When you take to the road, you expect that other drivers follow the rules of the road. However, when negligent parties do not and accidents ensue because of this, you may find yourself dealing with losses that add up financially and emotionally. When wrecks happen, you need to contact an experienced car accident attorney who can help you file your claim. A knowledgeable car accident attorney can help you understand liability in St. Louis head-on collisions and how that might impact your case against a negligent driver.
How Fault is Often Assigned in St. Louis Head-On Collisions
The assignment of fault in a head-on collision varies dramatically from case to case and depends on the facts of each specific case. For example, if you were to cross a center line while driving and then cause an accident, you might be found to be at fault. However, there are exceptions.
If a driver is stopped and is hit from behind by a car being driven by an inattentive driver, their car may be pushed across the center line into the path of an oncoming car. The person who hit the vehicle and pushed it across the center line is likely at fault for the entirety of that crash. While it is true that in most cases the person who crosses the center line is likely to be the person that determined to be at fault, it is not always a universal rule. That is one reason why it is so important to get a lawyer involved early in a legal case so these distinctions can be investigated and that if a lawsuit is pursued that the correct defendants are identified.
What Could Impact Liability in Head-On Collision Cases
Missouri is a comparative fault state. When someone is hit from behind and pushed in front of an oncoming vehicle, that factor helps determine liability. However, there may be a situation of comparative fault where the injured person is found to be partially responsible for the crash at which point a jury would assign each party with a percentage at fault. Even if the injured party is determined to be partially at fault for the crash that caused their injuries, Missouri’s comparative fault laws still permit that person to recover compensation for their injuries, although the dollar amount will be reduced by the percentage they are determined to be at fault.
For example, if you were speeding and the defendant is passing a slower car on a two-lane road and you collide in a head-on collision, the jury would need to determine the percentage of fault each driver is responsible for. If the jury determines that you were traveling much faster than you should have been and were driving over the posted speed limit, but the fault for the crash is primarily on the person who crossed the center line when passing a vehicle when they did not have room to do so safely, the jury could decide you were 10 percent at fault for the accident and the driver who crossed the center line was 90 percent at fault.
That is comparative fault, and the jury awards a number based on that fault. If they say the plaintiff is 10 percent at fault, the recovery amount is reduced by 10 percent.
Missouri law permits juries to use comparative fault in deciding verdicts. This is substantially different than other states that use a theory called “contributory negligence” where, if the jury finds that the plaintiff is even one percent at fault, the plaintiff is not eligible to be awarded any recovery.
How Punitive Damages Could Be Connected to Head-On Collisions
Punitive damages are extraordinarily rare and unlikely in most car crash cases. Punitive damages are more likely to be awarded in cases involving commercial vehicles. For example, if a semi-truck owned by a trucking company is involved in a head-on collision, and it is learned that the corporation cut corners on safety inspections, maintenance, and training, there may be an option for punitive damages. If the corporation is found to have been forcing their drivers to drive substantially longer than allowed or gave them a short amount of time to get to their next destination to be eligible to be paid their full amount, there may be an opportunity for the corporation to have punitive damages assessed against it. In most cases, however, a car crash involving individuals caused by the negligence of one of those individuals is unlikely to qualify for punitive damages.
Steps Head-On Wreck Victims Could Take
The first thing you should do after a head-on collision is make sure that anyone in the crash who is injured gets medical attention. After you have received medical care and you have time to reflect on what happened, it is important that you hirs an attorney as soon as possible so they could begin their investigation and take photographs and videos of the crash scene, if necessary. You would want the pictures and videos to be as close in time to when the crash happened so that the scene looks much the same as it did when the accident occurred.
If a crash happened on a clear day, you should get the pictures and videos close to the time of the accident and under similar circumstances. It is important to get the video and pictures to resemble the time and conditions of the crash as closely as possible. A lawyer, utilizing his staff and investigators can do that, especially if the injured party is unable to go out and do it themselves because of their injuries.
A good personal injury lawyer places themselves in your shoes to talk with the insurance company and to keep the at-fault driver’s insurance adjuster from contacting you. Insurance adjusters for the at-fault driver often want to talk with you before you get a lawyer to take a statement and get you to incriminate yourself in some way or to say something that may cause problems if you were to decide to pursue a lawsuit.
If you were involved in a head-on collision, you should get a lawyer involved quickly. The lawyer may advise you to not talk to anyone on the phone about the accident. If somebody comes to your door to ask about the accident, you should not talk to that individual. You should only discuss the accident with your lawyer and doctor to protect your rights and integrity as you move forward as a plaintiff.
Filing a lawsuit may not be one of the first steps, but it is one of the important steps that an attorney could help with. Attorneys can try to negotiate a resolution that fully and fairly compensates the injured person.
Contact a Car Injury Attorney Today
Colliding with another vehicle could be a traumatizing experience. If you suspect that negligence was involved on behalf of another party, you need to contact an experienced attorney who could help you file a civil action against that party. Reach out to an experienced trial lawyer who could help you identify liability in St. Louis head-on collisions today.