Car and Commercial Truck Accident
What are the first things I should I do if I am in a car, truck or other motor vehicle accident?
If you are able, do the following immediately:
1. Get out of your vehicle to solicit help and information from the other driver.
2. Call the police immediately and ensure a report will be made regardless of the extent of damage to the automobile or the injuries to the drivers and passengers.
3. Obtain the name of the other driver(s), passengers and witnesses.
4. Obtain the information of the other driver's insurance information, home address, and phone number(s).
5. Seek medical treatment immediately.
6. Call your insurance company to inform them of your accident. They will provide you with an adjuster assigned to your case and a claim number which can be used for billing of medical expenses. If you are injured in an auto/truck crash, you should have your medical treatment billed to your no-fault automobile insurance rather than your health insurance. If your bills exceed $20,000, then have your medical treatment billed to your health insurance.
7. Contact an attorney to ensure your right to recovery is protected.
What are the possible insurance claims a victim has following an automobile or truck accident?
There are five insurance claims involved in an automobile or truck accident:
1. No-fault medical and wage loss claims.
2. Bodily injury claim.
3. Vehicle repair or replacement claims.
4. Uninsured motorist claims.
5. Underinsured motorist claims.
What is a no-fault claim?
Prior to 1974, people injured in automobile accidents were paid for their medical bills and their wage loss only when their case was resolved, which often took several years. Since many of the automobile crash injury victims were unable to work due to their injuries, the Minnesota Legislature passed the Minnesota No-Fault Act in 1974 in order to provide more timely benefits. [Minnesota Statutes 65B.41-65B.71]
The Act provides that persons suffering injuries "arising out of the maintenance or use of a motor vehicle," regardless of their fault or innocence, could quickly and easily recover "economic loss" benefits from their own insurance company. No-fault insurance provides for payment of up to $20,000 in reasonable and necessary medical expenses and up to $20,000 in wage loss and replacement services. No-fault medical/wage loss benefits coverage is used for passengers, pedestrians, and drivers who are or are not at fault in an accident.
Click the links below for more information regarding specific no-fault claims.
1. No-Fault Medical Expense Benefit.
2. No-Fault Wage Loss Benefits.
3. No-Fault Replacement Services Benefits.
4. No-Fault Survivor's Benefits.
5. No-Fault Termination of Benefits.
What is no-fault stacking coverage and should I make sure I have it?
If you have more than one automobile we strongly recommend that you purchase "stacking" insurance coverage. You can purchase stacking coverage for a nominal fee, and doing so will double the amount of no-fault coverage you can collect from your insurance in the event of an accident. This is especially beneficial for drivers who do not have medical insurance, because it provides affordable extra protection in the event of severe injury from a major crash. Stacking only applies to your no-fault coverage and does not apply to your liability, uninsured, or underinsured coverage.
What types of crashes are not covered under the no-fault act?
The no-fault act does NOT cover the following: [Minnesota Statutes 65B.59, 60]
1. Injuries suffered while riding, mounting or alighting from a motorcycle. (Motorcycle owners have to buy specific motorcycle no-fault insurance coverage.) If you own a motorcycle we strongly recommend that you purchase no-fault coverage to ensure that you are protected if you are injured.
2. Intentional injuries (unless the injuries are not intended by the victim).
3. Injuries suffered in the course of an official racing contest.
Vehicle owners who are not insured.
There is no requirement that insurance companies provide no-fault coverage on motorcycle policies. You need to talk with your insurance agent about adding no-fault coverage to your motorcycle policy if you wish to be covered.
What is a bodily injury claim?
This is insurance that requires "fault" to be found. If you are in an accident and it is not your fault, or a loved one has been injured or killed by someone else's careless driving, you have a right to make a claim against that driver's liability insurance. Before you are allowed to make that claim, you must meet one of five thresholds. A bodily injury claim is filed against the insurance company of the driver found to be at fault, or negligent, in the accident or against the at fault driver individually. These claims cover any injured party, including the at-fault driver's passengers, pedestrians, or occupants of another vehicle involved in the crash.
In Minnesota, all drivers must buy liability insurance of at least $30,000 for injuries to one person and $60,000 for injuries to two or more people and $10,000 for property damage. Injured parties can be reimbursed for the expenses incurred from the liability insurance and or the at-fault driver's assets including past and future medical bills and lost wages; permanent injury; and past/future pain and suffering.
