According to the Mississippi Department of Health, the rate of intentional and unintentional injuries that occur in the state exceeds the rate across the country. Throughout a five-year span, the state’s Department of Transportation recorded an average of 702 traffic fatalities, with 772 occurring in 2021 alone. During that same year, transportation incidents caused the majority of occupational injuries, followed by falls, slips, and trips. Other factors include violence caused by other people and animals.
Taking these statistics into account, Mississippi’s government agencies work together to launch initiatives and promote guidelines that are meant to provide care and preserve the safety of state residents. Their efforts are carried out through projects like the Mississippi Trauma Care System, which offers assistance to people who suffer traumatic injuries and generates quarterly reports on relevant statistics to keep Mississippians informed.
To help those who are harmed due to the negligence of others, Mississippi also has various laws and statutes that influence legal proceedings where an injured person pursues compensation. These laws, which will be discussed in this article, cover a variety of areas related to personal injury, ranging from auto accidents and medical malpractice to premises liability. This article also addresses the different factors involved in a claim or lawsuit, including limitations on recoverable losses and the time given to a victim to pursue a case against at-fault parties.
Mississippi Car Accident Laws
In Mississippi, people who suffer injuries in car accidents can pursue compensation from offending motorists, thanks to the state’s at-fault rules. Because of this, all drivers in the state are required to obtain liability coverage, which they will use to address the resulting damages suffered by victims in a crash or collision they cause. Under Mississippi law, the minimum required amounts for liability coverage are:
$25,000 for the bodily injuries or death of one person.
$50,000 for the bodily injuries or deaths of multiple people.
$25,000 for all property damage involved.
In addition to liability coverage, injured motorists can use uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage to pay for their losses. These policies apply if the driver who caused the accident in question has no insurance at hand or if their coverage is not enough to pay for the resulting damages. Other types of applicable policies include collision and MedPay coverage, which address the cost of vehicular repairs and any medical expenditures, respectively, regardless of who caused the accident.
When a motor vehicle accident occurs, those who are involved are required by law to report the crash if there are any injuries or deaths or if the total property damage amounts to a minimum of $500. The report must be submitted to the police department in the municipality where the accident took place. If the crash happened outside a municipality, victims can file the report at the nearest Mississippi Highway Patrol station or sheriff’s office.
Guidelines for Medical Malpractice Cases in Mississippi
In the area of personal injury, medical malpractice occurs when a doctor or healthcare provider commits a negligent act that results in the injury or death of a patient. As such, the victim or their dependents and relatives can take legal action and pursue compensation from the medical professional who is responsible. However, before a lawsuit or claim can be filed, a plaintiff must first submit a written notice to inform the professional of their intent to file. Additionally, their lawsuit must come with a certificate where it is stated:
That their attorney has reviewed the case alongside a qualified healthcare expert who confirms that the defendant failed to meet the medical standard of care required in their field when they were performing the treatment, thus causing the plaintiff’s injury.
That their attorney believes that the expert possesses sufficient knowledge regarding the issues and conditions relevant to the plaintiff’s case.
That their attorney finds enough reasonable basis for the plaintiff’s lawsuit based on the opinion and review of the expert.
If the plaintiff fails to provide a certificate containing such information, their case may be dismissed by the court. However, a certificate may not be necessary if the attorney is relying on the doctrine of either informed consent or “res ipsa loquitur,” where the defendant’s negligence speaks for itself.
Mississippi Premises Liability Law
An individual in Mississippi who suffers an injury while on another person’s property can take legal action in a premises liability case. If it is proven that the property owner failed to uphold their duty of care by taking enough measures to keep the visitor safe, they can be held liable for the latter’s damages. To pursue compensation, a plaintiff in a premises liability case must prove the following:
The property was owned, occupied, or leased by the defendant.
The defendant showed negligence involving their property’s use.
The victim suffered an injury on the property.
The defendant’s negligence is a major contributing factor to the victim’s injury.
It should be noted that a property owner is not accountable for the injury of someone who suffers harm due to the deliberate actions of a third party that is not related in any way to them as an agent or employee. However, a plaintiff can hold an owner liable if they have enough evidence to prove that:
The third party’s tortious action took place on the owner’s property.
The owner’s conduct, with some level of conscious decision-making, was a driving factor in the actions of the third party.
The third party’s conduct is the proximate cause of the injured person’s damages.
An owner’s duty of care can vary depending on whether a person on their property is classified as a licensee, an invitee, or a trespasser:
Invitees are people who enter a property with the owner’s express consent to conduct some form of business. They can include shoppers at a store or diners at a restaurant. Owners owe them the highest duty of care compared to other types of visitors.
Licensees are people who enter a property for their own benefit and with the owner’s implied consent. These include visitors at a house party or social gathering. An owner will only be held liable for a licensee’s injuries if they were caused by the owner’s willful or wanton conduct toward the latter.
Trespassers are people who enter a property without the owner’s express or implied consent. Like in the case of licensees, an owner is only deemed liable for the trespasser’s injuries through wanton or willful behavior, such as setting dangerous traps to hurt the trespasser deliberately.
Mississippi’s Pure Comparative Negligence Rule
Mississippi follows the rule of pure comparative negligence when it comes to personal injury cases. This allows victims to still pursue and obtain compensation for their losses even if they are partially at fault for the accident that caused their injury. However, their total awarded damages will be reduced based on the percentage of their liability as determined by the court. As a specific example, if a victim is 30% at fault for an accident, they will only receive up to $70,000 from a damage award worth $100,000.
Pure comparative negligence differs from modified comparative negligence in the sense that victims can still recover some of their losses even if they are 99% at fault. In states where the latter principle is followed, a plaintiff may no longer recover any payments if their fault is equal to or greater than a specific percentage.
