Written by attorney Christopher Steven Hoffmann

Understanding Missouri Car Accident Laws

In Missouri, car accidents resulting in personal injury and property damage are subject to a five year statute of limitation. In other words, your lawyer must file your personal injury lawsuit in court within 5 years of the date of the car accident or it is forever barred from recovery for the resulting accident injuries. In this scenario, the possible personal injury plaintiffs in that cause of action may be the driver, passengers, or pedestrian. Whereas the record and equitable owners of the crashed vehicle, as well as any assignee of the owner, are the proper party plaintiffs in an action to recover property damage resulting from the car accident. Compulsory joinder rules require an attorney join all claims in the same lawsuit of those both suffering a personal injury and those recovering for property damage resulting from a particular accident.

On common exception to the five year statute of limitations exists for minors. In an action for personal injury involving a minor with injuries from a car crash, the statute of limitations is tolled until said minor reaches the age of majority. At that time, the five year statute of limitations begins to toll or run for the minor. There are always competing interest in minor car accident cases in waiting to see how the child is progressing with the accident injury over time versus waiting and having the child completely forget about the accident. here is no simple answer to this timing issue.

In the event of a death resulting from a car accident, the statute of limitation is three years from the date of death. Simply, the wrongful death beneficiaries must file suit in court within 3 years of the date of death or are forever barred from recovery for the car accident. The plaintiffs in a wrongful death lawsuit resulting from a car accident are defined by statute. Missouri Revised Statutes set out “classes" of wrongful death beneficiaries, defining relatives having the capacity of bringing the wrongful death claim as a result of the accident.

On the other hand, there are several possible defendants in a cause of action for negligent operation of a motor vehicle and possible companion claims. This does not happen in every car accident case. But, the list of possible defendants must be determined by your attorney and his law firm. Typically, these defendants include:

  • The operator of the negligent car,
  • The negligent operator’s employer, if applicable,
  • The owner of a vehicle who has negligently entrusted the vehicle to someone habitually reckless or incompetent to drive,
  • The owner of a vehicle who has negligently supervised the operator (underage drivers), and
  • The owner of a vehicle who a failed to remove his car keys (car stolen and thief injures another),
  • Insurance Company(s) in the event of uninsured or underinsured motorist claims,
  • Manufacturers of any defective conditions resulting in car accident injuries or deaths,
  • Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission, other public and related entities are possible parties if injuries result from dangerous conditions on the roadways.

In determining all the possible cause of actions and all the possible parties responsible for the car accident, it is important for the law firm, including their attorney and lawyers, to visit the scene of the accident, look at the surroundings, examine the vehicles and thoroughly track down all the evidence. In some cases, hiring an attorney early after the car accident is the only reason evidence from your case is preserved for trial. In some instances, not having that attorney and evidence could mean the difference between being able to present your case. Accident reconstruction experts are required to observe the scene and the vehicles for evidence in order to testify. They can only do that if directed by your lawyer. If your injuries are severe and fatalities result from the accident, get an attorney immediately. In most cases, when our attorneys and lawyers visit the accident scene with our accident reconstruction experts there is a lawyer for the defendant there with his own expert. Neither of those individuals work for you nor do they have your interest in mind. Never leave your case to chance.

In Saint Louis, choosing an attorney for a complex or any car accident requires knowledge of Missouri law. When looking at the dynamics of an accident case, time bar limitations and the numerous alternatives of plaintiffs and defendants, an attorney with experience in the area of accident law is a necessity. Given the statute of limitation is an absolute bar to any cause of action, car accident victims and wrongful death class beneficiaries cannot afford an attorney or law firm who is not an expert in this area. You only get one chance at your car accident case. Choose an attorney who repeatedly does automobile accident litigation.

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