Missouri Law Quick FAQ – A Few Handy Reminders and References for Missouri Law Questions
Some issues frequently arise in most any matter. It is helpful to have a quick primer or FAQ (frequently asked questions) with answers to these persistent legal questions. For claims adjusters, lawyers or litigants with cases pending in Missouri, there may well be questions about legal issues that will inevitably arise in your case. The following provides a quick reference guide to several of those issues. Do not hesitate to contact us with questions as to how these, or other issues, impact a particular situation. Of course, these factors will not always apply to every case, as, there are inevitably peculiar facts in each situation which may well alter the outcome, so these are just general principles which you can use as a reference guide.
Required Motor Vehicle Coverage:
Bodily Injury: The minimum required limit is $25,000 for bodily injury to any one person and $50,000 for bodily injury to two or more persons. §303.020(10) RSMo.
Property Damage: The minimum limit is $10,000. §303.020(10) RSMo.
Uninsured / Underinsured:
• Uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage is required with limits of at least $25,000/$50,000. §379.203 RSMo. Underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage is not required.
• Anti-stacking provisions in policy concerning uninsured coverage have been invalidated as against public policy. Shepherd v. American States Insurance Co., 671 S.W.2d 777 (Mo. banc 1984).
• Stacking of underinsured motorist coverage depends upon the policy language.
Medical Payments: Coverage is not mandatory. Cameron Mutual Insurance Co. v. Madden, 533 S.W.2d 538 (Mo. 1976). Med Pay is excess over health insurance except Medicare if the contract provides. Med Pay is stackable if contract permits. An insurance carrier cannot subrogate for Med Pay.
Prejudgment Interest: If a claimant has made a demand and the judgment exceeds the demand, prejudgment interest shall be awarded, calculated from a date ninety days after the demand was received or from the date the demand was rejected without counter offer, whichever is earlier. The demand must (1) be sent by certified mail; (2) provide an affidavit of the claimant describing the claim with supporting documents; (3) for wrongful death, must list medical providers and employers, provide medical bills and submit authorizations, and (4) be left open for ninety days.. § 408.040.2 RSMo.
Missouri is a Pure Comparative Negligence Jurisdiction:
- A plaintiff can collect as long as his own negligence is less than 100%. Gustafson v. Benda, 661 S.W.2d 11, 15-16 (Mo. 1983).
- The age at which a child can be guilty of comparative fault is a jury question. Lester v. Sayles, 850 S.W.2d 858, 865-867 (Mo. 1993). Comparative fault for minors is based on the “reasonable child of same age” standard. Root By and Through Root v. Mudd, 981 S.W.2d 651 (Mo. W.D. 1998).
- Negligence may be imputed to a passenger when the passenger knowingly gets into the vehicle of a drunk driver.
- Punitive damages are not reduced by plaintiff’s comparative fault.
Statute of Limitations: Bodily injury or property damage claims involving adults age eighteen and older must be commenced within five (5) years. §516.120 RSMo. If a defendant is out of the state after a cause of action accrues, the limitation period begins upon the return of the defendant to the state. §516.200 RSMo. The limitation period by minors under the age of 18 when the cause of action accrues is extended to three years from the minor’s 18th birthday. §516.030 RSMo. The wrongful death statute of limitations is three years. §537.100 RSMo.
Collateral Sources: Missouri follows the general rule that evidence of a collateral source is inadmissible. Taylor v. Associated Electric Cooperative, Inc., 818 S.W.2d 669, 672 (Mo W.D. 1991).
Tort Threshold: No minimum tort threshold is necessary for a bodily injury claim to be made.
Joint and Several Liability: Joint and several liability applies to all defendants who are found at least 51% at fault. If a defendant is found less than 51% at fault, that defendant shall only be responsible for the percentage of the judgment for which that defendant is held liable. Mo. Rev. Stat. §537.067.
Minor’s Settlement: Minor settlements and are not valid unless approved by the court. §507.184 RSMo. If the settlement exceeds $10,000, additional safeguards require the guardian to post a bond or open a conservatorship for the minor. If the claim is a fairly minor injury, consider foregoing court approval. Such a settlement is not enforceable and there is nothing to preclude the minor from later bringing a cause of action. The defendant will be entitled to a setoff for any amount previously paid.
Vexatious Refusal: In the event of vexatious behavior, the insurer may be required to pay the amount owed under the policy plus interest, reasonable attorneys’ fees and a statutory penalty of an additional 20% of the first $1,500 and 10% of all other damages thereafter. §375.296 and §375.420 RSMo. The statute is strictly construed. Thornburgh Insulation, Inc. v. J.W. Terrill, Inc., 236 S.W.3d 651 (Mo. E.D. 2007).
Worker’s Compensation: Worker’s compensation benefits may be recovered by subrogation. §287.150 RSMo. Subrogating employer shall pay from employer’s share of the recovery a proportionate share of the expenses of the recovery, including a reasonable attorney fee. §287.150 RSMo. Carrier does not have a right of first recovery. Carrier’s right to recover is pro rata.
Legal Age: The age of majority is 18. §507.115 RSMo.
Inter-Family / Inter-Spousal Immunity: Common law rule of inter spousal immunity is not a bar to a personal injury claim by one spouse against another during a marriage. §451.290 RSMo. and Townsend v. Townsend, 708 S.W.2d 646 (Mo. banc 1986). Additionally, Missouri has abrogated parental immunity. Hartman by Hartman v. Hartman, 821 S.W.2d 852 (Mo. 1991).
Wrongful Death: Cause of action exists only by statute. §§ 537.080 through 537.090 RSMo. Damages may include pecuniary losses, funeral expenses and the reasonable value of the services, consortium, companionship, comfort, instruction, guidance, counsel, training and support of those on whose behalf the suit may be brought. §537.090 RSMo. Damages are determined by jury. Sanders v. Ahmed, 364 S.W.3d 195, 205 (Mo. banc 2012).
Alcohol: The Dram Shop Act holds a liquor licensee liable if the licensee is convicted of selling alcohol to a minor or selling to a person whom he knows to be intoxicated. Social hosts cannot be held liable for torts committed by their intoxicated guests. §537.053 RSMo. and Coons v. Berry, 304 S.W.3d 215, 222 (Mo. W.D. 2009).
Salvaged Motor Vehicles: Missouri does not have a specific statute regarding disposal of salvage. Resale of salvaged parts and materials is prescribed by §301.218 RSMo. Under §301.217, a certificate of title may be issued for a salvaged vehicle at least twenty-five years old.
Value of Medical Treatment: The dollar amount necessary to satisfy the financial obligation to health care providers, including those amounts which are paid by Medicare, constitute the value of medical treatment. Deck v. Teasley, 322 S.W.3d 536 (Mo. banc 2010).
Dogs: Missouri does not have a dog liability statute. Liability is reserved only for vicious propensities of which the owner or keeper knew or should have known. Savory v. Hensick, 143 S.W.3d 712 (Mo. Ct. App. 2004). However, violation of leash ordinance may establish per se negligence. See local ordinance.
Small Claims Court: Limit for small claims court is $5,000. Mo. Sup. Ct. R. 140 through 152.