Car Accident Lawyers
Every day in this country, people are involved in car accidents—often through no fault of their own. The state of Missouri is no exception. Cape Girardeau County’s economic hub Cape Girardeau is a growing and vibrant city where traffic tends to get heavy. More people on the road means more distractions and more variables that could lead to a collision.
According to the Missouri Department of Transportation, 16 people lost their lives on Cape Girardeau roads between 2016 and 2018. Fifty-four more people sustained severe injuries. In total, there were 2,800 fatalities and 14,346 severe injuries across the state within that period.
Based on these statistics, it’s safe to say that auto accidents in Cape Girardeau are not an uncommon occurrence. If you’ve suffered injuries or other losses in an auto accident due to someone else’s negligence, our personal injury lawyers at our Cape Girardeau office understand the pain and devastation that you’re going through. Our goal is to fight for the best possible outcome on behalf of our clients.
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Effects of Car Accidents in Cape Girardeau, Missouri
Car accidents in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, can have devastating outcomes. Thirteen people died in Cape Girardeau motor vehicle accidents in 2017, with another four losing their lives to traffic accidents in 2018. The Missouri State Highway Patrol calculated a 10-year annual average number of car accident deaths of 8.6.
Statewide traffic accident causes and related deaths and injuries in 2018 include:
- Alcohol: 149 fatalities and 2,755 persons injured
- Distracted Driving: 87 fatalities and 7,664 persons injured
- Driver Fatigue: 21 fatalities and 1,294 persons injured
- Drugs: 104 fatalities and 864 persons injured
- Failure to Yield: 144 fatalities and 12,785 persons injured
- Following Too Close: 30 fatalities and 7,801 persons injured
- Improper Lane Change: 195 fatalities and 5,403 persons injured
- Speeding: 148 fatalities and 2,828 persons injured
Missouri Statute of Limitations for Car Accident Cases
Statutes of limitations give crash victims enough time to recuperate, gather relevant evidence, and prepare their cases to determine the validity and severity of damages and decide whether legal action is warranted. But more importantly, the time restriction allows for the non-corruption of justice by preserving evidence, keeping witness statements and physical data timely and unaltered.
Thereby, the existence of statutes of limitations is important and necessary. Still, it can hurt your case and bar you from seeking compensation if you don’t adhere to the strict deadlines. Fortunately, while most states set a statute of limitations of two years on personal injury cases, Missouri provides a considerably longer time limit.
According to Mo. Ann. Stat. § 516.120, the statute of limitations for a personal injury lawsuit in Missouri is five years. The period starts on the date the accident occurs and applies to all injured individuals, including drivers, passengers, pedestrians, motorcyclists, and others.
However, the statute of limitations differs slightly if you lost your loved one due to a car accident caused by someone else’s negligence or recklessness. Mo. Ann. Stat. § 537.100 states that qualifying surviving family members have up to three years from the date of their loved one’s death to file a wrongful death case.
There may be exceptions to this rule in some situations, which is why it’s essential to speak with an attorney and act quickly. NST Law can help ensure accident victims in Cape Girardeau meet the SOL requirements and file their lawsuits on time.
It’s also worth noting that these time limits only apply to lawsuits for car accidents, not insurance claims. For the latter, the time limit to submit a claim and relevant documents will largely depend on the requirements and individual policies from the insurance companies involved.
Missouri Comparative Negligence Rule and How it Applies to Cape Girardeau Car Accident Cases
Missouri is a pure comparative negligence state governed by Missouri Revised Statute § 537.765. Missouri applied this legal doctrine in place of its former contributory negligence law that completely barred a person from recovering compensation for damages if they were even 1% at fault for the accident.
Using the much more forgiving pure comparative negligence system, victims can pursue compensation even if they were up to 99% at fault in the accident. The court simply reduces the amount recoverable by the percentage equal to the blame assigned to each party for the accident.
For example, suppose you’re involved in a T-bone or side-impact crash where another vehicle collides with your passenger side door. Even though the other vehicle impacted your car, you ran a stop sign at the time of the accident. Therefore, a court determines that you’re 70% liable for the collision. Assuming your award for damages originally totaled $80,000, you’ll only end up receiving $24,000, accounting for the reduction of your percentage of liability (which in this case is 70%). The other party can also receive compensation for any damages they incurred minus their 30% share of responsibility.
The comparative negligence rule also applies to multi-vehicle collisions, splitting the total percentage between each party based on their involvement, such as a 30%, 30%, 40% share where three vehicles collided.
