Dealing with the aftermath of a car accident can be overwhelming, so it’s important to understand your legal options.

One question you might have is: how long after a car accident can I sue?

Missouri’s statute of limitations allows five years for filing car accident lawsuits related to personal injury or property damage, but only three years for wrongful death claims. In this guide, we’ll cover some of the details of car crash lawsuits and things to keep in mind.

As always, if you or someone you love needs help with a legal situation stemming from a car crash, the St. Louis personal injury attorneys at Niemeyer, Grebel and Kruse are here to help. Call 314-241-1919 for your free case review.

Missouri’s Statute of Limitations for Car Accident Lawsuits

In Missouri, individuals have five years from the date of the car accident to file a lawsuit for personal injury or property damage. This time frame is crucial as it dictates the window within which you must initiate legal action to seek compensation for injuries or damages incurred due to the accident. Failing to file within this period typically results in the loss of your right to sue.

Wrongful Death

For wrongful death claims related to car accidents, the statute of limitations is three years from the date of the deceased person’s death. This deadline is stringent, and missing it can lead to the forfeiture of your right to claim any damages for the loss of a loved one due to the accident.

Exceptions and Extensions

Several exceptions might extend these deadlines. For instance:

  • Minor Plaintiffs – If the individual injured in the car accident is a minor, the countdown for the statute of limitations may pause until they reach the age of majority, giving them until they turn 23 to file a lawsuit.
  • Disability – The statute of limitations may be tolled if the injured party is mentally or physically incapacitated, resuming once the disability ends.
  • Absence of the Defendant – If the defendant leaves Missouri after the accident and before a lawsuit can be filed, the period of their absence may not count against the statute of limitations.
  • Fraud – If the defendant has concealed their identity or the facts of the case, the statute may be extended to allow the plaintiff more time to sue once the fraud is discovered.

The Importance of Acting Promptly After a Car Accident

Acting quickly after a car accident is crucial for preserving evidence. Physical evidence at the scene can change or disappear, and witness memories can fade. Immediate action ensures you capture vital details, like photographs of the accident scene, your vehicle, and any visible injuries. This evidence is essential for building a strong case, whether for insurance claims or a lawsuit. Delaying can result in losing key proofs, undermining your ability to establish fault and claim damages.

Seeking Medical Attention

Seek medical attention immediately after a car accident, even if you feel fine. Some injuries, like whiplash or internal bleeding, may not show symptoms right away but can have serious long-term effects if untreated. Prompt medical evaluation provides a professional health record, crucial for linking any later-discovered injuries to the accident. This documentation is vital for insurance claims and legal actions, ensuring you can claim expenses for any related medical treatment.

Contacting a Car Accident Attorney

Consulting with a car accident attorney as soon as possible is vital. An attorney can guide you through the legal process, help in preserving evidence, and advise on dealing with insurance companies. They play a crucial role in ensuring you meet all legal deadlines, including the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit. Early legal consultation helps in strategizing your case, negotiating settlements, or preparing for court if necessary. Waiting too long to hire an attorney can jeopardize your case, potentially leading to missed opportunities for compensation.

Prompt action after a car accident strengthens your position in legal and insurance matters, ensures the preservation of crucial evidence, and maximizes your chances for a favorable outcome. Always prioritize your health and legal rights by acting swiftly and decisively following an accident.

Determining Fault and Liability in Missouri Car Accidents

Missouri follows the pure comparative negligence rule in car accident cases. This means that the compensation you can recover is reduced by the percentage of fault you hold in the accident.

For example, if you are found to be 30% at fault and the total damages amount to $100,000, you can only recover 70% of the damages, which is $70,000. This system allows for financial recovery even if you are partially responsible for the accident, but it also means that your role in the accident will be scrutinized and can significantly affect your compensation.

Proving Liability

Proving liability in a Missouri car accident involves establishing the four elements of negligence:

  1. Duty – Demonstrating that the defendant owed you a duty of care, which is a legal obligation to drive safely and follow traffic laws to avoid harming others.
  2. Breach – Showing that the defendant breached that duty by acting carelessly, recklessly, or by violating traffic laws, thereby causing the accident.
  3. Causation – Establishing a direct connection between the defendant’s breach of duty and the accident, indicating that their actions were the direct cause of the incident.
  4. Damages – Providing evidence of the losses you suffered as a result of the accident, which can include medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering.

Gathering evidence is crucial for proving liability. This can include police reports, witness statements, traffic camera footage, accident reconstruction expert testimony, and records of the damages you sustained.

Successfully proving liability requires a comprehensive presentation of facts to support your claim that the other party was at fault for the accident and is therefore responsible for your damages.

How a Missouri Car Accident Attorney Can Help You

A Missouri car accident attorney is crucial in handling insurance claims, negotiating fair settlements, and representing your interests in court.

Dealing With The Insurance Company

A Missouri car accident attorney can streamline the process of filing an insurance claim. They’ll ensure you submit all necessary documentation on time, including proof of damages, medical reports and evidence of the other party’s fault.

An attorney understands the intricacies of insurance policies and state laws, helping you avoid common pitfalls that could jeopardize your claim. They act as your advocate, handling communications with insurance adjusters to protect your rights and maximize your compensation.

Negotiating Settlements

Attorneys are skilled negotiators who can significantly influence the outcome of your settlement. They use their expertise and the evidence gathered to argue your case effectively, ensuring the settlement reflects the true extent of your damages and losses.

With a thorough understanding of Missouri’s legal landscape, they can counter lowball offers and press for a fair settlement that covers your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and any other applicable damages. Their negotiation skills are crucial in securing a settlement that adequately compensates you without the need for a trial.

Representing You in Court

If a fair settlement cannot be reached, a Missouri car accident attorney is prepared to represent you in court. They will handle all aspects of the litigation process, from filing the lawsuit to presenting your case effectively before a judge or jury.

Attorneys Mark Niemeyer, David Grebel and Michael Kruse are premier personal injury lawyers, acclaimed for their proficiency in both civil and criminal jury trials. This distinguished team is celebrated for its exceptional track record, with accolades including Best Lawyers recognitions and rankings as Top 50 and Top 100 plaintiff’s personal injury lawyers by Super Lawyers Magazine. Their reputation is built on consistent victories, showcasing their unparalleled legal expertise.

At NGK Law, you’re supported by attorneys renowned for their legal prowess and consistent success across various challenging cases, from personal injury to class actions. Call 314-241-1919 today for your free case review.

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