If you were the victim of a traffic accident that left you injured, you'll soon realize how important it is that fault be assigned correctly to the negligent or careless driver who caused the accident. If you are to be fully compensated for your injuries, the blame must be placed squarely on his or her shoulders.
So, how does this happen? What is the procedure for assigning fault and determining who is liable for financial damages in a car accident? Some of that depends on the state you live in, the rest is up to crash scene investigators, such as the police and insurance adjusters.
Missouri Is a “Fault” State
If you are involved in an accident in Missouri, liability will be assigned to the person determined to be at fault in the accident. This is because Missouri is among the majority of states that are what are known as “fault” states. No matter how much damage was done to the vehicles or how badly the victims were injured, the party determined to be at fault will be liable for the damages.
Where liability is concerned, Missouri is also a comparative negligence state, which means that fault in an accident can be shared among multiple parties and victims will only be compensated in proportion to the amount of fault assigned to the other party. In other words, even if you are determined to be 20 percent at fault in a crash, you can still collect compensation for 80 percent of your damages.
Kansas, on the Other Hand, Is a “No-Fault” State
By contrast, Kansas is one of a dozen states that follow “no-fault” insurance laws when it comes to personal injury claims. This means that if you are injured in a car accident in Kansas, no matter who caused the crash, your insurance company will pay for any medical care you need, up to a certain point. If your injuries are serious or exceed a certain monetary threshold, you may file a liability claim against the at-fault party and they will be expected to pay your medical bills.
The following injuries are considered serious under Kansas law:
- Permanent disfigurement,
- Fracture of a weight-bearing bone,
- Compound, comminuted, compressed, or displaced fracture of any bone,
- Permanent injury,
- Permanent loss of body function,
Kansas is also a comparative negligence state like Missouri, but Kansas follows a modified version whereby one party must be determined to be over 50 percent at fault in order for the other party to collect compensation. If fault is determined to be equal, then neither party can collect from the other, no matter what the extent of damage or injury.
How Investigators Decide Whom to Blame
While what exactly is meant by “fault” may be complicated under various insurance laws, assigning blame for an accident is often very straightforward. When determining liability, investigators look for several key factors:
- Violations of the law. If one of the drivers involved in an accident is issued a citation for speeding, running a red light, reckless driving, or any other violation, he or she will most likely be determined to be at fault.
- Statements of those involved. If one of the drivers admits fault at the scene of the accident to the police or anyone else, this can later be used to assign blame. Statements such as, “I just didn’t see him” can do a lot of damage when presented later on.
- Witness statements. Witnesses often have a very clear idea of who was to blame in an accident and their statements can be presented as evidence later on.
- Photographs of the scene. Often, expert analysis of the scene of a crash or of photographs of the scene can determine who violated a traffic law, crossed a yellow line, cut another driver off, or any number of potential causes of an accident.
While a police officer might issue a ticket, he or she will not determine fault at the scene of the accident. This will happen later, if necessary, and will be determined by a judge and/or jury based on the evidence presented.
Have You Been Injured In A Kansas City Area Car Accident?
If you've been injured in a car accident you need to speak with an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Kansas City office directly at 816.471.5111 to schedule your free consultation.