What is the Car Accident Statute of Limitations in Missouri?
For those whose legalese is a little rusty, we should start by explaining that a “statute of limitations” is a state law that puts a time limit on your right to go to court and file a lawsuit after some kind of harm or dispute. There are different deadlines -- usually measured in years -- depending on the kind of case you want to file.
In Missouri, the statute of limitations that will apply to a lawsuit over a vehicle accident depends on whether that accident caused injury or death.
First, according to Missouri Revised Statutes section 516.120, anyone injured in the accident -- and that includes a driver, passenger, bicyclist, pedestrian, or motorcycle rider -- must get their civil lawsuit filed within five years of the date of the accident.
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.
Any car accident case -- whether the crash resulted in injury or death -- will usually hinge on your ability to prove that one of the drivers was negligent. Learn more about Car Accidents Caused by Negligence.
That’s how Missouri’s statutes of limitations apply to a car accident case. But what happens if you try to file your lawsuit after the deadline has passed? You can bet that the person you’re trying to sue (the defendant) will file a motion asking the court to dismiss the case, and the court is very likely to grant the motion. That’s why it’s so important to understand the filing deadline and how it applies to your situation.
A final note on strategy: It’s always a good idea to leave yourself plenty of time to file a car accident lawsuit, even if you’re confident that your case will be resolved through an insurance settlement. At the very least, you’ll have more leverage during settlement discussions if the other side knows you have the option of taking the case to court. If the filing deadline is approaching, you may want to discuss your situation with an experienced Missouri car accident lawyer.
by: David Goguen, J.D.