Injured as a Passenger in a Car Accident? Here’s What You Should Know

car accident

Being injured in a car accident can be a stressful and confusing time as you may be uncertain what your rights are, and where you should turn for help. This situation can be made even more complicated if you are injured in an accident in a vehicle where you are merely a passenger, as this may leave you wondering who is at fault, and most importantly, who will be liable for your injuries. Complicating these matters is the fact that Minnesota is a no-fault state.

What makes Minnesota law unique, and can make it complicated for passengers in car accidents to determine liability for their injuries, is the fact that Minnesota is a no-fault car insurance state, which affects the way personal injury claims are handled in this state. If you were injured in a car accident as a passenger in Minnesota, here is an overview of everything you need to know about Minnesota’s no-fault laws and how they affect personal injury claims.

Minnesota is a No-Fault State

The most important thing that you have to understand about being injured in a car accident as a passenger in Minnesota is the fact that this is a no-fault state. This means that under the Minnesota No-Fault Automobile Insurance Act– which became law in 1974– all drivers in the state are required to have Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage through their auto insurance. When drivers are injured in an auto accident in Minnesota, they are required to turn to their own PIP insurance policy for compensation regardless of who is at fault, which is why PIP insurance is often referred to as no-fault insurance, as drivers use this insurance to cover their injuries after an accident even if they were not at fault. State law requires that all drivers possess PIP insurance that provides $20,000 of medical, and $20,000 of non-medical, coverage per person, per accident, to compensate for injuries sustained. PIP insurance is meant to speed up the process of car accident victims receiving compensation for their injuries as they do not have to wait through the often lengthy process of determining fault before they are compensated for their injuries and can receive proper treatment.

What PIP Insurance Covers

Besides the policyholder, PIP insurance also covers any relative who is living with the policyholder and does not have a policy of their own including parents, spouses, children, and extended family members. PIP insurance also covers anyone using the policyholder’s car if they do not have a policy of their own. PIP covers a variety of losses relating to injuries sustained in an auto accident such as medical bills resulting from the accident, lost income from time off of work, and other losses sustained.

Who is Liable for Your Injuries?

Upon learning more about how Minnesota’s no-fault auto accident laws and personal injury protection insurance works, you may be wondering how this applies to you as a passenger since you were not driving a vehicle at the time of the accident. Even though you were not driving, Minnesota’s no-fault laws require that you use your own PIP coverage for your first $40,000 worth of injuries and losses regardless of who was driving or at fault. However, this can create confusion for passengers who are not drivers. If you are not a driver, and you do not have PIP insurance, who is liable for your injuries?

If you do not have PIP insurance, you may be covered by the insurance of a family member you live with if they have a car and are insured, even if they were not involved in the accident. However, if you do not have PIP insurance, and you do not live with someone whose PIP insurance would cover your injuries, then you would be able to make a claim against one of the drivers involved in the accident. In most incidents, your injuries would be covered by the insurance of the vehicle you were in if you do not have PIP insurance. If the driver does not have insurance, or if their insurance does not cover all of your expenses, you may also be able to go after the at-fault driver for compensation.

When Can I Sue?

Unfortunately, car accidents can result in devastating injuries, and you may find that PIP insurance does not cover all of your losses. This is particularly true for passengers involved in car accidents, as passengers often sustain worse injuries than drivers. This may lead you to wonder if no-fault law allows for you to sue the at-fault driver for medical bills, time off of work, and pain and suffering. Fortunately, Minnesota law does allow you to step outside the no-fault system and file a third-party car insurance claim against the at-fault driver if certain conditions are met. You can only file a personal injury lawsuit against a driver after a car accident if you incurred at least $4,000 in medical expenses, you’ve suffered at least 60 days of disability, or if the accident left you with permanent injury or disfigurement. However, it is important to remember that even if one or more of these thresholds are met, you can only file a liability claim against a driver for losses not covered by someone’s PIP insurance.

What if The Driver is a Family Member?

What if you have losses that were not covered by PIP insurance but the driver was a family member or a member of your household? In this situation, you may be able to receive compensation from their auto insurance for your expenses above and beyond the no-fault coverage. Even if the driver lives in the same house as you, they are still responsible for your injuries, and you have the right to file a negligence claim against them if they were the at-fault driver.

Make Sure You are Represented

Navigating Minnesota’s complex no-fault car accident laws can be complex, particularly if you were just a passenger in an accident. If you sustained significant injuries as a passenger in a car accident, you should consider consulting a personal injury attorney in order to make sure that you are looked out for and are properly compensated for your injuries.

Contact us to learn more about Minnesota personal injury claims and the steps that you should take if you have been injured in a car accident.