In 2013, Missouri enacted Section § 303.390 also known as the “No Pay, No Play” law. This law prohibits uninsured motorists from collecting damages for non-economic losses when involved in a motor vehicle accident. In other words, an uninsured driver can still recover damages for property losses, medical bills, and lost wages against the at-fault party but is otherwise barred from obtaining damages for pain and suffering. Under the law, those damages are “waived” by the Plaintiff for failing to have liability insurance while operating a motor vehicle. This law can be all the more painful to a Plaintiff at trial as the jury still considers and awards the non-economic damages during its deliberations. However, after the verdict is rendered, the non-economic amounts are then reduced by the Judge.
While the law generally prohibits an uninsured driver from recovering non-economic damages, there are several exceptions to the law. For instance, the law does not apply in instances where the at-fault party was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Nor does it apply when an at-fault party is convicted of involuntary manslaughter or assault. Finally, the law also grants a six-month grace period from the time the driver received his/her notice of nonrenewal or termination for failure to pay the insurance premium.
The law also has some other key distinctions. It applies to all motorists operating the vehicle, not just the vehicle owner. Thus, those borrowing vehicles should confirm the vehicle is insured or at least that they themselves have insurance coverage for the vehicle. Otherwise, those drivers could also waive their right to obtain non-economic damages should they be in an accident. Notably, the law does not apply to any of the passengers of the uninsured vehicle.
Given the consequences, the law is not without controversy and has been challenged a few times, although with inconsistent results. For instance, in 2018 a federal district court in Missouri denied a Defendant’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment related to the law by claiming that the provision violated the Plaintiff’s right to a jury trial under the Missouri Constitution. A few Missouri trial courts followed that ruling and also refused to enforce the provisions under the same reasoning. However, other Missouri trial courts, including those in St. Louis, have upheld the provision as constitutional by finding that the provision just leads to a valid waiver of rights to recover those specific damages. As of this writing, no challenges appear to have been made at the Missouri Appellate or Supreme Court level.
It behooves all Missouri drivers to have liability insurance so that they do not put others at risk for financial ruin should they cause an accident. Moreover, given the consequences of the No Pay, No Play law, Missouri drivers have extra motivation to make sure they are insured; otherwise, they risk losing damage awards for pain and suffering should they be an in accident that is not their fault.