Often, bodily injury claims are settled out of court, but other times they are brought before a jury. The experienced personal injury lawyers at Lord + Heinlein have helped thousands of clients get settlements they deserve, and to get their lives back on track.
What are “tort thresholds” and why must my claim reach them before I can sue the at-fault driver?
The Minnesota Legislature created "tort thresholds" when it created the laws for automobile accident claims. To ensure that only serious injuries access the legal system, Minn. Stat. 65B.51 requires that before a victim (or their survivors) can sue the at-fault driver, they must meet one of the following requirements:
1. Over $4,000 in medical expenses; OR
2. Suffered a permanent injury. A permanent injury is one that will continue throughout the victim's life, but it might improve or worsen; OR
3. Suffered from a permanent disfigurement, which injures the victim's appearance to a significant degree; OR
4. Suffered from a disability for more than 60 days. A doctor has to confirm that the victim's injuries have significantly impacted the victim's work, home, or social activities; OR
5. Died as a result of the accident.
What is the value of my bodily injury (“liability”) claim?
Establishing the value of a personal injury claim is similar to establishing the value of a home for sale. In the real estate business, agents keep track of similar sales in various areas. Lawyers and insurance companies also keep track of similar trial verdicts and settlements that are accessed and compared to the injuries of each client. The value cannot be established on the day of the injury, but rather once the injured person has finished treating and reached "maximum medical improvement."
There are many issues to be considered once the claimant heals such as the total past and future loss of wages, cost of medical expenses, pain and suffering. Most importantly, since the medical record is relied on as proof on injuries and damages, it is important that you treat any injuries that you sustained in the accident immediately, and follow the treatment directives of your medical providers.
For more information about the value of your case, click here.
After an accident, who pays for repairs to my vehicle?
Who pays for your automobile damage depends on the type of coverage you have and who was at fault in the crash.
1. If you have collision coverage in your automobile insurance policy, your insurance company may pay the entire bill minus your deductible. If the crash was not your fault, your insurer will seek repayment from the at-fault driver's insurer. The at-fault driver's insurer should also reimburse you for payment of your deductible.
2. If the other driver is at fault, his or her insurance company must pay for your vehicle damage promptly, including any deductible, even if you don't carry collision insurance.
3. If you have collision coverage and you were partially at fault, each insurance company must pay a fair percentage equaling each driver's fault.
If my automobile is repairable what obligation does the insurance company have to make repairs?
According to Minnesota Statute 72A.201 subdivision 6, if the insured (you) is NOT an automobile dealer, the insurer must assume the following:
1. Pay all costs for the satisfactory repair of the motor vehicle;
2. Satisfactory repair includes repair of both obvious and hidden damage as caused by the crash;
3. Include reasonable towing costs; and
Offer a cash settlement sufficient to pay for satisfactory repair of the vehicle.
How is the value of my car determined?
Contrary to popular belief, your car is not valued at the "Blue Book" rate. Blue Book rates are used mainly for auto dealers and banks to determine "retail value" and "loan value" which are inflated for purposes of profit. Insurance companies evaluate your vehicle based on the "market value" rate, which means "what the average consumer would pay for the same vehicle." Your vehicle is rated based on the following:
4. Condition (excellent, good, fair, or poor)
What if my vehicle is a total loss?
If your vehicle is "totaled" this means one of two things:
1. The cost of repairs exceeds the value of the vehicle; or
2. The vehicle is demolished beyond repair and the only option is to replace it.
Under these circumstances the insurance company will make you an offer for your vehicle. Once you have accepted their offer, you will need to do the following:
1. Sign the title over to the insurance company and deliver it to them.
2. If there is a bank loan, the bank will inform you of the final payoff and you will need to pay it.
Turn in the rental vehicle. (You can usually get a couple of days to get your affairs in order, but you cannot procrastinate, or you will be responsible for any additional charges on a rental vehicle.)
What happens if my car is totaled and I owe more on my car loan than the insurance company will pay me?
