Missouri Car Accident Laws

The deadline for filing a car accident lawsuit in Missouri's courts, when you need to report a car accident in Missouri, and more.

By , J.D. University of San Francisco School of Law
Updated 10/27/2022

After any kind of Missouri traffic accident, there are a number of state laws to get familiar with (especially if you end up making a car accident claim), including:

  • the deadline for filing a car accident lawsuit in Missouri's civil court system
  • Missouri's comparative negligence law, which comes into play when the person making a car accident claim bears some amount of fault for the crash, and
  • when you need to report a car accident in Missouri.

The Missouri Car Accident Statute of Limitations

A "statute of limitations" is a state law that sets a strict time limit on your right to bring a lawsuit to court. In Missouri, the statute of limitations that will apply to a lawsuit over a vehicle accident depends on whether that accident caused property damage or injury, or death.

First, according to Missouri Revised Statutes section 516.120, anyone injured in the accident—and that includes a driver, passenger, motorcyclist, bicyclist, electric scooter rider, or pedestrian—must get their civil lawsuit filed within five years of the date of the accident. That same five-year deadline applies to an accident that caused vehicle or other property damage.

When a Missouri Car Accident Results In Death

But, if the accident resulted in someone's death, and a family member or other representative wants to bring a wrongful death claim against the at-fault driver, that case must be filed within three years, and the "clock" starts on the date of the person's death (which can be different from the date of the accident). That deadline is set by Missouri's rules for wrongful death cases, which you can find at Missouri Revised Statutes section 537.100.

What If I Miss the Car Accident Lawsuit Deadline In Missouri?

If you try to file your lawsuit after the applicable time limit has passed, you can count on the defendant (the person you're trying to sue) pointing out that discrepancy to the court as part of a motion to dismiss. The court will almost certainly grant the motion (unless some rare exception applies to extend the filing deadline), and that will be the end of your case. That's why it's crucial to understand how the statute of applies to your situation.

Even if you're confident that your case will be resolved through the car insurance claim process, you'll want to leave yourself plenty of time to file a lawsuit in case you need to—if for no other reason than that you'll have more leverage during settlement talks. If you think you might be running up against the filing deadline, you may want to contact an experienced Missouri car accident attorney.

Comparative Negligence In Missouri Car Accident Cases

Suppose you're seriously injured in a Missouri car accident, and you take your case to court. The jury, after hearing all the evidence, decides that the other driver was responsible for the accident—but that you too bear part of the blame. What happens next? How does this verdict affect your right to compensation?

Missouri is a "pure comparative fault" state. This means that the amount of damages you can recover in a car-accident-related lawsuit is reduced by the same percentage as your level of fault in causing the crash.

For instance, suppose that the jury determines that your injuries, pain and suffering, and other losses total $100,000. However, the jury also thinks that you were 10 percent responsible for the crash. In that situation, the total amount of your damages, $100,000, is reduced by 10 percent, or $10,000, leaving you with a total award of $90,000.

The comparative fault rule applies in Missouri even if you are found to be more responsible for the accident than the other driver. For instance, if the jury decides you are 90 percent at fault, you are still technically entitled to 10 percent of your total damages, but of course the other side of the coin is that you'll be on the hook for 90 percent of the other driver's damages.

The comparative negligence rule binds Missouri judges and juries (if your car accident case makes it to court), and it will also guide a car insurance claims adjuster when he or she is evaluating your case. Also keep in mind that since there is no empirical means of allocating fault, any assignment of liability will ultimately come down to your ability to negotiate with a claims adjuster or to persuade a judge or jury.

Reporting a Car Accident In Missouri

Missouri Revised Statutes section 303.040 sets out the requirements for reporting an accident in the state. Under this law, there are three separate scenarios where an accident must be reported.

First, the operator or owner of a motor vehicle must report an accident:

  • with an uninsured motorist on any street, highway, or in a parking lot or parking facility generally open to the public, and
  • in which any person is killed or injured or in which damage to property of any one person in excess of $500 is sustained.

Second, the owner or operator of a motor vehicle that is involved in an accident in which any person is killed or injured—or in which damage to property of any one person in excess of $500 is sustained—must report the accident if the owner or operator of the vehicle did not have automobile insurance.

Third, the owner of a parked car that is involved in an accident in which any person is killed or injured—or in which damage to property of any one person in excess of $500 is sustained—must report the accident.

The owner or operator must report the accident to the Missouri Department of Revenue on the official car accident report form for the state of Missouri.

Missouri Is a "Fault" Car Accident State

Missouri follows a traditional "fault" system when it comes to car insurance and who is on the financial hook for injuries and other losses after a crash. That means a driver who causes an accident must compensate those who were harmed as a result. Practically speaking, that compensation will come from the at-fault driver's insurance company.

Insurance coverage is sure to play a key role in almost any Missouri car accident scenario, so it's important to understand the state's liability auto insurance requirements and other coverage rules that could affect your car accident claim. Get the details on Missouri's car insurance rules.

Getting Help After a Missouri Car Accident

Educating yourself about Missouri's car accident laws is one thing, but if you've been injured in a car accident, you might need more than just information. In some situations it might make sense to handle your own car accident claim, if you're confident you can come away with the best result.

Learn when you might need a lawyer after a car accident, and how to find the right attorney for an injury case. You can also use the features on this page to connect with a Missouri car accident lawyer in your area.

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