At-Fault Claims for Minnesota Car Accident Injuries
Claims against the “at fault” driver can be made in Minnesota after first collecting No Fault benefits.
The Minnesota Car Accident Lawyers at the Schmidt Salita Law Team have experience in making claims against the “at fault” driver.
Collectively, they have 100 years’ experience in over 10,000 cases of bringing justice to the victims of personal injury and wrongful death from car accidents and other motor vehicle collisions. That includes car-to-car crashes, car-to-truck collisions, motorcycle crashes, car-to-pedestrian collisions and car-to-bicycle collisions.
The Minnesota Car Accident Lawyers have extensive experience in handling both “Minnesota No Fault” claims and “Minnesota At Fault” claims against the negligent drivers who caused the injuries.
Visit our article on No Fault claims to learn more about that topic.
A personal injury claim can be very complicated. The assistance of an experienced personal injury lawyer is very important. The personal injury lawyers at the Schmidt Salita Law Team have collectively over 100 years experience in the successful handling of over 10,000 personal injury cases. Many have involved car accidents and other motor vehicle collisions (car-truck, car-motorcycle, car-bicycle, car-pedestrian).
1. Minnesota is a No Fault state. Do I still have a claim against the “At-Fault” driver?
Yes-indeed. After you collect No Fault benefits (medical bills, wage losses, replacement services claims), you then are entitled to make a claim against the “At Fault” driver for medical bills, wage losses, and replacement services that were not paid by you own No Fault insurance. You can also make a claim for “pain, suffering, physical and emotional distress, both in the past and in the future.
2. What does my “At-Fault” claim involve?
Simply stated, your At-Fault claim is the claim you have against the another driver that was at fault in causing the collision that resulted in your injuries.
3. Do you automatically have an At-Fault claim?
No. You automatically have a Minnesota No-Fault claim if you have been injured without having to prove any fault. It is different with the “At Fault” claim. There, you must prove fault.
You must be able to prove all of the following is true:
a. Someone other than you was at fault in causing your injuries.
b. The at-fault party is more at fault than you.
c. That you meet one of the “threshold requirements” under Minnesota law which entitles you to bring an At-Fault claim.
The threshold requirements are as follows:
a. Medical Expenses in excess of $4,000.00.
b. That you suffered disability or 60 days or more, permanent disability, disfigurement, or death.
4. How is my “At-Fault” claim different from my “No-Fault” claim?
Your At-Fault claim differs from your No-Fault claim in the following respects:
a. The At-Fault claim is brought against the other driver (and that driver’s insurance company), whereas the No-Fault claim is brought against your own company.
b. You must be able to prove the fault of the other driver in your At-Fault claim, whereas no proof of fault is required in your No-Fault claim.
c. The types of benefits you can collect in your At-Fault claim are totally different from those that you can collect in your No-Fault claim. (For more details in this regard please read the text below.)
d. If you cannot settle your At-Fault claim, your only remedy is to file a lawsuit in District Court. This is different from your No-Fault claim where you have the option of going to No-Fault Arbitration instead of to court which is faster, less expensive and easier.
5. How do you prove fault in your At-Fault claim?
The injured party and that party’s attorney must be able to bring forth evidence to prove the fault of the “At Fault” driver, both in the settlement phase in order to settle-or, if the case cannot be settled, in court in front of the judge and jury.
Proof of fault can be by proof that the at fault driver violated the Minnesota traffic laws. This can be by running a stop sign, exceeding the speed limit, or crossing the center line, or some other violation of Minnesota traffic laws. Violation of a traffic law is called a statutory violation and is considered evidence of fault.
Proof of fault can also be by proof of common law. This can be by proof that the at-fault driver “failed to maintain a proper lookout” or “failed to maintain control” of the vehicle.
In court, the injured party has the burden of proof, meaning the proof must be by a “preponderance of the evidence” (i.e. it was “more likely than not” that the “At Fault” was actually “at-fault” or negligence (failure to use reasonable care).