Unfortunately, vehicles depreciate very quickly and you may not always get what you believe your vehicle is worth. It is sometimes difficult to negotiate with the insurer for a higher settlement for your vehicle. Occasionally, you end up "upside down" concerning your vehicle, which means your loan exceeds what the vehicle is worth.
You then owe the bank the difference, despite the fact that your vehicle is totaled. In that situation most banks are usually willing to work with you on the remaining balance. You can protect yourself from this by carrying GAP insurance on your vehicle.
What steps must the insurance company take in covering the cost of my totaled vehicle?
According to Minnesota Statute 72A.201 subdivision 6, if the automobile insurance policy provides for the adjustment and settlement of an automobile "total loss" on the basis of actual cash value or replacement with "like kind" and quality, then the insurance company must offer a comparable and available replacement automobile or a cash settlement based upon the actual cost of purchase of a comparable automobile.
If a comparable automobile is not available in the local market area, the insurance company must obtain one or two or more quotations obtained from two or more qualified sources located within the local market area. The insured (you) should be provided the information contained in all price quotes prior to settlement.
If I put a lot of money into repairing the vehicle before the accident, will I get reimbursement?
You will not be reimbursed for "normal" maintenance. For example, if you had recently replaced the brakes, that would probably just be considered "normal" maintenance. However, if you paid for a repair or modification that significantly improved the value of the automobile, it may be reimbursable to you. You must provide documentation for any modification you have made. For example, if you had recently replaced the engine or transmission or tires, you must provide the insurer with the receipts for the parts and labor. Without that documentation, there is no way to substantiate that your vehicle was repaired at a cost to you.
Will the at-fault driver’s insurance company pay my deductible for property damage to my vehicle?
If your own insurance company pays for the repair of your vehicle, you will be responsible for paying your deductible up front. The negligent party's insurance company should eventually reimburse you for your out-of-pocket deductible.
If my automobile is considered a total loss, will I be reimbursed for any of the fees I have paid the state for the ownership of my car?
Yes. According to Minnesota Statute 72A.201 subdivision 6, the insurance company that pays for the loss must also pay the following:
1. All applicable taxes;
2. Licenses fees, at least pro-rata, for the unexpired term of the replaced automobile's license;
Other fees paid incident to the transfer or evidence of ownership of the automobile, at no cost to the insured other than the deductible amount as provided in the policy.
What if some of my personal property was damaged in the crash?
Unless you or the at fault driver have personal property protection in your insurance policy, you will not be reimbursed for personal objects damaged inside your car as a result of the crash.
Will I get a rental car while mine is being repaired?
If you carry rental coverage on your own insurance policy, your rental expenses will be covered. If you do not carry rental coverage, you are entitled to a rental car from the other driver's automobile insurance, assuming they have insurance and were at fault in the accident. Most insurance companies deal directly with the rental agency so you need not worry about paying "up front" fees for your car rental after an accident.
Under some circumstances, you will have to pay for the rental vehicle and then seek reimbursement from the other person's liability carrier. Again, this is determined by who is at fault. Once your vehicle is repaired, the rental vehicle must be turned back into the rental agency immediately or you will be responsible for any additional charges.
If my car is considered a total loss, will I be reimbursed for any of the fees I have paid the state for the ownership of my car?
Yes. According to Minnesota Statute 72A.201 subdivision 6 the insurance company that pays for the loss must also pay the following:
1. All applicable taxes.
2. Licenses fees-at least pro-rata for the unexpired term of the replaced automobile's license.
3. Other fees paid incident to the transfer or evidence of ownership of the automobile, at no cost to the insured other than the deductible amount as provided in the policy.
What if the insurance company refuses to pay me for the damage to my automobile?
The State of Minnesota has established several rules for insurance companies to follow when it comes to dealing with automobile and truck insurance payments.
If you feel that an insurance company is dealing you with unfairly, you should contact an attorney.
What if my car is damaged, but no one was harmed?
Minnesota law does not require comprehensive insurance and collision insurance coverage. If you have comprehensive insurance, you may be covered for auto damage that results from incidents other than typical accidents. For example, you may be able to recover from your insurance company in the event your car is stolen, vandalized, damaged in a flood or fire, or by animals. Coverage is limited by the terms of your insurance contract with the insurance company. Your lender/financing company often requires this type of insurance if you have a loan or a lease on your motor vehicle.
