If you have been injured in an accident that was someone else’s fault, you have the right to seek compensation from the liable party. Contact Martin & Wallentine for your free consultation to find out how we can help.
Accidents happen every day in the state of Missouri that cause injuries ranging from minor to severe. There are dangers everywhere, including on the roads, inside grocery stores and other businesses, and even inside people’s private homes.
The reality is that most of the accidents that happen could actually be prevented if people were more mindful of their duty to others to behave in a way that is safe for everyone around them. For example, if a person gets hit by a drunk driver, that could have easily been prevented had the liable party chosen not to drive drunk.
Personal injury laws in Missouri play a crucial role in safeguarding the rights of individuals injured due to another party's negligence. Understanding these laws is essential for Missouri residents seeking justice and fair compensation, whether it's a car accident, slip and fall incident, or medical malpractice.
Filing a personal injury case requires adherence to specific laws. At Martin & Wallentine, our professional team of personal injury attorneys is here to provide helpful guidance and stand up for your rights in personal injury cases in Missouri.
Types of Personal Injury Cases and Key Legal Factors in Missouri
Personal injury cases encompass many accident categories where an individual suffers harm due to another party's negligence. A few of the most common personal injury incidents accident victims experience include:
Car accidents are prevalent in the Show Me State. According to the Missouri Department of Transportation, there were 1,007 traffic-related fatalities in 2021. Thousands more were injured. Additionally, motorists using cell phones while driving were involved in an estimated 2,200 wrecks.
These statistics highlight the significance of determining fault and liability in personal injury litigation related to motor vehicle accidents. These cases involve collisions caused by negligent or reckless driving, such as speeding, distracted driving, or drunk driving.
However, the state has laws in place to help prevent car crashes. For example, Missouri has sought to combat distracted driving. Section 304.820 of the Missouri Revised Statutes states, "No person shall, while operating a moving motor vehicle on any highway in this state, use a hand-held wireless communications device to write, send, or read a text message." These laws aim to reduce accidents caused by distractions created by our phones, and promote safer driving habits.
Slip and Falls
Slip and fall accidents occur when individuals are injured on someone else's property due to hazardous conditions, such as wet floors, uneven surfaces, or inadequate lighting. Whether you're shopping for a new outfit at the Country Club Plaza or grabbing barbecue sauce out of Hy-Vee, these slip-and-fall accidents can happen anywhere. Regardless of where you go, property owners must maintain a safe environment for visitors, and may be liable for injuries sustained on their premises when they don't.
Medical malpractice cases arise from errors or negligence committed by healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, and hospitals. Examples of medical misconduct include misdiagnosis, surgical errors, medication mistakes, or birth injuries. These cases require a careful assessment of medical records and expert opinions to establish negligence and causation.
Product liability cases involve injuries caused by defective or dangerous products. Manufacturers, distributors, and sellers may be responsible for injuries from design defects, manufacturing flaws, or inadequate warnings or instructions. Product liability claims can involve various products, including vehicles, pharmaceuticals, appliances, or children's toys.
Legal Considerations for Each Type of Case
Each type of personal injury case in Missouri has specific legal standards that must be addressed. These include:
- The Burden of Proof: In personal injury claims, the injured party, also known as the plaintiff in a civil lawsuit, must prove that the defendant's negligence or wrongful actions directly caused their injuries. This concept requires presenting evidence, witness testimonies, and sometimes expert opinions to support the claim.
- Statute of Limitations: The rule sets a time limit for the injured party to file a claim. Failing to meet the deadline may result in losing the right to seek financial compensation.
- Comparative Negligence: Missouri follows a comparative negligence system, meaning that the injured party's compensation may be reduced if they are found partially at fault for the accident.
The Steps to Follow After a Personal Injury in Missouri
Imagine you're strolling through a grocery store, picking out fresh produce and everyday essentials, and without warning, you slip on a wet floor. You crash to the ground, feeling a jolt of pain shooting through your back. As you gather your senses and slowly get up, you notice that there is no "Wet Floor" sign anywhere in the vicinity. You have been injured because the store neglected to warn customers about the danger of the wet floor.
