Car Accident Injuries
This section applies to car accident cases in the state of Minnesota.
In addition to a no-fault insurance claim, a person who is injured in a car wreck may also have a claim against the person responsible for the crash (usually called a liability claim.) When a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit is brought, it is because another person’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional wrongful action caused the collision (usually the driver of the other vehicle, although an injured passenger in the responsible person’s car could also have a claim).
Unlike the no-fault claim the liability claim is not automatic. In other words, in order to make a no-fault claim the only thing you must prove is that you were injured as a result of an accident involving a motor vehicle. However, in order to make a liability claim (for personal injuries), you must be able to prove the following:
- The other person was at FAULT for the accident. This means that you must prove that the other person was negligent. Also, if you were also negligent, you must be able to prove that the other person was more negligent (more at fault) than you were.
- The other person’s negligence was a CAUSE of your injuries. This usually becomes an issue where you have a history of prior medical problems and there is a question as to whether or not your current symptoms are related to the accident, or exist because of that prior medical history. In virtually all cases, it is necessary to have a doctor express an opinion about causation.
- You must establish that you have reached AT LEAST ONE OF THE FOLLOWING FOUR THRESHOLDS:
- The existence of a permanent scar or disfigurement;
- Sixty (60) days or more of disability (unable to engage in substantially all of your usual and customary daily activities);
- $4,000 or more in medical expenses; or
- The existence of a permanent injury.
- Damages. This would include pain and suffering, emotional distress and disability.
One of the most common issues which arise in automobile cases is whether or not the injured person is able to establish the existence of one of the four thresholds I mention above. In order to establish that threshold, it is necessary to obtain a written report from the primary treating physician. In most cases, it is necessary to wait for a period of one year after the date of the accident to obtain such an opinion. Once that opinion is obtained, the case is usually submitted to the adjuster who is handling the claim on behalf of the other party’s insurance company. Attempts are made to settle the case. If the case does not settle, it is then usually necessary to start a lawsuit. If the case does not settle later, you end up having a jury trial consisting of six jurors. Those jurors decide whether or not you are able to prove the four items that are listed above.
During the one year that passes between the date of the accident and the date it is possible to obtain a final report from the primary treating physician, it is important to obtain good medical care. That means that if you continue to have symptoms, you should follow up with your medical providers as needed. Also, you should do your best to follow whatever recommendations your medical providers make to you. For example, if your doctor tells you to do exercises at home, you should do them. Any failure on your part to follow such orders will be held against you later by the other party’s insurance company, and perhaps by a jury. Also, if you are having symptoms and fail to follow up with your medical providers, the other party’s insurance company will take the position that you cannot be hurt as evidenced by the fact that you did not seek medical care. That often makes it difficult to settle your case. Likewise, failure to follow up with your medical providers often makes it difficult for the primary treating physician to render a final report.
In summary, the injured person should do his/her best to get well. No one can criticize them for that.