Minnesota has specific rules for personal injury cases, especially car accident cases. Because this is a no-fault state, your own car insurance pays for your injuries. However, you are able to file a liability claim against the defendant if your insurance does not cover all of your expenses.
Retaining a personal injury lawyer not only helps you get through the confusing rules for bringing a lawsuit, but it could also mean more money in your pocket since insurance companies will settle for the least amount possible. If you were injured in a car accident or any other type of personal injury case, contact Patterson Dahlberg for a free consultation.
In order to bring a liability claim when your no-fault insurance does not cover all of your expenses, you must, by Minnesota law, meet one of these thresholds to bring a liability claim:
- Your non-diagnostic medical expenses must exceed $4,000;
- You have a permanent injury that is documented by your doctor;
- You have permanent scarring;
- You have 60 days of work restriction and the restriction is documented by a doctor; or
Patterson Dahlberg monitors your case to make sure you meet one of the thresholds. If it looks like you will not meet one of the requirements to file a liability case, we will notify you by letter and will close your case at no cost to you. However, if you do meet one of these requirements, we will evaluate your claim after we receive a final Narrative Report from your treating physician.
Statute of Limitations
You should always contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible when you are injured. Minnesota provides a limited time to file claims. In most cases:
- No-fault claims must be filed within six months; and
- Most other personal injury claims must be filed within two years.
Because there are always exceptions to the rule, it’s best to contact an attorney immediately after an accident to ensure you do not miss the filing date.
Elements of Damages in a Liability Claim
You may be entitled to three types of damages in a liability claim: Economic damages, non-economic damages and punitive damages.
Special or economic damages are those with a set price and may include:
- Medical expenses that you have already incurred as a result of the incident;
- Future medical expenses that you may incur as a result of the incident, including physical therapy, occupational therapy and psychological therapy;
- Lost wages for the time you were out of work because of injuries, hospital stays and doctors’ appointments for injuries incurred as a result of the incident;
- Future lost wages for time you may miss from work due to injuries incurred in the accident;
- Burial and funeral expenses;
- Attorneys’ fees and costs; and
- Replacement or repair of personal property that may have been damaged in the incident.
General or non-economic damages fall under pain and suffering and may include loss of companionship, disfigurement and compensation for other elements that do not have a set price. You may also receive compensation for inconvenience and loss of consortium – the inability to have a physical relationship with your spouse.
Punitive damages are only awarded as a punishment and/or deterrent for someone whose behavior was grossly negligent. Minnesota has several rules regarding filing punitive damages, including:
- When you file a civil action against someone in a personal injury case, you cannot ask for punitive damages in the initial lawsuit.
- Once it is determined that the defendant’s actions and/or inactions were grossly negligent or intentional, the original claim may be amended to add punitive damages.
- The evidence of gross negligence or intentional harmful behavior must be clear and convincing.
Punitive damage awards take into consideration several factors including the seriousness of the defendant’s actions and/or inactions, whether the defendant profited from his or her actions and/or inactions and by how much the defendant profited, the length of time of the misconduct, whether the actions and/or inactions were hidden, whether the defendant was aware that his or her actions and/or inactions would cause harm and the attitude of the defendant once he or she learned of the consequences of his or her actions and/or inactions.
Once the court or a jury decides that you are entitled to punitive damages, a separate action will start and the court or jury will determine how much the defendant has to pay.
While it may be difficult to get punitive damages, if you are entitled to them, you should not let Minnesota’s process deter you from asking for them. Examples of cases where punitive damages may be awarded include:
- A car accident caused by a drunk driver;
- Someone who commits certain intentional torts, such as kidnapping or trespassing with the intent to harm;
- A car accident caused by distracted driving;
- A work accident where the employer refused to provide safety equipment required by law to do a specific job; or
- A work accident where the employer did not keep existing safety equipment well-maintained, especially after notification that said safety equipment was malfunctioning or out of date.
These are not the only instances where punitive damages could be awarded, but are just some examples. And, in some cases, even in these examples, you may not be awarded any punitive damages, depending on the circumstances.
Contact Patterson Dahlberg
If you have been injured in an accident, contact Patterson Dahlberg to learn of your rights in a personal injury case. If you were injured in a vehicle accident and you do not believe that your insurance will cover all your out-of-pocket costs and general damages, you should contact an attorney to help you determine if you meet the criteria for a liability claim and to help you file a liability claim.
Instead of focusing on the accident or the claim, focus on getting your life back to normal and let us handle the lawsuit.