How Long After a Car Accident Can You Sue in Missouri?

How Long After a Car Accident Can You Sue in Missouri?

After a car accident in the state of Missouri, you have five years from the day of the accident to bring a lawsuit.  This law applies to anyone involved in the accident, including the driver, passengers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists. If a death resulted from the accident, you may only have three years to file a lawsuit. With some exceptions, if you fail to file within the time allotted by the statute of limitations, the courts are likely to refuse to hear your case.

Five years may seem like a long time, but it goes by quickly, and you don’t want to find yourself in a position where you are caught short. Because of the statute of limitations and the time it takes to investigate and build your case, it is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible after a car accident to see if you have a case and start legal proceedings.

Why You Should Move Quickly After a Missouri Car Accident

Time is of the essence after a car accident, for many reasons. Insurance companies are always looking to deny or minimize claims, and will tend to regard your case suspiciously if you wait too long or fail to seek medical attention. If you have a case, your attorney will need time to:

  • Meet with you to discuss how the accident happened, and determine who the at-fault parties may be, the extent and permanence of your injuries, the care and treatment you are likely to need, what are your chances of recovering, and the type of settlement to go after.
  • Investigate the accident thoroughly, gathering evidence such as photos and videos from the scene and from police, ambulance and medical reports and interviews with witnesses and first responders. If you wait too long to start investigations, evidence may get lost or disappear and witnesses may be difficult to locate or not remember relevant facts.
  • Thoroughly assess all your damages, including current and future medical bills, all forms of lost income, damaged property and non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering.
  • Consult with experts in accident reconstruction and experts who can testify as to your costs, damages, and the expected effects on your life.
  • Demand damages from the at-fault driver’s insurance company and negotiate aggressively for an out-of-court settlement.
  • If negotiations break down, your attorney must have time to file a lawsuit, and build and take your case to trial to win full and fair compensation.

In most car accident cases, it is preferable to settle before going to trial. Most attorneys will attempt to negotiate with the negligent driver’s attorney or insurance company first and only file a lawsuit if a reasonable settlement offer cannot be agreed upon. If you hire an attorney quickly, your attorney has more time before the statute of limitations runs out to negotiate and achieve a settlement. If you are getting closer to the deadline, your attorney may choose to file right away so you do not miss your chance to file and recover compensation for the damages you received.

Problems With Waiting Too Long to Sue

Even if you manage to meet the statute of limitations deadline, you can hurt your case in several ways by waiting too long to file a case. Over time, you could risk losing evidence to support your claim, such as:

  • Surveillance footage from traffic cameras and dashcams
  • Witness testimony – witnesses may move away or forget details
  • Photos and videos of the scene of the accident that show damages to vehicles, road conditions, and skidmarks
  • Medical evidence — You should get medical attention immediately and make sure everything is documented. Proving the correlation between your injuries and the car accident can become more difficult over time, and insurance companies may claim your injuries came from something other than the accident. Prompt medical intervention will help show that your injuries stem from the accident, ensure that serious injuries are treated, and identify injuries that otherwise might not have become apparent until too late.

Why Are There Time Limits to Sue After a Car Accident?

Missouri’s statute of limitations is longer than that of most states, and the reason is to allow sufficient time to allow you to recover from the accident, to receive medical treatment and see what injuries may appear and what may heal, to determine what costs and damages will be, and to give your attorney sufficient time to perform legal research, negotiate with insurance companies, and decide whether a lawsuit is warranted and worth pursuing.

Some bodily injuries, such as soft tissue damage and whiplash, may not be apparent immediately following the accident and could take months to show up. Other injuries may be so severe and life-altering that it could take years of costly treatment and therapy to recover, and may involve a lifetime of pain and suffering. The five-year deadline ((RSMo. §516.120). allows time to discover all injuries caused by the accident, to understand their severity, and to project what long-term costs and effects will be. For minors under age 18, the statute of limitations does not begin until the age of 21, so an injured minor could wait until the age of 26 before filing a claim.

The wrongful death statute of limitations (RSMo. § 537.080) allows three years from the day of the death to bring a lawsuit. Parties who can bring a wrongful death action are divided into classes. Class One is any “spouse or children or the surviving lineal descendants of any deceased children, natural or adopted, legitimate or illegitimate, or by the father or mother of the deceased, natural or adoptive.” If there are no Class One members, Class Two members, “brother or sister of the deceased, or their descendants,” may bring a lawsuit. Minors younger than 18 years of age or incapacitated can have the courts appoint a “plaintiff ad litem” to prosecute the wrongful death claim on their behalf.

Get Help After a Car Accident Missouri

If you or a loved one has been injured or someone has died in a serious car accident in Missouri, that was caused by the negligence or fault of another party, you should be entitled to receive compensation through an insurance settlement or a personal injury lawsuit, as long as you file before the expiration of the statute of limitations. The experienced attorneys at the Birk Law Firm are here to help. When we sign on as your lawyers, you can count on us for personal, compassionate attention as well as aggressive legal counsel, throughout the entire legal process.

Attorney Kelvin Birk is a Certified Public Accountant as well as a lawyer, and this combined expertise allows our law firm to provide an especially high level of service. We work tirelessly to establish liability and put together a strong case on your behalf, and we do so in a timely manner.

We offer a free consultation and work on a contingency basis so there are no fees to you unless and until we win your case. Call us today at 573-332-8585 to get started.

FREE CONSULT 573-332-8585

Attorney Kelvin Birk

Attorney Kelvin Birk

Kelvin Birk is a lawyer as well as a certified public accountant, with more than 30 years of experience in accounting and tax and business consulting, and more than 20 years of experience in numerous legal matters. This combined expertise allows our law firm to provide a level of service above that of other firms. Whatever your legal situation, your attorney at Birk Law Firm can counsel you as to the tax implications. We have experience in providing myriad legal representation services to residents of southeast Missouri and other areas.. [ Attorney Bio ]