Missouri Personal Injury Laws & Statutory Rules
Missouri laws on personal injury lawsuits. Learn about the time limits to file, compensation available, fault and liability rules, and more.
In this article, we'll look at a few key Missouri laws that may apply after an accident or injury, whether you're pursuing a court case or negotiating an injury settlement with an insurance carrier.
Deadlines for Missouri Personal Injury Lawsuits
Missouri, like other states, has a statute of limitations that affects how long you have to file a court case after an injury. In Missouri, the time limit on bringing a personal injury claim to civil court is five years. If you do not get your lawsuit started by filing a civil complaint within five years, the court will almost certainly refuse to hear your case at all.
You can read Missouri's statute of limitations in full at Title 35, Ch. 516, Sec. 516.120 of the Missouri Revised Statutes.
Shared Fault In Missouri Personal Injury Cases
Like other states, Missouri has a rule that applies to cases in which the injured person is found to share part of the fault for the underlying accident.
Missouri uses a "pure" comparative fault rule, which reduces the compensation an injured person can receive by an amount that is equal to that person's percentage of fault -- no matter how large or small the percentage is.
For example, suppose you're sitting at a red light one day when another driver races up from behind and rear-ends your car. At the time, one of your car's taillights was not working. Eventually, it's decided that your total damages equal $10,000. It's also decided that you were 15 percent at fault for the accident, and the other driver was 85 percent at fault.
Under Missouri's pure comparative fault rule, your damages will be reduced by a percentage equal to the fault assigned to you. Here, that means your total award will be reduced by $1,500, or 15 percent of the $10,000 total. You will be allowed to collect only $8,500 from any other at-fault party.
Because Missouri follows a "pure" comparative fault rule, the calculation is the same no matter how much fault is assigned to you. For example, even if you had been assigned 99 percent of the fault for the accident, you would still technically be allowed to collect one percent of your damages from the other party.
Caps on Injury Damages
Some states have laws that "cap," or limit, damages in personal injury cases. Caps vary from state to state, but popular caps include limits on non-economic "pain and suffering" damages and limits in medical malpractice injury cases.
Missouri currently has no caps in place on damages in personal injury cases. A cap for medical malpractice damages was enacted in 2005, but was struck down by the Missouri Supreme Court in 2012.
"Strict" Liability for Dog Bite/Attack Cases
In many states, dog owners are protected (to some degree) from injury liability the first time their dog injures someone if they had no reason to believe the dog was dangerous. This is often called a "one bite" rule. In Missouri however, a specific statute (Mo. Rev. Stat. 273.036) makes the owner "strictly liable", meaning regardless of the animal's past behavior, the dog owner is responsible for a personal injury caused by his/her dog. Specifically, the statute reads:
“The owner or possessor of any dog that bites, without provocation, any person while such person is on public property, or lawfully on private property, including the property of the owner or possessor of the dog, is strictly liable for damages suffered by persons bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner's or possessor's knowledge of such viciousness.”
Injury Claims Against the Government
Injury claims that involve the negligence of a government agency or employee follow a different set of rules than those in other types of personal injury cases. In Missouri, an injury claim against the state government should be filed with the Office of Administration's Risk Management Division. You have only 90 days to file a formal claim against a city in Missouri.
Plenty of in-depth information on government-related injury claims can be found in our Injury Claims Against the Government section.