Missouri Personal Injury Law

Don't underestimate the losses you've suffered from a personal injury. A personal injury's impact on your life can result in both financial and personal losses, regardless of whether you sustained a physical injury or if your property was damaged. As a Missouri resident, you have the right to seek financial compensation for your losses through personal injury litigation.

If you've been injured in Kansas City, St. Louis or Springfield, use LawInfo's Missouri personal injury articles to learn about the laws surrounding your case and to find a qualified attorney.

Missouri Actual and Punitive Damages

When you pursue a personal injury lawsuit, you're typically pursuing compensation for the losses you've suffered from your injury. The compensation you recover is called damages and there are two types you may recover: actual (or compensatory) damages and punitive damages.

Actual damages comprise the compensation you're actually suing for. They are supposed to "make whole" the losses you've suffered or will continue to suffer from your injury. Actual damages are split into economic and noneconomic damages, which address specific types of losses.

Economic damages compensate losses with actual dollar values, such as repair and replacement costs, medical bills, lost business or wages, etc. Noneconomic damages compensate losses that don't have a clear dollar value, such as pain and suffering, loss of companionship or consortium, disability, disfigurement, etc.

Punitive damages aren't compensation that you sue for. The court may award punitive damages at its discretion or, in some cases, they may be mandatory. Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant for causing the injury and to discourage future negligence. Missouri caps punitive damages in medical malpractice cases at $400,000 or $700,000, depending on the injury's severity.

Missouri Proving Negligence

Most Missouri personal injury cases rely on the legal theory of negligence to determine whether the plaintiff qualifies for a recovery of damages. Courts often decide whether a defendant's actions were negligent by using two theories: the "reasonably prudent person" and the four elements of negligence.

The reasonably prudent person is a standard of conduct with which the court measures the appropriateness of a defendant's actions during the injuring incident to determine negligence. If a reasonable and responsible person would've handled the incident differently, the defendant may have been negligent.

The four elements of negligence expand upon the reasonably prudent person theory to determine whether the defendant's negligence was responsible for the plaintiff's injury. They are best understood when posed as four questions:

  1. Was the defendant responsible for owing a duty of care to the plaintiff, including preventing and protecting them against reasonably foreseeable injuries?
  2. Did the defendant's actions cause them to breach their duty?
  3. Did the breach of the defendant's duty cause or contribute to the plaintiff's injury? (Also, was the actual injury reasonably foreseeable by the defendant?)
  4. Does the plaintiff's injury qualify as actual damages that can be compensated?

Missouri Statute of Limitations

A statute of limitations limits how much time after an injury occurs that a plaintiff has to pursue legal action against a defendant. Once the statute "runs out," a lawsuit cannot be pursued. Missouri's civil statute of limitations includes:

  • Five years for fraud.
  • Three years for wrongful death.
  • Five years for injury (or damage) to property.
  • Five years for personal
  • Five years for written and oral contracts.
  • Two years from reasonable discovery for medical malpractice, up to a maximum of 10 years from the date of the first injury.

Speak with a Personal Injury Attorney

Injuries cost money, including time away from work, medical bills and other complications. You should have an attorney help you with your claim. Not sure if you have a good injury case? Speak to a local personal injury attorney about the merits of your case. This one step can help you protect your rights and take the proper next steps.

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