A Complete Guide to Car Accident Cases

Hire A Lawyer For Your Car Accident ASAP

Car accidents can be uncomfortable at best and life-altering at their very worst. Sadly, there’s rarely any notice, if ever, when a car accident is about to happen. They come out of the blue and will often leave you stunned, confused or even fighting for your life. 

If you have been injured or suffered loss in a car accident, you should know that Missouri laws entitled you to pursue compensation. You may be able to hold the responsible person accountable and recover damages for your injuries. 

However, knowing that you have a right to compensation and understanding how to go about it are often very different propositions. There are several complex legal rules that guide the process and more than a few stages you may have to go through. 

Knowing this, we have prepared this car accident guide to help you understand the claims process. However, your best course of action is to pick up the phone and call one of our St. Louis car accident attorneys here at Combs Waterkotte. We can explain what you should know about these accidents and the steps you will be required to take at each stage.  Let’s review some of the most important concepts to keep in mind for a car accident case.

What are the most common types of car accidents and injuries?

Car accidents happen very often, perhaps more often than most people realize. The NHTSA reports that millions of accidents occur in the US every year. Further statistics indicate that the average driver will be involved in 3-4 accidents during their lifetime. 

These include a variety of accidents of increasing severity such as: 

  • Head on collisions 
  • Rear end collisions 
  • T-bone accidents 
  • Pileups
  • Sideswipe collisions 

When these accidents occur, they can lead to severe injury for all drivers involved, their passengers and even pedestrians or bystanders. Many of these injuries will require extensive medical treatment, stitches or even therapy in order to return the victim to their pre-accident state. Some of these injuries include: 

  • Whiplash 
  • Lacerations and abrasions 
  • Broken bones 
  • Bone fractures 
  • Chest and rib injuries 
  • Head and traumatic brain injuries 

What to do if you have been injured in a car accident 

Since they usually happen without notice, the aftermath of a car accident can be a very confusing period. It’s perfectly okay to feel flustered or overwhelmed after the accident. 

After the accident, you may want to pursue compensation against the responsible driver, either for your injuries or the damage to your vehicle. But in order for your claim to be successful, you should immediately follow these steps after the accident: 

  • Report the accident. Call 911 immediately to inform them about the accident. Missouri laws require you to file a report with the Driver License Bureau if the accident involved an uninsured driver or property damage above $500. 
  • Remain at the scene. It is a crime to leave the scene before law enforcement arrives. 
  • Exchange information with the other driver. You are required to collect the personal information and insurance details of everyone involved in the accident. 
  • Seek medical attention. Let emergency services look you over and take you to the hospital if necessary. 
  • Gather evidence. Take photo and videos of the accident scene, paying particular attention to vehicle damage, skid marks and the surroundings. See if there are any witnesses to the accident and collect their contact information. 
  • Write down all you can recall. Things may start to get fuzzy after the accident. So, sit and write as soon as you can. 
  • Hire an attorney. Contact a St. Louis car accident lawyer as soon as you can to get a positive head start on your claim.

Most people will also call their insurance companies right away. However, you must keep in mind that insurance companies are not always acting in your best interest, not even your own insurance company. They are on a mission to minimize the amount they have to payout for the claim. By all means, feel free to contact your insurance company to report the accident. However, do not sign anything until you’ve spoken with an attorney.

How do you file a St. Louis car accident case? 

In the days following the accident, your focus should typically be on receiving medical treatment for your injuries. If you have contacted a St. Louis car accident attorney, they will already be working on your claim. 

However, do not be surprised if they want to wait until you have received sufficient medical treatment before they file. Attorneys typically want you to reach a point of “maximum medical improvement” before they file your claim. This way they can get a very good idea of your medical expenses, both current and future. 

The claims process will involve the following steps: 

  • Evaluate and investigate your claim. This will be important to establish the true circumstances of the accident and secure evidence that shows what really happened. Your attorney may also assist you in securing the assistance of experts such as health consultants and accident reconstruction experts to establish your claim and the likely sum of compensation you are entitled to.  
  • Send a demand letter. Once they are certain that your claim is water tight, your attorney will typically send a demand letter to the at-fault driver’s insurer. The letter will outline your case and demand a specific sum as compensation. 
  • Engage in negotiation. The insurance company will usually respond to your demand letter, either denying your claim or making a settlement offer. This first offer is unlikely to be what you demand and so negotiation will ensue. 
  • File a lawsuit. If the insurance company fails to match your expectation of fair compensation, your attorney will file a lawsuit on your behalf. Although most cases rarely get to this point, a lawsuit may be necessary to get the insurer to see things your way. 

You can read more detailed information about how the claims process works here

How to choose a St. Louis car accident attorney? 

If you don’t already have an attorney, you should ideally speak with one before launching into the claims process. 

While you do not absolutely have to retain an attorney, having an experienced St. Louis Car accident lawyer on your side can be crucial to receiving the compensation you desire. This will especially be the case if your car accident case involves serious injury such as broken bones, amputation, or disfigurement. 

In deciding on a car accident attorney, your focus should be on finding someone that is experienced, knowledgeable and that specializes in Missouri car accident cases. You also want an attorney that has time for you and will diligently handle your case. How do you go about finding such an attorney? 

  • Start with referrals. Ask your friends and family for referrals or go online and check attorney review sites such as Avvo. 
  • Make a shortlist. Identify those attorneys that meet your criteria and make a shortlist of those you’d like to try. 
  • Meet your lawyer in person. Ideally, meet each of these attorneys in person so you can get a feel for them. 
  • Clarify all the terms. Ask questions about everything, including the attorney’s fees, their experience, and how they propose to handle your case. 

If you like, you can also begin your search right here. The Combs Waterkotte is regarded as one of the foremost personal injury law firms in the entire St. Louis area. We offer free initial consultations so it will cost you absolutely nothing to see if we can help you. Call us today at (314) 900-HELP to speak with one of our attorneys for free or fill out a contact form and we will call you back right away. 

What are the next steps for your car accident lawsuit? 

Now that you understand how a car accident case usually proceeds, your next step should be to contact a law firm or attorney competent enough to handle your case. 

The attorneys will listen to your case and explain your rights to you. They will also provide an analysis of your case and help you understand the possible settlement amount you could be awarded for your claim. 

If you would like to speak with an experienced St. Louis car accident lawyer about your case today, call the Combs Waterkotte for a free, no-obligation at (314) 900-HELP

Additional FAQs

Is Missouri a no fault state for car accidents?

No. Missouri is an at-fault state for car accident cases. This means if you are in a car accident in Missouri, you may file a claim directly against the responsible driver or their insurer. 

How long does an insurance company have to settle a claim in Missouri?

The Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Act generally requires insurers to investigate and settle a claim within a total of 45 days, with some exceptions. Your attorney will be able to advise if this should apply in your case. 

What are the requirements for auto insurance in Missouri?

Drivers in Missouri are required to carry minimum coverage of: 

  • $25,000 per person for bodily injury
  • $50,000 per accident for bodily injury
  • $10,000 per accident for property

Drivers must also carry uninsured motorist coverage of $25,000 for bodily harm per person and $50,000 for bodily injury per accident. 

Is Missouri a PIP state?

No. Missouri does not require personal injury protection coverage on car accident insurance policies. 

How long does an accident stay on your record in Missouri?

An accident may stay on your record for up to 3 years after an at-fault collision.