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Automobile injuries have become one of the most frequent sources of personal injury within the state of Missouri. Many such injuries are caused by the negligence of inattentive or careless drivers on the roads and highways of our state. If you have been injured by a negligent driver you may be entitled to compensation for your pain and injuries.
Elements of an Automobile Negligence Action
An action for recovery of damages sustained as a result of an automobile collision requires showing each of the following elements:
- An automobile, motor vehicle, or motorized vehicle was being operated at the time of the collision;
- The automobile was being operated in a negligent manner – whether or not involving a violation of the statutory rules of the road
- The negligent operation of the vehicle was the cause of the collision whereby a person was injured.
What Constitutes a Negligent Manner
Negligence is the failure of a person to live up to an applicable standard of care. In the case of automobile accidents occurring on public roads or highways the applicable standard of care is required by statute to be the “highest degree of care.” See 304.012 RSMo.
The “highest degree of care” is considered to be that degree of care that a very careful or very prudent person would exercise under the same or similar circumstances. Therefore, in order to avoid possible liability, operators of vehicles on public roads and highways are expected to be even more careful than your ordinary person. Failure to live up to this high standard constitutes negligence which may result in liability for any injuries arising from the failure to maintain such care.
In order to understand what constitutes negligence it is often easier to reference common examples. Some common examples of behavior which constitute negligence (because they fail to live up to the highest degree of care) are as follows:
- Operating a vehicle at an excessive rate of speed under the circumstances (if road conditions are less than optimal it may constitute negligence to operate a vehicle at a speed that is unsafe for the conditions – even if under the statutory speed limit)
- Failure to keep a careful lookout (in the digital age a common example are drivers who are distracted by cell phones or other electronic devices)
- Failure to yield right of way
- Failure to maintain the proper lane of traffic
- Colliding with the rear of a vehicle (rear end collisions are given special treatment under Missouri law. Generally, a driver who collides with the rear of another vehicle will be held liable regardless of the actions of the front vehicle. A detailed discussion is available in our rear end collision article.)
- Failure to swerve, slacken speed, or otherwise take evasive action when necessary and apparent to avoid a collision.
- Violation of a rule of the road provided by statute or city ordinance
This list is far from exhaustive of all situations or actions which may constitute negligence. If you have been injured from an automobile collision you should still consult an attorney concerning the specific facts and circumstances of your case.
Rear end collisions lead to thousands of injuries every year. The sudden acceleration and deceleration of the driver and/or passenger exerts forces on their bodies which can, and often do, lead to soft tissue sprains or strains, broken bones, concussions or head injuries, and lacerations. It is very common that the driver or passenger will not even realize that they are injured until the shock has warn off the day following collision.
Injuries received from an automobile collision often result in numerous losses to the injured party. Some of the most common damages are:
- Costs of medical treatment (even if paid by insurance)
- Rehabilitation costs (physical therapy, chiropractor, etc)
- Lost wages
- Future disability
- Car repairs/value
- Pain and Suffering
Who is Liable for the Damages?
Although it may seem like common sense that the driver who operated a vehicle in a negligence manner is liable for damages, there often are additional persons or parties who may become liable for the actions of a driver. This can become particularly important if you have been injured by an insolvent driver or a hit and run.
The most common defendants to a automobile negligence action are:
- The operator of the negligent vehicle
- The employer of the operator of the negligent vehicle if the vehicle was being used within the scope and course of employment
- The owner of the vehicle that was operated in a negligent manner if the owner knew or should have known that there was a danger of injury due to the operator’s age, inexperience, health, habitual recklessness, or incompetence
- The injured parties own insurance company if the at fault driver was uninsured or left the scene and could not be identified
Role of Insurance
Missouri law requires all vehicles operated on the roads and highways of the state to maintain liability insurance. Such insurance is required to cover the negligent acts of the operator of the insured vehicle, and to pay the damages of any person injured as a result of such negligent acts.
This means that in the majority of automobile injuries it will be an insurance company negotiating your recovery, and not the negligent driver. Insurance company adjusters are trained to minimize the recovery for your injuries, and as such it becomes all the more important to have experienced representation working on your behalf to recover the compensation you deserve.
Although, all vehicles are required to be insured by law, there are unfortunately still instances where a person is injured by an uninsured motorist or by a hit and run. In such instances, the injured person’s own insurance is required to cover a minimum of $50,000.00 per collision ($25,000.00 max per person) for bodily injuries arising from the collision.
In addition to the insurance coverage discuss above, many policies provide additional “med pay” coverage. Med pay coverage is a provision found in some policies which will pay out for medical treatment regardless of liability in the case.
If you have been injured in an automobile collision you deserve an experienced attorney on your side. Don’t let insurance companies talk you into less than a fair settlement. Our attorneys are standing by to assist you recover the money you deserve.
Attorneys at Cline, Braddock & Basinger are ready to assist you. It is our hope that you find these materials useful. When you are ready contact our offices to schedule a free consultation.