While the concept of pure comparative negligence is relatively straightforward, it’s not always easy to establish who’s at fault or what percentage of responsibility they might hold. Sometimes, it can be challenging to prove that the other driver was more at fault in the accident and apportion the blame fairly and accurately. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to work with a Cape Girardeau car accident lawyer. Your attorney can properly assess your case and determine your appropriate degree of fault to obtain the maximum settlement or court award amount available to you.
How much compensation can I receive after a car accident in Cape Girardeau?
There’s no set dollar amount for recoverable compensation after a car accident. One collision might be worth a few thousand dollars or no money at all, but another could potentially result in a settlement package worth millions. The exact settlement or jury award value typically depends on the specific facts of the accidents, the extent of the injuries sustained, and the losses involved.
Economic and non-economic damages are available for recovery in Missouri car accident cases. Economic or monetary damages are actual or calculable financial losses you’ve incurred due to your injuries. Non-economic damages compensate injured persons for non-calculable or non-monetary losses.
Economic damages in Cape Girardeau car accident cases include:
- Past and future medical bills: These include emergency medical treatment expenses, doctor’s office visits, follow-up visits, blood tests, prescription costs, physical therapy aids, travel costs to medical appointments, and more.
- Mental health treatment costs: These costs include dollar amounts incurred to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, or any other mental health injury.
- Lost wages: This is the actual income you’ve lost from missed work due to your injuries (e.g., time off work for recovery, hospital stays, to attend doctor’s appointments, to have surgeries, etc.). Lost wages also include tips and bonuses.
- Lost earning capacity: If you suffer a temporary or permanent disability and you’re unable to return to work in your previous capacity or altogether, you might be able to receive compensation for a decrease in your pay due to a change in your position or status, or a complete loss of future income.
- Property damages: You might value damages to your personal property at the cost to repair the items. If your vehicle or any personal items in the vehicle at the time of the accident are irreplaceable, you might use the replacement cost or the fair market value.
Non-economic damages include the following:
- Pain and suffering: A physical injury can result in chronic pain and subsequent long-term suffering. Since your medical expenses don’t compensate you for the physical pain you’ve endured due to your injuries, you can value it as part of non-economic damages.
- Emotional distress or mental anguish: Car accidents can be emotionally devastating and result in short- and long-term trauma. You can pursue damages for the emotional suffering that accompanies your physical pain.
- Loss of enjoyment of life: When you sustain injuries in an accident, depending on the severity, you may no longer be able to participate in the activities you love. For example, if you can no longer walk or run or play a musical instrument, you might be eligible for compensation due to these losses.
- Disfigurement or disability: When a physical injury disfigures your face or body or causes a temporary or long-term disability, permanently altering your life, you might be entitled to compensation.
In severe or catastrophic injury cases, accident victims might need to include claims for future medical expenses, including surgeries or rehabilitation. It’s important to have a personal injury lawyer who can accurately value your claim and include all past, present, and potential losses to maximize your compensation and best aid in your full recovery and financial security. Generally, Missouri has no caps on the amount of non-economic damages recoverable by car accident victims suffering injuries.
Eligibility for Punitive Damages After a Cape Girardeau Car Accident
In addition to the above damages, car accident victims in Cape Girardeau might also be eligible to seek punitive damages governed by Missouri Revised Statute § 510.261. These damages are awarded by a court of law not to compensate injured plaintiffs but to punish defendants whose conduct is considered grossly negligent or intentional. Therefore, for you to be able to collect punitive damages, you need to convince the court beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant indeed acted with disregard for the safety of others (S.B. 591).
More often than not, decisions regarding punitive damages are reserved for juries. Examples of circumstances in which a jury can award punitive damages include drunk driving or distracted driving. The defendant would have consciously decided to engage in behavior that could reasonably harm another person in both cases.
Car Accidents in Cape Girardeau Involving Uninsured Drivers
In Missouri, it’s illegal to drive a car without proof of insurance that covers a minimum level of damages resulting from a car accident, even if you’re not at fault. Termed the “Proof of Financial Responsibility” law, you can find information regarding the requirements under Missouri Revised Statute § 303.025.
