Missouri Car Accident Laws – A Complete Guide

The “show me” state has some crazy driving rules, but during a collision, Missouri car accident laws become vital. Did you know it’s illegal to honk your horn in Missouri for any reason except for when warning other drivers? And slow poke driving — meaning cruising less than the posted speed limit in normal conditions — is similarly illegal.

Though collision statistics recently took a dip, there are still almost 1,000 fatal car crashes in Missouri annually, with over 130,000 non-fatal automobile accidents. With numbers like these, Missouri drivers need to know what to do after a crash. Not to mention, how to report it, who determines fault, and when to get a lawyer.

No matter how extensive our guide covers Missouri car accident law, it may not address the specifics of your legal claim. That’s when you hire an auto accident attorney to find out the damages you qualify for.

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What to Do at the Scene of a Car Accident in Missouri

The first thing you must do after a car accident in Missouri is stop your vehicle. Leaving the accident scene is a crime in most states, Missouri included.

If your vehicle’s obstructing traffic such that it might cause further harm, move it to the side of the road. This “steer it and clear it” Missouri car accident law deters secondary crashes while allowing authorities access to the scene.

Next, check for injuries and if anyone requires medical assistance, call 911.

The Missouri Department of Revenue (MDOR), which handles the state’s motor vehicle programs, also instructs drivers to call law enforcement.

While waiting for the police to arrive, if you’re able to move, start collecting information.

Info to Gather at the Scene of the Crash

Begin by exchanging the following information with the other driver:

  • Contact info (full name, address, phone, email)
  • Driver’s license number
  • Insurance ID card/policy number
  • Vehicle identification and license plate number

Also make note of the other car’s make, model, and color. Record any damage you see, taking photos of the surroundings, cars, and injuries if possible.

Ask witnesses if they’re willing to give you statements about the crash and their contact information. This can help you prove liability when filing your car accident claim with your attorney.

How to Report a Car Accident in Missouri

Whether you’re a resident or a non-resident of Missouri, there are several scenarios where you must legally report an accident.

According to Revised Statute of Missouri §303.040, you must submit a report to the MDOR Drivers License Bureau when:

  • The accident is less than one year ago
  • The accident involves an uninsured motorist, and
  • The accident causes injuries or death, or property damage costing more than $500

All three of these criteria must be met for reporting to be mandatory. You can certainly still report an accident anyway. But the bureau will only take action if there’s an uninsured motorist in the equation.

You can download the Motor Vehicle Accident Report form online, fill it out, and mail it to their address directly.

Missouri Car Insurance Requirements

Missouri accident reports are mandatory when it involves uninsured motorists. However, if you’re driving in Missouri technically no one should be without insurance.

That’s because Missouri car accident laws require all motor vehicle drivers and owners to maintain some type of liability insurance.

Drivers can show their “proof of financial responsibility” one of the following ways:

  • Filing proof of financial responsibility with the MDOR in the form of a $75,000 surety bond. Drivers can also file real estate bonds and cash deposits with the MDOR.
  • By providing a certificate of self insurance (for a company or religious organization).
  • By acquiring a motor vehicle liability insurance policy.

The easiest answer here for most people is to just get car insurance. Missouri drivers choosing this option must show liability insurance coverage in the following minimums:

  • $25,000 per person for bodily injury
  • $50,000 per accident for bodily injury
  • $25,000 per accident for property damages

The law also requires all drivers to have uninsured motorist (UM) coverage in the following amounts:

  • $25,000 per person for bodily injury
  • $50,000 per accident for bodily injury

Missouri drivers must keep proof of insurance in their vehicle at all times. If you’re in a Missouri accident and cannot show this proof, the police may issue you a ticket. Plus, it may also lead to hefty fines and suspension of your license. And that will definitely not help your case when trying to determine fault in an accident.

Additional Car Insurance Coverage

The above amounts of liability insurance are the required minimums. However, if you’re found at-fault in an accident, costs can add up fast. As a result, many drivers elect to carry policies with higher coverage amounts, so they don’t end up with massive out-of-pocket expenses.

Also, keep in mind that liability insurance doesn’t cover your car. So, purchasing collision insurance to cover your own damages may be prudent if you need to repair your vehicle.

The same thing goes with medical expenses. If your budget allows it’s wise to consider adding personal injury protection (PIP) or MedPay to your policy.

Is Missouri a No-Fault State?

