What You Need to Know About Missouri Car Accident Laws
Car accidents can happen to anyone and are oftentimes stressful for all parties involved. There are even incidents when no one is reasonably at fault. Here is what you need to know about Missouri car accident laws.
What to Do After a Car Accident in Missouri
Following a car accident, depending on the severity of the collision, some individuals may be in shock and unaware of what steps to take to ensure that their claim is handled properly and responsibly. Generally, there are seven steps drivers should take following a car accident, provided that the driver is in a safe position to do so:
1. Stay Calm
Just as in any emergency, it is important that the driver does not panic. Many drivers may feel stressed, shocked, or even angry, but it is critical that all parties stay as calm as possible. Calmly assess the situation, pull the cars over to the nearest safe location, and determine whether any party in the accident is in need of medical attention.
If nothing else, drivers should avoid showing aggression to any party in the accident, whether they be police, EMT’s, or even the other drivers. All parties take note of behavior at the accident, and an individual’s demeanor can impact the police report and their claim to insurance.
2. Stay at the Scene
In Missouri, leaving the accident before the police officer gave permission to do so would constitute a crime. This is because even a minor car accident may be considered a legal violation depending on the nature of the incident, and therefore, leaving prematurely would consititute fleeing a potential crime scene. It is important to note that parties are allowed to move their vehicles to a more safe location nearby. However, besides that, drivers involved in the collision should not move unless they have been permitted to do so already by law enforcement.
3. Exchange Contact Information
Any driver involved in a collision must exchange the following information:
- Driver license number
- Vehicle identification number
- License plate number
- Name of insurance company
- Insurance policy number
- The insurance company will ask for all of this information, and it is critical to have this information on hand in case it is difficult to contact the other party in the future.
4. Watch What You Say to Other Drivers
Along the same spirit of staying calm is another critical aspect of the insurance process, namely the report. Individuals should be very careful about what they say to the other party, with or without the presence of law enforcement. There are several things drivers should avoid doing at all costs:
Do not admit fault or accuse the other driver of anything. Do not say, “I’m sorry” or “It was my fault” even if you think you are the at-fault driver. Allow time for a full investigation to uncover all of the facts.
Do not say, “I’m okay” or talk about how you feel. Even severe injuries may take a few hours, days, or even weeks to show any noticeable symptoms. Get a medical exam to determine what injuries you have and what treatments you will need.
Do not tell the other driver what you were doing at the time of the accident.
5. Call the Police
In Missouri, you MUST report any car accident that:
- Happened less than one year ago.
- Involved at least one uninsured driver.
- Caused more than $500 in property damage OR caused the injury or death of another individual.
Following the accident, police officers will take statements from the drivers involved and document the scene. Drivers may find it in their best interests to tell the police officers:
- The direction they were traveling
- Whether they were turning and whether they used a turn signal
- Any injuries they or their passengers suffered
- What they did immediately before and after the accident, to the best of their memory
6. Record Your Own Description of the Accident
Human memory is famously imperfect, and many important facts may fade over time. This is especially true for more traumatic accidents, as the brain tends to block more difficult or emotionally stressful memories to preserve an individual’s emotional state. However, many of these facts may be critical to insurance claims. It is therefore critical that drivers physically write down their own account of what happened as quickly as possible. Important information may include:
- Date and time of the accident
- Address or approximate address where the crash occurred
- Road you were traveling on or the nearest cross street
- Direction you were traveling
- Direction the other driver(s) were traveling
- Weather conditions and visibility
- Other conditions such as road construction
- Names and contact information for any witnesses
- Names, badge numbers and contact information for responding police officers
- If you have a camera, take pictures of the damage to your own car and the other driver’s vehicle. You may also sketch a diagram of the accident by hand.
Related: How to File a Car Accident Claim
7. Contact Your Insurance Company
The sooner a driver contacts their insurance company, the smoother the process will be. If it is possible, after contacting the police and giving the statement, contact the insurance company at the scene of the accident. From there, the agent can give advice regarding the claims process. If the other driver is at fault, individuals may recover compensation to purchase a new car or cover the costs of auto repair from the other driver’s insurance company.
Missouri Statute of Limitations for a Car Accident Lawsuit
Missouri has a five year statute of limitations for auto accident lawsuits. This means that individuals who wish to sue the other party for damages have five years to do so from the day the collision occurred.
Additionally, Missouri is an at-fault state, meaning that individuals may recover damages more freely from the other driver so long as the other driver is responsible for the accident.
Individuals may choose to collect damages for additional circumstances outside of the insurance system. In at–fault states, individuals may find more compensation for non-economic losses through the courts than through the insurance companies. In the most general of senses, drivers may use a lawsuit to recover damages for:
- Medical bills
- Pain and suffering
- Lost wages
- Property damage
As an at-fault state, Missouri uses a comparative standard to distribute settlements and compensation. This applies to accidents involving multiple drivers as well. What this means is that unless a party is judged to be fully at fault, they can receive compensation following a car accident. For example, there may be a three-way accident in which each party was equally responsible. If there was a $100,000 settlement, then each party would receive an equal proportion of the $100,000.