Answered by: Paul R. Dahlberg
While it is possible to sue an uninsured driver if you’ve been injured due to their negligence, it is typically more reliable and efficient to seek compensation for your injuries, lost wages and related expenses through your own auto insurance policy’s uninsured motorist (UM) coverage.
The first step to finding the best outcome is consulting an experienced motor vehicle accident attorney who understands Minnesota’s complex insurance rules. The good news is that you can work with a higher-end attorney, and it doesn’t cost you anything. That’s because personal injury lawyers work on a contingent fee basis, meaning they only get paid if you recover damages.
Minnesota Minimum Insurance Coverage Requirements
State law requires drivers of all licensed automobiles to have the following types and minimum amounts of coverage:
- Personal injury protection (PIP): $40,000 per person per accident, including $20,000 for hospital and medical expenses and $20,000 for non-medical expenses, such as lost wages, replacement services, etc.
- Liability: $30,000 for injuries to one person, $60,000 for injuries to two persons or more and $10,000 for damage to the other driver’s vehicle or property damage.
- Uninsured (UM): $25,000 for injuries to one person and $50,000 for injuries to two or more people.
- Underinsured (UIM): $25,000 for injuries to one person and $50,000 for injuries to two or more people.
Additionally, if you have a loan or are leasing the vehicle, the lender or leasing agent will require you to carry collision and comprehensive coverage. If you own the car, those coverages are optional.
How Does Uninsured Motorist Coverage Work?
UM coverage pays for at least a portion of your medical expenses if a negligent driver without insurance injures you, and UIM coverage kicks in when your costs exceed an insured driver’s policy limits. This coverage applies to medical and non-medical expenses related to your injuries. Minnesota drivers are not required to purchase UM coverage for property damage.
How often does UM coverage kick in? Too often! In 2019, the Insurance Information Institute said 9.9% of Minnesota drivers were uninsured, and one out of every seven drivers had either no insurance or inadequate coverage. The sad fact is that the state’s minimum requirements are usually not enough to pay for medical treatment, lost wages and other costs associated with accidents.
The National Safety Council (NSC) analyzed medical costs, lost wages and associated expenses from accidents resulting in fatalities or severe injuries. The conclusions are staggering. The NSC found the average cost per traffic death is $1.41 million. Even expenses for “non-disabling” injuries averaged nearly $80,000, well above Minnesota’s minimum insurance requirements.
Navigating Minnesota’s Complex Car Insurance Rules
In addition to seeking compensation under UM/UIM coverages, Minnesota is one of about a dozen states with a no-fault car insurance system. Under no-fault rules, car accident victims can recover damages for medical expenses, lost wages, funeral costs and other crash-related losses from their own insurance policy. That compensation comes from their personal injury protection or PIP coverage. The system results in faster payouts because neither side has to prove who caused the accident.
But no-fault has downsides, including higher premiums for everyone in the state, and it doesn’t cover property damage. It also limits options for pursuing a personal injury claim unless injuries meet a certain threshold and exceed the dollar limits of PIP coverage.
Minnesota motorcyclists are highly vulnerable because most motorcycle insurance policies are liability only, lacking UM/UIM coverage. Insurance companies often tell these individuals that they aren’t covered when they get into an accident. However, that isn’t necessarily true. Motorcyclists can generally get compensation if another party is responsible for the accident. They may also have coverage through their own auto insurance policy.
What Is Contributory Negligence?
Minnesota also restricts your potential recovery if you are deemed partially responsible for an accident. You may still be able to file a personal injury claim and receive compensation as long as you aren’t more than 50% responsible for the crash. For example, a court awards a $100,000 judgment in your favor. But you were found 30% responsible, so your share is reduced by $30,000.
Experienced Attorneys Understand Insurance And Insurers
With Minnesota’s complicated insurance rules for uninsured motorists and no-fault coverage, it’s easy to get lost trying to figure out what to do. But higher-end lawyers who have successfully handled thousands of these cases know how the system works. In some instances, it’s possible that one car accident claim will involve three or four different insurance companies.
While the insurers may be different, they all have one common goal – to pay you as little as possible. They will look to capitalize on your vulnerability after a crash by offering a quick, lowball settlement. It’s crucial to have them speak to your lawyer before accepting any offers. In some instances, a car accident’s complete physical and financial impacts may take weeks or months to determine.
Knowledgeable attorneys know how to calculate current and future losses. They also understand insurer tactics as well as how to deal with different coverages that often come into play. That’s why it’s in your best interests to work with a Minnesota attorney who has in-depth knowledge of insurance laws and has collected more than $60 million for clients.