What’s the Difference in “At-Fault” and “No Fault” States?
When someone is injured in an accident — or even when they’re just shopping for car insurance — they’ll often hear the words “liability” and “fault” thrown around. However, the latter term carries much more significance when it comes to financial responsibility for injuries. This makes it critical for St. Louis residents and other citizens of the state to understand Missouri’s “at-fault” versus “no-fault” systems.
In most cases — including in Missouri — states will follow only one of these systems. In at-fault states, any party responsible for causing an accident is also responsible for the resulting damages. For instance, the liable party in a car accident will have to provide financial compensation for property damage, lost wages, medical bills, and more.
Conversely, “no-fault” states use a system where each party’s insurance company covers their policyholder’s losses. This is true regardless of who caused the accident. This can expedite the entire reimbursement process, but the process is not without problems. So, is there a no-fault or an at-fault system in Missouri?
Is Missouri an At-Fault or No-Fault State?
Like most other states, Missouri has an at-fault system in place. This is why drivers in the state are required to carry liability insurance on their vehicles. This requirement ensures that at-fault drivers have the financial resources to reimburse anyone they may injure through negligent, reckless, or wrongful acts while driving.
Of course, it’s important to realize that — even though at-fault and no-fault systems in Missouri don’t coexist — financial responsibility can go far beyond drivers when an accident occurs. After all, it’s possible that a collision could occur where no driver acted irresponsibly. For instance, envision a scenario where a pothole causes a wreck after being ignored by the city for months.
In such a situation, auto insurance companies may hesitate to provide any financial recovery. Honestly, who could blame them? Fortunately, there are many types of insurance that can cover such injuries. Municipalities have insurance to cover accidents caused by their negligence. The same is true for construction companies, homeowners, and many others.
Clearly, financial responsibility for causing injuries stems far beyond car insurance companies.
What Happens When Fault Is Shared?
Continuing the focus of non-driver at-fault parties, envision a scenario where multiple parties share some level of fault. Perhaps the city didn’t fix a pothole, and this caused a driver to swerve into oncoming traffic and cause a motorcycle accident. However, what if that driver was texting on their cell phone right before the crash?
In this situation, a clear argument could be made that both the driver and the city share some level of fault. Missouri is an at-fault state, but it also practices comparative negligence. This means that multiple parties can be assigned blame. When this happens, each party may have to pay their portion of responsibility as a personal injury court award.
For instance, a jury could decide that the city is 60% at fault for an accident — while the distracted driver is 40% at fault. If a court award for $100,000 is issued, the city will have to pay $60,000; the distracted driver will have to pay $40,000. Comparative negligence laws also ensure that injury victims can get compensation even when they’re partially at fault.
What if the Other Party Isn’t Insured?
Even in an at-fault state like Missouri, there’s no guarantee that an innocent injury victim will receive just compensation. This is particularly true when the at-fault party in an accident is uninsured or underinsured. The same problem can arise when a person is involved in a hit-and-run. Fortunately, there are no-fault options available in Missouri.
For instance, many drivers opt to purchase uninsured motorist insurance. These policies will kick in when the at-fault party doesn’t have sufficient coverage — or if the at-fault party is unknown for some reason. In many states, personal injury protection (PIP) options are also available. These benefits can cover financial losses by an insurer’s policyholder.
Unfortunately, Missouri does not offer PIP insurance. Instead, medical payments insurance (i.e., MedPay) can be added to an insurance policy. MedPay will cover a person’s medical bills even if they caused an accident — and potentially if another party is underinsured.
However, MedPay will not cover things like home task assistance, lost wages, or certain other financial losses.
Clearly, there are no-fault insurance options in Missouri — but they’re far from mandatory.
What Options Are Available to Missouri Injury Victims?
When someone is injured in an accident, they have a variety of options available to them. Of course, these options will depend heavily on whether they have at-fault or no-fault Missouri policies. If you’re not the liable party in an incident, though, you have far more options. Even if the at-fault party is uninsured and you don’t have MedPay, it’s still possible to receive fair financial compensation.
If you’ve suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a wrongful death incident, the most important thing you can do is avoid talking to the insurance company. Adjusters will pretend that they’re concerned with your well-being. In reality, their primary goal is to keep their employer profitable — and this means they’ll do everything in their power to minimize the financial recovery available to you. In a comparative negligence state, this is relatively easy.
If an adjuster can confuse you for even a moment and elicit an admission of partial guilt from you, they can greatly reduce their financial responsibility. This is particularly problematic in an at-fault state like Missouri — because most people don’t have a no-fault policy to fall back on. Before you speak with an insurer, make sure you speak with an attorney.
At Jett Accident & Injury Lawyers, our experienced legal team is here to help. Contact us today at (314) 936-4484 to schedule your free consultation.