One of our jobs as a leading personal injury law firm in St Louis is to anticipate the arguments the insurance companies and defense lawyers will assert. Many arguments have little or no merit. When defenses have some merit, we are skilled at rebutting them. Some defenses are common to all the accidents that we handle – car accidents, truck accidents, rideshare crashes, premises liability accidents, and other accidents. Some accidents are unique to the type of claim you have or the type of injuries you have.
Many defenses are legal arguments that we can handle directly. Other defenses are factual arguments about what actually happened, like who had the right of way. Factual defenses also include questioning the severity of your injuries; for example, insurance companies often will argue that your failure to seek immediate medical help means you weren’t seriously hurt. In many cases, the arguments are just attempts by the insurance company to delay settling your case in the hope that you’ll make a poor settlement.
The statute of limitations for accident claims in St. Louis
Claiming you are time-barred from collecting compensation is a legal defense. If you are involved in a car accident, motorcycle accident, or any type of accident, you have a preset amount of time to file your accident claim. If a loved one is killed due to the negligence or fault of others, the family has a preset amount of time to file the claim. If you do not file a complaint within the statute of limitations date, then you will completely lose the right to file your claim.
In Missouri, the statute of limitations for filing an accident claim is complicated. Generally, those time limits are:
- A car accident claim must be filed within five years of the date of the accident.
- A wrongful death claim must be filed within three years from the date of the accident.
But some cases must be filed sooner, and in some cases, the statute may be tolled, meaning a victim may have longer to file than you think. The best course of action is to speak with an experienced car accident lawyer as quickly as possible. The sooner you speak with us, the sooner we can answer your questions, investigate the accident, and speak with your doctors.
Procedural defects as a defense
The complaint must be properly served on the defendants. The service of a complaint can be complicated if a defendant has moved or lives in another state.
The complaint must set forth information about what happened and what the victim is claiming. You need to say a lot more than just, “I was in a recent car accident and my leg is broken.” If there are discrepancies in your filing, you can be barred from collecting. This is one reason why working with a St. Louis car accident attorney is a critical component to success. We can ensure that your case is filed correctly.
Contesting fault in a St. Louis personal injury claim
In claims against a driver, property owner, or other defendants, the burden is on the victim to prove his/her claim by a preponderance of the evidence. A preponderance of the evidence essentially means – “more likely than not.”
Our St. Louis accident lawyers work with investigators who investigate the accident site, speak with witnesses, and examine any physical damage, such as the damage to the vehicles or property. We question the defendants and witnesses through a formal oral question and answer session called a deposition. We also question the defendants through a formal written question and answer process called interrogatories. We also demand that the defendants produce all relevant records such as prior repairs to property or the phone records of a distracted driver.
Missouri is a fault-state, which means accident victims must prove the defendant was negligent or strictly liable for their injuries.
The role of comparative negligence in your case
Comparative negligence is essentially a defense that claims the victim was partially responsible for the accident. For example, if a driver struck your car while the driver was distracted, you have a strong basis for holding the driver responsible for your injuries. However, that driver can claim that you were speeding, and your fast driving also helped cause the accident.
In Missouri, the amount of your damage claim will be reduced by your amount of fault. For example, if your case is worth $100,000 and you were 20% at fault, your award should be $80,000.
An injury victim’s duty to mitigate damages
If you’re hurt, you do have a duty to mitigate your damages. This means you can’t purposely fail to try to make your condition better. Insurance adjusters and defense lawyers understand what treatments are common for the types of injuries you have. If you fail to see your doctors and follow their advice, they will argue that your claim for pain and suffering and medical bills should be reduced.
Naming other liable parties
Car and truck drivers will often try to blame other people or companies. For example, truck drivers often will claim that the trucking company that hired them failed to secure the load or that a truck manufacturer made defective hydraulic brakes. Property owners may argue that they told their maintenance company or repair companies to fix the problem and that they failed to do so.
We don’t let liable parties “pass the buck,” but we will work to hold all liable parties accountable. That means we may file a suit against the truck driver as well as the trucking company, and let them duke it out to see who pays what. In the end, what is important to use is that anyone who acted negligently is held to account for their actions.
The Act of God Defense
An "Act of God” is normally some event that the defendant couldn’t control. For example, a driver may argue that a thunderstorm struck out of nowhere. Another "Act of God” example is when a deer runs across the road and the driver strikes your car to avoid hitting the deer.
These cases are rare. When they do occur, a St. Louis personal injury lawyer from our firm works to show that – even with the act of God – the defendant was still negligent. For example, a driver may be liable if he/she didn’t have the car lights on when the deer ran across the road.
At The Hayden Law Firm, we understand the excuses and defenses insurance adjusters and defense lawyers make. We’re ready for them. We work to avoid legal challenges and to respond to legal defenses when they are raised. Our attorneys work methodically to show factual defenses should not apply. To schedule a free consultation with a St. Louis personal injury lawyer, call us at 314-668-3100 or use our contact form to schedule an appointment. We are based in St. Louis, Missouri. We represent clients across Missouri and Illinois.
Attorney Amanda L. Hayden has dedicated her legal career to fearlessly advocating for clients and their families after their lives have been devastated by the careless and/or reckless conduct of others.
Read more about Amanda L. Hayden