Car accidents can be costly. After collisions, car accident victims can be faced with expensive repair costs, medical bills, lost wages and more.

These costs add up quickly and can become overwhelming in no time.

However, the good news is that if you or someone you love was involved in a car accident and the other driver was at fault, you may be entitled to compensation. Missouri law can be a little complicated when it comes to car accidents, so we will explain how the system works below.

As always, car accident cases are different, and if you have a specific question, it is best to speak directly with an experienced car accident attorney. Your lawyer can answer your question directly and advise you on the best course of action. The St. Louis car accident lawyers at Niemeyer, Grebel and Kruse are here for you. Call 314-241-1919 for a free case review.

How does Missouri handle car accident claims?

Before we get into the subject of compensation amounts, it’s first important to understand how Missouri law handles motor vehicle accidents.

Missouri uses an “at-fault” system to handle car accident claims. This means that the driver whose actions were responsible for causing the accident will be responsible for compensating any other parties involved for their damages. These damages could include medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering (we’ll explain more below). The at-fault driver’s insurance company typically covers these expenses up to the policy’s limit.

Determining fault in a car accident involves investigating the accident circumstances, examining evidence, and applying traffic laws to understand who caused the accident. Police reports, witness statements, photos from the scene, and professional reconstructions can all play a part in determining fault.

Comparative negligence when both parties are at fault

Missouri uses a “pure comparative negligence” rule in car accident cases. This means that if you are partially at fault for the accident, your compensation will be reduced by your percentage of fault.

For example, if you were 20% at fault for the accident and suffered $10,000 in damages, you would only be eligible to recover 80% of that amount, or $8,000.

Filing a claim

After a car accident in Missouri, you can choose to file a claim with your own insurance company, with the at-fault driver’s insurance company (a third-party claim), or you can opt to file a lawsuit in civil court.

What type of damages can I include in my car accident claim?

Generally speaking, there are two types of car accident compensation in Missouri: Economic damages and non-economic damages.

Economic damages

Economic damages refer to quantifiable financial losses resulting from the accident. They are usually backed by bills, receipts, or wage statements. Here are some of the most common types:

  1. Medical expenses – This can include emergency room visits, hospital stays, surgeries, medications, physical therapy, assistive devices, and any future medical expenses related to the accident.
  2. Lost wages – If your injuries caused you to miss work, you could be compensated for lost income. This includes wages lost during your recovery and any future earning capacity if your ability to work has been affected long-term.
  3. Property damage – This includes the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle and any other personal belongings that were damaged in the accident.

Non-economic damages

Non-economic damages are more subjective and compensate for non-financial impacts of the accident. They can be more challenging to calculate but are equally important in a claim. They include:

  1. Pain and suffering – This covers the physical pain and discomfort experienced during and after the accident.
  2. Emotional distress – Car accidents can lead to significant psychological impact, including stress, anxiety, depression, and PTSD. You can seek compensation for these emotional effects.
  3. Loss of enjoyment – If your injuries prevent you from enjoying activities or hobbies you previously participated in, you can be compensated for this loss.
  4. Loss of consortium – Spouses of car accident victims can claim for loss of consortium, which pertains to the loss of companionship or the inability to maintain a sexual relationship due to the injuries.

Punitive damages

In some cases, where the at-fault party’s conduct is deemed malicious or extraordinarily negligent, punitive damages may be awarded. These are not intended to compensate the victim but to punish the defendant and deter similar conduct.

How much compensation can car accident victims recover?

As we mentioned above, every case is different, and as a result, car accident settlements can vary significantly based on the specific circumstances of the accident.

Does Missouri cap the amount of damages you can seek in personal injury claims?

Missouri does not cap the amount of economic damages or non-economic damages that a car accident victim can recover. However, punitive damages are capped at $500,000 or five times the net amount of the judgment, whichever is greater.

How to calculate damages in a car accident case

Calculating economic damages tends to be straightforward as they are based on actual financial losses. You add up medical bills, property damage receipts, proof of lost wages, and any other out-of-pocket expenses related to the accident.

