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Understanding Missouri’s Comparative Fault Laws

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Categorized as Legal Updates

Car accidents are one of the most common ways that people across Missouri suffer personal injury. The accident happened 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 were 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 the United States, state law 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, then 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 this person’s actions were directly responsible for the injuries you are experiencing.

There are three main types of comparative negligence systems in use throughout the country—each state in the country practices one of the three.

They are as follows:

  • 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 that 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 are 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.

If you’re ever involved in an accident, you should document the following, which will be helpful to submit with the insurance claim or in court, should your case go to court:

  • 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 and can take 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, then the claim may go to trial where a judge or a jury decides the question of fault based on the evidence the parties present.

Kansas City Car Accident Attorney

If you were injured in an accident you will want to reach out to an experienced personal injury attorney as early as possible for assistance. Engaging an experienced attorney early will help you to document and gather evidence to give to the insurance company to prove the other party’s negligence. Having experienced counsel on your side will give you peace of mind that someone is on your side fighting for what you.

The lawyers at Peterson & Associates, P.C. can help you file a claim and get you the money you deserve. Contact our Kansas City personal injury lawyers today to learn more about your legal options. Contact Peterson and Associates, P.C. by calling (816) 578-0580 to talk to a Kansas City car accident attorney for a free consultation. Our team of lawyers is standing by to help you.