After a serious personal injury like in the above scenario, protecting your rights and potential for a successful personal injury claim is vital. Here are some action steps to take:
- Seek Medical Attention
Regardless of the severity of your injuries, get checked out by a healthcare professional. Besides safeguarding your overall well-being, seeking immediate medical care creates documentation for your injuries. Your doctor visits, surgery, therapy sessions and prescriptions meds, and other treatment-related activities serve as evidence when establishing the extent of your injuries and the related medical expenses. Insurance companies and courts often rely on these records to determine the compensation you may be entitled to.
- Notify the Authorities
If the injury occurred due to someone else's negligence, report the incident to the relevant parties. This step could include filing a police report, notifying the property owner or manager, or informing your employer if the injury happened at work. For example, if you had a car accident in Independence, you'd contact the Independence Police Department and file a report. A police report can help corroborate your story and provide an unbiased account of what happened. Reporting the incident creates an official record of the event.
- Collect Evidence
Gather as much evidence as possible to support your claim. This step may include photographs of the accident scene, injuries, property damage, or hazardous conditions. If there were witnesses, obtain their contact information. Witness testimonies can play a significant role in determining the outcome of a personal injury case.
- Preserve Relevant Documents
Keep copies of all related records, such as medical files, police reports, insurance correspondence, and other paperwork regarding the accident and your injuries. These documents provide evidence of the incident and its impact on your life.
The Statute of Limitations in Missouri Personal Injury Cases
One key aspect of personal injury laws in Missouri is the statute of limitations. This legal concept determines the time limit an individual must file a personal injury claim. In Missouri, the statute of limitations for most personal injury cases is five years, starting from the date of the accident or injury. By understanding the statute of limitations, Missouri residents can ensure they take timely action to protect their rights and seek compensation for their injuries.
This time limit applies to most personal injury cases, including car accidents, slip and falls, medical malpractice, and more. Ensuring your eligibility to pursue compensation relies on filing your claim within this critical time frame. Waiting beyond the statute of limitations may result in the court dismissing your claim.
Exceptions and Considerations
While the five-year time limit generally applies to personal injury cases in Missouri, there are certain exceptions. One such exception is for individuals who were incapacitated or unable to file a claim due to their injuries. In such cases, the court can extend the statute of limitations, allowing for a reasonable time to start legal proceedings.
Suppose the injured person is a minor or has a legal incapacity at the time of the incident. In that case, the statute of limitations may be tolled (temporarily suspended) until they reach the legal age of majority or regain capacity.
Consider consulting with a qualified personal injury attorney to gain insight into the specific circumstances that may affect the statute of limitations in your case. They can provide guidance based on your unique situation and help you determine the appropriate course of action.
It can take up to three years to reach a settlement or verdict in personal injury cases. This duration highlights the importance of starting legal proceedings promptly to avoid unnecessary delays in resolving your case.
How Comparative Negligence Affects Personal Injury Cases
Missouri follows the legal principle of shared fault, also known as comparative negligence. This doctrine recognizes multiple parties involved in an accident may bear some degree of responsibility. The state applies a pure comparative negligence rule, meaning you can recover damages even if you're partially at fault.
The amount of compensation may vary depending on the degree of responsibility assigned. For example, suppose you were involved in a car accident where you were 20 percent at fault. In that case, your potential compensation may be reduced by 20 percent.
