What Happens When You Are At-Fault for a Car Accident in Kansas City, MO?

Anyone can get into a car accident. Some accidents cannot be prevented. For example, if your car slides on ice and hits another car, no one is at fault.

But some accidents are caused by one or more drivers. If you were found to be at fault for an accident, you might face some serious consequences.

Here are some of the consequences of causing a car accident, along with some tips for handling a car accident that you may have caused.

The Role of Insurance

Missouri requires its drivers to carry auto insurance. Its at-fault insurance system also requires you to buy liability insurance. Liability insurance pays others when you cause an accident.

When you are at fault for a car accident, your liability insurance will pay for the injuries and damage you caused. If your insurer cannot settle the claims, it must defend you against any personal injury lawsuits.

Insurance Policy Limits

You might think that this means you will not pay the price for causing an accident. But your auto insurance policy has limits. 

In Missouri, you must carry a policy with limits of:

  • $25,000 per injured person or $50,000 per accident in bodily injury protection
  • $10,000 per accident in property damage protection

When you cause an accident, your insurer will pay an injured person up to $25,000 for medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering. If multiple people were injured in the accident, they must share $50,000 to cover their damages.

Additional Insurance Coverage Options

Insurers can sell liability insurance with limits above the minimums required by Missouri law. They can also sell optional add-ons, including:

Medical Payments (Med Pay) Coverage

Liability insurance does not pay for injuries to the insured. Your mandatory insurance in Missouri will not pay for your injuries, regardless of whether you caused the accident or not. But insurers can offer med pay coverage that pays for a portion of your medical bills. You can claim med pay benefits no matter who caused the accident.

Collision Coverage

Collision coverage is optional in Missouri. Collision coverage pays for damage to your car if you are involved in an accident. You can claim collision coverage benefits even if you cause the accident.

Your Costs When You Cause a Car Accident

When you cause a car accident, two things will happen. First, you and your insurer will have liability for the damages you caused. Second, you become ineligible to claim damages from the other drivers’ insurers.

Liability to Injured People

Your policy limits will cap your insurer’s liability. If the damages arising from the accident exceed your policy limits, your insurer will pay the damages up to the policy limits and leave you on the hook for the rest.

Suppose you cause a bicycle accident and the cyclist suffers a brain injury. The damages arising from a serious brain injury could easily exceed your $25,000 policy limits. If a jury awards $1 million in damages, your insurer would only pay the first $25,000. The remaining $975,000 would fall on your shoulders.

Cost of Your Injuries

If you suffer injuries in an accident that you cause, you must bear the cost of those injuries. Your health insurance or med pay coverage might offset those costs. However, you cannot file a claim against the auto insurance policies of anyone else involved in the accident. Depending on your injuries, your medical expenses and lost income could amount to tens of thousands of dollars or more.

What to Do if You Caused an Accident

A car accident can disorient you. It can also cause emotions like guilt and anger. But you must remain calm after a car accident. Otherwise, you may say or do things that will complicate your case. 

Do Not Leave the Scene

Hit-and-run is a serious crime in Missouri. A prosecutor can file felony charges against you if you leave the scene of an accident that results in an injury or death. This could mean several years in prison.

Leaving the scene of an accident could imply that you caused the accident. In Missouri, fleeing tends to show that you knew you caused the accident.

Call the Police

Under Missouri law, drivers must report accidents involving death, injury, or property damage greater than $500 to the local police department. Calling the police will also help sort out who caused the accident.

The responding officers will investigate the accident and prepare an accident report. This report will identify who caused the accident and help insurers and jurors to determine who is liable for the accident.

Do Not Admit You Caused the Accident

Allow the police to conduct their investigation. Admitting fault will not change their conclusions. An insurance company could use your premature admission to reduce or deny your claim for damages.

You should cooperate with the officers investigating the accident but stick to the facts. “I caused the accident” is different from “I did not see the car before I turned.”

For example, the police might determine that the oncoming car was speeding and the driver was intoxicated during the accident. Your admission could take liability off the drunk driver and place it squarely on your shoulders. You and your insurer could be required to pay for the drunk driver’s injuries rather than sharing fault or forcing the drunk driver to pay for your injuries.

Call a Lawyer if You Think You Caused an Accident

Contact a lawyer to represent you in any discussions with the police or insurers. A lawyer can help you to determine whether you caused the accident. If so, the lawyer can help defend you and reduce your legal exposure. If not, the lawyer can help you to pursue the at-fault driver for compensation.