Joint and Several Liability Rules in Mississippi
If there are multiple defendants in a personal injury case in Mississippi, state law dictates that each defendant will be responsible for paying damages equal to only their share of the blame in the incident. This is known in legal scenarios as several liability. However, if the defendants collectively planned and carried out an act of injury against the plaintiff or if their actions were intentional, the rule of joint and several liability will apply. This means each defendant can seek contributions for damages that they have to pay to the victim from the other at-fault parties.
Mississippi Business Liability Insurance Requirements
Business liability insurance is not explicitly required in Mississippi, though businesses with more than five employees are encouraged to purchase and maintain such a policy. This is used to pay for the expenses of an individual who has suffered an injury at the insurance holder’s establishment or due to an employee’s negligence. Some of the potential damages this type of insurance can cover include medical treatments and damaged property.
Generally, a business liability insurance worth $500,000 to $1 million is ideal for smaller businesses. However, if an establishment is a high-risk company or interacts frequently with the public, higher coverage amounts may be necessary. As such, a business owner must take into account their establishment’s goods or services, the number of people they employ, and the level of their interaction with consumers when purchasing insurance coverage.
Though business liability insurance is not required, the Workers’ Compensation Law in Mississippi states that all businesses with five or more employees must carry workers’ compensation insurance coverage. This policy addresses the costs related to an employee’s medical care, lost income, and long-term rehabilitative treatment should they suffer any form of harm while at work. Business owners with fewer than five employees may still obtain workers’ compensation as additional protection against liability.
How Much Can Someone Sue for an Injury in Mississippi?
There are no limitations on the amount of economic damages that personal injury plaintiffs can recover in Mississippi. This means injured individuals can potentially be reimbursed in full for the monetary losses they have and will incur, including past and future medical treatment, damaged property repairs, and lost wages.
However, it should be noted that Mississippi has a cap on non-economic damages in all personal injury cases. This law, which affects all claims filed on or after September 1, 2004, states that the amount of non-economic losses a personal injury plaintiff can recover may not exceed $1 million. For medical malpractice cases, the cap is $500,000. Non-economic damages involve losses caused by intangible factors such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and emotional distress.
In addition to economic and non-economic damages, Mississippi courts may award punitive damages to a plaintiff. This happens if the court finds sufficient evidence that the defendant in a personal injury case acted with willful or malicious intent, displayed a reckless disregard for the safety of other people, or showed gross negligence. Before punitive damages can be awarded, the amount of compensatory damages to be awarded must first be taken into account alongside the defendant’s net worth and financial situation, as well as other factors such as the nature of their misconduct.
The Statute of Limitations in Mississippi
According to Mississippi’s statute of limitations for civil actions, personal injury plaintiffs have a maximum of three years to take legal action against at-fault parties. This deadline begins counting down from the date of the incident that caused harm to the victim in question. The same statute applies to claims concerning wrongful death or property damage; in cases concerning the former, the three-year deadline starts on the date of the victim’s death. If a victim suffers an injury to their reputation through libel or slander, or if the at-fault party is a government agency or employee, the statute only lasts for one year. If the case involves medical malpractice, the deadline is two years.
However, the statute of limitations may start on a different date if the discovery rule applies, specifically in cases where a victim does not immediately learn about an injury or disability caused by an accident or mishap. Under this legal principle, the time allotted to a plaintiff who wishes to file a claim or lawsuit will only begin at the time when they discover or should have reasonably discovered their injury.
In certain circumstances, victims must also take other requirements into account when taking legal action against at-fault parties. For instance, plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases must provide the healthcare provider or doctor involved with a prior written notice of up to 60 days informing them of their intent to file a claim or lawsuit. Additionally, a plaintiff who seeks to file against a government agency or employee must notify the latter party within 90 days from the date of their injury.
Other Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations
In addition to the discovery rule, there are other ways Mississippi’s statute of limitations can work differently in personal injury cases. For example, if the person entitled to take legal action is considered legally disabled because of an unsound mind, they will be given a maximum of one year to file a claim after recovering from their mental disability. If the person in question passes away, the same deadline will be given to a representative who will file a claim on their behalf, starting from the individual’s death.
Another exception to the regular statute applies to medical malpractice cases where the two-year limitation has expired and the victim is six years old or younger. If both of these factors are present, the child’s parents will be given up to one year from the child’s sixth birthday to take legal action on their behalf. On the other hand, if the child dies from their injury, the time limit for filing claims will begin from the date of their passing.
Legal Resources for Injured Folks in Mississippi
The Mississippi Bar Association offers assistance to the public in the form of various online services and resources. Its website has a Lawyer Directory where people with legal concerns can search for the names, locations, and contact information of attorneys who are members of the organization. There is also a Pro Bono Resources section that contains the contact details and links to nonprofit agencies and legal assistance clinics within the state. Additionally, people can search for the meaning behind the various terminologies and phrases they may encounter in a case through the website’s Legal Terms & Procedures section.
The Mississippi Trauma Care System, which functions under the state’s Department of Health, is part of the local government’s initiative to maintain the safety and health of residents. It provides medical assistance to people who suffer traumatic injuries due to unforeseen incidents by connecting them to facilities that can address their concerns and emergencies. It also contributes to state-wide efforts to reduce the likelihood of bodily harm and death by providing the public with access to educational resources related to injury prevention. Moreover, it monitors relevant statistics on traumatic injuries throughout the state as part of its efforts to catch significant trends and report them to the public.
Free Legal Answers is a legal advice clinic that addresses inquiries concerning civil law for Mississippians at no cost. Those who wish to utilize the clinic’s services can register on its website, where their questions will be answered by pro bono attorneys who cover various areas of the law. However, Free Legal Answers does not address questions involving criminal law, and the lawyers on the website are not available for legal representation.
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