Car accidents can have severe consequences for victims. Medical bills pile up and your insurance company may be reluctant to cover your losses. In the worst cases, a family member may even lose their life in a tragic car accident. Someone else’s negligence shouldn’t cause you hardship. You have the right to pursue compensation through legal action with the help of a Missouri personal injury attorney. However, there’s a time limit, so call a lawyer if you haven’t yet.
The Missouri Personal Injury Statute of Limitations
A car accident claim is a form of personal injury lawsuit. Personal injury lawsuits happen whenever someone else’s negligence in an injured person. The injured party can file a civil lawsuit to recover compensation if the accident resulted in financial damages. However, all lawsuits are subject to a time limit: The statute of limitations. The Missouri statute of limitations for personal injury claims is five years after the accident where you suffered injuries.
Each state has a different statute of limitations, and certain lawsuits may have different timelines; for example, medical malpractice lawsuits have a two-year statute of limitations.
Since a car accident claim falls under the personal injury category, your Missouri personal injury lawsuit must be filed before the 5-year Missouri car accident statute filing deadline, or else a civil court will not admit your claim. However, there are some exceptions to Missouri’s personal injury statute.
Exceptions to Missouri’s Personal Injury Statutes
In general, the standard statute of limitations will apply to most car accident cases. Missouri’s statute is actually more generous than ones in other states.
The idea behind a statute of limitations is to give Missouri residents enough time to speak to a lawyer and pursue legal action. Since there are certain circumstances that could complicate matters, there are a few situations where the statute of limitations could be extended.
You can review all the relevant accident statute of limitations laws on the official Missouri government agency website here.
Extended Statute of Limitations for a Wrongful Death Claim
If an auto accident results in personal injuries that lead to someone’s death, that person’s family has the right to file a wrongful death suit in Missouri courts. A wrongful death case, however, has a three-year statute of limitations. Fortunately, the law does have a caveat that can extend this time limit. If the defendant is unable to be found, for example after a hit-and-run car accident, the time that they are missing will not count against the statute of limitations.
In some cases, auto accidents may not result in immediate death, but injuries could lead to the victim’s death later on. If this happens, the right to file a personal injury lawsuit is passed on to the victim’s family.
They receive the remainder of the time limit, or one year, whichever is lesser. The case does not automatically become a wrongful death claim unless the death is directly caused by the original accident.
Car Accident Claims Involving Minors
Car accidents are far more common with young drivers, and Missouri law recognizes this. The Missouri statute of limitations starts after they turn 21 years old.
Therefore, if an 18-year old driver suffered a personal injury accident, the usual 5-year statute of limitations essentially becomes 8 years. This particular limitations deadline is in place since young people may not have ready access to lawyers or their parents may not wish to pursue compensation.
This same exception also applies to individuals who have been deemed mentally incapacitated. For instance, individuals in a coma after a car accident would have five years after regaining consciousness.
Starting Your Car Accident Lawsuit With a Missouri Car Accident Lawyer
If your case still falls into the usual Missouri state personal injury statute of limitations, then you can reach out to a personal injury attorney and ask for a free case evaluation. As long as you file your case in Missouri’s civil court system within the Missouri statute of limitations that apply to you, your personal injury claim can be admitted.
Nevertheless, there are several steps to filing a lawsuit successfully. Waiting until the last possible moment could complicate matters. It’s important to speak to a lawyer as soon as you can in order to complete the lawsuit filing process.
Filing a Car Accident Claim Requires You to Preserve Evidence
In order for a lawyer to analyze your case and seek compensation for your injuries, you will need to present evidence regarding your personal injury case. Bring images of property damage, medical records, your car insurance contract, and the Missouri car accident report.
You should also bring any other receipts to document the expenses related to your injury claim. Include pay stubs to show lost wages. You can add all your expenses and claim that full amount in your lawsuit.
In order to recover compensation, you need to prove that the other driver acted negligently. If you have dashcam footage or witnesses that could testify on your behalf, bring the footage and contact information to your lawyer as well. Consider reaching out to nearby residences or businesses to see if they have security cameras. A parking facility, for example, might have security camera footage of your parked car getting hit. The corner store might have seen your collision.
Filing Your Personal Injury Claim
With evidence in hand, your lawyer will examine the car accident case. If your lawyer believes that it’s possible to win the lawsuit, then your lawyer will determine the total amount to sue for. The at-fault driver will be named as the defendant in the case. Missouri personal injury lawsuits have to be filed at the appropriate civil court. Once the case is filed, the defendant will receive notice within 30 days.
At this point, the statute of limitations ceases to apply since the lawsuit has been filed. What happens next? In most cases, the defendant will respond quickly to signal that they wish to fight the case.
Alternatively, you may receive a settlement offer right away. However, most early settlement offers are lower than what you deserve and may not fully cover your damages. You may want to negotiate for more.
How Long Do Personal Injury Cases Take to Resolve?
While some cases could be over quickly when it’s very clear that the other driver was entirely at fault, the reality is that many more car accidents are complicated. There may be multiple parties involved or situations where both drivers contributed to the crash. If you were injured while at work, your administration’s risk management division might want to get involved.
It usually takes about three months to go from your initial consultation to filing a lawsuit and receiving a response. At this stage, the discovery process begins. Discovery is normally the lengthiest part of any lawsuit.
In discovery, lawyers on both sides exchange information and formally gather evidence. A witness can testify in a deposition, while official documents that you may not have access to can be subpoenaed. It takes time for these documents to be found and delivered. Discovery could be over in as little as 2-3 months, but more commonly requires 6-9. In total, expect your case to take about a year to close.
Why You Need to Consult a Missouri Personal Injury Attorney
As you can see, the legal system is complex. Even if you could handle it on your own, you likely don’t have the time to take care of your day-to-day life while dealing with the proceedings of a lawsuit.
Lawyers understand rules and their exceptions and can help you determine if your claim falls within the statute of limitations. Lawyers can gather information that you can’t through subpoenas and other legal mechanisms.
If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident in the last five years, call Holman Schiavone, LLC at 816-399-5149 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case. We’re a team of experienced personal injury lawyers that can help you with car accident cases, medical malpractice, and more.