If you’ve been injured in a car accident in the State of Missouri, you may have questions about how the laws will affect your property damage and/or personal injury claim. In this article, we’ll review the laws most commonly associated with car accidents. To read the entirety of each law, click the link to the specific State of Missouri statutes in each section.
Here are the Missouri car accident and traffic laws we’ll cover:
Pedestrians and Crosswalks
The driver of a vehicle must stop and yield the right of way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian has reached the halfway point of the crosswalk, or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the crosswalk as to be in danger.
Restrictions on Pedestrians Crossing Roadways
No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield.
Pedestrian Control Signals
Pedestrians must obey instructions on any traffic-control device specifically applicable, unless otherwise directed by a police officer.
Crossing at Other Than Crosswalks
Pedestrians intending to cross a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles on the roadway. Pedestrians must use only the marked crosswalk to cross between two adjacent intersections that have traffic-control signals in operation.
No pedestrian is allowed to cross a roadway other than in a crosswalk in any business district or on any street designated by law. No pedestrian is allowed to cross a roadway intersection diagonally unless authorized by official traffic control devices.
Pedestrians on Roadway
Where sidewalks are provided, it is unlawful for any pedestrian to walk along and upon adjacent roadway. Where sidewalks are not provided, pedestrians are permitted to walk only on or along the left side of the roadway or on it’s shoulder facing traffic from the opposite direction.
Drivers to Exercise Due Care
The driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian upon any roadway and shall give warning by sounding the driver’s horn when necessary and shall exercise proper precaution upon observing any child or any confused or incapacitated person.
Pedestrians Under the Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance
Pedestrians Under the Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance The driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian upon any roadway and shall give warning by sounding the driver’s horn when necessary and shall exercise proper precaution upon observing any confused or incapacitated person.
Obedience to Traffic Control Devices
A driver must obey any traffic control devices applicable to the driver, unless directed by a traffic or police officer.
Driving on Right Side of Roadway
Drivers must drive in the right lane of roadways with the following exceptions:
- When passing another driver in the same direction
- When there is an obstruction in the right lane
- Upon a roadway restricted to one way traffic
Passing On the Left
Driver proceeding in the same direction must pass to the left at at a safe distance and must remain in the passing lane until it is safe to return to the right lane. Drivers being passed must not increase the speed of their vehicle until their vehicle is completely passed by the overtaking car.
Limitations on Overtaking on the Left
Drivers may drive to the left side of the center of the roadway in overtaking and passing another vehicle only if the left side is clearly visible, the view is not obstructed by the crest of a grade or a curve in the road, and the overtaking vehicle can return to its lane without coming within one hundred (100) feet of any bridge, viaduct, tunnel, intersection, or railroad grade crossing..
Passing On the Right
Drivers may pass on the right under the following conditions:
- When the driver about to be passed is about to make a left turn. However, the driver attempting to pass on the right must not do so without driving off the pavement of main-traveled portion of the roadway.
- When the roadway has two (2) or more lines of traffic moving in the same direction.
- On a one-way street where the roadway is free from obstructions and wide enough for two or more lines of moving vehicles.
- Upon a highway outside of the city with unobstructed pavement of sufficient width and clearly marked for four or more lines of traffic.
Following Too Closely
A driver must not follow another driver more closely than is “reasonable and prudent”, having due regard for the speed of other drivers and traffic conditions along the roadway.
A driver must leave sufficient space ahead of their vehicle to allow an overtaking vehicle to enter and occupy this space without danger.
Drivers and Mobile Electronic Devices
Drivers of commercial motor vehicles and drivers who are twenty-one (21) years of age or younger must not drive while using a hand-held mobile electronic device, except for the sole purpose of calling 911.
Exceptions to this law include persons who are reporting an illegal activity, who are preventing injury to a person or property, or who are relaying information between a transit or for-hire operator and their dispatcher using a device that is permanently attached to the vehicle.
Drivers and Intersections
When two (2) drivers approach an intersection at approximately the same time the driver on the left must yield to the driver in the right.
Drivers Intending to Turn Left at Intersections
A driver who intends to turn left at an intersection, or into an alley, private road or driveway must yield the right of way to drivers approaching from the opposite direction.
Drivers Entering or Crossing a Roadway
All motorcyclists must wear helmets while riding on roadways.
Motorcycles and Headlights
Every motorcycle must be equipped with at least one and not more than two approved headlights. Every motorcycle equipped with a sidecar or other attachment must be equipped with a lamp that displays a white light to the front.
