Missouri Personal Injury FAQ

 - Man suffering back ache moving boxes - Ryan R. Cox & Associates, LLC

Understanding Personal Injury Law

Accidents can happen in the blink of an eye, be it a car accident, a slip and fall at a store, or an unexpected dog bite. Understanding personal injury law in Missouri is important when you or a loved one are affected. Here, we’ve gathered some of the most common questions and provided clear answers to guide you.

What is Personal Injury?

Personal injury refers to harm or damage inflicted upon an individual’s body, mind, or emotions due to someone else’s negligence or intentional actions.

  • Different Types of Personal Injuries: The realm of personal injury is vast. It encompasses a variety of incidents, including car accidents, slip and fall incidents, dog bites, medical malpractice, wrongful death, workers’ compensation claims, and product liability cases, to name a few.
  • Causes of Personal Injuries: Personal injuries can arise from many situations. A negligent driver might cause a car accident, a property owner may neglect a slippery floor, leading to a slip and fall, or a medical professional might commit an error leading to medical malpractice.

What is the Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims in Missouri?

The statute of limitations is the legal time limit within which you must file a lawsuit. In Missouri, the general statute of limitations for personal injury claims is five years from the date of the injury.

If you attempt to file a claim after this time frame, the court is likely to dismiss your case.

What is Comparative Fault?

Comparative fault is a legal concept that looks at the degree of fault of each party involved in an accident. In essence, it means that your compensation might be reduced based on your percentage of fault.

Comparative Fault in Missouri

Missouri operates under the “pure comparative fault” system. Let’s say you’re found to be 20% at fault in a car accident. If you were to receive a settlement or award of $10,000, it would be reduced by 20%, leaving you with $8,000.

What Are the Different Types of Damages That Can Be Awarded in a Personal Injury Case?

In the aftermath of a personal injury, victims often face numerous challenges, from medical bills to emotional trauma. The legal system aims to make them “whole” again by awarding damages. Here’s a look at the various types of damages you might receive in a personal injury case:

Compensatory Damages

These are designed to compensate you for the actual losses you sustained. They can be further broken down into:

  • Economic Damages: These cover tangible financial losses. Common examples include medical expenses, lost wages, rehabilitation costs, and property damage.
  • Non-Economic Damages: These compensate for non-tangible losses. They include pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of companionship, and reduced quality of life.

Punitive Damages

Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages aren’t about compensating the victim. Instead, they aim to punish the wrongdoer for particularly egregious or malicious behavior and serve as a deterrent for others. Not every personal injury case will have punitive damages awarded.

How Are Damages Calculated in a Personal Injury Case?

Calculating damages in a personal injury case requires a comprehensive assessment of the victim’s losses and how the injury might impact their future:

Economic Damages

These are relatively straightforward to calculate as they deal with concrete numbers. For instance:

  • Medical bills can be added up.
  • Lost wages can be determined by looking at one’s salary or hourly wage and factoring in the time missed from work.
  • Future medical expenses or loss of earning capacity might require expert testimonies to estimate potential costs and losses.

Non-Economic Damages

These are more subjective and can vary significantly based on the specifics of the case. Factors considered might include:

  • The severity of the injury.
  • The level of physical and emotional pain.
  • The duration of recovery.
  • Long-term implications of the injury.

When considering damages, the guidance of a seasoned attorney, like Ryan Cox at Ryan R. Cox & Associates, LLC, is valuable. We can guide you through the process, ensuring that every potential loss, both current and future, is adequately accounted for and represented in your claim.

When Should I Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer?

Immediately after an accident or injury, seek medical attention and ensure your well-being. Once your immediate medical needs are addressed, it’s wise to consider legal representation. Ideally, you should consult a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible, especially before making any statements or settlements with insurance companies.

Early consultation ensures that:

  • Your rights are protected from the outset.
  • Crucial evidence is preserved for trial.
  • Professional guidance is available during interactions with other parties involved.

What Should I Look for in a Personal Injury Lawyer?

Finding the right lawyer can make all the difference in the outcome of your case. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Experience: You’ll want a lawyer well-versed in personal injury law, particularly concerning cases similar to yours, whether it’s a car accident, slip and fall, or medical malpractice.
  • Reputation: Look for lawyers with a strong track record of success. Client reviews, professional endorsements, and recognitions can provide insights.
  • Communication: A good lawyer should be available to answer your questions, keep you updated on your case, and explain complex legal jargon in terms you can understand.
  • Resources: Effective representation may require resources like expert witnesses, accident reconstructionists, or medical professionals. Ensure your attorney has access to these if needed.
  • Contingency Fee Basis: Most personal injury lawyers, including Ryan R. Cox & Associates, LLC, operate on a contingency fee basis, meaning they only get paid if you win.

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer?

For many victims, the idea of legal fees can be scary. Fortunately, most personal injury lawyers operate on a contingency fee basis. This means:

  • There’s no upfront cost for hiring the lawyer.
  • The lawyer’s fees come as a percentage of the settlement or judgment. If you don’t win, you don’t owe any attorney’s fees.
  • Expenses like court costs, expert witness fees, and other case-related costs might be deducted from the settlement or judgment. Always ensure you understand how these expenses are handled.

In essence, working with a personal injury lawyer should be financially accessible to anyone, regardless of their current financial situation. If you or a loved one has been injured due to someone else’s negligence, it’s crucial to have a dedicated team like Ryan R. Cox & Associates, LLC, by your side. Our focus is on getting you the compensation you deserve while you focus on healing.

What Should I Do If I Have Been Injured in an Accident?

Experiencing an accident can be traumatic and overwhelming. Taking the right steps after the accident not only ensures your safety and well-being but also strengthens any potential legal claim you might pursue. Here’s a guide to follow:

  • Prioritize Safety: If you’re in a situation where you’re at risk of further harm, such as a car accident on a busy road, try to move to a safer location if possible without causing further injury.
  • Seek Medical Attention: Even if your injuries seem minor, get checked by a medical professional. Some injuries, like internal bleeding or concussions, might not manifest symptoms immediately.
  • Report the Accident: For car accidents, call the police and ensure an official report is filed. For slips and falls, notify the property owner or manager. For dog bites, report to local animal control or the police.
  • Document Everything: Take photos of the accident scene, your injuries, and any property damage. If there were witnesses, collect their contact information. Make notes about the accident while your memory is fresh.
  • Avoid Admitting Fault: Be cautious about what you say at the accident scene. Even a simple “I’m sorry” can be misinterpreted as an admission of guilt.
  • Notify Your Insurance: If the accident involves situations like car crashes or injuries on your property, notify your insurance company about the accident. Be factual, but refrain from making any statements that could be against your interest.
  • Keep Track of Medical Treatments: Document all medical visits, treatments, medications, and any other relevant medical expenses. This documentation will be crucial for any potential compensation claims.
  • Avoid Early Settlement Offers: Insurance companies may approach you with a settlement offer soon after the accident. It’s advisable not to accept any offers until you’ve consulted with a personal injury lawyer. Initial offers are often lower than what victims are entitled to.
  • Consult a Personal Injury Lawyer: Ryan R. Cox & Associates, LLC, can provide guidance tailored to your situation. We can evaluate the merit of your claim, estimate its value, and navigate the complexities of the legal process on your behalf.
  • Focus on Recovery: Your well-being should always come first. Follow medical advice, attend follow-up visits, and give yourself the time and care needed to recover.

Remember, each accident is unique, so the best course of action can vary based on the circumstances. But by following these general guidelines and seeking the counsel of dedicated professionals like Ryan R. Cox & Associates, LLC, you’ll be in a strong position to protect your rights and well-being.