Minnesota Car Accident Lawyer

CAR ACCIDENT and other AUTO COLLISIONS

Those injured in automobile collisions are entitled to seek payment of medical expense, wage loss and compensation for harm to quality of life from their own automobile insurer and the insurer for the legally-responsible driver.  State law determines the rights of the injured.

Overview of Automobile Collision Claims

Benefits for those injured in automobile collisions are determined by a combination of state statutes and judicial decisions.  Benefits available under Wisconsin law differ somewhat from benefits available under Minnesota law.

Comparative Fault

Both Minnesota and Wisconsin are comparative fault jurisdictions, meaning that each involved automobile driver is assigned a percentage of fault for the collision by the judge or jury.  so long as your percentage of fault doesn’t exceed the fault of the other involved driver, you are entitled to recover something from the other driver.  Your recovery is reduced by your proportion of fault for the collision.

If you were a passenger in one of the involved automobiles, you are usually considered to be free of fault for  the collision and so will not have your recovery reduced at all.

Vehicle Damage

If you are at fault for the collision, then you must look to your own insurer for payment of your vehicle damage, under the collision coverage portion of your auto policy.  Most automobiles purchased with a car loan have collision coverage.  If you did not purchase collision coverage with our auto policy and are at fault for the collision, then you will have to pay for your vehicle damage yourself, out of your own pocket.

If the other driver is at fault for the collision, then you should contact the other driver’s insurer for payment of your vehicle damage.  That insurer’s legal responsibility for your vehicle damage is limited to the amount of insurance coverage purchased by the other driver to cover vehicle damage.  If the other driver’s insurer refuses to pay you for your vehicle damage, then you should consult with an attorney.  Do not sue the other driver in conciliation court (also known as “small claims court”) before obtaining expert legal advice, since your injury claim might be barred otherwise.

Wage Loss

You are entitled to reimbursement of wages lost resulting from injury suffered in a Minnesota automobile crash, regardless of fault (why Minnesota auto insurance is “no fault” ), up to $250 per week until a maximum payout of $20,000 is reached.  For an extra premium, many auto insurers will allow purchase of additional wage loss coverage above the $250 per week minimum.  The $250 maximum is so low that purchase of additional coverage, if allowed, is advisable.  In Minnesota, you may also increase your coverage available based upon the number of vehicles you insure.  This process is called “stacking.”  Be sure to ask your insurance agent about such coverage.

In Wisconsin, some wage loss coverage is available for purchase, but is not automatically part of the auto policy.

Any wage loss suffered over and above what is paid by your own auto policy may be recovered from the at-fault driver’s insurer.

Medical Expense

Like wage loss, medical expense resulting from a Minnesota crash, regardless of fault, is to be reimbursed until a maximum payout of $20,000 is reached.  Also like wage loss, many auto insurers will allow purchase of additional medical expense coverage in exchange for payment of an extra premium.  This amount of medical coverage does not include X-ray or lab fees and charges but even so, is quite low—the purchase of additional coverage, if allowed, is advisable.  “Stacking” coverage is advisable if you insure more than one vehicle with the same company.

In Wisconsin, some medical expense coverage is available for purchase, but is not automatically part of the auto policy.

Like wage loss, any medical expense suffered over and above what is paid by your own auto policy may be recovered from the at-fault driver’s insurer.

Quality of Life

Quality of Life refers to the ability to be free of pain, limitations resulting from an injury, or the fear of living in a wheelchair or the fear of death or having to undergo painful medical care.  It can also describe the loss of loved ones or the opportunity to socialize with others.

Unlike the economic harm resulting from medical expense and wage loss, harm to quality of life is more difficult to recover, even though it is usually more serious and substantial than wage loss or medical expense.  Except in uninsured or underinsured motorist situations described below, you cannot look to your own insurer for compensation for harm to quality of life.  Instead, compensation for this harm must be sought from the insurer for the at-fault driver, regardless of where the crash occurred (Minnesota or Wisconsin).

These days, auto insurers are unwilling to pay more than a modest amount for this loss, sometimes offering nothing at all.  That means settlement or other resolution of a claim is difficult without the help of an  experienced attorney expert in this field.

Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist claims

If the at-fault driver lacked auto insurance, you still have the right to seek compensation for harm to quality of life if you have uninsured motorist coverage with your own auto insurer.  All Minnesota auto policies automatically include uninsured motorist coverage.  Although Wisconsin auto policies also automatically included such coverage until recently, the law has now been changed to make this coverage optional—check with your insurance agent to learn whether it is available.

If the at-fault driver had auto insurance, but the amount of coverage is inadequate to compensate for the harm to quality of life, then you still have the right to seek compensation for harm to quality of life if you have underinsured motorist coverage with your own insurer.  As is the case with uninsured motorist coverage, all Minnesota auto policies automatically include underinsured motorist coverage that pays you the difference between the amount of harm to your quality of life and the amount of liability insurance held by the at-fault driver.

In Wisconsin, such coverage is no longer automatic,  so you should check with your insurance agent to see if it is available.  Wisconsin law also defines who is an underinsured motorist more restrictively than Minnesota law does, so you should obtain as much liability coverage as the insurer offers to be certain you will have the underinsured motorist coverage you may need if you are injured in an auto collision.

Because these coverages are to compensate for harm to quality of life, insurers for at-fault drivers vigorously resist them.  Efforts to settle such cases without the help of experienced and expert lawyers frequently fail.  The only way to be certain the most compensation for an injury is being paid is to consult with experienced, expert attorneys like us.