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Personal Injury Laws and Liability Rules in Missouri

Personal Injury Laws and Liability Rules in Missouri
Personal Injury Laws and Liability Rules in Missouri

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If you were injured by someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing in Missouri, it helps to understand more about the laws and procedures here when filing a personal injury claim or lawsuit.

Every state has different negligence rules, statutes of limitations for filing a claim, and guidelines about the evidence required to prove claims.

Let’s take a look at what applies in Missouri.

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Missouri’s statutes of limitations for personal injury lawsuits

The “statute of limitations” for personal injury lawsuits in Missouri is usually five years from the date of injury.

This applies to auto accidents, premises liability cases, product liability suits, and dog bites caused by the owner’s carelessness.

Other rules for specific personal injury cases

Some personal injury cases in Missouri have a different statute of limitations applied. The main types of cases with different deadlines are:

  • Medical malpractice cases: the deadline for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit is two years from the date of the malpractice. However, an extended deadline may apply if a foreign object is mistakenly left inside a patient, there are unreported test results or malpractice injuries are suffered by a child.
  • Intentional injury cases: if injuries result from intentional wrongdoing, such as assault and battery, defamation, false imprisonment or malicious prosecution, you can file an “intentional tort” anytime within two years.
  • Cases involving injuries resulting in death: when personal injuries cause death, the victim’s surviving family members can file a Missouri wrongful death lawsuit within three years, usually starting on the date of death.

What if you miss the statute of limitations

If you miss the statute of limitations, you normally waive the right to file a lawsuit in Missouri. Any lawsuit filed after the date would be dismissed and if you file a claim with the insurance company of the third party, you would do so without the backup of a lawsuit, which would severely weaken your position.

However, before abandoning the hope of filing a lawsuit and receiving compensation for your injuries, it’s best to check with a qualified personal injury lawyer to see whether an extension may apply to your case.

Can a personal injury filing deadline be extended in Missouri?

There are some situations in Missouri where the deadline can be extended, most notably;

If you don’t know you’ve been hurt

Injuries are sometimes not apparent until much later after the incident that caused them. The statute of limitations in such cases begins when the injuries are “capable of ascertainment,” i.e., you know or reasonably should have known that you’ve been injured based on the facts.

Plaintiffs in these types of cases generally require the help of a seasoned personal injury lawyer to obtain a successful outcome.

If the injured party is legally disabled

The statute of limitations for a person younger than 21 or “mentally incapacitated” starts when the person turns 21 or the mental incapacity is “removed” except in medical malpractice cases.

If the defendant flees the state

If the person who injured you flees Missouri to try to avoid a lawsuit, the statute of limitations clock stops for the period that they’re out of the state. It starts (or resumes) when they return.

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What is comparative negligence in Missouri?

When determining fault for a person’s injuries and the amount of compensation due, Missouri applies a pure comparative negligence standard.

This is where each party’s liability for damages is determined by the percentage of fault attributed to them. Plaintiffs can recover damages even if they are primarily responsible but their award is reduced by their percentage of fault.

As an example, if a person is injured in a car accident and $1.5 million in damages is awarded by the court, the plaintiff would only receive $1 million if he/she was deemed to be one-third at fault for the accident. Even if the plaintiff was two-thirds at fault for the accident, he/she would still be entitled to $500,000.

In many other states, a modified or partial comparative negligence standard is used. This follows a similar principle to pure comparative negligence but plaintiffs can only recover damages if their share of the fault for the injuries falls below a certain threshold (usually 50 or 51 percent). Using this standard in the example above, the plaintiff would receive the same amount if he/she was one-third liable for the injuries but would receive no payout if he/she was two-thirds at fault.

A handful of states also use the contributary negligence standard, where plaintiffs cannot recover any damages if they contributed at all to the accident that caused the injuries and losses.

How do I prove negligence in Missouri?

In personal injury cases, negligence refers to the failure to exercise a level of care that a reasonable person would in similar circumstances.

Four elements must be proven to establish negligence:

  1. The defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff: This is a legal obligation to act reasonably to prevent foreseeable harm to others.
  2. The defendant breached the duty of care: The defendant’s failure to act as a reasonable person under the circumstances must be proven.
  3. The breach of duty caused the injuries: Cause in fact means that but for the defendant’s actions, the harm would not have occurred and proximate cause means that the harm was a foreseeable result of the defendant’s actions.
  4. The defendant suffered damages: This generally includes physical injuries, emotional distress, financial loss, and/or property damage.

The unique circumstances of each personal injury case must be carefully assessed before any judgments are made.

What evidence can be used to prove negligence?

The strength of the evidence available will determine the overall strength of your personal injury claim. In most cases, the following types of evidence can be used by a Missouri personal injury lawyer to prove negligence:

  • Documentary evidence, e.g., contracts, medical records, accident reports, emails, photographs, and videos, which help establish the facts of the case and demonstrate the extent of the damages suffered by the plaintiff.
  • Physical evidence, e.g., damaged property, skid marks at an accident scene, and defective products, which support your version of events and who is responsible.
  • Witness testimony from individuals who observed the events leading up to the injury or with relevant knowledge about the circumstances.
  • Expert testimony, e.g., accident reconstruction professionals, medical professionals, engineers or other specialists, whose professional opinions can help the court understand complex issues or establish the standard of care in a particular situation.
  • Circumstantial evidence, e.g., the timing of events, the behavior of the parties involved or the patterns of conduct.
  • Defendant’s statements either during the incident or afterward, which can help establish their state of mind, awareness of risks or admission of fault.
  • Defendant’s history: a history of disregarding safety or failing to meet the required standard of care may be valuable in establishing negligence if the evidence is admissible for the present case.

If you need to file a personal injury claim in the Liberty area of Missouri and require legal assistance, please contact the seasoned personal injury lawyers at Noland Law Firm, LLC for a free case evaluation. Call us at (816) 781-5055 or contact us directly online.

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