There are two parts to any traffic collision involving bodily injury—a criminal case and a civil case. The first to take place is the criminal case, as civil lawsuits or settlement negotiations typically take much longer than sentencing the negligent party with a traffic violation, misdemeanor, or felony. As such, insurance companies pay close attention to the verdict in criminal cases.
A serious penalty for the insured negligent party hurts an insurance company’s chances of placing blame on the victim, while a not-guilty verdict helps their cause. In some cases, police may not even charge the negligent driver with anything at all. It always helps your case when the other driver is sentenced with some sort of moving violation, such as careless driving, and it helps your civil case, even more, when the driver is found guilty of a misdemeanor or felony. Such a serious criminal penalty helps to prove that the other party was solely at fault, while you were not at all to blame. Additionally, a laundry list of previous infractions and points on the other party’s driving license may help show the other party’s poor driving abilities.
Comparative Fault in Missouri
“Why is the criminal case so important in determining fault?” you may ask. In Missouri, as with most states, there exists such a doctrine as “comparative fault,” defined under the Uniform Comparative Fault Act of 1996. In states with comparative fault laws, both drivers can be held responsible for causing the collision. The driver who has the majority of negligence is responsible for paying the other’s damages.
However, those damages will be reduced in direct proportion to the other driver’s lesser degree of fault. For example, a driver from a side street abruptly pulls out in front of you to attempt to cross the street, but they did not have enough time and you T-bone their car. You had the right of way, so they will be found negligent. However, if you were looking down at your phone, you could also be held negligent because you were distracted, and maybe could have slammed on the brakes soon enough to stop had you not been on your phone.
In this scenario, the other driver might be held 60 percent at fault and you at 40 percent at fault. As such, the other driver would be obligated to pay your damages, but only 60 percent of what you would have received otherwise. If the other driver is charged with violating a law or issued a ticket, and you are not, the criminal case helps your civil case by showing that you were not to blame.
Call the Lawyers of the Krause & Kinsman Law Firm Today
The criminal case is not everything, and even if the police place partial blame on you, or do not issue a ticket to the other driver, you can still win the civil case if you have the right legal help. It is best to contact an attorney right away, so that, if possible, they can provide supporting information to the court before the criminal case is decided. More importantly, you need an experienced attorney to successfully handle the other party’s insurance company, and potentially to file a lawsuit if negotiations break down. Call the Kansas City attorneys of the Krause & Kinsman Law Firm today at 816-399-3356 to schedule a free case evaluation.
Adam Krause 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. Adam Krause has made a career of taking complicated litigation and presenting it in the most elementary terms for a jury of your peers to understand. Learn more about his experience here.