In the driest possible terms, Minnesota uses a modified comparative fault standard in determining whether a victim of negligence can collect damages. If you are hurt in a car accident, the terminology involved is not important. What matters to you is how you will pay for medical care, lost wages and other costs? How will your family manage going forward?
But issues of fault and division of liability play a huge role in the outcome of car accident cases in Minnesota. Your attorney must know how to address those issues to achieve the best possible result for you.
What Is Modified Comparative Fault?
In some jurisdictions, injured people can’t collect any damages if they are partly to blame for the accident. Imagine an accident where you were going 58 mph in a 55 mph zone when a drunk driver crashed into you. If the court concludes that you were negligent in speeding, you would lose the right to collect anything even though the drunk driver was primarily responsible for the accident. Under Minnesota law, an injured person can be partly to blame and still be entitled to damages. The question turns on who was more at fault—the injured victim or the person from whom they are seeking damages.
The negligence of the victim still matters. If you are 10 percent responsible and the other party is 90 percent responsible, the amount of money you can recover is reduced by 10 percent. In determining fault, the court can look at anything the parties did or failed to do that may fall in the categories of “negligent” or “reckless.” One of the primary benefits of having a personal injury attorney on your side is that they will help you prepare for statements so you do not say anything that the other party could use to portray you as the responsible party in your accident.
Liability When More Than One Person Is at Fault
The issues become more complex when there are multiple defendants. Car accidents can be messy and there are often a number of things that go wrong leading up to a crash. Say it starts to rain and, before you can turn on your lights, a distracted driver swerves into your lane to avoid another vehicle and crashes into you. You might be partially to blame for your lights being off. The distracted driver is also partially at fault. The driver of the vehicle that forced the distracted driver to swerve might be partially to blame. Who pays for what if everybody is at fault to one degree or another?
In Minnesota, these situations are governed by “several” liability. That means each defendant is only responsible for his or her proportional share of the damages, subject to a few important exceptions. It is vital to understand all the players in your accident and have a clear picture of what happened when seeking compensation.
Act Quickly and Plan Ahead
The sooner you take steps to protect your rights following a car accident, the better your chances of getting the compensation you deserve. And careful investigation and experienced counsel can change your outcome. If you have suffered accident-related injuries due to the negligence of another, contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.