Proof of fault can be established by the testimony of eye witnesses and “after the fact” witnesses such as accident re-constructionists(experts who are called to testify as to how the accident happened based on skid-marks, damage to the vehicles, and similar evidence.
It is important to consult with an attorney as soon after the accident as possible so that your attorney can collect and save the evidence that will be necessary to prove the fault of the At Fault driver in settlement negotiations and at trial, if the case cannot be settled without trial.
6. Who is the At-Fault claim against?
The At-Fault claim is technically against the at-fault driver who caused the car accident. The “at Fault” party is the “Defendant” in court. However, the claim is really against the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Minnesota law does not allow the claim to be made directly against the insurance company.
7. What is “comparative fault” and how does it affect my At-Fault claim?
Minnesota is a comparative negligence state, which means the injured person’s fault will be compared against the fault of the party that is primarily at fault. The percentage of fault of the injured party will reduce the amount of money damages
that can be collected.
For example, if the jury decides that the at-fault party was 80% at fault and the injured party 20% at fault and the reasonable amount of the damages was $100,000.00, the judge will reduce the amount that can be collected by the
comparative fault of 20%. The final result is that the injured party would collect $80,000.00 instead of the full $100,000.00.
8. What type of benefits are you entitled to collect in your “At Fault” case?
If you’ve been hurt in an automobile accident, you have the right under Minnesota law to collect money damages from the at-fault party.
First of all, you must be able to prove the “At-Fault” party was actually at fault. Further, any amount of fault on your own part will reduce the amount that you can collect. Minnesota law allows a person who is injured to collect both compensatory damages and punitive damages.
a. Compensatory damages compensate a person for actual losses. They include the following:
1. Past and Future medical expenses not paid by No-Fault.
2. Past and Future loss of earnings and wages resulting from the injury.
3. Past and Future disability, disfigurement and emotional distress.
b. Punitive Damages are damages that are intended to punish the at-fault party for conduct that demonstrates a deliberate disregard for the rights or safety of others. The term “deliberate disregard” has been defined to mean, the at-fault driver had either “known about facts or intentionally ignored facts that created a high probability of injury…or deliberately acted with conscious or intentional disregard or with indifference to the high probability of injury to the rights or safety of others.” The best example of a case where punitive damages might be allowed by the court is that of a drunk driver who caused a car accident resulting in personal injury.
9. What amount of money can I collect in my At-Fault claim?
Unlike your No-Fault claim, there is no limit to the amount you can collect in your At-Fault claim. However, under exceptional circumstances, the Judge can reduce the amount if the Judge determines that the jury verdict was excessive.
10. How do I go about trying to settle my At-Fault claim?
In order to get a fair settlement of your At-Fault claim, you need to be able to prove both fault and damages. (See the section above about how to prove fault.)
Proving fault isn’t enough. You must prove the nature and extent of your “damages”, or your losses. In doing so, you must prove at least one of the following:
a. That you have met one of the “tort thresholds”.
b. That you have medical bills in excess of those paid by the No-Fault insurance.
c. That you have wage and earning losses in excess of those paid by the No-Fault insurance.
d. That you have permanent injury or disfigurement.
In order to settle without going to court (or if you have to go to court), it is important that the injured party provide much supporting documentation, including copies of the medical bills, payroll records and tax returns to prove wage and earning losses, narrative medical reports from your doctors (and the doctor’s testimony) confirming the nature and extent of your permanent injury or disfigurement.
The assistance of a lawyer is usually very important in collecting the necessary documentation and making a demand for settlement that will be respected by the insurance company so that a fair settlement results. Further, the assistance of an
experienced personal injury attorney can help you to determine how much is fair.
11. What are your rights if the At-Fault party’s insurance company either denies the claim or doesn’t offer a reasonable settlement?
If you cannot settle with the insurance company for a reasonable amount, your remedy is to “file suit”. That means suing the at-fault party and taking them to court.
The law requires all car accident claims must go to mediation or some other form of “alternative dispute resolution” (ADR). A high percentage of personal injury claims resulting from car accidents or other motor vehicle collision are settled at mediation.
