Car Accident Laws in Minnesota

This article explains Minnesota's no-fault system and also provides a look at state laws that might affect your case if you're able to step outside the no-fault rules.

In Minnesota, the state's no-fault car insurance rules will apply to many insurance claims after a car accident. But in some cases you'll be able to file a liability claim or lawsuit against the other driver. This article explains Minnesota's no-fault system and also provides a look at state laws that might affect your case if you're able to step outside the no-fault rules. We'll discuss the time limits for filing a car accident, look at how Minnesota's "modified comparative fault" rule could affect your case, and more. 

How Do Minnesota's No-Fault Car Insurance Rules Work?

In a no-fault car insurance system, you must first turn to your own car insurance policy of you've been injured in a car accident, regardless of who may have been at fault for the accident. For car accident claims that don't involve serious injury or costly medical care, that might be the beginning and end of your claim -- you'll reach a settlement with your own car insurance carrier.

But for some car accident claims, you're able to shed the restrictions of the no-fault system and pursue a liability claim against the driver who caused the accident; you can even file a personal injury lawsuit in court. But first your claim must meet one of two thresholds under Minnesota law in order to be exempt from the no-fault system:

  • Your medical expenses stemming from the accident total more than $4,000, or
  • Your claim involves permanent injury, permanent scarring or disfigurement, or a 60-day period of disability.

Learn more about No Fault Car Insurance Claims.

How Long Do I Have to File a Court Case After a Car Accident in Minnesota?

If your insurance claim qualifies for exemption from Minnesota's no-fault rules, that means you're free to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver and ask for compensation for your injuries stemming from the accident (including payment for pain and suffering damages, which isn't on the table for no-fault claimants). 

One important Minnesota law affecting traffic accident cases is the "statute of limitations." This law places a deadline on how much time you have to file a lawsuit in court after a car accident.

In Minnesota, you have two years, starting from the date of the accident, to file a lawsuit if you are injured or suffer property damage (i.e. your vehicle needs repairs). (Ch. 541, Sec 541.05, 541.07)

What Happens If I Am Found to Be Partially at Fault for a Minnesota Auto Accident?

One of the main reasons an injured person might go to court after an accident is to determine who is "at fault" (or legally responsible) for the crash. Determining who is at fault affects who is on the hook for paying damages associated with the crash -- things like medical bills, lost wages, vehicle repair, and pain and suffering. So what happens if you take another driver to court, only to find that you too are going to be held partly "at fault" for the accident?

Minnesota uses a "modified" comparative fault rule in cases where the plaintiff  (the person who brings the case) and the defendant (the person against whom the case is filed) are both found to be "at fault." 

Here's an example of how this rule works. Suppose that you file a case agaianst another driver, claiming the other driver was at fault in your accident. After hearing your case, however, the jury decides that the other driver is only 80 percent at fault for the accident, and that you are 20 percent at fault.  Under the "modified" comparative fault rule, you will receive 80 percent of the total amount calculated as your damages. So, if your damages total $10,000, you'll only get $8,000 under Minnesota's fault rules.

This rule applies as long as you are found to be less than 50 percent at fault.  If you are found to be 50  percent or more at fault, you would receive nothing at all. (By contrast, in a "pure" comparative fault state, you would receive some damages even if you were 50 percent or more at fault for the accident.)

What Other Minnesota Laws May Affect Car Accidents and Insurance?

Minnesota requires its drivers to carry certain minimum amounts of auto insurance coverage. For more on these requirements and how they might affect a traffic accident settlement or claim, and for more in-depth information on the state's no-fault system, see our companion article, Minnesota No-Fault Auto Insurance Laws and Regulations.

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