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How Do Minnesota Personal Injury Claims Work?

by | Mar 17, 2018 | Firm News, Minnesota, Personal Injury

Each year, car crashes injure or kill millions of Americans. Premises liability matters, such as slip-and-fall injuries and swimming pool drownings, kill or injure thousands of people as well. All these victims are entitled to compensation for their damages. All these victims should consider partnering with a Minnesota Personal Injury Attorney in order to try to secure the compensation they deserve.

In court, victim/plaintiffs typically establish legal responsibility, or liability, by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). Assume that there are two equally-full glasses of water side by side on a table. If someone adds a drop of water to the glass on the left, it contains more liquid than the glass on the right. That’s a good picture of a preponderance of the evidence.

Elements of a Negligence Case

Most car crash claims in Minnesota involve negligence, which is essentially a lack of ordinary care. There are five elements in a negligence case:

  • Duty: Noncommercial drivers have a duty of reasonable care. They must obey the rules of the road and drive defensively at all times. In some cases, commercial operators, such as Uber drivers and truck drivers, are common carriers. These individuals have a higher duty of care.
  • Breach: The jury or factfinder decides if the tortfeasor (negligent actor) violated the duty of care. For example, rolling down the car window is technically distracted driving, because motorists take their hand off the wheel and their mind off driving. But most Minnesotans would not consider rolling down a car window to be a breach of duty.
  • Cause: MN Personal Injury Lawyers refer often refer to this element as but-for causation. In other words, the accident would not have occurred “but for” the tortfeasor’s misconduct.
  • Proximate Cause:  A negligent driver is responsible if their negligent driving conduct helped cause the accident. For example, a driver might be negligent for driving without a license, however, their negligence isn’t a proximate cause of a crash where the other driver pulls right out in front of them. Their failure to have a license didn’t cause the collision.
  • Damages: The victim must suffer a physical injury. Near misses, although traumatic, are not actionable in court.

All Minnesota victims are entitled to damages for their economic losses, such as medical bills and property damage. Victims who sustain serious injuries, as the law defines that term, are entitled to additional compensation for their loss of enjoyment in life, pain and suffering, loss of consortium (companionship), emotional distress, and other noneconomic damages.

Premises liability cases, such as a fall on ice, work a little differently. Victim/plaintiffs in these cases must usually establish that the tortfeasor knew about the dangerous property situation.

Negligence per se works a little differently as well. Tortfeasors are responsible for damages as a matter of law if:

  • They violate a safety statute, like DUI, and
  • Said violation substantially caused the damages.

In some cases, negligence per se is only a presumption, and not absolute proof, of liability.

Vicarious Liability 

An alarming number of drivers in Minnesota are either uninsured or underinsured. In catastrophic injury cases, if the tortfeasor has limited or no insurance, victims sometimes have a difficult time obtaining fair compensation for their injuries. Vicarious liability gives these victims an added source of recovery. Some common theories include:

  • Respondeat Superior: “Let the master answer” is the most common employer liability doctrine in Minnesota. It applies if the tortfeasor was an employee who was acting within the scope of employment at the time of the car crash. Both these elements are very broadly defined. Some other employer liability theories include negligent supervision and negligent hiring.
  • Dram Shop: Commercial alcohol providers are legally responsible for the injuries their intoxicated patrons cause if they illegally sold alcohol to that tortfeasor. A sale is illegal if the customer was under 21 or obviously intoxicated at the time.
  • Negligent Entrustment: The owner of the vehicle is responsible for damages caused by a negligent driver who had permission to use their vehicle. Commercial negligent entrustment cases, perhaps with a U-Haul truck or Enterprise rented car, are subject to the Graves Amendment.

Minnesota is a modified joint and several liability state. Therefore, in most cases, the judge apportions damages among multiple responsible parties based on their percentage of fault.

The Legal Minnesota Personal Injury Process

Almost all negligence cases begin with a demand letter. After ascertaining the case’s settlement value, a Minnesota Personal Injury Attorney sends a letter demanding an amount of money to the insurance company. Settlement value depends on a variety of factors, including the severity of the injury, the strength of the plaintiff’s evidence, and any insurance company defenses.

If the two sides cannot reach a settlement agreement at this point, the victim/plaintiff usually files a legal claim for damages. In most cases, such a claim must be filed within a certain amount of time or the plaintiff could be forever barred from making a claim.

After the parties conduct discovery and the judge decides pretrial motions, the case usually goes to mediation. There, a neutral third party tries to facilitate a settlement between the victim and insurance company. If mediation fails and there is no such settlement, the case proceeds to a trial before a judge or a jury.


Every negligence case is different, but most follow a common outline. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Minnesota, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A.