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The Role of Comparative Negligence in Car Accident Cases and How It Impacts Your Compensation

Buchanan Williams & O’Brien can explain how comparative negligence in car accident cases impacts your compensation. Call us for more information.

We are personal injury experts who have achieved results for our clients in Missouri for over 40 years.

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What Is Comparative Negligence?

Car accidents often involve more than one vehicle/individual. In such cases, it may be difficult to determine who should pay for the losses or injuries sustained by the victim(s).

The principle of comparative negligence, as applied across Missouri, provides a solution to this challenge. Comparative negligence is used to allocate fault or blame to the parties involved in an accident. The percentage of fault apportioned to a party determines the extent of their liability to pay the injured party. Conversely, the amount of fault attributed to the injured party determines how much they can get as compensation from the other party or their insurance company.

If you’ve suffered personal injury or property damage in a Missouri car accident, your ability to recover adequate compensation largely depends on your understanding of the comparative negligence laws in the state.

This guide explains how the principle works and offers some suggestions to help you maximize your compensation under the system.

The Role of Comparative Negligence in Car Accident Cases

The comparative negligence principle is based on the premise that individuals have a duty to care for themselves and protect themselves from harm as much as possible. Where an individual fails to take proper care and harm comes to them, they share in the blame for the harmful incident. As such, they must bear part of the financial cost for the harm they suffered. 

For example, Driver A, who has faulty brake lights, slows down to execute a turn. Driver B who is overspeeding, discovers too late that Driver A is slowing down because Driver A’s brake lights don’t work. Driver B crashes into the rear of Driver A’s car, and Driver A bumps and injures his head on the steering wheel; his car is also damaged in the process.

Because Missouri is an at-fault state and not a no-fault state, the first issue to be determined when Driver A files a compensation claim is the issue of fault or responsibility. Since both parties in the above scenario bear some fault for the accident to varying degrees, the court or insurance company will assign a percentage of blame to each party.

The percentage of blame allocated to each party determines how much compensation the injured person can get out of the total damage/loss they have suffered. Say Driver A’s losses are assessed at $100,000. If Driver A is determined to be 30% responsible for the accident, and Driver B’s liability is pegged at 70%, Driver A would only be entitled to $70,000 (which is 70% of $100,000) from Driver B or their insurance company.

Types of Comparative Negligence 


Different versions of the comparative negligence rule are applied across the country as follows:

Modified Comparative Negligence

A party in a modified comparative fault state can only recover damages if the percentage of fault they are assigned is below a certain threshold, typically 50%. If their liability exceeds the bar, they may not get compensation.

Pure Comparative Negligence 

In pure comparative negligence states, an injured party can recover damages even if they are 99 percent to blame. The only implication is that the damages they are entitled to will be reduced according to the percentage assigned to the other party.

Missouri is a pure comparative negligence state. If you were injured in an accident and feel you somehow contributed to the incident, do not be afraid to seek compensation. Your contribution does not erase your right to file a compensation claim. You could still recover a substantial amount to offset some of your expenses. Contact Missouri personal injury attorneys to learn how.

How Insurance Companies Assess Damages and Determine Comparative Negligence

Most car accident claims in Missouri are handled by insurance companies. When you file an insurance compensation claim with the other driver’s insurance provider, the company would need to

  • Determine who is at fault

  • Evaluate the extent of damage 

  • Determine the amount that would cover the said damage.

For this purpose, insurance companies will thoroughly investigate compensation claims before making any payment. During the investigations, insurance adjusters may interview witnesses, including the person claiming compensation and road accident experts. They may also examine relevant documents such as:

  • Accident reports

  • Medical records

  • Pictures of the scene.

All of this is to help them clarify the actual events that led to the accident and the extent of your injuries. 

At this stage, you may need to provide the insurance adjuster with evidence supporting your claim to help them assess your damages appropriately. Hence it is important to document and keep all receipts of any expenses that resulted from the accident handy.

If you need help with the documents to submit, you can seek help from an experienced personal injury lawyer who understands how to build solid compensation claims. They can help you identify the type of evidence that you need to succeed with your case.

What Happens After Fault Is Established?


After your damages are assessed and the fault is established, the insurance company will compensate you for your economic and non-economic losses. However, the exact amount will depend on the percentage of fault assigned to you.

Economic damages cover the financial losses you suffered due to the accident, such as medical expenses and lost wages. These damages can be calculated and verified easily. As such, it is difficult for insurance companies to give you anything less than what you’re entitled to.

In contrast, non-economic damages, such as damages for pain and suffering or emotional distress, are difficult to quantify or calculate. Insurance companies typically try to downplay these losses to reduce the compensation you can get here. You may need a skilled personal injury attorney to go head-to-head with them and ensure you’re not short-changed.

Can You Sue the At-Fault Party’s Car Insurance Company?

Car accident victims who feel cheated by insurance companies may wonder, “Can I sue a car insurance company?“. Insurance companies are not infallible and may sometimes be dishonest. Many of them only care about their profit margins and will do anything to minimize the amount they have to pay. So, yes. You can sue the insurance company if you think they wrongly assessed your fault to reduce the amount they’d have to pay. Speak with skilled auto accident lawyers to learn how.

Contact Reputable Attorneys in Missouri for Help With Your Personal Injury Case

If you have further questions about how comparative fault/negligence works in Missouri or how to get compensation after your car accident, you can rely on us at the law firm of Buchanan, Williams & O’Brien for answers that work. 

Our capable attorneys understand how Missouri car accident laws work and can help you prepare a solid insurance claim. Even if the insurance company tries to short-change you, we are ready to fight for you and ensure that you get the maximum compensation possible under the comparative negligence system.

Contact us immediately. Let us work with you to secure your benefits.

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