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Whether you are trying to obtain financial compensation for a recent car accident in Kansas City or are facing a lawsuit against you from another driver, it can help to learn some of the most commonly used defenses. Recognizing common defense strategies can allow you to combat or utilize them during your own car accident lawsuit with the help of a Kansas City car accident attorney.
The comparative negligence defense asserts that the defendant is not 100% legally responsible for the car accident because the plaintiff contributed to the crash. This argument holds that since the plaintiff shares fault for causing the accident or injury, the defendant should not have to pay 100% of the victim’s financial damages.
As is the case in most states, Missouri uses the doctrine of comparative negligence. With this system, negligence can be shared between two or more parties without barring the plaintiff entirely from financial recovery. In a contributory negligence state, on the other hand, even the slightest degree of fault by the plaintiff will prevent him or her from recovering a monetary award.
If a defendant succeeds in using a comparative negligence defense in Missouri, the plaintiff’s award will be reduced. The courts in Missouri will subtract the same amount as the proportion of the plaintiff’s fault. One-fourth of the fault going to the plaintiff, for example, would reduce his or her award by 25%. Since Missouri uses a pure comparative negligence law, a plaintiff can be up to 99% responsible for a car accident and still recover.
Another commonly used defense in car accident claims in Missouri is the plaintiff’s failure to mitigate losses. Most auto insurance companies require parties that file claims to mitigate their losses as much as is reasonably possible after an accident. If a car accident survivor has a serious injury that could worsen without medical care, for example, that survivor has a responsibility to go to the hospital and follow through with a doctor’s treatment plan to minimize injury severity.
If a car accident victim fails to mitigate his or her losses, the insurance company may reject or reduce benefits. It will be within the insurance company’s right to reduce the plaintiff’s financial recovery based on how much he or she likely made the claimed damages worse. This is why as a car accident victim it is important to see a doctor immediately and follow your treatment plan. Do not rush your physical recovery.
A defendant may also try to get a case dismissed on procedural grounds. These arguments do not attack the merits of the case; instead, they try to refute fault by providing evidence that the plaintiff missed a step or did something incorrectly during the claims process. If the plaintiff is ineligible for auto insurance coverage due to language in the policy, for example, this may provide a defense on procedural grounds. One of the most common procedural defenses used involves the statute of limitations.
A statute of limitations is a law that places a deadline on a party’s ability to file a claim. In the civil justice system, a statute of limitations limits an injured plaintiff’s window of time to file a claim against a defendant. In Missouri, this deadline is five years for most personal injury claims.
If an injured party waits longer than five years after a car accident to try to file a lawsuit against the driver at fault, the courts will most likely dismiss the case (with a few exceptions). Even if the courts do not dismiss the case, the defendant can use the expired statute of limitations as a defense against liability for damages.
For more information about defenses that may arise during your car accident in Kansas City, Missouri, contact an attorney.