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Missouri Negligence Laws

Overview of Missouri Negligence Laws

Negligence is technically not a law, but rather a legal theory used to determine liability in all states, including Missouri. To be negligent is to act (or fail to act) in a way that violates a duty you owe to another individual. For instance, a motorist who runs a red light because they weren't paying attention -- and then hits another car, causing an injury -- is negligent and therefore liable for the injury. The motorist owed a duty to other drivers to follow the rules of the road, and breached that duty.

Negligence is the basis of most injury lawsuits, while "criminal negligence" refers to a defendant's carelessness or neglect used to determine guilt. In injury law, negligence is determined by comparing the defendant's action (or inaction) to the "reasonable person" standard.

As in many other states, Missouri recognizes the legal doctrine of "comparative negligence," in which a plaintiff who is partially responsible for his own injuries may only collect damages in proportion to the defendant's degree of fault. But Missouri courts do not recognize the related legal doctrine of "contributory negligence," in which a plaintiff may not recover at all if he or she is even slightly responsible for the incident.

What are the Elements of a Negligence Case?

Negligence is a fairly standardized cause of action, so the elements required to establish liability are quite uniform from one state to the next. Generally, the elements of a negligence case are:

  1. Defendant owed a duty to commit an act or refrain from committing an act
  2. Defendant breached this duty
  3. This breach of duty caused injury to the plaintiff
  4. Defendant's actions (or inactions) were the proximate cause of the injury (the defendant should have known that this action could have caused injuries)
  5. Plaintiff suffered actual damages (i.e., lost wages, hospital bills, etc.)

Additional facts about Missouri's negligence law and links to related sources are listed below. See FindLaw's Negligence section to learn more.

Code Section None
Comparative Negligence In products liability cases, comparative fault is an affirmative defense. Fault shall diminish damages proportionately but does not bar recovery (537.765)
Contributory Negligence-Limit to Plaintiff's Recovery No  
Contribution Among Tortfeasors Yes; §537.060
Uniform Act -

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact a Missouri personal injury attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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