Each state may require different minimum amounts for insurance coverage. In Missouri, the minimum amount required follows a “25/50/25” coverage arrangement, represented as:
- $25,000 per person for bodily injury
- $50,000 per accident for bodily injury
- $25,000 per accident for property damage
In addition, drivers must carry uninsured motorist insurance (UM) with coverage totaling:
- $25,000 per person for bodily injury
- $50,000 per accident for bodily injury
Generally, your own UM would cover your losses in accidents involving uninsured or underinsured accidents. The UM can also cover damages you might suffer in a hit and run accident, where the other driver flees the scene, and you’re unable to retrieve their insurance information.
How much UM coverage is enough? From our experience as personal injury attorneys handling cases in Cape Girardeau and throughout Missouri, the answer is simple; as much as you can afford. UM coverage is relatively inexpensive, and the benefits are well worth it if you are in a severe accident caused by a reckless driver without adequate coverage.
What is the Missouri Tort Victims' Compensation Fund?
Missouri Revised Statute § 537.675 establishes a fund to provide compensation (up to $300,000) to accident victims in cases where the at-fault party (tortfeasor):
- Has no insurance
- Doesn’t have adequate insurance
- Has filed for bankruptcy
Missouri Revised Statute § 537.684 outlines the requirements for this fund. To be eligible, the injured person must be a resident of Missouri, or the accident needs to have occurred in Missouri. If the injured person is deceased, one of the surviving family members may make a claim. You must also meet one of the following factors:
- The injured person obtained a judgment in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit and could not collect the total amount of their final monetary decision.
- The injured person was forced to settle for the total policy limits of the liability insurance, which fell short of covering the total amount of the damages.
The car accident attorneys at NST Law can help you file a claim with the Tort Victims’ Compensation Fund if applicable to your case.
Do I need a lawyer for my Cape Girardeau car accident case?
While not required by law, a Cape Girardeau car accident attorney can help you by:
- Providing you with the legal guidance and support you need during this difficult time
- Giving you optimum legal advice to inform you of your best-case options and help you make fast decisions
- Using your recitation of the facts and any evidentiary documents you have to formulate their own independent investigation of the accident
- Conducting an extensive investigation into the circumstances leading up to and surrounding your auto crash
- Gathering and assessing relevant evidence—including medical records, video footage, photographs, police reports, and witness statements—as they work to determine who’s at fault and assign a percentage of liability as well as an estimated value for your damages
- Working to minimize or dispel the effect of any claims made against you for your alleged shared responsibility for the accident
- Communicating with interested parties, including insurance companies and counsel for any opposing parties
- Consulting with injury specialists and accident experts throughout the process, mainly when working to determine the cause and extent of your injuries and how much your settlement is worth
Why should I hire the Cape Girardeau car accident lawyers at NST Law?
Have you or a family member recently been involved in a car accident in Cape Girardeau, Missouri? Reach out to the personal injury lawyers at NST Law for immediate legal assistance and advice. You may be eligible to pursue financial compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses. Our legal team is compassionate and dedicated to serving our community and striving for excellence and optimal results for our clients.
With over $2 billion recovered for injured clients, we’re confident in our ability to obtain the restitution you deserve for your injuries and losses. Contact our law office in Cape Girardeau today for a free consultation so that we can learn about your case and determine how to best help you.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Your first concern following a car accident should be your safety and well-being. If you or another person is injured, call an ambulance. If necessary, you should move your vehicle out of the way of traffic to avoid any additional collisions and injuries. You can call the Cape Girardeau Police Department, which can be reached by dialing 573-335-6621, to the scene so a crash report can be made. Get the other driver’s contact and insurance information. If you are able, take photos of the damage to your vehicle and any other vehicles involved. Also, take photos of the accident scene to depict the road and weather conditions. Our car accident lawyers can also assist with gathering evidence to prove your claim.
If you have been involved in a car crash in Missouri, you have five years to either settle your bodily injury claim with the insurance company or to file a lawsuit in the appropriate court. The clock for the five-year statute of limitations for car accident cases in Missouri begins ticking on the date of the accident. If you do not resolve your case or file a lawsuit within that time, you will forfeit your right to recover for your injuries.
If you’ve been involved in a car wreck in or near Cape Girardeau, the value of your case will depend on many factors. Important factors are the extent of your injuries, amount of your medical bills, and the amount of insurance coverage available. Generally speaking, the more severe your injuries are, the greater your case value may be. Missouri law requires that drivers maintain liability insurance coverage of at least $25,000 for bodily injury per person and $50,000 for total bodily injury per accident. Sometimes, the conduct of the defendant driver can increase the value of the case. For example, juries in Cape Girardeau County tend to frown on drunk driving, and a plaintiff can obtain punitive damages.