Minnesota Motor Vehicle Accident Laws and Safety Requirements

About 400 people die each year on Minnesota roads, and many more are injured, While Minnesota’s roads are relatively safe by national standards, none of this matters to someone who has already been injured or who is grieving the loss of a loved one following a traffic accident. Following are some of the basic principles that govern Minnesota car accident lawsuits:

Statute of Limitations: In Minnesota, you have two years from the date of the incident to file a personal injury lawsuit, and you have six years to file a lawsuit for property damage. If you intend to file a wrongful death lawsuit, you have three years from the date of the victim’s death.  

When the Victim is Partly at Fault: If the jury finds that the victim was partly at fault for the car wreck, the court will subtract an amount from the victim’s damages that corresponds to his percentage of fault – 15 percent, for example. If the victim was more than 50 percent at fault, however, the court may rule against any damages for the victim.

Fault/No Fault Rule: Minnesota is a “no-fault” state, meaning that the victim must look first to his own insurance policy to be made whole, regardless of caused the car wreck. You can escape Minnesota’s no-fault regime and file a claim against the other driver’s liability insurance policy (or file a lawsuit) if your medical expenses were at least $4,000 or if your injury resulted in disfigurement or at least 60 days of disability.

Minimum Insurance Coverage: Minnesota drivers must carry auto insurance with coverage limits of at least 30/60/10 — $30,000 per victim, $60,000 per accident and $10,000 for property damage.

Uninsured/Underinsured Drivers Coverage: Minnesota drivers are required to purchase uninsured and underinsured driver insurance in the amounts of $25,000 per victim and $50, 000 per accident.

Types of Damages Available: Full compensatory damages are available. If the plaintiff demands punitive damages, the defendant can request a separate trial on the issue of whether or not punitive damages are warranted and how much they should be.

Product Liability for Defective Vehicles: A 4-year statute of limitations applies to product liability claims. A determination of whether or not the vehicle (or vehicle part) is defective is based on a “reasonable care” standard applied to the manufacturer, even if the defendant is not the manufacturer.

Suing the Government over Defective Roadways (Sovereign Immunity): Claims are limited to $1,500,000, and punitive damages are not allowed. Some defective roadway claims may be dismissed under technicalities in Minnesota sovereign immunity law.

Motorcycle Helmet Laws: All riders under 18 must wear helmets.

Seat Belt Laws: Seat belts are required for occupants seven or younger if they are at least 57 inches tall, and for all occupants 9 and older. The maximum fine for a first offense is $100, including variable county-level court costs

Dram Shop Law: Licensed alcohol vendors face third-party liability for serving underage patrons and obviously intoxicated adult patrons, if the patron later injures a third party as a result of his intoxication. Social hosts face limited liability for serving minors under 21.

DUI/DWI Penalties (first offense): A first-offense DUI is punishable by up to 90 days incarceration, a fine of $1,000 and suspension of the offender’s driver’s license for up to 90 days.

Distracted Driving (texting while driving, etc.): Texting while driving is forbidden for all Minnesota drivers, including visitors. All cell phone use is forbidden for minors under 18 who are driving under a Learner’s or Provisional License, even if the device in question is not hand-held.