Minnesota Car Accident and Personal Injury Laws



If you've been injured in a car accident in the State of Minnesota, you may have questions about how the laws will affect your property damage and/or personal injury claim. In this article, we'll review the laws most commonly associated with car accidents. To read the entirety of each law, click the link to the specific State of Minnesota statutes in each section.

Here are the Minnesota car accident and traffic laws we'll cover:

Pedestrian Laws

Pedestrians and Crosswalks

Where traffic-control signals are not in place or in operation, the driver of a vehicle must yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a marked crosswalk or at an intersection with no marked crosswalk.
Section 169.21

Restrictions on Pedestrians Crossing Roadways

No pedestrian is permitted to suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield.
Section 169.21

Pedestrian Control Signals

Whenever special pedestrian control signals, exhibiting the words Walk or Don't Walk or the symbols of a walking person or an upraised palm are in place such signals shall indicate as follows:

  1. Walk or Walking Person. Pedestrians facing such signal may proceed across the roadway in the direction of the signal and shall be given the right of way by the drivers of all vehicles.
  2. Don't Walk or Upraised Palm. No pedestrian shall start to cross the roadway in the direction of such signal, whether flashing or steady. Any pedestrian who has partially completed the pedestrian's crossing on the Walk or Walking Person signal shall complete the crossing to a sidewalk or safety island while the Don't Walk or Upraised Palm signal is showing.
Section 169.06

Crossing at Other Than Crosswalks

Pedestrians intending to cross a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles on the roadway.
Section 169.21

Pedestrians on Roadway

Where sidewalks are provided, it is unlawful for any pedestrian to walk along and upon adjacent roadway, bicycle lane, or bicycle path.

Where sidewalks are not provided, pedestrians are permitted to walk only on or along the left side of the roadway or on it's shoulder facing traffic from the opposite direction.
Section 169.21

Pedestrians' Right of Way on Sidewalks

The driver of a vehicle emerging from or entering an alley, building, private road, or driveway shall yield the right of way to any pedestrian approaching on any sidewalk extending across the alley, building entrance, road, or driveway.
Section 169.31

Drivers to Exercise Due Care

The driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian upon any roadway and shall give warning by sounding the driver's horn when necessary and shall exercise proper precaution upon observing any child or any obviously confused or incapacitated person on a roadway.
Section 169.21

Driving Laws

Obedience to Traffic Control Devices

A driver must obey any traffic control devices applicable to the driver, unless directed by a traffic or police officer.
Section 169.06

Driving on Right Side of Roadway

Drivers must drive in the right lane of roadways with the following exceptions:

  • When passing another driver in the same direction
  • When there is an obstruction in the right lane
  • Upon a roadway restricted to one way traffic
  • Upon a roadway with three marked lanes of traffic
  • When approaching an authorized emergency vehicle parked or stopped on the roadway
  • When approaching a road maintenance or construction vehicle parked or stopped on the roadway
Section 169.18

Passing On the Left

Driver proceeding in the same direction must pass to the left at at a safe distance and shall remain in the passing lane until it is safe to return to the right lane. Drivers being passed must not increase the speed of their vehicle until their vehicle is completely passed by the overtaking car.
Section 169.18

Limitations on Overtaking on the Left

Drivers may drive to the left side of the center of the roadway in overtaking and passing another vehicle only if the left side is clearly visible and the overtaking vehicle can return to its lane without coming within one hundred feet of oncoming traffic.
Section 169.18

Passing On the Right

Drivers may pass on the right under the following conditions:

  • When the driver about to be passed is about to make a left turn. However, the driver attempting to pass on the right must not do so without driving off the pavement of main-traveled portion of the roadway.
  • When the roadway has two (2) or more lanes of traffic moving in the same direction.
  • On a one-way street where the roadway is free from obstructions and wide enough for two or more lines of moving vehicles.
Section 169.18

