How Is Fault Determined in a Minnesota Car Accident?
When another driver hits you in Minnesota, you must prove the accident was the other driver’s fault before you can receive compensation for your injuries and vehicle damage. Even if fault seems indisputable, an insurance company will consider the following when deciding who caused or how much someone contributed to a collision.
The Police Report
A police report can be incredibly helpful for proving fault. It doesn’t always have the final say, but it will contain information that shows how the officer came to their conclusion on who they believe caused the accident. For example:
- The final positioning of the cars
- The location and extent of damage to the vehicles
- Whether airbags deployed
- Whether there are skid marks from attempts to brake
- Interviews with the drivers
- Interviews with witnesses to the accident
- Whether either driver appears to be intoxicated
- Whether either car was malfunctioning
- Video they viewed that show the accident
If one party is cited for a traffic law violation or charged with a crime (e.g., driving while intoxicated), this can serve as significant evidence of fault that is difficult to challenge.
A “no-doubt liability” accident is one that, depending on the circumstances, is almost always a particular driver’s fault. They are challenging for the at-fault party to argue against, and cases are often quickly resolved in a settlement for the victims. For example:
- Driver in the Back: In a rear-end accident, fault typically falls on the driver in the back because it is assumed that they should have left more space between them and the front driver.
- Left-Hand Turns: Drivers making left-hand turns in front of oncoming drivers are often determined to be at fault because it is presumed that they did not enter the intersection with sufficient time and space to complete the turn.
- Backing-Up Drivers: In most cases, the driver backing up when an accident occurs is at fault regardless of circumstances.
- Red-Light Runners: Drivers who run red lights are usually at fault in auto accidents. However, both drivers may claim they had a green light, posing a problem for the victim.
In these types of cases, fault can be easier to prove, but each car accident is different. Police officers make mistakes, drivers lie, or there may not be any witnesses or video proof. This is where an experienced attorney can really help. Like the insurance company, an attorney will complete an investigation and hire an accident reconstruction expert if necessary to determine who was at fault.
Is Minnesota a No-Fault State?
Minnesota is a no-fault state, which means drivers turn to their own insurance policies to collect compensation after a car accident, regardless of who was to blame for the accident. Your personal injury protection (PIP) coverage will pay for medical bills and other out-of-pocket losses related to the accident, up to your policy’s limits. However, it will not pay for your pain and suffering or emotional distress.
Only if your injuries meet the following threshold conditions can you make a claim against the at-fault driver:
- At least $4,000 in reasonable medical expenses, and/or
- You suffered 60 days of disability, a permanent injury, or disfigurement.
If your injuries qualify, you can obtain compensation beyond what your PIP policy will cover, as well as pain and suffering and other non-economic damages.