If you were injured in an accident due to someone else’s negligence, you might be able to file a personal injury lawsuit. However, your eligibility for a personal injury settlement depends on your comparative fault and whether you file before the statute of limitations is up.
How does comparative fault factor into your ability to win a settlement? You must be less than 50% responsible for the event that caused your injury to receive compensation in Minnesota.
If a judge finds you more than 50% responsible for the accident that caused your injury, you can’t file a personal injury lawsuit. And if your comparative fault is less than 50% but greater than 0%, the court will reduce your final settlement amount (more on this below).
The statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits is generally two years. If you’re filing a claim against a government employee, though, the statute of limitations is only 180 days. You also only have six months to file a claim against an insurance company after a car accident.
Exactly how much settlement money can you win after filing a personal injury lawsuit in Minnesota? We’re discussing the different types of settlements and how much you can expect to get in your case next.
What Are Damages in a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Minnesota?
Damages are amounts of money awarded to a plaintiff (the person who filed the lawsuit) after a personal injury lawsuit. Damages compensate the plaintiff for losses acquired due to the injury.
Minnesota law differentiates between two types of damages: punitive and compensatory damages.
Compensatory damages can either be monetary compensation (called economic damages) or compensation for emotional harm (called non-economic damages). Punitive damages are known as “non-compensatory” because judges award them to punish the defendant, not to pay anything back to the victim.
Below, we’ll discuss who’s eligible for non-economic, economic, and punitive damages.
Settlements that pay back the victim’s medical expenses are economic damages, also known as financial damages. But what counts as a medical expense after an injury caused by someone else’s negligence?
The money you paid for medical bills acquired as a direct result of your injury count as medical expenses. Courts also take into account any future medical expenses you might reasonably take on as a result of your injury. This includes costs for rehabilitation, long-term care, future medical care, and more.
Sometimes an accident doesn’t result in someone’s injury but does result in injury or damage to the victim’s property. You can hire a lawyer to recover compensation for your property damage. Property damage compensation is a type of economic damages.
You can seek a settlement for property damage to your vehicle or motorcycle after a crash. Any other item that belongs to you and is damaged due to another person’s negligence is also eligible for a property damage settlement.
Lost income settlement amounts are yet another type of economic or financial damages. You can receive this type of compensation if you missed work or lost your job while suffering or recovering from your injury. Keep in mind that settlements designated as a replacement for lost income are taxable in Minnesota.
Say your personal injury resulted in a reduction of your earning potential. For example, you may have ended up with a permanent disability that prevents you from working your trade. If that’s the case, you can also receive damages for your loss of earning potential.
Another term for non-economic damages is intangible damages. That’s because this type of settlement compensates pain and suffering and other psychological losses caused by the injury or accident, including:
- Mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium (when injuries to the victim also cause psychological harm to his or her spouse or partner)
Intangible damages can be notoriously difficult to prove. You may need testimonials from your therapist, friends, and family members. Your personal injury attorney may also want to hire a psychology expert to testify on your behalf.
As we mentioned above, punitive damages are different from compensatory damages. This type of settlement isn’t meant to re-pay the victim’s economic losses or pain and suffering. Instead, judges typically award punitive damages to punish the defendant for intentional or particularly negligent acts.
It’s estimated that only 5% of personal injury victims receive punitive damages as part of their settlements. Also, it’s common for judges to award punitive damages if he or she considers the victim’s compensatory award inadequate.
Factors Affecting Your Personal Injury Case Value in Minnesota
Personal injury settlements can range from $3,000 to over $100,000. And one Minnesota personal injury case settled for over $2 million. So, why exactly do some cases settle for a few thousand dollars while other victims get awards in the millions?
We’re talking about the top factors that impact your personal injury settlement below.
The Extent of Injury or Property Damage
Your injury or the injury to your property is arguably the most critical factor in your final settlement award. Judges will want to see your medical bills or get an estimate of the damage done to your belonging(s).
The more property damage or the more severe the injury, the higher your award will be. Your settlement will also be higher if your injury or property damage is permanent. And if the defendant caused both personal injury and property damage in one accident, your award will be even larger.
Your settlement award will increase if you qualify for both economic and non-economic losses. However, in Minnesota, you must have accumulated more than $4,000 in medical expenses to qualify for non-economic damages.
You may also be eligible for a non-economic settlement award in Minnesota if your injury is permanent or causes a disability that lasts 60+ days.
Your Ability to Work
Victims can win money to compensate for income losses in a personal injury lawsuit. If you missed work because of your injury, the judge can designate a portion of your award to recover your lost income.
As mentioned above, your settlement award will be even larger if you can prove your injury will affect your future earning potential.
Comparative fault is the law in Minnesota. Under the comparative fault rule, judges determine the share of fault for an accident. That means the judge will assign fault to both the defendant and the plaintiff (AKA the victim).
If you’re found to share even 1% of the fault for the accident, this will affect your settlement amount. The judge will subtract 1 percent from your settlement for each percentage point of your contributory negligence.
Inconsistent and Recorded Statements
Giving inconsistent statements to insurance companies is a surefire way to reduce your personal injury lawsuit settlement award. If any subsequent statements are inconsistent with your initial statement, the insurance company could use this as a reason to decrease or even eliminate your eligibility for a personal injury settlement.
Additionally, avoid giving recorded statements after the accident and/or signing over the rights to your medical records. Both of these mistakes could increase the chances of an insurance company docking your claim’s value.
In many personal injury cases, Minnesota victims must file for damages with an insurance company. Unfortunately, insurance companies tend to enforce caps on the amount they will pay out for personal injury. The good news is you can then file a claim, and your personal injury lawyer can go after the defendant.
The only exception is for medical malpractice lawsuits. Minnesota has a “no cap” rule for medical malpractice settlements.
Location and Precedence
Location and precedence are two additional factors that could play into the amount a judge awards you. Here’s how.
Firstly, where you actually file your personal injury lawsuit can impact your settlement amount. That’s because some jurisdictions value personal injury factors differently than others. And some jurisdictions are known to generally award higher settlement amounts than others.
Here’s one tip for filing claims outside of the jurisdiction where you reside: always hire an attorney who is local to where you’re filing, not where you’re from.
Second, your settlement award could depend on precedence. Precedence means that a previous case determines the legal rule when a similar case goes to trial. In other words, if your case has similar facts to a preceding court decision, the past verdict will help determine your case’s outcome.
The great thing about personal injury cases is that most victims don’t have to pay out of pocket for the lawsuit. Instead, personal injury attorneys typically take a contingency fee. That means you pay your lawyer a portion of your settlement in exchange for his or her services.
Contingency fees are significant, costing 30%–40% of your final award. But don’t let this deter you from hiring a personal injury law firm. Without representation, the defendant’s lawyer could pressure you into settling for less or even nothing at all.
Call a Personal Injury Attorney in Minnesota
Victims of accidents that were someone else’s fault can file a personal injury lawsuit to recover compensatory and, in some cases, punitive damages. Your ultimate award will depend on the extent of your injuries or damage to your property, your ability to work, your comparative fault, and more.
Are you looking for an attorney to help you recover personal injury damages? Schedule a free consultation with Carlson & Jones to speak with one of our experienced personal injury lawyers.