Following Too Closely

A driver must not follow another driver more closely than is "reasonable and prudent", having due regard for the speed of other drivers and traffic conditions along the roadway. A driver who is towing another vehicle must leave at least 500 feet ahead of their vehicle to allow an overtaking vehicle to enter and occupy this space without danger.
Section 169.18

Drivers and Mobile Electronic Devices

Drivers must not drive while using a handheld mobile electronic device to compose, read, or send messages, except to contact emergency services.
Section 169.475

Drivers and Intersections

When two (2) drivers approach an intersection at approximately the same time the driver on the left must yield to the driver to their right.
Section 169.20

Drivers Intending to Turn Left at Intersections

A driver who intends to turn left at an intersection, or into an alley, private road or driveway must yield the right of way to drivers approaching from the opposite direction.
Section 169.20

Drivers Entering or Crossing a Roadway

A driver about to enter or cross a roadway from any place other than another roadway must yield the right of way to all other vehicles on the roadway to be crossed.
Section 169.20

Bicycling Laws

Bicyclists must obey the same traffic laws as drivers of cars, and are subject to the same penalties as are drivers for violating traffic laws.
Section 169.222

Motorcycling Laws

Motorcyclists and Lanes of Traffic

Motorcyclists are entitled to the full use of a traffic lane and drivers must not take any action to deprive a motorcyclist of his or her right to use a full lane on a roadway. A motorcyclist must not pass another driver in the same lane. Motorcyclists must not ride more than two (2) abreast in a single lane.
Section 169.974

"Lane Splitting"

Motorcyclists must not pass another driver in the same lane. Commonly known as "lane splitting," motorcyclists sometimes attempt to pass other drivers when traffic is slowed, or bumper to bumper. To move forward through traffic motorcyclists sometimes drive between cars. Doing so is not only illegal, but quite dangerous.
Section 169.974

Helmet Law

All motorcyclists under the age of 18 must wear helmets while riding on roadways.
Section 169.974

Motorcycles and Headlights

Every motorcycle must be equipped with at least one and not more than four headlamps that are lighted at all times.
Section 169.49
Section 169.974

Driving Offenses and Accident Requirements

Careless Driving

Any person who drives or stops any vehicle carelessly, without regard for others, or in a manner that endangers or is likely to endanger any property or any person, is guilty of careless driving, and can be fined and imprisoned.
Section 169.13

Reckless Driving

A person who drives a vehicle and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk of harming another person or property is guilty of reckless driving, and can be fined and imprisoned.
Section 169.13

Alcohol and Minors

A driver under the age of twenty one (21) must not drive upon any roadway after drinking any measurable amount of alcohol.
Section 169A.33

Driver's Duty to Give Information and Render Aid

A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury, death, or property damage must give their name, address, date of birth, and the registration plate number of the vehicle, and must upon request, exhibit their driver's license to any person or police officer involved in the accident.

If not given at the scene of the accident, the driver must give on request to any person or police officer involved in the collision, the name and address of their auto insurer within 72 hours after the accident.

Moreover the driver must render to any person injured in the accident reasonable assistance, including making of arrangements to transfer the injured person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent medical treatment is required.
Section 169.09

Accidents Involving Death, Personal Injury, or Substantial Bodily Injury

A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury or death must give their name, address, date of birth, and the registration plate number of the vehicle, and must upon request, exhibit their driver's license to any person or police officer involved in the accident.

If not given at the scene of the accident, the driver must give on request to any person or police officer involved in the collision, the name and address of their auto insurer within 72 hours after the accident.

Moreover the driver must render to any person injured in the accident reasonable assistance, including making of arrangements to transfer the injured person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent medical treatment is required.
Section 169.09

Accidents Involving Only Damage to Another Car or Property

A driver involved in an accident resulting in property damage must give their name, address, date of birth, and the registration plate number of the vehicle, and must upon request, exhibit their driver's license to any person or police officer involved in the accident.

If not given at the scene of the accident, the driver must give on request to any person or police officer involved in the collision, the name and address of their auto insurer within 72 hours after the accident.
Section 169.09

Accidents Involving Damage to Unattended Car or Unattended Property

A driver who collides with a parked car or who collides with other property which is unattended must immediately stop at the scene of the accident or as close to it as possible and must attempt to locate and notify the driver or owner of the damaged car or damaged property.

