Every state places a time limit known as the “statute of limitations” to encourage victims to file a car accident lawsuit within a reasonable length of time. In Missouri, you have five years to pursue a claim for compensation.
Under Missouri Revised Statutes § 516.120, the five-year period begins on the date the accident occurred. In comparison to most states, Missouri residents have much more time to consider their legal options. However, it is typically in your best interests to begin the claims process relatively soon after a collision. Once too much time passes, evidence begins to disappear, witnesses’ memories fade, and details can be too difficult to trace.
Although beginning the claims process soon after an accident is ideal, that does not mean you must resolve it quickly. A car accident attorney will advise you to wait to settle your case until you either fully recover from your injuries or reach “maximum medical improvement” (MMI). That way, you understand the full extent of your injuries, your losses, and how your future will be impacted. Only then can you know or estimate the total value of your case and the minimum amount you should settle for.
It is important to note the statute of limitations deadline does not apply to insurance claims. Drivers are required by law to report an accident to the Missouri Department of Revenue within 30 days if one of the following applies:
When a car accident results in a fatality, surviving family members have the right to file a wrongful death claim for compensation. In these cases, the statute of limitations is three years, which begins on the date of the victim’s death.
If your car accident was caused by the negligence of a government agency or employee in Missouri, there are different deadlines. An injury claim against the state government must be filed with the Office of Administration’s Risk Management Division, and you only have 90 days to file a formal claim against a city.
There is usually no way around the statute of limitations, and typically the only exception applies to minors. When a minor is seriously injured in an accident, the five-year statute of limitations time limit does not begin until they reach the age of 21. However, parents of minors will typically file a lawsuit on their behalf after a collision.
In all other cases, if you wait until after the deadline to file a car accident claim, the defendant (at-fault party) will file a “motion to dismiss.” Their motion will point out that the statute of limitations has run, and almost always, the case will be dismissed.