Comparative negligence is a legal principle that helps determine the compensation a plaintiff can receive based on their contribution to an accident. In Missouri personal injury cases, it’s essential to understand comparative negligence as it directly impacts the outcome of your case and the compensation you receive.
At Schmitt Law Firm, we handle all types of personal injury lawsuits in Missouri and want to provide you with a complete overview of comparative negligence, its effects on personal injury cases, and how Schmitt Law Firm can help you navigate this complex legal issue.
Understanding the Basics of Comparative Negligence
Missouri follows a “modified comparative negligence” system with a 51% rule. Under this system, an injured party can recover damages as long as they are found to be less than 51% at fault for the accident. However, their compensation will be reduced by their percentage of fault.
If you are found to be 51% or more at fault, you cannot recover any damages. This approach differs from other states, which may use a pure comparative negligence or modified comparative negligence system with a 50% rule.
Pure Comparative Negligence:
In a pure comparative negligence system, a plaintiff can recover damages regardless of their degree of fault, even if they are more than 50% responsible for the accident. However, the plaintiff’s compensation will be reduced by their percentage of fault. For example, if a plaintiff is found to be 75% at fault for an accident and the total damages amount to $100,000, they can still recover $25,000 (25% of the total damages).
Modified Comparative Negligence:
In a modified comparative negligence system, a plaintiff’s ability to recover damages is limited based on a predetermined fault threshold. There are two common types of modified comparative negligence systems: the 50% rule and the 51% rule.
- 50% Rule: Under this system, a plaintiff can recover damages only if their degree of fault is less than or equal to 50%. If the plaintiff is found to be more than 50% at fault, they cannot recover any damages. Similar to the pure comparative negligence system, the plaintiff’s compensation will be reduced by their percentage of fault if they are eligible to recover damages.
- 51% Rule: In this system, a plaintiff can recover damages only if their degree of fault is less than 51%. If the plaintiff is found to be 51% or more at fault, they cannot recover any damages. As in other comparative negligence systems, the plaintiff’s compensation will be reduced by their percentage of fault if they qualify for recovery.
As mentioned earlier, Missouri follows a modified comparative negligence system with a 51% rule. It is essential to understand the specific comparative negligence system in your state, as it directly impacts the amount of compensation you may be eligible to receive in a personal injury case.
[Related: When To Sue an Auto Manufacturer For a Car Accident]
How Comparative Negligence Affects Your Case
In Missouri, comparative negligence plays a significant role in determining compensation in personal injury cases. For example, if you were involved in a car accident and found to be 30% at fault, your compensation would be reduced by 30%. In a case where the total damages amounted to $100,000, you would receive $70,000 after the reduction.
However, if you were found to be 51% or more at fault, you would not be eligible for any compensation. For instance, in a medical malpractice case where you were found to be 60% at fault, you would not receive any compensation under Missouri’s 51% rule.
Proving Negligence in a Personal Injury Case
Establishing negligence is a critical component of any personal injury case. In Missouri, you must prove four key elements to successfully demonstrate that the defendant’s negligence caused your injuries. By understanding comparative negligence and gathering evidence for these elements, you can strengthen your case and increase your chances of obtaining the compensation you deserve. Here are the elements you need to prove:
- Duty of care: Show that the defendant owed you a legal duty to exercise reasonable care, such as a driver’s responsibility to follow traffic laws or a property owner’s obligation to maintain safe premises.
- Breach of duty: Demonstrate that the defendant breached this duty by failing to act with reasonable care, for instance, by driving recklessly or failing to address a hazardous condition on their property.
- Causation: Establish a direct link between the defendant’s breach of duty and your injuries, proving that the accident would not have occurred without the defendant’s negligent actions.
- Damages: Provide evidence that you suffered actual damages, such as medical bills, lost wages, or pain and suffering, as a result of the defendant’s negligence.
[Related: 5 Common Bad Faith Insurance Tactics]
Tips for Protecting Your Rights in a Missouri Comparative Negligence Case
Navigating a personal injury case involving comparative negligence in Missouri can be challenging, but by taking the right steps, you can protect your rights and increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome. Here are some essential tips to help you strengthen your case:
- Document all evidence related to the accident, such as taking photos of the accident scene, obtaining witness statements, preserving any damaged property, and keeping a journal of your injuries and recovery progress.
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible to establish a clear link between the accident and your injuries, and follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations for treatment and follow-up care.
- Consult with a knowledgeable Missouri personal injury attorney, like the ones at Schmitt Law Firm, who can help you gather and present the necessary evidence, negotiate with insurance companies, and represent you in court if needed.
- Communicate effectively with insurance companies by providing accurate information about the accident, but avoid admitting fault or providing unnecessary details that could be used against you.
How Schmitt Law Firm Can Help with Missouri Comparative Negligence Cases
Comparative negligence in Missouri is a complex legal issue that can significantly impact your personal injury case. By understanding the nuances of this principle, working closely with a skilled attorney like the ones at Schmitt Law Firm, and taking proactive steps to protect your rights, you can increase your chances of securing the compensation you deserve. Our dedicated team of personal injury attorneys understands the complexities of this legal issue and will aggressively represent you to maximize your compensation.
Don’t wait to seek legal assistance – contact Schmitt Law Firm today at 816-400-1000 to schedule a consultation and begin your journey toward recovery.