Once located the driver who caused the accident must give the names and addresses of the driver and vehicle owner.

If the driver or owner of the damaged car or property cannot be located, the driver must either report the accident to the police or attach a written note to the damaged property in a conspicuous place giving the names and addresses of the driver and vehicle owner.
Section 169.09

Driver's Duty to Notify Police Department

A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury, death, or total damage to all property resulting in $1,000 or more must give notice to the nearest police office within ten days of the accident.
Section 169.09

Accident Reports Filed By Police Departments

A police officer who investigates an accident that involved injury, death, or property damage of $1,000 or more must forward an electronic or written report of the accident to the commissioner of public safety within ten days of the accident.
Section 169.09

Accident Report Forms

The commissioner of public safety must make accident report forms available to police departments, coroners, sheriffs, garages, and other suitable agencies or individuals upon request. The electronic or written report to be completed by individuals involved in accidents and by investigating police officers must request the causes, existing conditions, and the individuals and vehicles involved in accidents.
Section 169.09

Open Alcohol Container Law

A driver or passenger must not be in possession of an opened container of an alcoholic beverage or consume a controlled substance while on Minnesota roadways.

An opened alcoholic beverage container can be kept only in the trunk of a vehicle or behind the rearmost upright seat of a vehicle where a passenger would not normally sit. It cannot be kept in the utility or glove compartment.

Passengers of a hired vehicle can consume and possess an opened container.
Section 169A.35

Driving Under Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance

A driver must not drive after drinking an alcoholic beverage or consuming an intoxicant in an amount which renders the driver incapable of driving safely along roadways. In Minnesota, a driver is guilty of the offense of driving while impaired if the driver has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% or higher.
Section 169A.20

Ignition Interlock Device

A driver who is guilty of driving while under the influence of an intoxicant might be ordered to have installed at his or her own expenses an ignition interlock device. The ignition interlock device will serve to restore the driver's driving privileges during the pendency of the driver's probation. If an ignition device is installed, it must be installed in every car owned or operated by the driver.

An ignition interlock is a device which measures any amount of alcohol contained in a driver's body. Before starting the car the driver must blow into a tube emanating from the ignition interlock device. If the device then detects a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) higher than is permitted by law the car will not start and the violation will be reported to the prosecutor, the probation officer, and/or the judge. At that point the driver may be subject to loss of driving privileges, immediate arrest and incarceration up to the maximum term provided by law.
Section 171.306

Liability Laws

Minnesota Dram Shop Law

Minnesota has a Dram Shop Law. Dram Shop Law refers to the liability of private social hosts, bars, hotels nightclubs and other commercial establishments who serve alcohol to patrons or to minors for injuries intoxicated patrons or minors cause to third parties such as in car accidents.

A private social host is the host at a private party, such as a wedding reception, a corporate sponsored event, a gathering of friends at a private residence, where alcohol is served not for profit.

Under Minnesota law, a person who illegally sells or provides alcohol is liable for the personal injuries and property damages caused by the intoxicated person.
Section 340A.801

Financial Responsibility Car Insurance Minimum Limits

In the State of Minnesota, each motor vehicle must be covered by an insurance policy that includes liability coverage of the following amounts for all damages resulting from an accident:

  • At least $30,000 per person
  • At least $60,000 for two or more people
  • $10,000 per occurrence for property damage

For information about insurance requirements, see the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Auto Insurance handbook.

Minnesota Insurance Information

For information about auto insurance, see the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Auto Insurance handbook.

Comparative Negligence (51% Rule)

In Minnesota, the victim in a car accident can sue the negligent driver for compensation. The victim's liability in causing the accident, their comparative negligence, affects the amount of compensation the victim receives.

