According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, there were 157,038 traffic accidents statewide in 2019. Motor vehicle accidents resulted in 55,112 personal injuries and 881 deaths. Accident victims can seek compensation for their injuries and damages by filing a personal injury claim.
However, the other driver’s insurance company may try to blame you for the cause of the accident. Blaming the victim is a common tactic used by many insurance providers to avoid paying personal injury claims.
Our St. Louis personal injury attorneys at The Bradley Law Firm guide you through the legal process of defending yourself against allegations of fault. And we fight for full compensation for your injuries and damages.
What is Comparative Fault?
Contributory negligence is a legal theory that bars an accident victim from recovering damages if they contributed to the accident. The District of Columbia and four states use contributory negligence in personal injury cases.
Missouri adopted a pure comparative fault standard instead of a contributory negligence standard. Under Missouri’s pure contributory negligence laws, a victim can recover compensation for accident injuries even if they contributed to the cause of the accident.
However, the victim’s compensation for their case is reduced by their percentage of fault for the accident. Under a pure comparative fault system, an accident victim could be 99 percent responsible for the cause of a car wreck and still recover one percent of their damages.
Let’s assume you are 45 percent at fault for the cause of a car accident. Your damages total $200,000. The court will reduce your compensation by 45 percent so that you receive $110,000 ($200 000 minus 45 percent or $90,000).
Insurance companies use comparative fault allegations to reduce the amount they must pay for an accident claim. It is common for an insurance adjuster to pursue a comparative negligence claim aggressively.
An adjuster may tell you that the insurance company denies your claim unless you agree to provide a written or recorded statement. If this happens, you should contact an experienced personal injury lawyer immediately. The adjuster may be searching for information the company can use to blame you for the accident.
How Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help Me if I Am Blamed for an Accident?
A personal injury lawyer can fight allegations of comparative negligence for you. Our legal team begins a comprehensive accident investigation to gather evidence proving how the accident occurred. We may consult with experts, including accident reconstructionists, engineers, road designers, and other experts to obtain expert opinions stating how the crash occurred.
An experienced personal injury attorney uses the evidence to prove the legal elements of negligence. You must prove the elements of negligence to hold the other driver responsible for your damages.
The elements of negligence are:
- Duty of Care
- Breach of the Duty of Care
A duty of care is a legal responsibility to act with a level of care to avoid injuring or harming someone. The level of care is based on how a reasonably prudent person would act in a similar situation. All drivers have a duty of care to obey traffic laws and operate their vehicles to avoid causing collisions.
A breach of the duty of care is when a person deviates from the acceptable standard of care.
For example, a driver breaches the duty of care by driving under the influence or texting while driving. A reasonably prudent person would understand that these actions are dangerous and could cause injuries. Failing to yield the right of way or following too closely could also be considered breaches.
Importantly, the driver’s breach must have been the direct and proximate cause of your injuries. In other words, the other driver’s actions caused the crash, which resulted in your injuries.
Proving damages is the last element. You must show that you sustained damages because of the accident. Damages can include your lost income, medical bills, and pain & suffering damages.
Are There Ways to Limit Liability After a Traffic Accident?
Yes, there are several ways you can limit liability after a traffic accident.
First, do not admit fault. Saying you are sorry could be construed as admitting fault. Do not discuss the accident with anyone at the accident scene except the police officer.
Do not agree to record your conversations or provide a written statement to the insurance company. If the insurance company records your call, consider hiring a personal injury lawyer to file a claim and handle communications with the insurance company. Adjusters and investigators are trained to ask leading questions that could result in answers that imply fault.
Never discuss the accident online or post information on social media. It is best to stop using social media until your personal injury case settles. Also, avoid discussing the accident with family and friends. They could be called as witnesses during a trial.
As soon as possible, contact a lawyer to discuss your accident case. A car accident lawyer understands the law and can provide an honest assessment of your case. A lawyer can also help you avoid making mistakes that could negatively impact your injury claim’s value.
Gathering Evidence to Prove Fault and Liability for an Accident
The more substantial the evidence you have proving fault, the more likely you will receive a fair settlement offer from the insurance company.
Examples of evidence that can help prove fault and liability include:
- Copies of police reports and accident reports
- Statements from eyewitnesses
- Copies of videos of the collision from traffic cameras or nearby surveillance cameras
- Cell phone records
- Truck maintenance records and driver’s logs
- Photos of the accident scene
- Expert opinions from accident reconstructionists
- The physical damage to the vehicles
Gathering evidence can be difficult for an accident victim who is still healing from injuries. Even if you have recovered fully from your injuries, it may still be difficult to obtain some evidence on your own.
A personal injury lawyer has the resources and skills to search for evidence proving fault. And they can retain experts.
Contact Our Missouri Accident Lawyers for a Free Consultation
Before you accept a settlement offer or sign a settlement agreement, it is best to obtain legal advice from a personal injury lawyer. The insurance company will not tell you if you accept a much lower settlement offer than the value of your claim. It will not tell you if it is taking advantage of your lack of legal expertise to get rid of your claim for a fraction of the compensation you deserve.
Make sure that you know the facts about your case before you deal with an insurance company. Call (314) 400-0000 to schedule your free consultation with a Missouri personal injury attorney. We want to protect you from bad faith insurance practices, such as blaming you for an accident that you did not cause.