Types of Compensation in Personal Injury Lawsuits
Economic damages refer to the financial losses incurred due to an injury sustained in an accident due to someone else’s negligence. These are typically straightforward to prove using documentation like medical bills or pay stubs. Here are some of the most common types of economic damages:
- Medical bills
- Wage loss
- In-home assistance
- Costs for rehabilitation
- Property damage
Non-economic damages, on the other hand, are harder to put a monetary value to, but your Missouri personal injury lawyer can help you do that. This can include any of the following:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of companionship
- Disfigurement and scarring
Punitive damages are another form of financial compensation available in some rare instances. A court grants a plaintiff this monetary award when the at-fault party's conduct was extremely reckless. For example, a defendant was driving while intoxicated, ran a red light, and crashed into another motorist resulting in the victim being paralyzed. Adding punitive damages to the victim's compensation conveys that such egregious behavior will not be tolerated.
Fault and Liability in Missouri Personal Injury Cases
In the realm of tort claims in Missouri, one of the critical steps toward obtaining compensation is establishing fault and liability. A solid grasp of how this process works can help individuals confidently navigate their legal claims and maximize the potential for a positive outcome.
Factors Considered in Establishing Negligence
Determining fault and liability in personal injury cases lies in proving negligence. Negligence refers to the failure to exercise reasonable care, which can result in harm inflicted on another person. These elements are considered when evaluating negligence:
- Duty of Care: This element refers to the legal obligation of an individual or organization to take reasonable care to avoid actions or omissions that could harm others. For example, drivers must operate their vehicles safely and responsibly.
- Breach of Duty: It must be proven that the defendant breached their duty of care by acting negligently or failing to act when they should have. This breach is often compared to how a reasonably prudent person would have behaved in a similar situation. An example of a breach is a motorist who drives while intoxicated and causes injury to a fellow driver.
- Causation: It must be demonstrated that the defendant's breach of duty directly caused the plaintiff's injuries. This element requires establishing a clear link between the defendant's actions or negligence and the harm suffered by the plaintiff. For instance, evidence proves the motorist's intoxication directly led to their failure to obey traffic laws and ultimately caused the car crash and resulting in injuries.
The Key to Validating Your Claim and Winning Your Case
Evidence aids in determining fault and liability in personal injury cases. Gathering and presenting relevant proof can strengthen a plaintiff's claim. This information may include the following:
- Documentation: Keeping records of medical bills, police reports, and other relevant documents can confirm the accident led to your injuries.
- Witness Testimonies: Eyewitness accounts can provide crucial details and perspectives regarding the incident. Gathering witness statements can help establish the sequence of events and support the injured party's version of what took place.
- Expert Opinions: In complex cases, a personal injury lawyer may seek expert opinions to provide professional analysis and insights. Experts in various fields, such as accident reconstruction, medical care professionals, or engineers, can clarify complicated issues for the judge and jury. For instance, if a consumer sustains injuries from using a faulty vehicle airbag, an expert witness, such as an automotive engineer, could testify about the design flaw, manufacturing defects, or inadequate warnings that led to the injuries.
How a Personal Injury Lawyer in Missouri Can Protect Your Rights
When you've suffered an injury due to someone else's negligence, it can be an overwhelming and distressing experience. The physical pain, emotional distress, strain, and financial burden can leave you feeling helpless and uncertain about what lies ahead. In these difficult times, a personal injury lawyer in Missouri can be your unwavering advocate, standing up for your rights and fighting for the justice you deserve.
With their knowledge, experience, and dedication, they can navigate the complex legal landscape, ensuring your voice is heard, your rights are upheld, and your interests are safeguarded.
Here are some key benefits of seeking professional legal representation:
- Legal Knowledge: Personal injury lawyers specialize in this area of law and have in-depth knowledge and understanding of the legal framework surrounding personal injury claims. They can provide professional guidance and ensure your rights are protected throughout the process.
- Case Evaluation: A personal injury lawyer will assess the details of your case and determine its merits and areas of concern. This assessment is crucial in understanding the potential value of your claim and devising an effective legal strategy.
- Negotiation Skills: Insurance companies often seek ways to minimize payouts or reject claims outright. Having a skilled negotiator on your side can level the playing field. A personal injury lawyer will advocate for your best interests, negotiate with insurance adjusters, and strive to secure a fair settlement.
