Stephen Schultz | January 5, 2023 | Car Accidents
Missouri is considered an “at fault” state for car accident claims. Therefore, you must prove liability before you can hold someone financially responsible for damages. Proving liability can be challenging, especially when fighting a large insurance company determined to avoid paying your car accident claim.
What Does Liability for a St. Louis Car Accident Mean?
Liability is holding someone legally responsible for the consequences of their actions or inactions. Under Missouri tort laws, a driver can be held responsible for damages when the driver causes a car crash.
We base liability on what a “reasonable person” would do in a similar situation. Therefore, if the driver’s actions fell short of what a reasonable person would do in the same situation, a jury could find the driver liable for damages.
However, proving that the driver’s actions failed to meet the “reasonable person” standard is not sufficient to create liability. Instead, you must prove the elements of negligence to create liability for damages.
Proving negligence requires that you have sufficient evidence to establish the following:
- Duty – The other driver owed you a duty of care (i.e., to use reasonable care to avoid causing a traffic accident)
- Breach of Duty – The driver breached the duty of care because of their conduct (i.e., driving intoxicated, failing to obey traffic laws, etc.)
- Causation – The driver’s conduct was the direct and proximate cause of the accident (i.e., the driver ran a red light, made an improper lane change, etc.)
- Damages – You sustained damages because of the driver’s breach of duty.
The driver does not have to break a traffic law to be liable for damages. However, you must show that the driver’s conduct “caused” the accident to hold them liable for damages.
What Are Damages in a St. Louis Car Accident Case?
Examples of damages in a car accident claim include:
- Medical bills and expenses, including the cost of rehabilitative and physical therapy
- The cost of skilled care and personal care, including help with household chores and childcare
- The loss of income, benefits, and wages
- Out-of-pocket expenses and costs
- Future lost wages and decreases in future earning capacity
- Physical pain and discomfort
- Loss of enjoyment of life and quality of life
- Emotional distress
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Mental anguish
- Permanent disabilities and impairments
In addition to compensatory damages, some accident victims might receive punitive damages. However, juries only award punitive damages in a small number of personal injury lawsuits. The damages “punish” the defendant for conduct that exceeds general negligence.
What Happens After You Establish Liability for a Car Accident Claim?
Missouri drivers must have a minimum amount of car insurance. All drivers must have at least $25,000 in bodily injury liability insurance ($50,000 per accident) and $25,000 in property damage liability insurance.
Liability insurance compensates accident victims for their damages. However, there are a few things to keep in mind about car accident insurance claims:
- The insurance company is only liable for damages up to the policy limits
- You have the burden of proving the insured driver caused the car accident
- You have the burden of proving the damages you sustained and the value of those damages
Many people assume they automatically receive compensation when they file a claim with the at-fault driver’s car insurance company, especially when a police officer charges the other driver with a traffic offense. However, insurance companies fight claims. The goal is to avoid paying the claim or pay the lowest amount possible to resolve the claim.
Insurance Companies Fight Liability and Damage Claims
The insurance adjuster might use statements you make during an interview or immediately after the accident to accuse you of contributing to the cause of the accident. Contributory fault laws reduce the amount an injured person receives for damages if the injured person contributed to the cause of the crash.
For example, suppose a jury finds that your actions contributed to the cause of the crash by 20 percent. In that case, you are only entitled to an amount equal to 80 percent of your damages.
Another common tactic to fight liability and damages is accusations of failing to mitigate damages. Accident victims have a duty to take reasonable steps to minimize damages. Delays in medical care and failing to follow your doctor’s treatment plan could be used to argue your damages are worse because of your actions.
An Experienced St. Louis Car Accident Attorney Can Help
Questions of liability and damages after a car accident can be confusing. Insurance companies work hard to avoid paying victims the money they deserve. Hiring an experienced St. Louis car accident lawyer to handle the legal matters of a personal injury case gives you the resources you need to fight for the money you deserve.
Contact Our Car Accident Law Firm in St. Louis, MO
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, please contact Schultz & Myers Personal Injury Lawyers at the nearest location to schedule a free consultation today:
Ladue, MO Law Office
9807 S 40 Dr, St. Louis, MO 63124
Creve Coeur, MO Law Office
999 Executive Pkwy Dr #205, Creve Coeur, MO 63141