Statute of Limitations on Car Accidents in Missouri: Understanding Your Timeframe for Legal Action

Photo of a T-Bone Car Crash

Missouri had more than one thousand fatal traffic crashes in 2021. This is a record high since 2006. While a large percentage of accidents in the state do not have any fatalities, victims often suffer serious injuries. Whether you need to file a wrongful death or personal injury claim or take any other legal action, you need to do so within the statute of limitations. In this blog, we explore the importance of the statute of limitations for car accident cases in Missouri.

Understanding the Statute of Limitations

The victims of car crashes have the right to seek compensation for their injuries and damages. However, they need to initiate legal action within a specified time frame. If they miss the deadline, they will lose the right to file a lawsuit. 

The objective of a statute of limitations is to ensure fairness for all parties involved. This system helps prevent anyone from bringing forward an old case for which gathering evidence can be challenging. The quality of the evidence can deteriorate over time. For example, there would be concerns about the reliability and accuracy of witness testimony about an incident that happened many years ago. 

Having a statute of limitations also helps prompt timely resolution to conflicts as it encourages people to take legal action quickly. It also helps balance the rights of plaintiffs and defendants, who need to be given a fair opportunity to defend themselves. In addition, bringing old cases to court can also increase the backlog. 

Missouri’s Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents

Every state has a different statute of limitations for car accident cases and other types of injury lawsuits. In the state of Missouri, you have five years from the time of the accident to file a lawsuit. If the accident resulted in a fatality, then the statute of limitations is three years from the time of the death — not from the date of the accident. If the case is against a government entity, then the statute of limitations could be less. 

There are some situations that offer an extension to the statute of limitations for car accidents in Missouri. If the injured person is under the age of 18 at the time of the accident, the statute of limitations can be “paused” until their 18th birthday. In other words, a minor has five years from when they turn 18 to initiate legal action against the liable party. 

Another exception to the case is when the injured is incapacitated through a disability. The statute of limitations will start when the incapacity ends. This exception provides an opportunity for the injured individual to seek compensation for the suffering when they recover from their disability or incapacity. 

Consequences of Missing the Deadline

If you miss the deadline to file a claim, the defendant’s legal team can file a motion to dismiss the case. The court is likely to accept the motion as per the state laws unless there is a rare exception that applies to your case. That means you will no longer be able to recover compensation for your damages. 

Even if you feel you have plenty of time to initiate legal action, it’s best not to wait too long or get too close to the deadline. Any unforeseen circumstances can cause delays, so it is best to give yourself extra time by filing as soon as possible. There are some merits to waiting before you file a lawsuit. For example, if the victim suffered serious injuries, they might wait until they have reached maximum medical recovery to have a better understanding of the severity of the injuries. This will influence the compensation they seek. In any case, you should try your best to file a lawsuit as soon as possible. 

Legal Resources and Support

You can initiate legal action against the responsible party by filing a claim with the insurance company. You can work with an attorney to determine who is liable for the accident. You can negotiate with the insurance company, however, if you believe the negotiations are not leading to a fair settlement, you can file a lawsuit. 

If you need legal guidance or representation for a car accident claim or lawsuit, you should get in touch with an attorney. They can assess your case and guide you on your rights and obligations. Automobile accident lawyers are experienced in communicating with auto insurance companies, and they can handle negotiations for an out-of-court settlement. If needed, they can take the case to trial.