Did Someone Else’s Negligence Injure You in Missouri?
Local Personal Injury Attorneys Explain What to Know About Filing a Claim
Any injury, especially a permanently disabling injury, may cause a lifetime of expenses, difficulties and pain. You may face hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills and you may be unable to work while you recover. If someone else caused of your injuries, then you should not have to shoulder these financial and economic burdens yourself. Usually, you can file an insurance claim to recover injury-related expenses and other damages. If the insurance company does not make a fair offer or there is no insurance policy that covers your situation, then you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit directly against the liable party. A personal injury attorney can represent your best interests in negotiations or in the courtroom to help ensure you get the recovery you deserve.
Below, our local Missouri lawyers explain the basics of personal injury claims and applicable state laws. However, no two injuries are the same, so the process of filing a personal injury claim may vary from case to case. The best way to learn how the law applies to your situation is to consult a personal injury attorney. If you need immediate legal assistance, then consult our directory to find a lawyer near you.
When Can I File a Personal Injury Claim?
In general, the law allows you to file a personal injury claim when someone else’s actions cause you physical or financial injury. However, your claim must also meet certain legal standards as well. Typically, for your claim to be successful, you and your attorney must demonstrate that:
- The person against whom you are filing the claim (the defendant) owed you a duty of care. The standards for what constitutes a “duty of care” may vary depending on the situation. For example, business owners must take all possible action to eliminate dangerous conditions that may harm customers. On the other hand, owners of private property owe visitors a duty of care, but are usually held to a less strict standard than business owners. Additionally, everyone has a general duty to avoid reckless behavior, including reckless driving, which may endanger those around them.
- The defendant breached the duty of care. In most cases, you must present evidence that the other person acted negligently. For instance, a driver may neglect traffic laws by speeding, which may then cause a car accident.
- You suffered real damages as a result of this negligence. A personal injury claim cannot undo an accident; instead it compensates you for your monetary expenses (and sometimes other damages as well). Therefore, you must show that your suffered real injuries and that these injuries directly resulted from the defendant’s negligence.
In some circumstances, the strict liability doctrine may apply to a personal injury claim, which alters the requirements for a successful case. If the defendant is “strictly liable” for an accident or injury, then you do not have to prove negligence. It is enough that you demonstrate the connection between the defendant’s actions and your injuries. Strict liability most commonly applies to product defect claims.
What Personal Injury Damages Can I Claim?
Personal injury laws give you the right to hold another person or entity legally and financially accountable if the actions of that person or entity caused you harm. In general, you can recover two different types of damages: compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages, as the name implies, compensate you for your losses, both economic and noneconomic. These may include:
- Medical bills, past and future. You can usually claim all injury-related medical expenses, including the cost of rehabilitative therapies and specialized medical equipment. If you require ongoing medical supervision or assistance from a trained medical worker, then you can include these costs as well.
- Property damage. If the accident that caused your injuries also damaged your property, then you can claim repair or replacement expenses.
- Lost wages. If your injury keeps you from working, then you may be able to recover your lost income and/or earning potential.
- Pain and suffering. In a case involving severe injuries, you may be able to recover additional compensation for physical pain and suffering. The amount is usually directly related to your medical expenses.
- Loss of consortium or companionship. If your injuries are severely disabling, then you may be entitled to compensation for the damage done to your marital or family relationships.
On the other hand, punitive damages punish the defendant for grossly negligent or reckless actions, rather than compensate the plaintiff. An award of punitive damages is rare, however, and only applies to the most serious situations.
What Are Missouri Personal Injury Laws?
Missouri personal injury laws place limits on the amount of compensation you can recover in certain types of cases by imposing “damage caps.” These damage caps apply only to non-economic damages, which means that there are no restrictions to recovering the full amount of your medical bills and actual expenses. Only damages like pain and suffering, and loss of consortium are limited by damage caps. Additionally, all damage cap laws include exceptions for cases involving wrongful death and serious injuries, such as severe traumatic brain injuries.
The Missouri medical malpractice damage cap restricts non-economic damages to $400,000; in cases where the malpractice resulted in “catastrophic” injury, such as permanent immobility, the cap raises to $700,000. Medical malpractice damage caps are often controversial, since injuries from medical mistakes are frequently catastrophic and debilitating.
Punitive damage caps are the most common limitations on recoveries from lawsuits. Federal laws limit awards of excessive punitive damages, but some states impose even more restrictions. However, since the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that these caps were unconstitutional in 2014, Missouri has not imposed any limit on the amount of monetary punitive damages a person may be awarded.
Missouri law also modifies “joint and several liability” rules, which can seriously impact a plaintiff’s ability to recover. According to modified joint and several liability doctrine, defendants pursued–for instance, in a medical malpractice case, you might be suing both an individual doctor as well as the hospital itself–for damages will split the risk of insolvency between the plaintiff and the solvent defendants. A defendant is responsible for the entire verdict only if they are found to be at or above a specified percentage of fault
Hurt and Need a Lawyer? Consult Our Local Missouri Listings
If you have concerns about a personal injury matter or have a question about the law, then feel free to ask the lawyers. Otherwise, consult our local listings to find an attorney near you who can review your unique claim and offer you customized legal advice.