Missouri car accident laws follow a traditional “at-fault” model, meaning it is an at-fault state. This means anyone who causes an accident will also be financially responsible for resulting damages. This includes physical injuries as well as property damage.

However, it’s generally not as straightforward as one person being at-fault and the other being the victim. That’s because Missouri follows a pure comparative fault system, where both parties involved in a crash may bear some responsibility.

Is Missouri a Comparative Negligence State?

Because Missouri car accident laws work within a framework where multiple parties may share blame, it’s a comparative negligence state.

To better explain the pure comparative fault model that Missouri follows, consider the subsequent example. Let’s say you are driving over the speed limit, but another car runs a stoplight and you two collide. Each of you are partly “guilty” of causing the crash.

The difference with Missouri’s system is that each driver pays according to how responsible they are for the accident. Many other states like Oregon allow you to collect damages only if you’re less than 50% at-fault. This is called a modified comparative fault system.

But in Missouri, it’s possible for you to still collect 1% in damages even if you’re 99% at-fault. Of course, the flip side is you’ll then also be responsible for paying 99% of the damages for everyone else. So, it’s not that big of a win.

Never Talk to Insurance Companies Without a Lawyer

There are several ways a person may make a claim after a Missouri car accident:

  1. By filing a claim on their own insurance policy to cover damages
  2. By filing a third-party claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier
  3. By filing a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver

You can do the first two options without legal assistance. But it’s wiser to retain a skilled car accident attorney before taking lowball settlement amounts from insurance companies.

Insurance companies will always first try to pay the least amount of money possible to claimants. Yes, even if you are not at-fault and are their client. Insurance companies are working to protect their own financial interests, so you must also protect yours.

A lawyer experienced in Missouri car accident law will help you get a better settlement than the adjuster’s first offer. Plus, they’ll be able to advise you about other damages you should potentially seek.

Available Damages in Missouri

Thanks to Missouri’s “no pay, no play” laws, uninsured motorists are unable to recover damages after a car accident. However, insured drivers who think they’re less at-fault may sue for additional compensation to cover their losses.

What types of damages can an accident victim seek? Generally, they will fall under economic or non-economic damages.

Economic Damages

Economic damages are quantifiable losses that result from an accident. These are losses you can typically measure and they’re often monetary.

Examples of economic damages include:

  • Medical bills
  • Automobile repair costs
  • Lost wages or employment
  • Property damages
  • Physical therapy or the purchase of assistive devices (like wheelchairs)

Non-Economic Damages

These are damages that are less quantifiable, thereby making them sometimes harder to prove, but no less hurtful.

Common examples of non-economic damages include:

Missouri Statute of Limitations

Missouri has a comparatively long time limit for filing personal injury cases stemming from collisions.

The statute of limitations for a Missouri car accident claim centering around property damage and personal injuries is five years, according to Mo. Rev. Stat. § 516.120. In both those cases the clock starts ticking from the date of the incident.

In cases where there is a wrongful death, however, the statute cuts down to three years from the victim’s passing.

But whether it’s three years or five, the important thing is not to miss that deadline. If you do, no matter how serious your claim, a court will throw out your case.

Tolling the Statute of Limitations

For legal minors (under the age of 18) in Missouri, the statute of limitations doesn’t begin until age 21. That means a minor could technically wait until age 26 (21 years + 5-year statute of limitations) before filing.

But keep in mind that it’s always better to file sooner than later while details are fresh.

Contact A Local Auto Accident Lawyer Through LegalASAP

Every car accident has variables that may affect a settlement so it’s hard to know what to expect.

There’s no concrete way of calculating what you’re owed due to Missouri’s comparative fault system. It may be left to a judge and jury, and their decision may influence insurance claims as well.

Rather than leaving it all up to chance, we highly suggest scheduling a free consultation with a lawyer. Let LegalASAP connect you with a qualified auto accident attorney covering your area today!

Because while Missouri may have some crazy car accident laws, you don’t want to risk your chances for compensation. And remember, don’t honk your horn unless you mean it.

Kimberly Dawn Neumann

Kimberly Dawn Neumann is a multi-published NYC-based magazine and book writer whose work has appeared in a wide variety of publications ranging from Forbes to Cosmopolitan. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Maryland, College of Journalism. For more, visit: www.KDNeumann.com, Instagram @dancerscribe, and Twitter @KimberlyNeumann