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April 25, 2024

What is Comparative Negligence and How Does it Work in Missouri? Why is it important?

Negligence is a foundational element of personal injury cases that determines liability and whether a plaintiff is entitled to compensation. Missouri’s approach to handling negligence in personal injury cases is governed by a legal doctrine known as “comparative negligence.” Comparative negligence is used to allocate fault among multiple parties involved in an accident. Unlike the traditional “contributory negligence” approach, which bars plaintiffs from recovering damages if they are found to be even minimally at fault, comparative negligence allows for a more nuanced distribution of liability based on the degree of fault attributable to each party.

Missouri adopts the “pure comparative negligence” model. Under this system, a plaintiff can recover damages even if they are found to be 99% at fault for the accident. However, the amount of compensation they receive is reduced by their percentage of fault. For example, if a plaintiff is awarded $100,000 in damages but is found to be 30% at fault, the plaintiff would only receive $70,000.

Legal Framework and Statutes
Missouri’s comparative negligence laws are codified in the Revised Statutes of Missouri (RSMo). These statutes provide the legal framework for determining fault and allocating damages in personal injury cases. Courts rely on these statutes, along with relevant case law, to assess the degree of negligence attributable to each party involved in a claim.

Comparative Negligence in Different Types of Claims

Missouri’s comparative negligence laws apply across a wide range of personal injury claims, including but not limited to:

  • Vehicle Accidents: In accidents involving cars, trucks, motorcycles, or other vehicles, fault can be shared among drivers, pedestrians, and even entities responsible for road maintenance.
  • Slip and Fall Incidents: Property owners and occupants can be held liable for accidents occurring on their premises. However, the injured party’s negligence (e.g., not paying attention to warning signs) can reduce their compensation.
  • Product Liability Cases: When defective products cause harm, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers can be found liable. Still, the injured person’s negligence in using the product can affect the outcome.

Navigating Comparative Negligence Claims

For individuals involved in personal injury claims in Missouri, understanding and navigating the nuances of comparative negligence laws can be complex. It often requires:

  • Legal Representation: Engaging with experienced personal injury attorneys can provide crucial guidance and representation, especially in accurately establishing fault and negotiating fair compensation.
  • Evidence Collection: Building a strong case involves thorough documentation of the incident, including gathering evidence and securing witness testimony.
  • Timely Action: Adhering to Missouri’s statute of limitations for personal injury claims is vital. Failure to file a claim within the specified timeframe can bar recovery. Because of that, it is important for an injured person to contact an attorney immediately.

Missouri’s pure comparative negligence laws offer a fair and equitable framework for resolving personal injury claims, ensuring that damages are distributed based on the degree of fault. However, the complexity of determining fault percentages and navigating legal proceedings underscores the importance of seeking knowledgeable legal advice. By understanding the intricacies of comparative negligence, individuals can better protect their rights and secure the compensation they deserve following an accident.

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