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Missouri Sunset

Do I Have to Go to Court for a Missouri Car Accident?

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Posted on June 20, 2024

Car accidents are painful and traumatic experiences, and often the trauma continues long past the accident date as the injury victims navigate the insurance system and file claims for compensation for their property damage, medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering. The last thing a car accident victim usually wants is to have to go to court and relive the experience. Many car accident victims ask their attorneys, “Will I have to go to court to recover compensation for my damages?”

Do I have to go to court after a Missouri car accident

Most Car Accident Claims Settle Out of Court

A 2005 report from the U.S. Department of Justice found that 96% of personal injury claims, such as car accident cases, are resolved through a settlement offer by the insurance company of the at-fault party in the accident. This statistic hasn’t changed significantly since that time. Often, insurance companies reach out to an injury victim quickly after an accident when there is strong evidence of their policyholder’s fault, but fast settlement offers are typically for far less than the true value of the claim. An injury victim may accept an early settlement offer before they know the full extent of their damages and later have no recourse to seek further compensation. Signing a settlement offer requires signing away the right to a lawsuit.

When a car accident victim has an attorney representing them, the attorney gathers evidence of liability and carefully calculates the victim’s economic and non-economic damages, ensuring that they miss no avenue of compensation available to them. The St. Louis accident attorney takes the insurance company’s first settlement offer as a beginning point and then negotiate for the highest settlement possible for their client.

When Do Car Accident Cases Go to Court?

Sometimes insurance companies dispute, delay, or deny valid claims since profits are an insurance company’s priority. They may also fail to offer a reasonable settlement fully covering the victim’s damages. In some cases, they attempt to assign a high portion of fault to the accident victim to reduce the payout on their claim by that percentage of fault. For example, even if the other driver ran a red light, the insurance company could claim that the injury victim was 25% at fault for the collision because they were exceeding the speed limit by five miles per hour while crossing the intersection. This would reduce a $100,000 claim to $75,000. In this case, the injury victim and their attorney could choose to file a lawsuit and present expert witness testimony that the injury victim could not have avoided the collision by reducing their speed by five miles per hour.

Insurance companies typically prefer to avoid going to court because they risk a sympathetic jury awarding a large amount to the injury victim. Car accident victims and their attorneys also typically prefer to avoid court because court litigation takes longer and there is always the risk of losing the case.

How Does a State’s Statute of Limitations Impact the Decision to Go to Court for a Car Accident Case?

In order to take a car accident case to court, the injury victim must file the lawsuit petition within their state’s statute of limitations for personal injury claims. This time limit varies in each state, ranging from two years in most states to Missouri’s generous five-year statute of limitations. A court will typically dismiss a case filed past this time limit unless the victim was underage at the time the car accident occurred, if they were unconscious or incapacitated for an extended period after the accident, or if there was a legitimate delay in discovering an injury.