Damages Available in Minnesota Personal Injury Cases
When you're injured in an accident caused by another person, you may be able to recover damages for the injuries and expenses you incurred. You will, of course, have to prove that the accident caused your damages and the damages were reasonable and necessary. For injuries caused by motor vehicles, Minnesota also has a "no-fault" automobile insurance system, which requires insurers to cover basic economic loss benefits, regardless of fault. Injured parties may also recover from "at-fault" parties if certain requirements are met.
Whether you’re recovering from an insurer or the at-fault party, what kind of damages are available in a Minnesota personal injury case?
Economic damages are out-of-pocket losses that result from the injury. These include medical expenses, income loss, loss of earning capacity, funeral and burial expenses, and replacement services. The damage to property is also an economic damage that can be recovered. Depending on the severity of the damage, the value to repair or replace the property will be the measure of the damage.
In Minnesota, medical expenses may include traditional medical and surgical treatment, dental services, chiropractic care, prosthetic devices, prescription drugs, ambulance services, travel expenses incurred traveling to receive covered medical expenses, sign interpreting, language translation, and hospital and nursing services. Interestingly, under Minnesota law, medical expenses also may include necessary remedial treatment and services for an injured person who relied on spiritual means through prayer alone for healing in accordance with that person's religious beliefs. In the wrongful death context, survivors may seek compensation for the loss of financial support and the cost of services that the decedent would have performed.
Non-economic damages, sometimes referred to as general damages, include items such as pain and suffering and mental anguish. Close family members may also seek loss of consortium damages for the value of the loss of companionship. These non-economic damages are far more difficult to value given their subjective nature.
Punitive damages are available under Minnesota law in personal injury actions, but only if the injured party can show clear and convincing evidence that the person at fault showed a "deliberate disregard for the rights or safety of others." This "deliberate disregard" element is established where the defendant knows or intentionally disregards facts that create a high probability of injury to others and then proceeds with the conduct anyway. Minnesota has a special procedure for making a claim for punitive damages, which must be done by motion to amend the pleadings, after the complaint is filed.
Amounts Received From Collateral Sources
Collateral sources are payments related to the injury, made to the injured person, or on their behalf. The payment can come from any number of sources, such as a government disability program, or a health or automobile insurer. In Minnesota, any award that an injured person obtains can be reduced by the amount of these collateral sources.
The Effect of the Comparative Fault Rule
An injured person's own fault in causing the injury will affect the amount of damages he or she will be able to recover, if any. Under Minnesota's comparative fault rule, the injured person's negligence does not bar them from recovering damages for their injury, but only if their negligence is found to be less than 50% of the fault. If the injured person is found to be 50% or more at fault, he or she is barred from recovering any damages. If the injured person is found to be less than 50% at fault, the court will reduce the award obtained by the percentage of fault assigned to the injured person.
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