashes occur when the front end of one automobile crashes into the side of another. Similar to head-on accidents, broadside collisions are more likely to cause fatalities than almost any other kind of accident, even more so if there is a considerable difference in size between the two vehicles. Injuries and death most often occur because the side of a vehicle provides the occupants with far less protection than when the point of impact is in the front or rear.
Compensation for Columbia Car Accident Damages
If you were injured in a Missouri car accident that was the result of another person’s reckless or careless actions, you are entitled to pursue financial compensation for your injuries and other damages via a lawsuit. Generally speaking, victims have five years to file a claim from the day their accident took place. If this deadline lapses, however, your case will most likely be thrown out, and you will be barred from collecting any form of compensation at all.
Types of Compensation Available for Damages
In Missouri, personal injury claimants are allowed to pursue the recovery of both economic damages and non-economic damages. These are referred to collectively as compensatory damages because they compensate the victim for expenses arising from or relating to their accident.
Economic damages refer to objectively verifiable monetary losses incurred due to an injury, such as hospital bills.
Non-economic damages pertain to subjective, non-economic losses intended to compensate you for the consequences that your injury imposed on your quality of life and are much more difficult to quantify.
Some of the costs and consequences that are generally included in Missouri personal injury claims include:
This includes repairing or replacing any personal property damaged during the accident, such as your vehicle or the bicycle you had strapped to the bumper.
These include the cost of ambulance transport, emergency treatment, surgeries, diagnostic testing, follow-up visits, doctor appointments, physical therapy and rehabilitation, hospitalization, and the purchase of medically necessary assistive devices like a wheelchair, crutches, or prosthetic limbs.
These include the recovery time during which you are too injured to work and any work you have to miss due to a related medical appointment.
Diminished Future Earning Capacity
This applies if your injury leaves you permanently disabled and you cannot earn as much as you did before your accident.
Loss of Companionship
Also known as loss of consortium, this form of compensation covers the loss of companionship and physical intimacy that the spouse of a victim often experiences.
These non-economic damages cover mental suffering caused by the accident, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, nightmares, depression, and anxiety.
Pain and Suffering
Also non-economic, this is compensation for the pain your injuries, treatment, and complications have caused you and your family.
Proving Liability in a Missouri Car Accident
In any personal injury case, the legal burden of negligence must be met. This means you will be required to prove that the respondent is liable for your injuries, even if you first file a claim with the respondent’s insurance company, rather than filing a suit with the court. Most claimants begin by filing a third-party claim with the respondent’s insurance company since insurance pays almost all awards and settlements.
However, before paying out any claim, the insurance carrier will ask if you can prove that their policyholder is liable. This means proving that the insured’s wrongdoing or negligence or wrongdoing directly caused the accident and subsequent expenses and consequences for which you are claiming financial compensation.
To establish negligence, you must show that:
The respondent owed you a duty of care
A duty of care is the standard of conduct against which all other behavior is measured. It is assessed by showing what actions a reasonable or responsible person would have taken in a similar situation. For example, a rational or responsible person would not have chosen to drive their car after a night out drinking.
That duty of care was breached
The duty of care is said to have been breached or violated when a respondent behaves in a manner that directly contradicts their duty. Using the above example, because we know a reasonable or responsible person would not have driven drunk, the respondent breached their duty of care to other people on the road by doing so.
That breach caused the accident
The breach of duty was the cause of your injuries and ensuing consequences and expenses you incurred. So, when the respondent breached their duty and drove drunk and stuck your car, the breach (drunk driving) is the direct cause of your injuries.
The accident caused you damages
You have incurred tangible losses as a direct and proximate result of the respondent’s breach of duty.
Who Is Liable for My Columbia Car Accident Injuries?
Anytime a car accident takes place, there are a lot of questions that come into play. Not everyone knows their rights or what options they may have when it comes to pursuing legal action against the negligent party.
The actual pursuance of legal action tends to be the most confusing to victims, especially considering the numerous individuals who could be liable for the accident. The responsible party will vary from case to case depending on the accident’s unique events. However, correctly identifying them is a crucial part of the legal process.
