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How to File a Personal Injury Claim in Missouri?

How to File a Personal Injury Claim in Missouri?
How to File a Personal Injury Claim in Missouri

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Personal injury claims in Missouri progress through a series of stages after the initial claim is lodged. There may be discussions, negotiations, mediation, and a settlement or, in a minority of cases, the matter may end up in court at a trial.

The following outlines the main steps in a personal injury claim to prepare you for what to expect and how to navigate the process.

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Hire a personal injury attorney

Before going far with your personal injury claim, it’s advisable to consider hiring an experienced personal injury attorney.

Discuss your situation with a qualified attorney, who will assess whether you can claim compensation according to Title 36, Chapter 537 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri, which outlines the laws governing statutory actions and torts.

If your case is accepted, your attorney will advise you of the expected compensation amount and begin working on your case once an acceptable fee arrangement has been agreed.

It can be challenging to claim the amount you deserve in a personal injury case. Your personal injury attorney will protect your rights, handle all communications with the insurance company, help you gather evidence to prove liability, file the necessary forms and documents, and stay within the mandatory deadlines.

If necessary, a lawsuit should be filed, and your lawyer should be prepared to go to trial to recover the compensation you deserve.

Determining your personal injury compensation

One of the first elements of a personal injury case is to establish the level of compensation due for your injury. In Missouri, this can include two major types of compensation: economic damages and non-economic damages:

Economic losses are tangible losses, such as:

  • Medical costs associated with injuries, including evaluations and treatment
  • Physical therapy
  • Lost earnings and future lost earnings
  • Property damage
  • Transportation/daycare

Non-economic losses cover the adverse effects of the injuries on your life. These may include:

  • Pain and suffering/mental or emotional distress
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Loss of consortium
  • Disfigurement

Punitive damages are rarely awarded in Missouri. In cases of gross negligence, unlawfulness or misconduct, the court may award damages to punish the liable party and discourage similar behavior.

Pure comparative negligence in Missouri

Under our comparative negligence laws in Missouri, damages can be reduced by a plaintiff’s contribution to the accident. Each party is responsible for its degree of negligence.

So, if it is determined that you were 25 percent responsible for the accident, any damages you receive would be reduced by 25 percent. If you were 90 percent responsible, you would only receive 10 percent of the award amount.

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Sending the demand letter

Your personal injury lawyer will start the claims process by sending a demand letter. This outlines the reason for the claim, the parties responsible, the effect of the injuries on your life, and the requested damages amount.

This is usually the starting point from which negotiations with the insurance company can begin.

Conducting settlement negotiations

The vast majority of personal injury cases in Missouri are settled out of court.

Leave all negotiations to your lawyer, who should be experienced in dealing with insurance loss adjusters and understand the strategies they use to minimize settlement payments.

In the unlikely event that the insurance company immediately accepts your claim and pays you the requested amount within the requested timeframe, you should receive your compensation within a few weeks.

In most cases, the insurance company will try to minimize the claim, offer a lowball figure (that you likely have no reason to accept), and/or reject the claim. The negotiation process must then begin. This can take considerable time—often several months or more. If you reach an agreeable settlement through negotiation, payment should be made within 4-6 weeks.

If your claim is rejected, an acceptable settlement offer is not forthcoming or the insurance company acts in bad faith, your lawyer can file a lawsuit in a Missouri court.

What is the statute of limitations for an injury in Missouri?

The statute of limitations refers to the period after an incident during which a plaintiff can file a legal claim against the negligent or wrongful party.

In most personal injury cases in Missouri, the statute of limitations is five years from the date of discovery of the injuries. For medical malpractice, however, the deadline is usually two years.

If you miss the deadline, you generally waive your right to file a lawsuit and your chance of compensation may be lost.

However, there are some variations and exceptions to the deadline that your personal injury lawyer can explain (if they apply to your case).

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Proving liability for a personal injury claim

If the insurance company contests your version of events and the matter heads to court, you will need to prove liability for the accident/events that caused your injuries.

Your lawyer will need to establish the following:

  • The other party owed you a “duty of care” (a legal responsibility to behave a certain way or take actions to prevent harm to others)
  • The other party breached that duty through their actions or inaction.
  • The breach caused your injuries.
  • You suffered damages as a result.

Typical evidence used to demonstrate this in personal injury lawsuits includes the following:

  • Police and accident reports
  • Witness statements
  • Medical reports and treatment records
  • Imaging and diagnostic test results (e.g., X-rays and MRIs)
  • Healthcare bills and receipts
  • Vehicle or property damage estimates
  • Proof of lost wages, such as pay stubs and bank deposit information
  • Receipts for other related out-of-pocket costs
  • Photos and videos of your injuries and the accident scene

The “discovery” process

Part of the process of preparing for a trial is called “discovery”. This is where each “side” can request information from the other as they build their cases.

Unless the information requested is privileged, each party must provide the information to the other party in the timeframe outlined by the court. Typically, this includes depositions and any relevant documents about the case.

Each side can also present a list of detailed questions involving the accident and injury caused.

Pretrial mediation

It is in the interests of the Missouri court system to reduce the number of trials, which can take up precious court time.

Consequently, most personal injury cases are encouraged to enter pretrial mediation. This can be requested by either party but must be agreed to by both parties.

Mediation allows the parties to attempt to resolve the matter with the guidance of a professional mediator. During mediation, everything discussed remains private (rather than public, as in a trial) and the disputing parties retain the decision-making rights rather than a judge or jury.

Your personal injury lawyer can be present during the mediation process. The mediator cannot provide legal advice but can explain the ramifications of any decisions made. If the mediator can successfully facilitate an agreement, this will be written up, signed, and approved by the court. The plaintiff must also sign a release that prohibits further legal action involving the claim.

If no signed agreement is possible, the matter will proceed to trial.

The trial

If the trial is before a jury, the first step is for this jury to be chosen, to the satisfaction of both parties and the judge.

The trial itself goes through the following process:

  • Opening statements
  • Witness testimony and cross-examination
  • Closing arguments
  • Jury instructions
  • Jury deliberation and verdict

Only three-quarters of the jurors need to agree on a verdict for civil trials in Missouri. Either side may appeal this verdict. The case is then closed.

If you were injured in an accident and need a personal injury attorney to advocate for your case, contact us today online to schedule your free consultation, or feel free to contact Liberty’s Noland Law Firm at (816) 781-5055 with any questions regarding your injury case.

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