Missouri has a very plaintiff-friendly statute of limitations for most personal injury claims. Car accidents, most products liability claims and premises liability claims must be filed within five years of the injury event, or the plaintiff loses the right to seek compensation. However, for medical malpractice, an injured patient must file suit within two years from the act giving rise to the claim outside of some very narrow exceptions. In foreign object cases, the two year statute starts running when the injury is discovered, rather than when it first occurred, but not more than 10 years from the date of the injury event.
Certain events can toll the statute of limitations. For instance, if an accident causes a victim to lose mental capacity (as in a coma), the statute of limitations stops running until the victim regains capacity.
There are special rules for minors because they do not have the capacity to sue. The statute of limitations for a child’s accident does not start running until the child reaches the age of 21. However, if the cause of action is medical malpractice, an injured minor must file suit by age 20, or within the standard limitation period.
A damage award is the monetary compensation a court awards for a plaintiff’s injuries. The damage award takes into consideration everything the plaintiff lost due to the defendant’s negligence, reckless or deliberate actions. Economic damages include:
Non-economic damages are more difficult to calculate because they have to do with the plaintiff’s loss of quality of life, which is not readily measured in dollars and cents. Non-economic damages can include:
Most personal injury settlements or judgments can be subject to a variety of “liens” or claims for rights of subrogation. This area of the law is extremely complex and can wipe out an entire settlement if not handled correctly. Third parties who have paid for accident-related medical expenses on behalf of the injured party such as hospitals, medical providers, labor unions, governmental agencies and health insurance companies often look to personal injury proceeds for reimbursement. Insurers often add terms to their policies or establish requirements that allow them to be reimbursed.
Missouri and Federal law differ on types of insurance plans they allow to recover at least a portion of what they paid on your behalf in related medical bills. Such disputes are complicated. In Missouri, it is particularly important to review claims for reimbursement from third parties carefully to determine what, if any, right of reimbursement exists under law.
There are complex rules regarding Medicare, Medicaid, workers compensation and support liens. Do not place your personal injury recovery at risk by attempting to handle these issues yourself.
You can create a lien yourself by signing an agreement with a medical provider stating that the provider is to be paid out of your settlement proceeds. The signing of a medical lien should not be taken lightly and should be considered only if you have no other means of paying the bills.