Liability in a Distracted Driving Accident
In a distracted driving accident, the party most often liable for the injuries is the driver responding to a text message or reaching for something in the back seat.
Sometimes, however, in these situations, there are other factors to take into consideration. For example, if a passenger acted in such as way as to knowingly and deliberately pull the driver’s attention from the roadway, yanked the wheel out of the driver’s hands, or any action that obscured the driver’s vision or impeded their control of the vehicle.
Liability in a Drunk Driving Accident
Liability for a drunk driving accident almost invariably falls on the intoxicated driver unless another driver engages in comparably reckless and dangerous actions. This does not necessarily mean that liability falls exclusively on the drunk driver.
Dram shop laws in Missouri permit additional legal action to be taken by a person injured in a drunk driving accident if the driver was served alcohol while noticeably intoxicated. In this case, the host, establishment, or bar continued to serve the already-intoxicated individual and then let them drive shares as a percentage of the liability.
Other Parties Who Might Be Liable
Part manufacturers, vehicle manufacturers, and even negligent corporations could be accountable if the products they create malfunction or are defective. A defective product can result in serious problems and put consumers and those around them at risk of injury or death.
Is Missouri an At-Fault State?
Missouri is an at-fault state; every driver uses auto insurance to cover the other’s injuries and damages. Like most other states, Missouri follows a comparative negligence system, meaning the insurance carriers will perform an investigation to figure out which driver was liable for the accident.
The degree of fault they assign to which driver will determine who is mainly responsible for the collision, determining how much each person is entitled to collect from the insurance coverage.
Common Tactics Used by Insurance Adjusters
If you are seeking financial compensation from someone who is covered by an insurance policy, we strongly recommend that you have a Columbia personal injury attorney in your corner to interact with the adjuster on your behalf. This will make it impossible for the adjuster to take advantage of you, which is exactly what they aim to do.
Some common ploys that insurance adjusters use to reduce their employer’s exposure include:
Offering fast but small settlements in exchange for a liability waiver. In this scenario, they are banking on the fact that you do not have an attorney yet and are anticipating economic distress. Insurance adjusters know perfectly well that fast money is extremely seductive to victims who are hurting both financially and physically or struggling to cope with a permanent disability and are not thinking clearly. If an insurance adjuster sees the opportunity to take advantage of your vulnerable state to reduce liability on the part of the insurance company, they will take it. If an adjuster for the other person involved in your accident contacts you and offers you money immediately, that’s a sure sign that your claim is worth considerably more than what they offer you. As tempting as it may be to take the money, don’t. Call a Columbia, Missouri car accident lawyer right away.
Challenging the severity of your injuries and if you are attempting to collect damages for an injury not caused by the accident, such as a pre-existing shoulder injury. If an insurance adjuster can make it look as though you are making your injuries sound worse than they are or that you didn’t receive the injury during the accident but were hurt someplace else, then the insurance company will make every effort to avoid liability and paying you the compensation you deserve.
These are just two of the strategies commonly used by insurance adjusters to make you a victim a second time. Their concern is their company’s bottom line, not your welfare.
The best way to protect yourself against these and other tricks is to reach out to a Columbia, MO, car accident attorney immediately after your accident, so you have a trained negotiator on your side to handle any communications with an adjuster from the start.
How Much is My Columbia Car Accident Worth?
The value of your car accident settlement hinges on a variety of factors specific to your case, including:
The nature, severity, and longevity of your injuries
Medical expenses/Anticipated medical expenses
The degree of damage done to your vehicle and other personal property
The replacement or repair costs of that damage
Lost wages/Anticipated lost wages
Pain and suffering
What Counts as Pain and Suffering After a Car Accident?
The term pain and suffering encompasses any psychological or emotional damage stemming from your accident. Psychological trauma like post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, insomnia, depression, and others should always be considered when calculating your settlement’s value. Our firm will help you calculate an accurate dollar amount for your case.