I was injured in a car crash, what should I do?
Immediately following a car crash, call 911. Police will investigate the causes of the crash, collect information and take statements from the parties and any witnesses, and assist anyone in need of medical attention. If you think anyone, including yourself, may be injured or require immediate medical attention, make sure to tell the 911 operator or police officer. If possible, write down the name, phone number, and address of the parties and any witnesses at the scene of the crash.
What does “no-fault” mean?
It is a common misconception that the term “no-fault” means that it does not matter whose fault a car crash is. The term “no-fault” itself is a bit of a misnomer. In reality, fault plays a very important role in assessing the type and amount of insurance coverage available to an injured person. “No-fault” refers to laws in Minnesota that require all automobile owners to insure their vehicles. No-fault benefits, basic economic loss benefits, and PIP (personal injury protection) benefits all refer to the same insurance benefits described in Minn. Stat. § 65B.44 and § 65B.45. When someone is injured in a car crash in Minnesota, their own car insurance is typically responsible for paying their “no-fault” benefits, including medical bills and lost wages. See below for more details regarding what benefits are covered by no-fault insurance.
What insurance company pays my no-fault benefits?
If you have your own car insurance policy, your own insurance company is typically responsible for paying your no-fault benefits, regardless of fault for the crash, and even if you are riding in someone else’s car at the time of the crash.
If you do not have your own car insurance policy at the time of the crash, you would typically then look to any relative (by blood or by marriage) who lives with you on the day of the crash, commonly referred to as a resident relative. If a resident relative has a car insurance policy containing no-fault benefits, that insurance company is typically responsible for paying your no-fault benefits.
If you do not have your own car insurance policy at the time of the crash, and you do not have a resident relative who has car insurance, then you would look to the insurance policy that covers the car that you were riding in at the time of the crash. That insurance policy would typically then be responsible for paying your no-fault benefits.
If you do not have your own car insurance policy at the time of the crash, you do not have a resident relative who has car insurance, and the car you were riding in was uninsured, there is one other place to look for no-fault insurance coverage. Minnesota has a program called the Minnesota Automobile Insurance Plan (commonly referred to as Assigned Claims), which provides no-fault insurance benefits to people who are injured in car crashes, but who lack any other sources of no-fault benefits. Note, however, that the Assigned Claims plan excludes certain people from eligibility. For example, the owner of an uninsured motor vehicle is excluded from benefits through the Assigned Claims plan. Other exclusions exist, so consult with a lawyer if you have questions about your specific situation.
The above is only a general outline for determining which insurance company is responsible for paying no-fault benefits. You can read more about priority of no-fault coverage and the various exceptions at Minn. Stat. § 65B.47. Every situation is different. Minnesota law also contains several exceptions and exclusions to the general rules. If you are unsure which insurance company should be paying your no-fault insurance benefits, you should consult with a lawyer.
What benefits does my no-fault insurance provide?
Minnesota law requires all no-fault, or PIP policies to carry the following minimum coverages:
$20,000.00 for medical care; and
$20,000.00 for lost wages and replacement services.
See Minn. Stat. § 65B.44 for more information.
What claims do I have, other than for no-fault benefits?
If the motor vehicle collision was caused by someone else’s fault or negligence, you may also have claims for your damages against the at-fault party and/or their insurance company. These damages can include medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and other out-of-pocket expenses or economic losses incurred due to the injuries sustained. In Minnesota, an injured person can also claim general damages, including emotional distress, pain and suffering, if they meet a tort threshold. See below for an explanation of general damages versus special damages, and tort thresholds.
What is the difference between general and special damages?
General damages are the non-economic harms and losses that injured people experience. They include pain, suffering, emotional distress, disability, embarrassment, depression, etc. General damages are very difficult to quantify, but can have a real impact on the quality of life and well-being of injured persons.
Special damages are the more specific economic harms and losses that an injured person incurs. These include medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and other out-of-pocket expenses. Special damages are already quantified and, thus, much easier to calculate.
What are tort thresholds?
In Minnesota, an injured person must meet a tort threshold before they can claim general damages, including emotional distress, pain, and suffering. To meet a tort threshold, the injured person’s damages must include at least one of the following:
Permanent injury or disfigurement;
Greater than $4,000.00 in medical expenses, excluding diagnostic tests such as X-rays;
Disabled for longer than 60 days; or
See Minn. Stat. § 65B.51 for more information on tort thresholds.
What if I was injured in a crash, but I don’t have car insurance?
Even if you did not have any car insurance, you may still have claims for your injuries. You may be eligible to claim no-fault benefits through someone else’s insurance policy, such as a resident relative, the insurer covering the car that you were riding in, or the Assigned Claims plan. You would also still have claims against the at-fault driver and his/her insurer. You shouldconsult with a lawyer to find out which claims you can make for your specific situation.
My car was damaged in a crash, who is going to pay to fix it?
If your vehicle is damaged in a collision, you can look to your own insurance policy to pay for the repairs, subject to any applicable deductibles, if you have collision coverage. Unlike basic economic loss benefits, which are described above, collision coverage is optional. When you purchase your insurance policy, you can elect whether or not to include coverage for property damage to your vehicle. If you do not have collision coverage, your insurance company will not pay for your vehicle repairs. SSSSSS
If the motor vehicle collision was someone else’s fault, you can bring a claim against that person’s insurance company for the damage to your vehicle. The insurance company will likely conduct an investigation to determine fault before agreeing to pay anything. However, you will not need to pay any deductibles if the at-fault driver’s insurer pays for your vehicle damages.
What if I need to miss work because of my injuries?
If you are unable to work due to your injuries, you will have a claim for lost wages. If you are eligible for no-fault benefits, you can claim reimbursement for your lost wages against the no-fault insurance company. No-fault benefits pay 85% of your income up to a maximum of $500.00 per week (unless you pay for more insurance coverage).
If another party’s fault caused your injuries, you will also have a claim against the at-fault party for any lost wages that you incurred. However, if you have already received wage loss payments from a no-fault insurance company, then your claim against the at-fault party will be reduced by the amount that the no-fault insurer has already paid.
What if the driver who caused the crash was uninsured?
Even though Minnesota law requires motor vehicles to be insured, not everyone plays by the rules. If your vehicle is struck by an uninsured motorist, you will look to your own insurance policy for uninsured motorist coverage. In addition to no-fault benefits, Minnesota law requires motor vehicle insurance policies to include uninsured motorist coverage, which will cover you for the negligence of the uninsured at-fault driver.
Minnesota law requires a minimum coverage of $25,000.00 per injured person, and $50,000.00 total per crash. When you insure your vehicle, you typically have the option to purchase additional coverage above the minimum.
Will my insurance company increase my monthly premiums if I bring claims for my injuries?
Minn. Stat. § 72A.20 Subd 23(d) states that “No insurer that offers an automobile insurance policy in this state shall use an applicant’s prior claims for benefits paid under section 65B.44 as an underwriting standard or guideline if the applicant was 50 percent or less negligent in the accident or accidents causing the claims.” Therefore, it is unlawful for your insurance company to increase your premiums for claiming no-fault benefits following a motor vehicle collision, so long as you are 50% or less at fault for causing the crash.