Non-economic damages are more subjective and can vary greatly. These are often calculated using a “multiplier” method, which involves multiplying the economic damages by a number (the multiplier) that represents the severity of the injuries. The multiplier can range typically from 1.5 to 5, or even higher for extremely severe or life-altering injuries.

Factors that can influence compensation

Several factors can influence the amount of compensation a car accident victim can expect to recover:

  1. Severity of injuries – The more severe the injuries, the higher the medical costs and potential for long-term impacts, which can lead to a higher overall compensation.
  2. Extent of property damage – Greater property damage can result in higher repair or replacement costs, increasing the total compensation.
  3. Impact on quality of life – If the accident has significantly affected your quality of life (e.g., inability to perform previous activities, requiring ongoing medical care), this can increase the compensation.
  4. Fault – As we mentioned above, Missouri’s pure comparative fault system reduces your compensation by your percentage of fault in the accident. For example, if you’re found to be 30% at fault and your damages total $100,000, you can only recover $70,000.

Examples of car accident settlement amounts

To provide a rough idea, here are some theoretical examples of car accident compensation based on different scenarios. Note that these are hypothetical and may not represent the exact settlement you might receive in similar situations.

Example 1: Minor injuries and low property damage

Scenario: A driver is involved in a low-speed collision resulting in minor whiplash and $1,000 worth of damage to their vehicle. They missed one week of work.

Potential Settlement: Medical costs could be around $2,500 (initial treatment plus physical therapy), plus $1,000 for the car repair, and $1,000 for lost wages. This totals $4,500 in economic damages.

Example 2: Moderate injuries and significant property damage

Scenario: A driver is hit by a speeding driver, resulting in a broken leg, several weeks off work, and their car was totaled (value $15,000).

Potential Settlement: Medical costs could be around $20,000 (emergency care, surgery, physical therapy), $15,000 for the car, and $10,000 in lost wages. This totals $45,000 in economic damages. Non-economic damages might be double that due to the severity of the injury, resulting in a potential settlement of around $135,000.

Example 3: Severe injuries, long-term disability

Scenario: A driver suffered a severe spinal injury in a car accident, causing permanent disability. They can no longer work in their previous occupation, and their car was totaled.

Potential Settlement: Medical expenses could easily exceed $100,000, plus $20,000 for their car, and $1,000,000 for lost future earnings (assuming a relatively high-paying job and many remaining work years). This totals $1,120,000 in economic damages. Non-economic damages could be at least as much due to the life-altering nature of the injury, resulting in a potential settlement exceeding $2.2 million.

What to do if the insurance company rejects or short-changes your claim

Facing a rejection or underpayment from an insurance company after a car accident can be frustrating and daunting. However, there are a few steps you can take to protect yourself.

When an insurance company denies a claim or offers less than you believe you deserve, they are obligated to provide an explanation. This information will guide your next steps. Reasons for denial might include late filing, lack of coverage, or disputing liability.

Review your insurance policy

Carefully review your insurance policy. Ensure you fully understand its terms and conditions, particularly any exclusions or clauses that the insurer might use to justify their decision. If the language is complex or hard to understand, consider seeking professional advice.

Write a letter of appeal

If you believe the denial or underpayment is unjustified, you can write a letter of appeal to your insurance provider. Include any additional evidence you’ve gathered and explain why you believe their decision is incorrect. Maintain a professional and respectful tone throughout the letter.

Seek legal advice

At any point during this process, especially if the dispute continues, it may be wise to seek legal advice. A lawyer experienced in car accident claims can help navigate these negotiations, ensure your rights are respected, and guide you towards the best possible outcome.

If all else fails, taking the matter to court might be an option. A car accident lawsuit should generally be seen as a last resort due to the time and costs involved, but in some cases, it may be necessary to achieve a fair resolution.

Got compensation questions? Contact us today

If something doesn’t seem quite right with your insurance claim or if you need help recovering the car accident damages that you are owed, contact the skilled Missouri car accident lawyers at Niemeyer, Grebel and Kruse today.

Our team has recovered more than $700 million for our clients, and with two of the 2022 list of Best Lawyers as well as a Top 50 and Top 100 lawyer in the area of plaintiff’s personal injury by Super Lawyers Magazine, our team gets results. Call today at 314-241-1919.

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