Understanding Your Rights If You Are Involved in an Auto Accident
Being involved in a serious auto accident is one of the scariest things a person can experience. Your entire life can be turned upside down in a matter of seconds. If you are injured, you may be unable to work or afford the medical treatments necessary to help you recover.
At Bishop & Hayes P.C., we have dedicated our law practice to auto accident recovery. By focusing on one area of law, we can ensure that our clients receive the superior representation they deserve. We have recovered millions for our clients and will continue our fight for car accident victims across the state.
If you were injured in a Missouri car accident, contact our office at (417) 862-5544 to book a free consultation.
The Truth About Insurance Companies
The truth is that insurance companies will often try to downplay your injuries or deny your claim to avoid a large payout. By knowing your rights (and your responsibilities) after a car accident, you can ensure that you receive the compensation you need to fix your vehicle, pay your bills, and cover future losses.
Depending on the circumstances, you may also be entitled to recovery for your pain and suffering or other less obvious losses. Without the help of a qualified attorney, you may end up settling your case for less than it is worth or for nothing at all. Too often, unrepresented accident victims get stuck paying out of pocket for their medical bills and vehicle repairs.
You should never have to pay for someone else’s negligence, recklessness, or wrongdoing. If you are injured in a car accident, it is strongly recommended that you contact an experienced auto injury lawyer immediately.
Missouri Car Accident Statistics
According to the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), traffic fatalities increased 12% from 2019 to 2020. Tragically, the vast majority of these accidents were preventable caused by driver negligence. Preliminary data indicates that of the 989 fatal traffic accidents, 389 involved speeding or driving too fast for road conditions.
Data from the MoDOT shows that:
- 90% of deadly auto accidents are preventable;
- 2020 marked the largest number of pedestrian fatalities (126) ever in the state;
- Over 30,000 injury crashes happen each year;
- Alcohol is involved in approximately 25% of fatal crashes; and
- Motorcycle fatalities have increased significantly in the past year.
Despite fewer cars on the road in 2020, the state saw a disproportionate rise in the number of deadly car accidents. Early indications are that 2021 was no less grim, with severe auto accidents continuing to increase.
Is Missouri an At-Fault Insurance State?
Given the startling statistics, it is important to understand how Missouri handles insurance claims and liability after an auto accident. Missouri is an at-fault insurance state as opposed to a no-fault insurance state like New York and 11 other states.
In a no-fault insurance state, a driver is covered by their own policy regardless of fault and only under limited circumstances may pursue a personal injury lawsuit against an at-fault driver. In an at-fault insurance state, the person responsible for the accident is required to compensate injured parties.
Generally, an at-fault driver’s insurance policy would cover the damages of any person injured in an accident. If you are involved in an auto accident in Missouri, you may file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance policy.
Missouri Insurance Requirements
As noted by the Missouri Department of Revenue, all drivers must carry liability insurance, also referred to as financial responsibility. Liability insurance provides coverage to persons who are injured or sustained property damage in an accident that you caused.
The minimum level of liability coverage is (25/50/25):
- $25,000 per person for bodily injury
- $50,0000 per accident for bodily injury
- $25,000 per accident for property damage
Missouri drivers are also required to carry uninsured motorist coverage, which protects them in the event they are hit by an uninsured driver. In cases of serious injury or wrongful death, the at-fault driver’s insurance policy may be insufficient to cover all of the damages.
You then have the option to sue the driver for additional compensation or go through your own insurance company if you have the right kind of coverage.
Determining Liability After a Car Accident
It is important to note that it is not your responsibility to determine liability or who was at fault after an accident. Even if you were partially to blame for the crash, you might still be able to recover compensation. Your recovery may be reduced in proportion to your percentage of fault.
Hiring an attorney immediately after the accident can help ensure that you receive the recovery you deserve. It is essential that you do not make any statements or sign anything from the insurance company without first consulting with an attorney. What you say or do can limit your compensation after an accident.
Missouri Statute of Limitations
You have five (5) years from the date of the car accident to file a lawsuit based on personal injury. While this may seem like ample time to pursue damages, it is vital to act quickly. If you do not file a claim within the statute of limitations, you may be barred from recovering compensation for your losses.
The five-year statute of limitations for auto accidents is one of the most generous in the country, but it is designed that way for a reason. Recovering evidence in auto injury cases takes time, or a person may be incapacitated and unable to move forward with a lawsuit for an extended period.
While it may be tempting to wait, consulting with an attorney immediately after your accident will help ensure that you receive a full and fair financial recovery.
What to Do If You Are Involved in an Accident
If you are involved in an auto accident in Missouri, the first thing you need to do is check for injuries to yourself and others. If your car is not disabled and you are capable of driving it, move to a safe area on the side of the road.
After a car accident, you should:
- Contact 911
- Get medical attention immediately
- Obtain witness information
- Contact an experienced auto injury attorney
Getting medical attention right away is an important step to your physical and financial recovery. Failure to seek treatment or a gap in treatment may directly affect your compensation.
Hiring the Right Attorney After an Accident
In order to determine the value of your claim and whether you should pursue a personal injury lawsuit, you need to contact an attorney. At Bishop & Hayes, we offer free, no-obligation consultations. Every case is handled by a partner with the firm, and there are never any fees unless we win.
If you or a loved one were injured in a car accident, contact our office at (417) 862-5544 to discover how much your case is worth. Get the high-quality legal representation you expect and deserve. Call now to get started.