If your case cannot be settled through mediation (or other form of ADR), then the last option is court or a jury trial. Even if your case did not settle at mediation, the option of settlement before trial, or even during trial, remains available.
12. How is the value of a personal injury case determined?
For settlement purposes, the “fair market value” of a personal injury case is determined by what juries do in similar cases. Experienced personal injury lawyers and insurance companies know that if a settlement cannot be reached, the case will be decided by a jury and their estimate of what an average jury will award in similar cases is what they use to determine how much to offer in settlement.
Just as the value of your home is decided by looking at similar sales of similar houses in similar neighborhoods, the “fair market value” of personal injury cases is decided by looking at jury decisions in similar cases. An experienced personal injury lawyer keeps track of what juries are doing in similar cases and uses that knowledge to determine the “fair market value” of any personal injury claim.
13. How much is my case worth?
The value of a personal injury case depends on many factors, including the following:
-First, the degree of fault of the responsible party must be considered. The more fault, the better the case.
-Secondly, the amount of fault of the injured person must be considered. (See the section regarding comparative fault)
-Thirdly, the severity of the injury and pain, amount of permanent disability, amount of the medical bills, lost wages, and other items of damages must be considered.
-Finally, the financial ability of the at-fault party to pay must be considered. In most cases, this is determined by the amount of insurance coverage. For example, it is very difficult to get a $100,000 settlement from a party with only $30,000 of insurance.
However, in cases in which the injury claim has a value above the amount of the insurance coverage of the At Fault driver, your “Underinsured Motorist Coverage” (UIM coverage) will provide payment of that part of your claim that is in excess of the At Fault driver’s insurance coverage.
NOTE: The assistance of an attorney who is experienced in automobile insurance matters is very important to preserve your UIM claim. If the settlement against the At Fault driver is not done properly, you can lose your rights to collect UIM benefits.
FOR A FREE CONSULTATION WITH AN EXPERIENCED PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER TO HELP YOU UNDERSTAND IF YOU HAVE A VALID CASE, CONTACT THE SCHMIDT SALITA LAW TEAM AT 952-473-4530.
VISIT US OUR OFFICES AT 13911 RIDGEDALE DR #325, HOPKINS, MN 55305.
The Schmidt Salita Law Team Handles a Wide Variety of Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Claims.
The Schmidt Salita Law Team handles cases involving car accidents, trucking accidents, motorcycle accidents, pedestrian car accidents, and bicycle accidents. It has many years’ experience in workers compensation , products liability and medical malpractice cases.
The Schmidt Salita Law Team has extensive experience with concussion injuries, traumatic brain injuries, neck and back injuries, whiplash injuries, broken bones, injured joint injuries (knee, hip, shoulder, wrist, ankle, spinal), amputation injuries, and vision and eye injuries.
The Schmidt Salita Law Team has offices through out the State of Minnesota. Its primary location is at Ridgedale Office Center in Minnetonka, near the intersection of I394 and I494. The offices are handicap accessible with ample parking.
The Schmidt Salita Team Offers Contingent Fee Arrangements.
The firm offers contingent fee agreements (You don’t pay lawyers fees until you collect and then only as a percentage of the settlement). It also offers home and hospital visits to clients whose injuries present difficulty in coming to the office.
“PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEYS WITH A PERSONAL TOUCH!”
The Schmidt Salita Law Team has locations throughout the Twin Cities metropolitan area of Minneapolis and St. Paul, as well as Minnetonka, Maple Grove, Plymouth, Osseo, Anoka, Coon Rapids, Brooklyn Center, Fridley, Blaine, Shoreview, Woodbury, Falcon Heights, Columbia Park, Stillwater, Hastings, Inver Grove, Cottage Grove, South St. Paul, Apple Valley, Eagan, Burnsville, Savage, Shakopee, Richfield, Bloomington, Chaska, Chanhassen, Edina, Eden Prairie, and Hopkins.