The Schmidt Law Team at the Schmidt Law Firm is proud to say that it is Minnesota’s premier law firm in many respects, but especially in the handling of No Fault Insurance claims. It is important that Minnesota’s legal system requires the victims of personal injury or wrongful death in motor vehicle collisions, whether car accidents, trucking accidents, or car-pedestrian accidents, to seek benefits from their own No-Fault insurance before proceeding with a claim against the at-fault driver. For that reason, it is important that the victims of motor vehicle collisions have the representation of a law firm knowledgeable in the handling of the No Fault portion of the case, as well as the at fault portion of the case.
The Schmidt Law Team is headed by Douglas E Schmidt, the senior trial lawyer at the Schmidt Law Firm. Schmidt has over 40 years experience in handling No-Fault claims. As far back as 1974, Schmidt represented the interests of the Minnesota trial lawyers Association in lobbying the Minnesota legislature with regard to the Minnesota No-Fault Insurance Act. After the passage of the law, Schmidt was appointed by the Minnesota Supreme Court to serve on the committee that wrote the rules for arbitration of Minnesota No-Fault insurance claims Schmidt served as the draftsman of the first three editions of those rules.
Schmidt was appointed by the Minnesota Supreme Court as one of the arbitrators of Minnesota No-Fault arbitrations. For over 20 years, Schmidt served as an arbitrator.
The Schmidt Law Team has represented the clients of the Schmidt Law Firm in over 1000 No-Fault arbitrations and has successfully produced No Fault benefits of more than $10 million for the clients of the Schmidt Law Firm.
Schmidt has been asked to speak at continuing legal education seminars sponsored by the Minnesota trial lawyers on the subject of how to properly represent injury victims and No-Fault arbitration claims.
Minnesota No -Fault Insurance Claims:
1. Minnesota is a No-Fault state. What does that mean?
In 1974 the Minnesota Legislature passed the Minnesota No-Fault Automobile
Insurance Act, which went into effect on January 1, 1975.
This means every personal injury claim in the state of Minnesota has two parts: (1) No-Fault part; and (2) At-Fault part. NOTE: If you are injured while driving or riding in a motor vehicle while you are on the job (i.e. in the course and scope of any employment), your claim has three parts!!! You have rights under the Minnesota Workers Compensation law in addition to your rights under the No Fault law and your rights to make a claim against the “At Fault” driver. The No-Fault part of a Minnesota personal injury claim involves collecting benefits provided under your No-Fault insurance policy.
2. Do you have No-Fault insurance?
Under Minnesota law, No-Fault insurance coverage is mandatory and must be, by law, included in every automobile insurance policy.
Generally, a person injured in a motor vehicle collision, whether as a driver, passenger or pedestrian, has the right to No-Fault benefits. However, the law is somewhat complicated as to which insurance policy is required to provide the No Fault insurance coverage. The advice of an attorney may be necessary to resolve that issue.
A. Rights Under Your Own Car Insurance Policy: In the large majority of cases, the injured person will have the right to collect No Fault benefits from their own car insurance policy. Accordingly, if you have car insurance (or live in the household of a relative who has car insurance), then you have No-Fault insurance coverage.
B. Rights Under the Car Insurance Policy on the Car in Which You Were Riding: Even if you don’t have your own car insurance but are injured while riding in a car that does have insurance, you can collect No-Fault benefits from the insurance policy on the car in which you were riding.
C. Rights When Riding in a Bus/Taxi Cab: If you were injured while riding in a vehicle “used in the business of transporting persons or property” (i.e. a bus or taxi cab), you must seek No Fault benefits from the insurance covering that vehicle.
D. Right When Injured as a Pedestrian: Persons injured as a pedestrian or bicycle rider have the right to collect No Fault benefits from the insurance policy on the car that was involved in the accident and, if none, then from their own policy if they have one.
E. Rights If You Don’t Have Insurance: Even if you didn’t have car insurance and the car in which you were riding didn’t have insurance, you still might be able to collect from the Minnesota Assigned Risk program. If you don’t have car insurance and are driving illegally, then you may not have the right to collect No-Fault insurance benefits.
(You should consult with an attorney about how to apply for Assigned Risk coverage.)
3. What if you are riding as a passenger in someone else’s car when you were was injured?
If you have car insurance of your own and were injured when riding as a passenger in somebody has else’s car, you are entitled to collect No-Fault benefits from the insurance policy on your own car, even though you were not in your own vehicle at the time of the accident.
If you do not have a car of your own and, as a result, don’t have your own policy of car insurance but are injured while riding in someone else’s car, you are entitled to receive No-Fault benefits from the insurance policy on the car that you were riding in when you were injured.
4. What type of benefits can I get from my No-Fault Insurance Claim?
If you have been injured in a motor vehicle collision, you are entitled, under Minnesota law, to receive the following benefits:
A. Medical Expenses. These benefits may include the expenses of doctors, hospitals, chiropractors, special nurses, physical therapy and prescriptions. It may also include: medical travel expenses prescribed by a doctor or chiropractor, braces, cervical collars, crutches, wheelchairs, and the cost of a health/exercise
B. Replacement Services. These benefits may include: as prescribed by a doctor, the costs of cleaning help, snow removal, and the costs of other hired services which would have been performed by you if you were not inju
C. Primary Homemaker Replacement Services (PHRS). If you were, or would normally be, the “primary homemaker” of your family unit, you can collect the fair market value of the homemaker services that you would normally do, but cannot do because of your injuries. You are entitled to collect up to $200.00 per week in Primary Homemaker Replacement Services benefits. (A lawyer knowledgeable in handling Primary Homemaker Replacement Services claims can help you with making a PHRS claim.)
