The days, weeks, and months following an accident can be very stressful and emotional. In this difficult time, it is important to know and protect your legal rights. The purpose of this page is to answer some frequently asked questions about being involved in a motor vehicle accident and bringing a personal injury claim in Minnesota.
I’VE BEEN IN AN AUTO ACCIDENT! NOW WHAT?
If you’ve been in an auto accident, do these 10 things to protect your personal safety and your legal rights:
1) Exchange contact and insurance information with the others involved in the crash.
2) Report the collision to the police.
3) Take photos and/or video of the vehicles, damage, and surrounding scene.
4) Get names and contact information of witnesses.
5) Wait for the police to arrive.
6) Seek treatment for any injuries and tell your doctor about the auto crash.
7) Report the accident to your insurance company.
8) DO NOT give a written or recorded statement to any insurance company or sign any insurance documents without consulting a personal injury lawyer.
9) Contact a personal injury attorney for a free consultation.
10) Follow your doctor’s treatment plan.
DO I NEED TO HIRE A LAWYER IF I’VE BEEN IN AN AUTO ACCIDENT?
If you have been injured in an auto accident, the answer is yes. At a minimum, you should consult with a personal injury attorney to determine what options are available to you. Insurance companies are not usually as accommodating as they claim in their commercials. You will probably be forced to fight to receive the benefits to which you are entitled. Remember, the insurance company’s business model is to take in as many premiums and pay out as few benefits as possible. Studies show that insurance settlements with clients who are represented are, on average, 3 times greater than settlements with clients who are not represented.
HOW MUCH WILL IT COST ME TO HIRE AN ATTORNEY?
The personal injury attorneys at McCarten Law Firm work on a contingency fee basis. That means our attorneys are only paid a percentage of what they collect for you.
WHEN SHOULD I CONSULT WITH A LAWYER?
Immediately. The insurance company will often call you the day of or the day after the accident to request a statement from you. These statements are recorded and can be used against you later on. The insurance company will also request that you sign authorizations so that they may obtain information about you.
Once you have retained an attorney, the insurance company can no longer contact you directly, allowing you to focus on your physical recovery rather than dealing with an insurance claim. A personal injury attorney will determine what information the insurance company is and is not entitled to obtain. The sooner you hire a personal injury attorney, the sooner witnesses can be interviewed and their testimony preserved.
HOW DO I PAY FOR MY MEDICAL BILLS AND WAGE LOSS?
Minnesota has very specific “no-fault” laws. That means the state requires each auto insurance policy to provide a minimum of $20,000 in medical benefits and up to $20,000 in wage loss benefits. “No-fault” means that it doesn’t matter who caused the collision. Your own insurance policy should pay your wage loss and medical bills as long as they are reasonable and related to injuries that you experienced from the auto crash.
Benefits are to be paid, first, by your own insurance policy. However, if you do not have your own insurance policy, benefits can possibly be paid from the policy of the vehicle you were in at the time of the collision, or from a family member’s insurance policy.
Most time, your insurance company will refuse to pay the full amount of benefits without a fight. Don’t be fooled. Even though they are your insurance company, they are not working for your benefit. Many times, your insurance company will ask you for a recorded statement regarding the crash in order to use it against you later. Your best bet is always to consult with a personal injury attorney before providing a statement to any insurance company— even your own.
DO I HAVE TO SUE SOMEONE?
About 8 of 10 personal injury cases are resolved by settlement before involving the courts. About 90% of the cases that are filed with the court are resolved by settlement prior to reaching a jury verdict. Although your lawyer will provide you with recommendations and advice based on the facts of your case, the ultimate decision to settle is yours.
If there is no acceptable offer to settle is made by the insurance company, the next step is to sue the at-fault party. Although your attorney will typically be working directly with the insurance company to resolve the case, the law requires that the at-fault driver be named as the defendant in a claim. Minnesota laws prohibits naming an insurance company as the at-fault party.
WILL MY INSURANCE PREMIUMS BE AFFECTED?
Only if you are found more than 50% at fault for the accident. Minnesota law says that if you are found less than 50% at fault for the accident, then your insurance company cannot raise your rates if you make a claim for wage loss and medical benefits.
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO RESOLVE MY CASE?
It depends. In most cases, you only have one chance to settle your claim with the insurance company. So, before discussing settlement, your attorney will need to know the extent of all injuries, whether doctors believe they are permanent or not, and what treatment is required. Doctors generally wait about one year before they can determine if injuries will have lasting effects.
WHAT IF I HAVE MORE QUESTIONS?
If you or a loved one has been hurt in an accident, contact McCarten Law Firm in Alexandria, Minnesota. During a free initial consultation, we can discuss your options for receiving fair compensation in your case.