If your vehicle was damaged in a car accident and noone was injured, you may be able to have the damage covered by the at-fault driver's insurance policy. Often you do not need an attorney to assist you with a property damage claim where there is no personal injury present.
Will I be able to be compensated if the at-fault driver has no or a very low amount of auto insurance?
If an uninsured driver injures you, your own insurance provides coverage for your bodily injury damages (such as pain and suffering and permanent injury) through the uninsured motorist coverage portion of your own automobile insurance policy. Similarly, if the at-fault driver's insurance policy does not provide adequate coverage to compensate you adequately for your injuries, you can be compensated through your own underinsured motorist coverage to make up the shortfall.
The required minimum amount of uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage you must have under Minnesota law is $25,000 per person and $50,000 per crash, but we strongly recommend you buy at least $100,000 to $300,000, if not more, in uninsured motorist insurance. Increasing this coverage is relatively inexpensive and it ensures that you and your family are protected if an uninsured motorist injures you.
What Is Social Host liability?
Under Minnesota social host liability laws, adults who serve or provide alcohol to minors can be held liable if the minor person who was provided alcohol kills or injures another person. Minnesota does not allow a civil cause of action against a social host who provides alcohol to those who are 21 or over.
Why Is Social Host liability important?
The most common sources of alcohol are the young person's own home or from persons over the age of 21 who purchase alcohol for them. Social host liability may deter parents and other adults from hosting underage parties and purchasing/providing alcohol for underage youth. The law protects minors from injuring themselves and others because of their illegal consumption of alcohol. This bill has given parents the courage to say "no" to facilitating underage consumption of alcohol.
Can a bar or restaurant be held liable for damages caused by an intoxicated patron?
Yes. This is called a Dram Shop Claim. Under Minn. Stat. § 304A.801, a liquor establishment (usually a bar, restaurant, or liquor store) can be held liable for injuries stemming from the intoxication of the drunk driver, if the sale was illegal.
Generally, illegal sales include:
1. Sales to a minor.
2. Sales to an obviously intoxicated person.
3. Sales made during a prohibited time of day/day of the week.
More information on Dram Shop claims can be found here.
Who can I sue if I am in a snowmobile or ATV crash?
There are a number of parties that may be at fault if you are injured in a snowmobile or ATV crash. However, in order to bring any type of lawsuit, most times you must have been injured in a collision with another driver. There are very few circumstances where you would be able to bring a lawsuit against someone else for your damages if you were in a single person crash. You should consult with an attorney right away if you feel your injuries may have been the fault of another.
What is Recreational Immunity?
Recreational Immunity is a type of governmental immunity that protects government entities from liability if you become injured while engaging in a recreational activity on government lands. Snowmobiling on public trails would be considered one such recreational activity. Many private amusement or sporting parks (such as ski hills) will also have a recreational immunity clause that you agree to upon your purchase of a ticket or admission into their park.
Am I required to wear a helmet while operating or riding on a motorcycle in Minnesota?
No, but it is a very good idea to protect yourself by wearing a helmet as well as protective gear while riding on a motorcycle.
If I was injured while operating a motorcycle,are my injuries covered by my no-fault insurance?
Injuries suffered while riding, mounting or alighting from a motorcycle are usually not covered by your automobile no-fault insurance coverage. Motorcycle owners have to buy specific motorcycle no-fault insurance coverage. If you own a motorcycle we strongly recommend that you purchase no-fault coverage to ensure that you are protected if you are injured.
Dog Bite Injury
What should I do immediately following an animal attack?
1. Identify, and if possible, isolate the dog/animal. If the animal has ID tags, record the information on the tags.
2. Get the name and contact information for the animal's owner, and any witnesses.
3. Note the location where the attack occurred.
4. Try to determine if the animal has been vaccinated against rabies and other diseases in order to evaluate your risks.
5. Evaluate and clean the wound.
6. If the bite is deep or will not stop bleeding, go immediately to the emergency room for treatment. Seek medical treatment immediately.
7. Following treatment, call Animal Control and the police (911) in the city where you live to report the event.
8. Photograph all injuries, torn or bloody clothing, or other possible evidence.
9. Do not sign anything, offer any apologies, or provide information to insurance companies, adjusters, witnesses or the animal's owner until you have talked to an attorney.