If the victim contributed less than 51% of the negligence that caused the accident, then their compensation is reduced by the amount they contributed to the accident. If the victim contributed 51% or more of the negligence that caused the accident, then the victim is barred from receiving any compensation.
Section 604.01

Example of Comparative Negligence (51% Rule)

One morning, Jackson was driving north on his way to work. At an intersection, he pulled into the left turn lane. At the same time, Melanie approached the intersection from the opposite direction. Suddenly, Jackson turned left into Melanie's lane and their cars collided.

Melanie sustained serious brain injuries and damage to her car, totalling in $100,000 dollars worth of damages.

After their investigation, the police determined that Jackson had failed to yield according to traffic laws. A pedestrian witness told police he saw Melanie texting at the time Jackson's car crashed into Melanie's. As a result, the police issued Melanie a citation for using a mobile device while driving.

Melanie sued Jackson for $100,000 and claimed he was 100% at fault for the accident because he did not yield to her right-of-way. At trial, the jury found Jackson liable for failing to yield the right-of-way. However, the jury also found Melissa liable for using a mobile device while driving and partially responsible for the accident.

The verdict stated Jackson's negligence equaled 70% of the accident, and Melanie's equaled 30%. The jury awarded Melanie only $70,000 dollars.

In the event the jury had found Jackson's negligence equaled 49% of the accident, and Melanie's equaled 51%, the jury would be barred by law from awarding Melanie any compensation for the damages.
Comparative Negligence: Section 604.01
Right of Way: Section 169.20
Drivers and Mobile Electronic Devices: Section 169.475

Minnesota's No Fault Car Insurance

In Minnesota, car owners are required to purchase no-fault car insurance. No-fault insurance allows a person, who is injured in a car accident or whose property is damaged, to file a claim with their own car insurance company. No-fault insurance allows a person to avoid pursuing a negligent driver for compensation for damages. No-fault insurance does not compensate for pain and suffering, and the amount of personal injury protection (PIP) insurance purchased by the injured party determines their coverage.

For information about no-fault car insurance, see the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Auto Insurance handbook.

Statute of Limitations

Minnesota has a six (6) year statute of limitations for property damage and personal injury claims. If the victim fails to file a lawsuit within the allotted time period, the victim is barred from pursuing the negligent driver in court.
Section 541.05

Small Claims Courts

In Minnesota, victims of car accidents can choose to sue the negligent driver in small claims court. The jurisdiction of a small claims court regarding personal injury and property damage is limited to a maximum of $15,000, exclusive of filing fees and court costs.

For information about filing a small claim, see the Minnesota Conciliation Court website.

Minnesota Government Tort Claims - Sovereign Immunity

In Minnesota, it is possible to submit a claim against a governmental agency or its employees for personal injury or property damage as a result of negligence on the part of the governmental agency or its employees.

The claim must refer to an lawful action on the part of the governmental agency or employee performed in the scope of their duties. If the injury or property damage occurred as a result of an unlawful action, then the claimant can sue only the person(s) who caused injury or property damage individually. The governmental agency would not be liable.
Section 3.736

Example

If Melissa, an engineer with the Minneapolis Planning Department, ran a red light on her way to a worksite and caused an accident, then the City of Minneapolis would be liable for the property damage and personal injuries caused by her.

If Melissa stopped for a few drinks and became intoxicated before heading to a worksite and causing an accident, then the City of Minneapolis can claim sovereign immunity. Melissa performed an unlawful act and was not acting in the scope of her duties when she became intoxicated on her way to the worksite.

To seek compensation for damages, injured parties would have to sue Melissa personally. The determination of whether or not Melissa was acting within the scope of her duties would have to be decided during a trial.

Minnesota places a cap of $1,500,000.00 on the maximum amount of damages that can be claimed against a government agency or its employees.

A government tort claim must be filed against the governmental agency responsible for the car accident within 180 days after the accident.

Section 3.736
NCSL

Sources

State Government of Minnesota

Minnesota Department of Transportation

Minnesota State Legislature

Minnesota Department of Public Safety

Governors Highway Safety Association

Minnesota Bar Association

National Conference on State Legislature

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