If you suffer injuries in a car accident, one of the first things you do is call your insurance company. However, you should give the representative very limited information: Your name, policy number, the location of the accident, and your attorney’s contact information. Minnesota is a no-fault state, so your own insurance company will pay for damages, including medical costs. However, you may collect more than current medical expenses.
How Insurance Works For Car Accident Cases
Always keep in mind that your insurance company is in business to make money. Thus, even your own insurance company is going to offer you the least amount possible to make you go away. Even after you paid thousands in premiums, you can count on getting very little from the insurance company.
Additionally, your injuries and losses could cost more than what your insurance would cover because of the amount of coverage you have. Contact a personal injury lawyer at Patterson Dahlberg Injury Lawyers as soon as possible. While you might have a year or more to file a claim with the court, you have a very limited amount of time to file a claim through your insurance company—sometimes as little as 30 days, depending on your policy.
If your damages are more than what your insurance company will pay out, you may also make a claim with the defendant’s insurance company or sue the defendant in civil court.
What My Case Is Worth: Damages
During negotiations with your insurance company or during the trial, you may attempt to collect three types of damages: economic, non-economic and punitive damages.
Special damages, or economic damages, are those that have a dollar amount attached to them. Depending on your situation, you may try to collect:
- Past medical expenses: These are expenses that you incurred because of injuries suffered in an accident. If you lost a loved one in an accident, you might be entitled to collect past medical expenses on behalf of your loved one. Medical expenses may include charges for an ambulance and/or air medical, emergency room, surgical, doctors and hospital expenses. You may also recover costs for physical, psychological and cognitive therapy you had to undergo because of injuries or losses you suffered in the accident.
- Future medical expenses: These are expenses that you expect to incur due to damages you suffered in an accident. The insurance company and/or court might award you future medical expenses if your injuries are expected to result in a long-term disability, which is usually more than a year. Future medical expenses may include costs for follow-up appointments, additional surgeries, cognitive, psychological and physical therapies and other medical expenses.
- Past lost wages: If you lost time from work because of an accident, you might be entitled to collect lost wages.
- Future lost wages: If the accident caused a long-term disability, you might be entitled to collect future wages, including at an increased rate for future years, so as to keep up with the cost of living.
- Replacement or repair of personal property: If the accident damaged property, including a vehicle and personal property in the vehicle, you might be entitled to the costs to repair or replace the property.
- Inconvenience: If your injuries preclude you from doing things you would normally do, such as home maintenance, shopping, housework and other tasks, you may be entitled to compensation to hire someone to complete these tasks for you.
- Funeral and burial costs: If you lost a loved one in an accident, you might be entitled to collect the cost of the funeral and burial and other costs associated with funeral expenses.
General damages, or non-economic damages, are those that do not have a specific dollar amount attached to them.
- Pain and suffering: If your injuries are painful and are expected to last longer than a year, you may be entitled to collect damages for pain and suffering. The pain and suffering from the injuries must be very painful. For example, if you injured your back and, even with surgeries, are expected to have painful back problems for the long-term, you might be entitled to pain and suffering.
- Loss of companionship/consortium: If you lost a loved one in an accident, you might be entitled to compensation for the loss of companionship of that person. If your spouse loses the ability to have a physical relationship with you, you might be entitled to compensation for loss of consortium.
Punitive Damages in Minnesota Car Accident Cases
Punitive damages are only awarded in cases of gross negligence or if the defendant purposely set out to cause you harm. This type of compensation is meant to punish the defendant for his or her actions. You, as the plaintiff, have to prove that the defendant’s actions were grossly negligent or purposeful. For example, a drunk driver knew or should have known that driving under the influence would likely cause an accident with severe injuries and/or fatalities. Because he or she knew or should have known this, the defendant’s actions are considered grossly negligent.
An example of intent is when someone trespasses on your property—an intentional tort—with the purpose of causing you harm. It is very difficult to get an award for punitive damages, even with an attorney, because you have to show that the defendant should have known his or her actions were going to be harmful or result in a fatality. It is easier to obtain punitive damages with an attorney who is familiar with the law.
Contact Patterson and Dahlberg If You’ve Been Injured In A Car Crash
If someone caused an accident that injured you, your loved ones, or killed a loved one, contact a Minnesota accident attorney at Patterson and Dahlberg to discuss your case. Even if you or your loved one is still in the hospital a few days after the accident, contact our office to discuss your case. Keep in mind that you have a very limited amount of time to file a claim with your insurance company.