In our last blog post about car accidents, which covered holding defendants personally liable for a crash, we mentioned the “tort lottery.” This is a very difficult situation for victims to find themselves in, as their recovery depends on the affluence of the person who hurt them. Unfortunately, it can happen in a wide variety of ways in Missouri.
The Tort Lottery
The word “tort” is the technical term for personal injury law. A “tort” is a civil wrong that hurts you – usually in the form of a wrongful but negligent action, like a car crash.
Torts happen all the time. Often enough that there is a multi-billion dollar insurance industry that exists to cover the costs of them. People regularly make small premium payments to these companies so that the company will pay the large amounts that are needed to cover the damages that stem from an accident.
The problem is when an accident happens but there is no insurance coverage, or not enough of it. In these cases, victims have to look elsewhere for compensation for their losses. Oftentimes, the only source of that compensation is the person who hurt them. By holding the wrongdoer personally liable, victims can recover financial compensation from the defendant’s own money, accounts, and assets.
This means that your recovery ends up depending on the defendant’s wealth. This is why this situation is called the “tort lottery”: If you are lucky, the person who hurt you is very wealthy and has the assets to cover your losses.
Unfortunately, just like with any other kind of lottery, there are far more losers than there are winners – the people who do not have enough insurance coverage are generally the same people who do not have the assets to cover your losses. These defendants are referred to as “judgment proof” because, even if you file a lawsuit against them, win, and obtain a judgment against them, they are not going to be able to pay it.
Some Common Situations for Playing the Tort Lottery
Victims can find themselves playing the tort lottery in a wide variety of circumstances. Four of the most common are:
- Car accidents where the at-fault driver has no insurance at all,
- Car crashes where the victim’s injuries are severe enough that the at-fault driver’s insurance policy limit is reached before the victim is fully compensated,
- Injuries that were intentionally caused, like from an assault, which are not covered by insurance, and
- Injuries caused by types of accidents that are not covered by insurance, like many that happen on e-scooters, which are not covered by car insurance, or dog bites where the owner is a tenant and does not have renter’s insurance.
Missouri Car Accident Attorneys at the Smith Law Office
The personal injury lawyers at the Smith Law Office help accident victims get the compensation they need to make a full recovery. Contact them online or call their law office at (816) 875-9373 for legal representation in St. Joseph, Kansas City, Springfield, or the rest of western Missouri.