Your Rights After Being Injured as a Passenger in a Minnesota Accident

Your Rights After Being Injured as a Passenger in a Minnesota Accident

It was reported that there were over 70,000 motor vehicle accidents in 2022. While many people consider the drivers’ rights, what about the passengers?

Understanding passenger rights is imperative after a Minnesota car accident.

Here, you can learn about passenger rights in Minnesota car accidents, including information about their right to compensation and how they can protect their rights.

Immediate Steps to Take Following an Accident

The moments following a car accident can be overwhelming for all involved. Prioritizing your safety and protecting your rights is crucial in the aftermath of a car accident.

If you find yourself in this situation, the first and most important thing you can do is ensure you are somewhere safe. Stay in your vehicle, and attempt to get out of traffic if possible.

Even if you feel fine and don’t believe you were injured, get checked out by the emergency medical personnel at the scene or go to the hospital. Seemingly non-existent or minor injuries can worsen over time without proper medical care. You can ensure your health and safety by getting treatment immediately and following all treatment recommendations.

It is also important that someone at the scene contact the police to file a report. This is a critical document for future insurance or legal claims. If you are able to, gather evidence while you are still at the scene. To do this, you can take photos of the accident scene and vehicles involved and gather contact details of all parties, including witnesses.

Avoid discussing who is at fault or details of the accident with anyone other than the police and your attorney. When you do talk to an officer, stick to the facts. Do not give your opinion or speculate about what happened.

Be cautious in providing statements to any insurance company until you consult a Minnesota car accident lawyer. These initial steps are vital in protecting your health and strengthening your position in subsequent legal or insurance proceedings.

Understanding Passenger Injury Rights

As a passenger injured in a Minnesota car accident, you have specific rights that protect your interests.  Minnesota is a no-fault insurance state.  Most people are surprised to learn that they must seek no-fault benefits from their car insurance company, even if they were not in their own vehicle at the time of the crash.  If you do not own a vehicle, the next priority for no-fault benefits is the policy of any resident relatives you live with at the time of the crash.  If you do not own a car, or live with a resident relative who owns a car, only then do you seek no-fault benefits on the insurance policy for the vehicle you were a passenger in.  Through your no-fault claim, you can recover $20,000 in medical expenses and mileage and $20,000 in wage loss and replacement services.

In some circumstances, you can step outside the no-fault system and pursue a claim against any at-fault party, or parties, who caused the collision.  As a passenger, this could be against the driver of the vehicle you were a passenger in and/or any other involved vehicles.  To step outside the no-fault system, you must meet one of Minnesota’s required “thresholds.”  These thresholds include if you have sustained a death, a permanent injury, a scar or disfigurement if you have sustained 60 days disability, or if you have incurred over $4,000 in medical expenses (excluding diagnostic imaging).  If you meet a threshold, you can pursue a claim against the at fault party or parties and recover additional damages, such as medical expenses and wage loss not covered by your no-fault claim, as well as pain, suffering, and emotional distress.

Dealing with Insurance Companies

Navigating insurance claims as an injured passenger can be complex. After an accident, it’s crucial to understand how to engage with insurance companies effectively.

Initially, as mentioned above, your no-fault claim must be filed against your own insurance company.  The different priorities of no-fault coverage in Minnesota can be confusing, so it is best to consult with an experienced Minnesota car accident attorney after the crash so that your claims are filed against the appropriate parties.

When dealing with insurance adjusters, it’s essential to be cautious—remember, they represent the insurance company’s interests, not yours. Some insurance companies still use tactics to reduce your compensation, like trying to blame you for your injuries, or get you to admit things against your interest.  Insurance companies will also try to get you to give a recorded statement, which may not be required in certain situations.

Provide necessary information but avoid detailed statements or accepting early settlement offers without legal advice. If the driver at fault is uninsured or underinsured, you may have a claim under your insurance policy. However, these situations often require additional legal expertise.

Comparative Fault in Minnesota

Understanding the principle of comparative fault is crucial for anyone involved in a car accident in Minnesota. This legal doctrine affects how compensation is awarded based on the degree of fault.

If you are found to be partially at fault for your injuries, your compensation may be reduced proportionally. For example, if you’re deemed 10% at fault, your compensation would be reduced by 10%.  However, as a passenger, it’s less likely you’ll bear any responsibility for the accident, making it easier to claim full compensation.

The Role of a Skilled Car Accident Lawyer

A Minnesota car accident lawyer plays a vital role in protecting your rights. They can help in:

  • Investigating the accident to establish liability
  • Dealing with insurance companies on your behalf
  • Gathering necessary medical records and documentation
  • Ensuring you receive full compensation for your injuries and losses

Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations is a legal timeline that injured passengers must know and abide by. This law sets a deadline for filing a lawsuit to seek compensation for your injuries. In Minnesota, for claims based on negligence, you generally have six years from the accident date to initiate legal action.

Failing to settle your claim or commence a lawsuit within this timeframe can result in the loss of your right to compensation, regardless of the severity of your injuries or the clear liability of the other party.

When Multiple Parties are Involved

Car accidents involving multiple vehicles can complicate the process of seeking compensation. This is because there are more people and insurance companies to deal with.

Determining liability can be complex in these situations, as each party may have a degree of fault. As a passenger, you may have claims against multiple drivers, depending on the circumstances of the accident.

The comparative fault rule will still apply, and the compensation you receive can be affected by each driver’s determined percentage of fault.

FAQs for Injured Passengers

What if I’m related to or friends with the driver?
This does not affect your right to compensation. Insurance claims are typically against the insurance policy, not the individual.  However, some policies may have specific provisions that affect the coverage available to a family member.  Because of this, you must have an experienced personal injury attorney review the policy terms.

Can I claim if the accident was a single-vehicle crash?

Yes, as a passenger, you may still have a claim against the driver and their insurance company if the driver was negligent in the operation of their vehicle.

What about accidents involving Uber or Lyft?

These cases can be complex due to the involvement of commercial insurance. Seeking legal advice is highly recommended to ensure your rights are protected.

Understanding Your Rights as an Injured Passenger in Minnesota

As an injured passenger in a Minnesota car accident, you have specific rights that ensure you can seek fair compensation for your injuries. At Nelson Personal Injury, LLC, our Minnesota car accident lawyers are committed to protecting your rights and guiding you through the legal process with expertise and compassion.

Contact us today for a consultation, and let us help you on your road to recovery.