I Was Injured. Can I File A Lawsuit Against The Party That Caused My Injury?

In general, when a person is injured as a result of another person's negligence, the injured party may pursue a claim against the party or parties that caused the injuries. You are entitled to compensation for your injuries if it is found that a defendant was negligent and that such negligence was a cause of your injury. Any personal injury case depends on liability, damages, and whether or not you can collect from the negligent party or parties. Minnesota has adopted the doctrine of modified comparative negligence. Under this doctrine, a claimant's action is barred if his fault exceeds the combined fault of all defendants. Otherwise, the claimant's recovery is diminished in proportion to his degree of fault.

Personal injury law attempts to cover all areas and types of injuries suffered by individuals. Some of the most common areas are automobile accidents, premises liability, medical malpractice, and product liability, among others. Whether or not you are entitled to compensation may depend on the type of accident that caused the injury.

AUTOMOBILE ACCIDENTS

In Minnesota, the law provides for mandatory no­fault automobile liability insurance coverage, also referred to as Personal Injury Protection (PIP), for all owners of motor vehicles in Minnesota. No­fault coverage is optional for motorcycles. This means that your own insurance carrier will provide coverage of all reasonable expenses incurred (excluding property damage) regardless of who was at fault for the accident. No­fault coverage applies to the insured person, not the vehicle. Benefits extend to the named insured; members of the insured's household; vehicle occupants; and any pedestrian struck by the vehicle, unless any of these persons are covered under their own no­fault policy. You will be reimbursed for 100% of your medical expenses; 85% of your gross income up to $250 per week; replacement services (such as domestic help) up to $200 per week; and in the case of death, survivor's benefits for economic loss and replacement services, plus burial expenses up to $2000. You must carry a minimum no­fault coverage of $20,000 for medical expenses and $20,000 for all other economic losses. No­fault benefits do not include compensation for non­economic damages such as your pain and suffering.

Liability insurance coverage is also mandatory in Minnesota. The mandatory minimum liability coverage in Minnesota is $30,000 per person and $60,000 per accident bodily injury liability, and $10,000 property damage liability. If the collision was primarily the fault of someone else and if you suffered serious injuries, you may have a claim against the party who was at fault. The party at fault may be responsible for excess wage loss benefits, replacement service expenses or survivor's loss benefits not already paid by no­fault coverage. In order to bring a claim for other damages such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, etc against the at­fault driver, you must meet a "no­fault threshold." You must meet one of the following criteria: (1) permanent disfigurement; (2) medical bills over $4000; (3) more than 60 days of disability; (4) permanent injury; or (5) death. Property damage from automobile accidents is generally covered under the liability system. This means the insurance company, of the driver who was at fault, is responsible for paying the fair market value of the car if it is beyond repair or the reasonable cost to repair it.

If you are in an automobile accident with an uninsured driver who is at fault, the uninsured motorist provisions of your own policy will apply. This coverage would also apply if you were hit by a "hit and run" driver. In this situation, your own car insurance company steps into the shoes of the at­fault driver and pays for your damages. You still need to show that the other driver was more at fault for the accident than you, and you still need to meet one of the thresholds discussed above.

Generally, people who operate motor vehicles must exercise reasonable care under the circumstances. Failure to use reasonable care is the basis for most lawsuits for damages caused by an automobile accident. In these cases, proof of fault is often contested and requires thorough investigation. A driver may also be liable for an accident caused by intentional or reckless conduct. A reckless driver is one who drives unsafely, with willful disregard for the probability that the driving may cause an accident. Liability claims are usually the subject of negotiation between your lawyer and the liability insurer for the negligent party. Lawsuits are generally filed when negotiations fail. If you file a lawsuit against a negligent driver, your attorney will need to prove that the other party was negligent and that the other party's negligence caused injuries that resulted in compensable damages. Be careful when dealing with the other party's insurance company because they may try to rush you into a settlement before you can adequately evaluate the extent of your damages.

PREMISES LIABILITY

If you were injured at someone else's home or a commercial establishment, the person or entity responsible for the premises may be found liable. This can cover a variety of situations including slip and falls, dog bites, assaults, among others. The person liable for your damages is the party in control of the property. That party is responsible for the care, maintenance and inspection of the property. For example, an owner may not be the responsible party if he or she has leased the property to another party who actually has control over the premises.

In general, it is the duty of an owner to exercise reasonable care in the maintenance of the premises and to warn a visitor of any dangerous conditions that are known, or should be known to him, if the conditions are not likely to be perceived by the visitor. Factors used to determine whether the owner exercised reasonable care in maintaining the property includes (a) the foreseeability of harm to others; (b) the magnitude of the risks of injury to others if the property is kept in its current condition; (c) the benefit to an individual or to society of maintaining the property in its current condition; and (d) the cost and inconvenience of providing adequate protection.

The owner or operator of the property must have notice of the defect or circumstances that caused your injury prior to the injury having occurred. The notice can either be actual notice or implied notice, meaning the owner knew or should have known of the dangerous condition given all of the surrounding facts and circumstances. When the owner actually created the dangerous condition, then notice is presumed. If a hazard cannot be eliminated, the owner has a duty to warn of the hazards he is aware of or should be aware of. In the case of dog bites, however, Minnesota law provides that it is not necessary for the owner of the dog to have previous notice of the dog's dangerous tendencies.

The duty of a possessor of land to the injured person may vary depending on the status of the person at the time of the injury. Business owners typically have the highest responsibility to those who are invited onto their premises. Homeowners also have a duty to their guests. The standard of care owed to an adult trespasser is less than that owed to a person who has permission to be on the property. An owner may be liable, however, if he maintains a condition that causes injury to a trespassing child.

PRODUCT LIABILITY

Product Liability deals with recoveries for personal injury or property damage resulting from the use of a product. Product liability cases may involve dangerous toys, automobile design, seat belt failures, improperly designed household products, industrial machinery, products causing explosions or burns, aviation products, prescription drugs, among othe

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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