Can I get immediate coverage for the cost of my medical treatment, missed work, and other expenses?
Unlike with no-fault coverage in an automobile crash, there is rarely money available right away to help with expenses. Sometimes there is a medical payment provision available to provide some coverage of expenses upfront through the animal owner's homeowner's or renter's insurance policy.
To obtain full compensation a claim needs to be filed with the animal owner's homeowner's insurance policy or rental insurance policy. These claims can take months, sometimes years, to fully resolve. Therefore, you will likely need to use your own health insurance coverage to treat your injuries.
Who will compensate me for my damages?
Since dogs and other animals are considered property, you will look to the animal owner for compensation. You may be able to bring either or both of the following types of claims for compensation:
STRICT LIABILITY CLAIM: Under Minn. Stat. § 347.22, dog owners are liable for the injuries caused by their dog. This is a strict liability statute, which means that the dog owner is always liable unless the victim provoked the dog, or the victim was somewhere they should not lawfully be.
NEGLIGENCE CLAIM: For dogs and other types of animals, there is also a negligence claim against the owner. An owner who fails to exercise reasonable care in controlling their animal is negligent, and liable for injuries the animal causes. For some cases, punitive damages are also available.
If you are successful, the owner, or the owner's homeowner's or rental insurance, will provide payment for your damages.
Will I be compensated for the damage to or loss of my own animal?
If the attack occurred while you were walking your own dog, for example, and your dog was severely or critically injured, you may be able to obtain compensation for your animal's injuries. Since animals or pets are considered property, you would seek compensation through the attacking animal owner's homeowner's or rental insurance, to compensate you for the damage to your animal.
What will happen to the dog or animal that attacked me?
The local animal control authorities will make this determination. The animal may be taken in for observation or testing. If there is no proof of rabies vaccination provided by the animal owners, the animal may need to be euthanized and autopsied to determine if it was rabid. If the animal has attacked before, it is very possible that it will be deemed a dangerous dog, which may result in a requirement that the animal always be muzzled, or it may be euthanized.
Wrongful Death/Fire Death
How much time do I have to file a wrongful death claim in Minnesota?
The time you have to file a claim is known as the statute of limitations. In Minnesota, the statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim is 3 years from the date of injury (death). It is very important that you speak with an attorney immediately after the death of a loved one if you believe that their death was caused by the negligence of fault of another to ensure that you do not miss the statutory timeline requirements to bring a claim.
Class Action Lawsuits
What is a class action lawsuit?
A class action lawsuit is a lawsuit that is brought on behalf of many individuals who have suffered the same or similar damages due to a single dangerous product. Rather than each individual bringing their own separate lawsuit against the manufacturer, a single action is brought where each individual becomes a claimant. The lawsuit will eventually separate the individual claimants into classes. Each class of claimants will have the most similar claim and amount of damages.
How long will it take for me to get compensated?
Class action trials usually take quite a while from start to finish (1-3 years). Additionally, it can often take even longer for each claimant to receive their award for damages (another 1-3 years). In the most outrageous cases, settlement checks can come in sections over the course of many years (small payments over the course of 20 years).
Do I need an attorney to make a claim in a class action lawsuit?
You cannot represent yourself in a class action lawsuit. You must obtain an attorney to represent you and file documents on your behalf in a class action lawsuit.
Professional License Defense
I have received Allegations against me from my licensing Board. Am I required to respond?
Yes. It is important to provide an appropriate and timely response to any written allegations that have been served against you by your Board. You should be very mindful about what you provide to the Board in writing, as all information you provide will become a part of the permanent record. You should consult an attorney before providing any response whatsoever to your Board.
I just received Allegations and I do not have much time to respond. Can I get an extension?
Yes. The Board does not give licensee's much time to respond the Allegations against them and the Board will grant you an extension, if needed. Do not rush a response to the Board just to get it in on time. Anything you provide the Board should be done thoughtfully and pursuant to advice from an attorney.
I just received Allegations from my licensing Board. Should I inform my employer about the Allegations?
