After you have been in a Kansas City car accident, you may be wondering how you can possibly afford to cover the cost of your personal injuries or property damage. How much compensation you can receive from either insurance company will greatly depend on the circumstances surrounding the collision and whether you were at-fault for the car accident or have no fault.
What’s the Difference Between “No-Fault” and “At-Fault” States?
When a car accident happens, it’s frustrating knowing you usually find yourself with an added headache dealing with insurance companies after you’ve just gone through the trauma of a crash. Most Missourians don’t know the different fault rules used to determine liability in a car accident or which rule applies in the Show-Me State. Talking to an experienced Kansas City car accident attorney can help you understand liability in your case and whether you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.
At-Fault vs. No-Fault
At-fault and no-fault systems govern auto insurance policies and determine whether someone injured in a car accident has a right to sue. It also sets out who will pay for damages the victim sustained from the collision.
No Fault Car-Accidents
Under a no-fault car accident system, each insurance company will compensate its policy holders in case of an accident. This compensation is irrespective of who is at fault.
In a no-fault state, a car insurance company will compensate its policyholder for minor injuries without the need to investigate and determine who was responsible for causing the accident and resulting damages. Under what’s known as personal injury protection in a no-fault insurance policy, victims don’t have to deal with the headache of proving someone else was at fault before recovering compensation.
However, in most cases this means a car accident victim won’t be able to sue a responsible party for economic damages like medical expenses unless the total harm reaches a certain dollar amount or level of severity. In some states, victims are also often required to provide a recorded statement to their insurance company or visit a medical professional chosen by the insurer for an examination or risk denial of benefits.
There are three sub-types of this no-fault approach:
Under this system, the injured party receives monetary damages from their insurance company only up to their policy limit. Injured parties under this system cannot sue a negligent driver for any non-monetary damages such as emotional distress, pain or suffering. In the US, there are no states that follow a pure no-fault system.
Under this system, the insurance company pays the injured party monetary damages up to their policy limit. However, the injured parties can also sue the negligent driver for non-monetary damages if they have incurred additional losses. The amount they may receive as compensation depends on the circumstances of their case as well as their state of residence. Some states only allow lawsuits in case of serious injuries while other states consider other factors.
Under this system, the injured party can give up their right to sue for damages or retain their rights to sue for damages. However, if the other driver chooses not to sue, then you can’t sue this driver either. You can consider this approach to be a hybrid of the pure no-fault and modified no-fault system.
The first thing to understand is that no fault insurance does not mean that you are not at fault during a car accident. In fact in every car accident when two drivers are involved, the insurers will determine who is at fault. No fault insurance simply means that it does not matter which driver is at fault; your insurer will still manage your claim and make reimbursements for any injuries you have suffered and pay for damages that you caused. The same is true for the other driver who will have the same arrangement with his insurance company. However, one driver will still be found to be responsible for the car accident and that individual will see a definite increase in his or her insurance premiums when it comes time to renew the insurance policy. If both drivers are found to have contributed toward the accident, then both parties are likely to see an increase in their premium at the time of renewal.
There are some benefits of a no-fault insurance system. The biggest advantage is that this type of policy makes it easier for both parties to get compensation for any damages, irrespective of who is at fault. In most cases, the drivers of both cars get their insurance benefits sorted out quickly and there is no long drawn out court process involved.
The two insurers usually investigate and determine who is at fault. Then payments are made based on this determination. The two insurers companies do not fight against one another in order for the drivers to get the benefit and the costs of a legal battle are avoided. This type of program permits both drivers to get their cars repaired and get their medical problems dealt without having to worry about who will pay the bills. Because no fault insurance cuts down the cost of litigation, the insurance rates, in general, remain low since insurance companies do not have to fight over every claim.
At-fault Car Accidents
An at-fault car accident system is based on the premise that if there is a car accident, the driver who is deemed to be responsible for the accident is the one who is legally responsible for any damages that may have been incurred. These damages are not limited to the driver’s own losses but also any damage or injuries that the other driver and their passengers may have incurred.
Kansas City and the rest of Missouri adopted the at-fault auto insurance system. This means each driver’s insurance company pays for damages proportionate to the amount of fault each party bears. This means that when a car accident occurs, the driver responsible for property damage or an injury like one of the more than 14,300 victims sustained here between 2016 and 2018, is responsible for paying. The liable party’s insurance company will pay up to the coverage limits they purchased in their policy.
In such a scenario, the insurance company of the at-fault driver will have to provide this coverage to the driver who is not considered to be at-fault. The non-negligent driver can claim these damages through their own insurance company, through a civil lawsuit or through the at-fault driver’s insurance company. In any case, it will be the non-fault driver who will have the upper hand in such a system and the at-fault driver will be held responsible for their actions.
The biggest difference between an at-fault system and a no-fault system is the sense of responsibility and the liability. In a no-fault system, both insurance companies bear the brunt of driver negligence; in case of an at-fault system, one insurance company bears the brunt. However, in an at-fault system, drivers do get a sense of what it means to be distracted or negligent and how it could affect their financial situation.
In any case, insurance companies under both scenarios try their best to minimize their financial exposure and that is why people who get into car accidents need to consult a good personal injury lawyer to ensure their rights are fulfilled. Also, there are often scenarios where even in a no-fault system the injured party can sue the negligent party in case of long-term damages and non-monetary consequences. When and how this is possible depends on the situation and the circumstances.
What Does This Mean I Can Recover?
Missouri is a pure contributory negligence state, which means if only one party is responsible, they’re liable for all damages sustained. If both were partly to blame, based on the evidence the law assigns each party a percentage of fault for the damages and both sides may potentially be entitled to recover. Because it’s difficult to anticipate what percentage of fault may be assigned to you or what damages you’re potentially eligible to claim, it’s important to contact a Kansas City car accident attorney sooner rather than later.
Consult with a Car Accident Attorney to Discuss Kansas City’s At-Fault System
If you have been in a car accident in Kansas City, Missouri, call us at Krause & Kinsman to determine the next steps that you should take. Remember, even if you are at fault, there are circumstances where the other driver can also be held liable for their role in the accident. Comparative negligence can be used to reduce your financial losses. On the other hand, if you are completely innocent and the other driver is totally at fault and yet their insurance company is creating problems for you, call us now at 1-816-200-2900 and one of our associates will outline an action plan for your case and outline strategies through which you can get the compensation you deserve. Kansas City may follow an at-fault system but there are situations where different approaches can be used to compensate you for the damages that you may have incurred.
Robert Kinsman is a personal injury, mass tort, business litigation, and employment discrimination attorney who practices in Kansas City, Missouri. He graduated from the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Law and has been practicing law for several years now. Robert Kinsman is passionate about normalizing the life of his clients after they have been seriously injured. Learn more about his experience here.