“Standard of care” means the degree of care which a person is required to exercise when operating a motor vehicle. In Missouri, all operators of motor vehicles are required to use this highest degree of care when on a public roadway. Missouri courts define the “highest degree of care” as being that degree of care which a very careful and prudent person would exercise in the same or similar circumstances. Failure to exercise this is the definition of negligence in Missouri, so it is best to understand what degree of care really means.
If a person operates a motor vehicle off a public roadway, such as a parking lot or driveway, the operator only owes the general public a duty of ordinary care. “Ordinary care” is defined as the degree of care an ordinary careful and prudent person would exercise in the same or similar circumstances. This is
a lesser degree of care required.
Missouri law defines a “motor vehicle” as “any self-propelled vehicle not operated exclusively on tracks, except farm tractors.” Notice the Missouri legislature exempted farm tractors from being motor vehicles. Therefore, farm tractor operators only owe a duty of ordinary care, irrespective of whether they are on a public or private road. Needless to say, the distinction drawn by the Missouri legislature with regard to the standard of care owed by farmers makes little sense. Why would a farm tractor operator not be required to use the same degree of care imposed upon all other motorists? Be this as it may, standard of care is a very important concept with litigating personal injury cases in Missouri. Any lawyer who undertakes a personal injury case must be familiar with the applicable standard of care in any give case. Failure to properly argue or present the proper standard of care in pleadings can result in a case being dismissed for failure to state a claim.
If you have questions about the standard of care as it applies to your Missouri personal injury case, contact us for a free consultation.