Protecting The Victims Of Car Accidents
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.
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. Our experienced lawyers will carefully evaluate your case and explain how the laws pertain to your claim.
If you or a loved one was involved in a serious car accident in Minnesota or Wisconsin, call our Duluth offices at 218-461-1309 to schedule a free initial case consultation.
Addressing Car Accidents Across State Borders
Motor vehicle accidents are always overwhelming, but they can be even more confusing if they occur outside of your home state. Due to our close proximity, Minnesota and Wisconsin residents are regularly involved in accidents in the neighboring state. Many are left wondering how it will affect their insurance claim.
Fortunately, your car insurance policy should follow you across state lines. Most policies extend coverage throughout the United States, and some cover parts of Canada as well. If you are involved in a cross-state accident, the laws of the state where the accident took place are followed.
While minimum policy requirements vary by state, your insurer will automatically cover you to the other state’s minimum requirements if your policy does not already meet this minimum. Read more to learn how car accidents are handled in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Frequently Asked Car Accident Questions
- What is comparative fault?
- Who will pay for the vehicle damage?
- Am I entitled to recover lost wages after the accident?
- Are medical expenses covered after an accident?
- What does quality of life compensation encompass?
- What happens if the other motorist is uninsured or underinsured?
What Is 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. As long as your percentage of fault does not exceed the fault of the other driver, you are entitled to recover something from them. 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 free of fault for the collision and will not have your recovery reduced at all.
Who Will Pay For The Vehicle Damage?
If you are at fault for the collision, your insurer is responsible for your vehicle damage under the collision coverage portion of your auto policy. Most automobiles purchased with a car loan have collision coverage. If your policy does not include collision coverage and you are at fault for the collision, you have to pay for your vehicle damage yourself.
If the other driver is at fault for the collision, you should contact their insurer to cover your vehicle damage. That insurer’s legal responsibility 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 for your vehicle damage, 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.
Am I Entitled To Recover Lost Wages After The Accident?
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 allow purchase of additional wage loss coverage above the $250 per week maximum. The $250 minimum is so low that purchase of additional coverage, if allowed, is advisable. In Minnesota, you may also increase your available coverage 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 it 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.
Are Medical Expenses Covered After An Accident?
Like wage loss, medical expenses resulting from a Minnesota crash, regardless of fault, are to be reimbursed until a maximum payout of $20,000. Like wage loss, many auto insurers allow purchase of additional medical expense coverage in exchange for an extra premium. This coverage does not include X-ray or lab fees and charges but even so, it 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.
What Does Quality Of Life Compensation Encompass?
Quality of life refers to the ability to be free of pain, limitations resulting from an injury, the fear of living in a wheelchair, 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 must be sought from the at-fault driver’s insurer, 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.
What Happens If The Other Motorist Is Uninsured Or Underinsured?
If the at-fault driver lacks 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 changed to make this coverage optional — check with your insurance agent to learn whether it is available.
If the at-fault driver has auto insurance, but the amount of coverage is inadequate to compensate for the harm to quality of life, 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 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; 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 lawyers frequently fail.
Contact Us For Experienced Representation
If you have been injured in an accident due to another driver’s negligence, you deserve just compensation. Call Falsani, Balmer, Peterson & Balmer to schedule a complimentary case consultation at 218-461-1309. You may also contact our experienced personal injury lawyers online.
We address all motor vehicle accident cases on a contingency basis. This means that you do not pay for our services unless we successfully recover compensation on your behalf. Our fees are taken directly from the awarded compensation and not from your pocket.