Stephen Schultz | February 24, 2023 | Car Accidents
Car accident claims are probably the most common form of personal injury claim. Your claim probably won’t go to trial, win or lose. Instead, you will probably end up negotiating it with an auto insurance company like Allstate. Here’s what to expect.
Background: Missouri Car Accident Law
Car accident law differs significantly from state to state, although certain broad principles apply in every state. Below is a rundown of some of the peculiarities of Missouri car accident law that you will have to deal with when you file a claim with Allstate.
Missouri Is an “At-Fault” Auto Insurance State
Like most states, Missouri operates an “at-fault” auto insurance system. That means as soon as you determine which driver was at fault, you can sue that driver or file a third-party claim against their auto accident liability insurance company. This principle applies to property damage, personal injury, and wrongful death.
The Statute of Limitations Gives You Five Years To File a Lawsuit
Some insurance companies will give you the run around, hoping to delay your claim past the statute of limitations deadline for filing a lawsuit. This doesn’t happen much in Missouri because the state allows you to sue for both personal injury and property damage until five years after the accident. Even if you plan to settle out of court, it is your ability to sue that gives you your bargaining power at the negotiating table.
Missouri’s Car Insurance Requirements
Missouri requires all drivers with cars registered in Missouri to purchase the following minimum amount of auto accident insurance:
- $25,000 per person for personal injury liability;
- $50,000 per accident for bodily injury liability; and
- $10,000 per accident in property damage liability.
Since over 15% of Missouri drivers are uninsured, it is best to purchase uninsured motorist insurance to cover this contingency.
Missouri operates a “pure comparative fault” system. A court will determine your percentage of fault for the accident. No matter how much it is, you will lose precisely that percentage of your compensation, and you must pay precisely that percentage of any injured party’s compensation. This matters because Allstate will be unwilling to settle with you for more than you can win in court.
Available Auto Accident Insurance
You can purchase the following types of insurance in Missouri
- Collision (covering damage to your vehicle regardless of fault);
- Comprehensive (hail damage, etc.)
- Liability (required by law);
- Medical Payments (MedPay) or Personal Income Protection (PIP), covering your medical expenses; and
- Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage.
You can purchase required insurance, such as liability insurance, in amounts greater than the minimum that the law requires.
Filing a Claim With Allstate
Take the following steps after an accident, to the extent that your physical condition permits:
- Stay at the scene of the accident and call 911. In Missouri, you can face arrest for leaving the scene of an accident.
- Cooperate with the police to complete the police report.
- Get the other driver’s contact details and insurance information. Provide your own details to the other driver.
- Photograph the scene of the accident along with all damage and injuries.
- Don’t talk about the accident, to anyone else involved or on social media. Never apologize, even to be polite.
- Call the Allstate claims hotline (1-800-ALLSTATE) to report the accident.
- Follow up regularly with Allstate on the status of your claim.
- Schedule a free initial consultation with a car accident lawyer. Hire the lawyer if you conclude that your claim is substantial.
You will probably have to negotiate your claim to obtain anything more than a “lowball” offer from Allstate. Remember that insurance adjusters are professional negotiators because they negotiate every day. Fortunately, so are car accident lawyers.
You’ll Need a St. Louis Car Accident Lawyer If Your Claim Is Substantial
Hiring a lawyer offers you two critical advantages even if your claim never makes it to court. First, your lawyer can advise you of your legal rights and calculate the true value of your claim. Your claim might be worth more than you think it is. Second, your lawyer can handle the negotiation process. This could result in a doubling or tripling of the value of your claim even if you would have “won” your claim even without a lawyer.
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