Driving Offenses and Accident Requirements
Careless and Reckless Driving
A driver who drives in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of careless or reckless driving, and can be fined and imprisoned.
Careless or reckless driving includes improper or erratic traffic lane changes, following too closely, any violation of Section 304.016 (rules for passing), Section 304.010 (maximum speed limits), or any violation of federal or state law or county or municipal ordinance while driving a commercial vehicle. This law does not include driving by excessive speed.
Alcohol and Minors
As of 2017, a person under the age of twenty one (21) attempt to purchase, purchase, possess, or consume alcohol.
Driver’s Duty to Give Information and Render Aid
A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury or death to any person, including other drivers, passengers, and/ or passersby must give their name, address and the registration number of the car they are driving and their driver’s license number to any person injured in the accident, or to a police officer or the nearest police station of judicial officer.
Moreover the driver must render to any person injured in the accident reasonable assistance, including making of arrangements to transfer the injured person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent medical treatment is required.
Leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident is class A misdemeanor but becomes a class D felony if the accident resulted in injury, property damage in excess of one thousand ($1000) dollars, or if the driver has previously pled guilty or have been found guilty of this same offense.
Accidents Involving Death, Personal Injury, or Substantial Bodily Injury
A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury or death of any person must immediately stop and remain at the scene of the accident until the driver has fulfilled the requirements of Section Section 302.0600.
Section 302.0600 reads in part that the driver must give their name, address the registration number of the car they are driving, and their driver’s license number to any person injured in the accident or a police officer.
Driver’s Duty to Notify Police Department
A driver involved in a motor vehicle accident that caused injury, death, or damage must immediately give notice to the nearest police office.
For more information about auto insurance in Missouri, see the State of Missouri Auto Claim brochure.
Accident Reports Filed By Police Departments
Every police officer who investigates a vehicle accident resulting in injury, death, or property damage totaling five hundred ($500) dollars or more must send a written report to the Missouri state highway patrol within ten (10) days of their investigation.
Accident Report Forms
The Missouri Department of Revenue Motor Vehicle Accident Report Form is available at the Department of Revenue website.
Open Alcohol Container Law
In Missouri, a driver is not permitted to consume alcohol while driving, but there is no specific legislation about passengers possessing an open alcohol container.
NCSL Open Container and Consumption Statutes
Driving Under Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance
A driver must not drive after drinking an alcoholic beverage or consuming an intoxicant in an amount which renders the driver incapable of driving safely along roadways.
In Missouri, a driver is guilty of the offense of operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant if the driver has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08 or higher. For a driver of a commercial motor vehicle, the BAC cannot be .04 or higher.
Ignition Interlock Device
A driver who is guilty of driving while under the influence of an intoxicant must have installed at his or her own expenses an ignition interlock device. The ignition interlock device will serve to restore the driver’s driving privileges during the pendency of the driver’s probation. If an ignition device is installed, it must be installed in every car owned or operated by the driver.
An ignition interlock is a device which measures any amount of alcohol contained in a driver’s body. Before starting the car the driver must blow into a tube emanating from the ignition interlock device. If the device then detects a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) higher than is permitted by law the car will not start and the violation will be reported to the prosecutor, the probation officer, and/or the judge.
At that point the driver may be subject to loss of driving privileges, immediate arrest and incarceration up to the maximum term provided by law.
Hawaii Dram Shop Law
Missouri has a modified Dram Shop Law. Dram Shop Law refers to the liability of private social hosts, bars, hotels nightclubs and other commercial establishments who serve alcohol to patrons or to minors for injuries intoxicated patrons or minors cause to third parties such as in car accidents.
A private social host is the host at a private party, such as a wedding reception, a corporate sponsored event, a gathering of friends at a private residence, where alcohol is served not for profit.
Under Missouri law, it is a violation of the liquor control laws for a social host or a commercial establishment to serve alcohol to a minor or a person who is visibly under the influence of liquor.
However, the law stops there. Even if a social host or a commercial establishment is found to have violated the liquor control law, they are not liable for the actions of the intoxicated person.
For violating the liquor control laws, such as knowingly providing alcohol to a minor or selling alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person, a social host or a commercial establishment can be fined, and the establishment may lose its liquor license.
