Who is at Fault in a Car Accident? How Missouri and Illinois Differ

Martin Luther King Bridge connecting Missouri and Illinois

According to a 2017 article in the Belleville News Democrat, roughly one quarter of workers in the two largest Illinois counties of the Metro East commute to St. Louis for work every day. Add to that people from Missouri with jobs in Illinois, plus both states’ residents going back and forth for shopping, recreation, and entertainment. That’s a lot of cars on the roads, and potential car accidents.

Who is at fault in a car accident will determine the outcome, but so will the state where the accident happens. Laws differ from state to state regarding who is liable to pay for damages and statutes of limitation.

Few people know—or care—about the laws of their own or neighboring states when it comes to car accidents. But if they’re unlucky enough to have a wreck, it’s important information to have. In the region where the attorneys of Hipskind & McAninch practice, it’s a good idea to be familiar with the laws in both Missouri and Illinois.

Having an Out-of-State Accident

In a region where people travel from one state to another on a regular basis, having an out-of-state accident is not a rare occurrence. It can happen as an Illinois resident heads toward their downtown St. Louis office via the Eads Bridge. Or to a Missouri family as they travel up the Great River Road to Grafton on a weekend. The entire area is well populated on both sides of the river, so whether drivers are cruising through popular spots around Belleville or through University City, there’s always the chance that an accident could happen.

A dozen states are considered “no-fault” states, meaning no matter who causes an accident, each driver’s insurance takes care of their own damages. Both Illinois and Missouri, however, are “tort” states. It is crucial to determine who caused an accident, because they (and their insurance company) are held financially responsible for the victim’s injuries and property damage.

The two states differ on how they divvy up the financial liability. It doesn’t matter where either driver lives or where their insurance policy was purchased. The location of the accident determines which state’s laws apply.

When Determining Liability is Important

People trying to determine who is at fault in a car accident

It’s very clear in some accidents who is at fault. In fact, there is even something called “no-doubt liability.” These are incidents where blame almost always falls on one driver over the other and insurance companies rarely argue. One example is a rear-end collision, because the law requires that drivers should maintain a safe distance. Let’s say the roads are clear and dry, and a car’s brake lights are working. If the driver slams on his or her breaks and gets hit from behind, it is assumed that the second driver was too close or was driving too fast, and is therefore at fault.

Many car accidents are not so clear-cut, however, and the victim must prove they were not to blame in order to receive fair compensation for their injuries and damage. Even if they perceive the cause of the crash to be obvious, an at-fault driver and his or her insurance company may try to shift the blame. Insurance companies will avoid paying claims if at all possible. And a negligent driver will want to keep a bad mark of his or her record and prevent an increase in insurance premiums.

The remedy for an accident victim is to gather evidence that tells the complete story of what happened. This should include:

  • Photos and videos of the damage and road conditions at the scene of the crash
  • The official police report including any traffic tickets issued
  • Witness statements

Attorneys like Hipskind & McAninch with experience in both Illinois and Missouri can provide valuable assistance in not only collecting evidence, but working with the insurance companies to file a claim. Having their help from the start makes it easier for them to reach a fair settlement for their clients, or to go to court to fight for compensation if it ends up being necessary.

Who is at Fault and Comparative Negligence

Two things are possible with a car accident: It may be entirely one person’s fault, or both driver’s share the blame.

Let’s look at an example of the latter: Driver A turns left in front of Driver B’s car which is traveling in the opposite direction. Driver B hits the side of Driver A’s car in a t-bone crash. Driver A is at fault for not yielding to oncoming traffic. But if Driver B had been paying attention instead of reaching for something in the back seat, the accident probably could have been avoided. For this example, we’ll say that Driver A is 70% liable and Driver B, 30%.

In some states, the percentage of liability assigned to each driver doesn’t matter. In others, it matters quite a bit. Here’s why:

Missouri: Pure Comparative Negligence

In Missouri, each party in a car accident pays the portion that they are responsible for. In the above example, if Driver B files a personal injury and property damage claim totaling $100,000, Driver A and his or her insurance company is only liable for $70,000, representing 70% of the blame for the crash.

Illinois: Modified Comparative Negligence

If the same accident happened in Illinois, it only matters that Driver A was more responsible than Driver B. He or she must pay 100% of the claim since they are most to blame for the crash.

The outcome of a personal injury or property damage case can have a significantly different financial outcome for both a victim and an at-fault driver depending on whether the accident happens in Missouri or Illinois. An attorney with expertise in what it takes to prove who is to blame is a victim’s best chance to receive fair compensation.

Missouri and Illinois Statutes of Limitation

Scales of justice representing statute of limitations on car accident claims

One other important way that Missouri and Illinois differ is in their statutes of limitations, meaning, how long after an accident a victim can make a claim or file suit. Victims are allowed 2 years to file a claim for an accident in Illinois. Missouri accident victims have 5 years.

While either of these might seem like plenty of time, imagine if someone is badly hurt and recovering from serious injuries. The time can lapse before they know it. On the other hand, victims must be careful not to put in a request for compensation prematurely. They need to be sure that all of their expenses are covered, and some injuries do not show up right away.

Deciding on an amount that will cover all injuries requires victims to act quickly, but to also be thorough. A personal injury lawyer can help make sure that a claim takes into account all necessary expenses and gets filed on time.

Getting Compensation With an Attorney’s Help

Finding out who is at fault in a car accident will determine who pays for a car accident in Missouri or Illinois. It’s best to find a local attorney to help you navigate the process. St Louis car accident lawyers have seen numerous clients on both sides of the river get full compensation for losses associated with a crash. 


Car Accidents


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