Minnesota Personal Injury Law: Complicated?

Is it true that Minnesota’s personal injury law is very complicated?

Certainly, it is true that people often say that it is. One site for finding a personal injury lawyer in the state writes that if you get seriously injured “you soon will associate Minnesota with complicated damages caps and mystifying minimums.”

We would prefer just to say that every adult needs to understand applicable state and local laws. In fact, not knowing the law is usually a weak defense in court. In the case of a personal injury, even if you get in touch with a personal injury attorney soon after you are involved in an accident—and it is highly recommended that you do—you need to know applicable law.

For example, if you are involved in an automobile accident that is considered serious (involving death, injury, or more than $1,000 in property damage) you are required to inform law enforcement authorities by the quickest means of communication available. And within 10 days you must file a report with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. You also should know, for example, that compensation in personal injury cases in Minnesota takes into consideration the extent to which you are at fault for the accident. Therefore, you never should say to another driver, or a police officer, “It was my fault.” That is strictly for a court to decide.

Getting in touch with a personal injury lawyer

And you should know–if you choose to try on your own to settle with the other party or parties to the accident–that “the clock is ticking” toward your deadline for a court filing. Be aware that the deadline, which is two years from the date of the accident for personal injury (six years for property damage), differs considerably in different contexts.

Your decision to get in touch with a personal injury attorney should not be difficult. Our law firm like others in this field charges you no upfront fees and bills in a personal injury lawsuit and no expenses. If we represent you in lawsuit, only if we win a financial settlement for you do we get compensation—no matter what your case requires.

Some basics of state personal injury law

The following are some crucial “basics” you should know about personal injury law in Minnesota. They are not especially complicated, but they do define the nature and limits of your compensation in some types of cases.

First, to return to the crucial “statute of limitations,” in Minnesota you have two years from the time your injury occurs to file a lawsuit. And that includes any time you might spend seeking an out-of-court settlement. If you don’t file in time, you are very likely to lose your right to do so.

Second, although Minnesota is a “no-fault automobile insurance state,” don’t confuse that with personal injury cases where the court will decide how much of the fault for the accident is yours. The rule is called “modified comparative negligence.” If you are injured at a service station because your car slips off the lift, and your total damages are calculated at $65,000, you may get much less—or nothing—if you walked into the service area clearly marked “no customers allowed at any time.” Because you share fault for the accident.

Third, if you are less than 50 percent at fault, you will collect for some of the damages. If you are determined to be more than 50 percent at fault, you can collect nothing from the parties who share the fault.

Fourth, what about “no-fault” auto insurance? That means that injured individuals in auto accidents must seek, at least first, compensation from their insurance. It does not matter who was at fault in the accident. Now for the exceptions that do allow you to file a lawsuit seeking damages:

  • If you have been charged for “reasonable medical expenses” exceeding $4,000.
  • If you have suffered a disability, permanent injury, or permanent disfigurement for at least two months (60 days).

In such circumstances, you may file a lawsuit, but the damages you seek are those over and above what your personal injury protection (PIP) insurance covered. If PIP covered all expenses, you can’t file.

Fifth, when you have injury claims against the state for negligence of a government employee or agency (the example often given is your car being hit by a city bus), the rules are different in seeking compensation. Unlike the two-year deadline for filing suit, discussed above, an injury claim against the Minnesota state government or its employees must be filed within 180 days (about half a year) of your injury. The same filing limitation applies if you are claiming damages from a city or county.

Sixth, when you are injured at work, your basic coverage is Workers’ compensation. The benefits are intended to cover your medical bills, lost wages, and also payment to compensate you for permanent disabilities. (If a worker is killed in a job-related accident, payments can go to dependents.) If you are injured at work and believe that negligence on the part of your employer may have contributed to the injury, you can file a lawsuit alleging that. Workers’ comp insurance protects your employer financially in such a lawsuit. The sooner your personal injury attorney knows about your injury, and you can be seen by a doctor or nurse, the better. Here, again, the clock is ticking: Minnesota law strictly limits how long claims adjusters have to ascertain whether or not an injury was work-related. And the clock starts ticking as soon as the injury is reported to the employer.

When you call a personal injury law firm

When you call Patterson Dahlberg, specialists in personal injury law, a team of lawyers in Rochester, MN, immediately begin giving you expert counsel so that your rights are protected from the outset. Because personal injury is our only field, we bring experience, dedication, and an intensive focus to work with every client. We understand all your rights under the law and we know how to fight for them. We know that delivering results is crucial to protecting you and your loved ones—and we go after the best results possibly obtainable.

Meanwhile, check back here regularly for information, insights, and updates about the law, your rights under law, and specific questions that arise in the personal injury field.