Proving Fault in a Car Accident: The Importance of Evidence and Establishing Negligence
Being in a car accident is a terrible experience. Negligent drivers can cause devastating injuries, property damage, and other losses. Before you can file a claim to seek compensation, however, you must determine who is at fault – even if you think it’s obvious, proving your case can be time-consuming and difficult, especially if you’re suffering from an injury. If you have recently been involved in a car accident, it’s important to understand the process of proving fault to build a strong case.
In a personal injury lawsuit, the injured party must prove that the defendant was at fault for the accident before they can claim any damages. The laws concerning a car accident may sound straightforward, but the laws in Missouri and Kansas are complex; there are many factors to consider. Tackling a personal injury claim on your own probably won’t end well. Even if you were to successfully negotiate a settlement with an insurance company, you’d likely receive far less compensation than you deserve. To win a car accident lawsuit, it’s best to retain a personal injury attorney to help prove that you were not at fault.
Experienced Legal Representation is Key:
Kansas City car accident lawyers like Donovan Dodrill conduct thorough investigations into the circumstances of an accident so their clients can concentrate on recovering from their injuries without having to struggle through paperwork, medical bills, and calls from unhelpful insurance adjusters. Attorney Dodrill has represented hundreds of clients just like you and knows all too well what a frustrating experience it can be. He fully understands the laws and regulations that govern car accidents and has successfully represented car accident plaintiffs across the country.
What does it mean that Kansas is a “no-fault” state?
Given that Kansas City, Missouri is right on the Kansas State line, it’s important to note that the laws differ between the two states.
No-fault jurisdictions like Kansas, also known as “PIP States,” have special requirements that provide certain limited protections to parties when someone is injured in a motor vehicle collision (Kansas is a “No-Fault” jurisdiction only with respect to motor vehicle collisions). Before addressing the concept and fallibility of “no-fault” states, there are a few terms to define:
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Benefits: KSA 40-3103 requires that all Kansas auto insurance policies carry a minimum of $4,500.00 in PIP benefits.
Fun fact: because minimum PIP benefits ($4,500.00) in Kansas are required by statute, ANY VEHICLE that rolls over State Line Road into Kansas has PIP benefits regardless of the insurance policy language. Those policies are amended by operation of law to contain PIP benefits.
Tort requirement: KSA 40-3117 requires that a minimum of $2,000.00 in medical treatment costs be incurred by a party injured in a motor vehicle collision before they are eligible to bring a third-party claim for injuries; The Tort Requirement only applies to MVCs and no other forms of personal injuries sustained in Kansas.
Subrogation: A subrogation right (usually contractual, but in Kansas, it’s by Statute 40-3113(a)(e)) is the right of one insurance company to make itself whole from proceeds paid by another insurance company.
So, you do not find insurance companies subrogating against people, just insurance companies. This is where things start to get real for clients.
Kansas is a no fault jurisdiction only insofar as the application of personal injury benefits apply. Regardless of which party is at fault for causing the accident, the PIP benefits for each party’s insurance company will apply to their respective treatment costs. However, once one party is determined to be at fault, PIP benefits are subrogateable against the at-fault party, and the entire “no-fault” system breaks down.
Here are some examples:
A single vehicle collision: When a drunk driver hits a telephone pole and sustains injuries, his PIP (whatever his limits are) will be the primary insurance that reaches his treatment expenses. Because he’s 100% at fault and there’s no other insurance policy in play, subrogation does not apply.
A two-vehicle collision with one party at fault: When the same drunk driver runs a red light and strikes another vehicle, that drunk driver’s insurance still pays out PIP for him, and the insurance company covering the not-at-fault party pays out PIP for the injuries/treatment of their driver. However, when the party not at fault hires an accident attorney who negotiates a settlement against the drunk’s insurance company, their PIP carrier will want their money back.
The payment of a third-party settlement consists of insurance proceeds, and the PIP carrier for the injured party can subrogate against the settlement proceeds. In short, the party not at fault’s PIP carrier gets their money back because someone was at fault.
Fun fact: if a Kansas-insured driver (with PIP benefits under their contract) is in a collision in Missouri, the PIP benefits that are paid out are NO LONGER SUBJECT TO SUBROGATION and it operates just like MEDPAY in Missouri.
Proving Fault in a Kansas City, Missouri Car Accident:
Missouri is an “At Fault” State. If you’re in a Missouri car accident, the at-fault driver’s insurance is primarily responsible for paying damages in a claim. That’s why it’s so important to determine which party is responsible for causing a car accident.
The first step in determining fault is to collect evidence. This might include photographs of the accident scene, eyewitness accounts, or even video footage from a traffic cam. The official police reports and accident reconstruction reports are particularly useful. Then, once the evidence has been gathered, the legal principle of negligence can be established.
Simple negligence is a cause of action defined by tort law that establishes the standard of care a reasonable person should exercise in certain situations. In a car accident, for example, the doctrine of negligence is used to determine whether a driver had a duty to exercise reasonable care and failed to do so, which then resulted in harm to the injured party. If a driver’s actions (or inactions) are found to be negligent, they can be held liable for any damages they caused.
Negligence can be proven when the following statements are factual:
- Duty of Care: In Missouri all operators of motor vehicles owe other drivers and pedestrians a duty of the “Highest degree of care.” R.S.Mo. Section 304.012. 1; and Country-man v. Seymour R-II Sch. Dist., 823 S.W.2d 515 (Mo. App. 1992) “Highest degree of care means that degree of care which a very careful and prudent person would exercise under similar circumstances.” citing Martin v. Turner, 306 S.W.2d 473 (Mo. 1957).
- Breach of Duty: The defendant failed to meet the required standard of care.
- Causation: The defendant’s breach of that duty was both the actual and proximate cause of the accident.
- Damages: Damages are a required element of the cause of action. A person does not have a personal injury claim without a measurable, quantifiable personal injury.
In other words, a car accident attorney can prove negligence when the driver had a duty to exercise reasonable care, breached that duty, and that their breach caused the plaintiff’s injury. The strength of the evidence and the ability to establish these four elements will play a significant role in the lawsuit’s success and the potential for obtaining compensation.
Contact Plaza Injury Law:
Personal injury attorneys like Donovan Dodrill play a critical role in helping to prove fault for a car accident claim. With his extensive knowledge of the law, investigative skills, and persuasive communication, he will help to ensure that you receive the compensation you’re entitled to. Contact Plaza Injury Law today at (816) 945-4409 for a confidential and free consultation.
 … medical treatment of a kind described in this act as medical benefits, having a reasonable value of $2,000 or more, or the injury consists in whole or in part of permanent disfigurement, a fracture to a weight-bearing bone, a compound, comminuted, displaced or compressed fracture, loss of a body member, permanent injury within reasonable medical probability, permanent loss of a bodily function or death.