- Investigation and Gathering Evidence: The construction of a solid personal injury case hinges on conducting an exhaustive investigation and acquiring detailed evidence. With an array of resources at their disposal, personal injury attorneys have access to specialized accident investigation experts. They can thoroughly examine the incident, interview witnesses, secure surveillance footage, and gather vital evidence substantiating your claim.
How a Personal Lawyer Can Guide the Injured Party Through the Legal Process
Amidst the chaos of life, unforeseen accidents can strike, leaving us grappling with pain, confusion, and uncertainty. Imagine, for a moment, that you find yourself in such a situation – injured due to someone else's negligence.
The weight of the physical and emotional strain intensifies as you face the daunting task of figuring out the complex legal process. A flood of questions surges through your mind: How do I gather evidence? What are my rights? Where do I even begin?
In these moments of overwhelming stress, the guiding hand of an experienced personal injury attorney can offer solace and relief. A personal injury lawyer can have a positive effect on your case -- and your peace of mind.
The legal process, particularly in personal injury lawsuits, can present numerous complexities that require careful navigation. No matter where you are in the process, a personal injury lawyer can offer you valuable guidance and support.
- Initial Consultation: During an initial consultation, a personal injury lawyer will listen to your story, assess the merits of your case, and provide you with a clear understanding of your legal options. This consultation is often free and allows you to make an informed decision about pursuing a claim.
- Legal Representation: Once you decide to move forward, your personal injury attorney will handle all aspects of your case, including paperwork, communication with insurance companies, and legal filings. This assistance alleviates your burden, allowing you to focus on getting better.
- Case Preparation and Negotiation: A skilled personal injury lawyer will take on the responsibility of collecting evidence, interviewing witnesses, consulting with experts if needed, and crafting a convincing case on your behalf. They will negotiate with insurance companies, striving to reach a fair settlement that reflects the full extent of your damages.
- Trial Representation: In the event that a satisfactory settlement cannot be attained, your personal injury attorney will be prepared to take your case to trial. They will represent your interests in court, presenting evidence, cross-examining witnesses, and advocating for the compensation you deserve.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Personal Injury Lawyer in Missouri
Selecting the right personal injury attorney is crucial for the success of your case. Consider the following factors when making your decision:
- Experience: Look for a lawyer with extensive experience handling personal injury claims. A seasoned personal attorney will have a track record of successful settlements and trial verdicts.
- Specialization: Ensure that the lawyer focuses primarily on personal injury law. This specialization indicates a deep understanding of these claims' complex legal nuances. For example, in a medical malpractice case, you need a lawyer who understands medical procedures, healthcare practices, state and federal regulations, and more.
- Reputation: Evaluate the lawyer's reputation by examining client testimonials, reviews, and case results. A personal lawyer with a positive reputation will more likely provide dedicated and effective representation.
- Communication and Personalized Attention: Effective communication is essential in any attorney-client relationship. Choose a responsive, attentive lawyer who keeps you informed about the progress of your case. They can keep you in the loop with phone calls, emails, or in-person meetings. Ideally, they will contact you based on your personal preference and the nature of the updates.
Seeking Professional Legal Assistance in Missouri
Missouri residents can benefit from the assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney. Navigating the complex world of personal injury laws, such as understanding the statute of limitations, shared fault, and compensation caps, can be overwhelming without proper guidance. Don't face the legal process alone. Hiring a personal injury lawyer can boost your chances of an outcome that works in your favor.
Discover the Difference a Dedicated Personal Injury Law Firm Can Make. Contact Martin & Wallentine Law Firm Now
If you or a loved one has suffered a personal injury due to someone else's negligence, don't hesitate to seek legal advice. Our dedicated team of professionals is ready to listen to your story, evaluate your case, and provide valuable guidance tailored to your situation. Contact our award-winning personal injury law firm today for a consultation at 913-764-9700.
Read What Our Former Clients Have Said
"Professional, informative, and vital in working with the prosecutor to secure the most favorable outcome possible".Barb
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