It is important to understand that during this phase of an investigation by your Board the matter is confidential and you are under no obligation to inform your employer about the allegations against you. The only people who will learn about your Allegations at this phase of the investigation are those informed by you. There may be some instances where you may wish to discuss the allegations with your employer. You should always seek advice from an experienced license defense attorney regarding whether or not you should inform your employer about the allegations against you.
Can I get a copy of the Board’s file or the original complaint against me? Can I find out who filed the complaint?
No. This information in protected by the Minnesota Data Privacy Practices Act and remains confidential. However, they may be willing to provide you with very limited portions of thier file, such as your written response or the audio recording of your hearing.
Once the investigation is closed, you are permitted to obtain larger portions of the Board's file, which they will provide to you upon written request. However, they will never disclose the identity of the complainant or provide you with a copy of the original complaint against you. That information will remain confidential.
Is it really necessary to obtain a lawyer?
Your livelihood is one of the most valuable assets you have and you have worked very hard to obtain your license. You should be mindful that the mission of the Minnesota Licensing Boards is to protect the public, not the licensee (you). It is important that you take any allegations against your license seriously and answer them thoughtfully. An experienced license defense attorney can guide you through this stressful and complicated process, assist you with your written response, prepare you for your hearing, and help you obtain the best possible outcome. An Assistant Attorney General always represents your licensing Board throughout each proceeding and you should not go it alone.
I have been called to appear for an investigative interview with an investigator at the Attorney General’s office. Do I need a lawyer for that?
At Lord & Heinlein we highly recommend obtaining an attorney for any investigative interview. This interview has been requested by your licensing board in order to gather more information from you regarding the complaint they have received. It is wise to retain an attorney who can speak with the investigator before the interview to find out more about what the interview will be about. Then, your attorney can help prepare you for the interview and accompany you at the interview. The interview will be recorded and will become a permanent part of the record regarding the investigation against your license. It is advisable to retain an attorney before giving any information to your licensing Board.
What are the possible outcomes of an investigation into my practice?
Possible outcomes include: 1) complete dismissal of the allegations; 2) discipline be issued against your license (below are some examples of types of discipline that may be issued); 3) suspension of your license for a period of time; 4) revocation of your license.
Types of discipline that may be recommended include: imposition of a fine, completion of additional education, requirement of ongoing supervision over your practice, limitation on the scope of your practice, or participation in the Health Professionals Services Program (HPSP).
What is HPSP (The Health Professionals Services Program) and should I self-report if I have a chemical dependency or mental health issue?
The Health Professionals Services Program is a professionally staffed, confidential program designed to monitor the treatment and continuing care of eligible, regulated health professionals. Just like your licensing Board, HPSP is designed to protect the public, not you (the licensee). You should consult with an attorney before self-reporting to HPSP, in order to explore all of your options.
What should I do if I have a condition or illness that might impact my ability to practice?
If you have illness or addiction that may impact your ability to practice with reasonable skill and safety, it may be a good idea to take a leave of absence from your job in order to assess your ability to practice safely and to obtain any treatment or care you may need to ensure that you are able to do so. Pursuant to the obligations you have to the public and your patients, it is very important that you remove yourself from practice if you have a condition or illness that could negatively impact your practice or ability to practice safely.
What can I expect if I enroll in HPSP?
HPSP is a monitoring program. You can voluntarily self-report yourself, or, sometimes, your licensing Board may require that you do so as part of a discipline against your license. When you present to HPSP, you will be asked to sign a monitoring plan and participation agreement which empowers HPSP to supervise your practice, your mental health and/or your illness, condition, or addiction. Your Participation Agreement will likely be for a term of 1-3 years. If, for any reason, you fail to uphold the requirements of your Participation Agreement, HPSP has the discretion to discharge you from the program at any time. And, if you are discharged from HPSP, they will report that information to your licensing Board.
It is always a good idea to consult with an experienced license defense attorney prior to self-reporting to HPSP.
If I am disciplined by my licensing Board, will I ever be able to get a job again?
Although discipline by your licensing Board will become public through your Board's website, you are not the first, nor the last person who will be disciplined by their Board. No one is perfect and you should try not to allow this experience to define who you are as a person, or as a practitioner. Many professionals have been disciplined by their licensing Boards and they have done what they needed to do to improve themselves or their practice and have had successful careers moving forward.