D. Wage/Income Losses. These benefits also may include lost If you are self-employed, you can collect the cost of replacement workers who are paid to fill in for you. You are entitled to collect 85% of your actual wage or salary up to a maximum of $500/week, or more if you have purchased extra coverage.
5. How I start a claim for No-Fault benefits?
First, you should contact your insurance company immediately after you’ve been injured in a car accident. You should call your agent and ask for claim forms.
Secondly, you should complete the form immediately and submit it to your No- Fault insurance company promptly. (The assistance of an attorney in doing this can be very valuable to avoid any statements in your application that may later be used against you.)
Thirdly, you should provide your insurance company with the information and evidence necessary to prove your entitlement to No-Fault benefits. (Here, the assistance of an attorney would also be valuable.)
6. How much can I collect?
A. Minimum Coverage: Under Minnesota law, every policy of No-Fault insurance must have a minimum of $20,000.00 in coverage for medical/health care expenses and another $20,000.00 for Non-Medical Benefits (wage loss and replacement services).
B. Additional coverage: You may also have additional coverage if you elected to buy additional coverage. Some companies offer coverage’s above the minimums.
C. Stacking coverage: You may also have stacking coverage which allows you to collect No-Fault coverage where more than one vehicle is insured under the policy and you paid an extra premium amount for the stacking coverages.
(The assistance of a lawyer who is knowledgeable in No-Fault insurance matters can be of assistance to you in determining how much coverage you have under your No-Fault policy.)
7. How long can I continue to collect No-Fault benefits?
You are entitled to receive No-Fault benefits for as long as it is medically reasonable for you to incur these expenses or losses.
Your rights to benefits may continue for the rest of your life or until the full amount of your coverage limits have been exhausted or until there has been a one year “lapse” in treatment or disability.
If there is a one year lapse in your disability, the coverage may be lost. For that reason, it is important that you continue to see your health care providers on a regular basis and according to their recommendations. You should see a doctor for your injuries at least once a year. If you skip treatments for more than a year, the insurance company may attempt to deny No-Fault benefits for the rest of your life!
Of course your claim must be supported by your health care providers in order for you to collect.
8. What if the insurance company doesn’t pay or stops paying?
If you have a valid claim and the insurance company doesn’t pay or stops paying, you have the right to take your claim to arbitration to force the insurance company to pay if the claim is under $10,000. If the claim is over $10,000 you must file suit in court to collect the benefits to which you are entitled. The assistance of an attorney is not absolutely necessary but can be very helpful in prosecuting you claim in an arbitration hearing and making certain that you are claiming all of the benefits to which you are entitled under the law.
9. Do I need an attorney to collect No-Fault benefits?
Not necessarily, but having an attorney can be very helpful. You can collect No- Fault benefits without the help of an attorney.
However, the services of an attorney can help you to collect and to make sure that the benefits paid are correct. If you have an injury that is such you may have a claim against the at-fault driver, the attorney handling that claim can assist you with your No-Fault claim. There are many claims that can be made for No-Fault benefits that are often not obvious to a non-lawyer. The Schmidt Law Firm has been able to collect many types of No-Fault claims that many other lawyers and law firms, even those specializing in injury claims, often overlook.
An attorney can also help you to determine whether your claim is one that permits you to bring a claim against the At-Fault driver.
In the event of an accident, you should immediately contact your own insurance company and report the accident. You should ask your agent for No-Fault claim forms. Your attorney can help you to fill out those forms and to get payments started sooner.
10. Should you sign a release to collect No-Fault benefits?
No. It is not necessary for you to sign a release in order to get No-Fault benefits. In fact, you absolutely should not sign a release without consulting an attorney.
11. If I collect No-Fault benefits, can I still make a claim against the other driver?
Yes. You can collect these valuable No-Fault benefits from your own insurance company and still bring a claim against the At-Fault driver and his/her insurance company, for damages you have sustained over and above those which you collect under your No-Fault coverage. The damages include medical expenses and wage/salary losses not paid by No-Fault. It also includes damages for your pain and suffering, disability, and loss of enjoyment of life. The spouse of the injured person may also collect damages for the loss of the services of the injured person.
12. Do you have to prove that someone else was at fault to collect No- Fault benefits?
Absolutely not. That’s why it is called “No-Fault” insurance. You can collect No- Fault benefits even if you were at fault OR if no one was at fault (i.e. hitting a deer in the road).
13. What is No-Fault arbitration and how does it work?
Minnesota No-Fault disputes are typically decided by a single arbitrator who is selected from a panel appointed by the Minnesota Supreme Court. Both sides; the injured party and the No-Fault insurance company, present their evidence and the arbitrator then decides the case. The arbitrator’s decision is then made in the form of an “award.”
In most cases, the No Fault insurance company will voluntarily pay the award. However, in some cases, the insurance company will appeal the award to District Court.
14. Will filing a No-Fault claim increase my insurance premiums?
The filing and pursuit of a No-Fault claim should not affect your future insurance premiums. The Schmidt Law Firm has handled thousands of No-Fault claims and it has not been a problem, it’s the client’s insurance rates which have been affected.