An often overlooked question that can come up after a car accident is who will pay to cover the costs of what happened. While it is not a pressing concern in some cases, it can be a crippling one in others, especially when the crash was caused by someone who was uninsured.
Practical Problems at the End of a Car Accident Lawsuit
Contrary to what many people think, people who have been found at-fault for a crash and who are liable to pay for the costs of the accident do not always end up paying it. If you were a victim in a car accident and you file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver who hurt you, you probably think that the jury’s verdict in your favor is the end of the case.
But just because a court says that someone has to pay a certain amount in compensation does not mean that person has the means to pay. In some cases, the liable party simply refuses to pay, instigating a protracted legal battle to recover what you deserve.
To a limited extent, Missouri’s joint and several liability law can help in these cases.
Missouri’s Joint and Several Liability Law
Missouri Revised Statute 537.067 deals with who can be made to pay for the costs of an accident that they caused, or partially caused.
If a car accident case goes to trial, the jury will apportion fault and liability to each person involved in the crash. While this is usually just distributed among the drivers involved, it can also include:
- Automakers, if a cause of the crash was a car defect,
- Car mechanics, if a poorly-installed or maintained part of the car caused the crash, or even
- Missing parties, like a reckless driver that caused the crash but fled the scene and disappeared.
Under Missouri’s joint and several liability law, any defendant who was found by the jury to be more than half responsible for the crash can be forced to pay all of the verdict. Any defendant in the case who the jury thought was less than half at fault can only be made to pay that portion of the verdict.
For example, imagine a two-vehicle car accident. Car A crossed the median and caused a head-on car collision with Car B because the steering column in Car A locked up. Miraculously, the driver in Car A walks away with no injuries. The driver of Car B suffered $100,000 in losses, though, and files a personal injury lawsuit. The case goes to trial.
Now imagine that the jury decides that the driver of Car A was 20 percent at fault, while the maker of Car A was 80 percent at fault. The accident’s victim could recover up to $20,000 from the driver of Car A. However, the victim could choose to recover all $100,000 from the maker of Car A, under Missouri’s joint and several liability rule.
This makes a huge difference in some cases. Imagine the driver of Car A was uninsured. Without an insurance company to step and pay for their role in the crash, the odds that they could pay $20,000 out-of-pocket are slim. Being able to pursue one defendant for all of the verdict can save a case.