For an injured third party to succeed in a claim for personal injuries or property damage against a commercial establishment or social host, the injured third party must file a lawsuit alleging negligence by the establishment or the social host. While presenting a case in court, the injured third-party may cite the violation of liquor control laws by the establishment or the social host.
Financial Responsibility Car Insurance Minimum Limits
In the State of Missouri, each motor vehicle must be covered by an insurance policy that includes liability coverage of the following amounts for all damages resulting from an accident:
- At least $25,000 per person
- At least $50,000 for injury to two (2) or more people
- $10,000 per occurrence for property damage
Missouri Insurance Information
For more information about auto insurance, see the State of Missouri Department of Insurance website.
Comparative Negligence (51% Rule)
In Missouri, the victim in a car accident can sue the negligent driver for compensation. The victim’s liability in causing the accident, their comparative negligence, affects the amount of compensation the victim receives.
If the victim contributed less than 51% of the negligence that caused the accident, then their compensation is reduced by the amount they contributed to the accident.
If the victim contributed 51% or more of the negligence that caused the accident, then the victim is barred from receiving any compensation.
Example of Comparative Negligence (51% Rule)
One morning, Jackson was driving north on his way to work. At an intersection, he pulled into the left turn lane. At the same time, Melanie approached the intersection from the opposite direction. Suddenly, Jackson turned left into Melanie’s lane and their cars collided.
Melanie sustained serious brain injuries and damage to her car, totalling in $100,000 dollars worth of damages.
After their investigation, the police determined that Jackson had failed to yield according to traffic laws. A pedestrian witness told police he saw Melanie looking down into the glove compartment at the time Jackson’s car crashed into Melanie’s. As a result, the police issued Melanie a citation for careless driving. As a result, the police issued Melanie a citation for careless driving.
Melanie sued Jackson for $100,000 and claimed he was 100% at fault for the accident because he did not yield to her right-of-way. At trial, the jury found Jackson liable for failing to yield the right-of-way. However, the jury also found Melissa liable for careless driving and partially responsible for the accident.
The verdict stated Jackson’s negligence equaled 70% of the accident, and Melanie’s equaled 30%. The jury awarded Melanie only $70,000 dollars.
In the event the jury had found Jackson’s negligence equaled 49% of the accident, and Melanie’s equaled 51%, the jury would be barred by law from awarding Melanie any compensation for the damages.
Comparative Negligence: Section 537.765
Right of Way: Section 304.351.1
Careless, Reckless and Imprudent Driving: Section 302.700
Missouri’s No Fault Car Insurance
Missouri prescribes to liability insurance and does not prescribe to no-fault insurance. A driver can file a claim under their own insurance policy, pursue a claim against the other driver’s insurance policy, and/or file a lawsuit against the other driver.
Statute of Limitations
Missouri has a five (5) year statute of limitations for property damage and personal injury claims. This means if a driver, passenger, or passerby is injured or sustains property damage at the hands of a negligent driver, the victim must file a lawsuit within the two (2) year period following the incident.
Small Claims Courts
In Missouri, victims of car accidents can choose to sue the negligent driver in small claims court.
To submit a claim in small claims court, visit the Missouri State Judiciary website.
Missouri Government Tort Claims – Sovereign Immunity
In Missouri, it is possible to submit a claim against a governmental agency or its employees for personal injury or property damage as a result of negligence on the part of the governmental agency or its employees. The claim must refer to an lawful action on the part of the governmental agency or employee performed in the scope of their duties.
If the injury or property damage occurred as a result of an unlawful action, then the claimant can sue only the person(s) who caused injury or property damage individually. The governmental agency would not be liable.
If Melissa, an engineer with the Springfield Planning Department, ran a red light on her way to a worksite and caused an accident, then the City of Springfield would be liable for the property damage and personal injuries caused her.
If Melissa stopped for a few drinks and became intoxicated before heading to a worksite and causing an accident, then the City of Springfield can claim sovereign immunity. Melissa performed an unlawful act and was not acting in the scope of her duties when she became intoxicated on her way to the worksite.
To seek compensation for damages, injured parties would have to sue Melissa personally. The determination of whether or not Melissa was acting within the scope of her duties would have to be decided during a trial.
Missouri places a cap on the maximum amount of damages that can be claimed against a government agency or its employees: a maximum of two million ($2,000,000) dollars out of one occurrence, and a maximum of three hundred thousand ($300,000) dollars for any single person in a single occurrence.
A government tort claim must be filed against the governmental agency responsible for the car accident within two (2) years after the accident.