10 Critical Steps After a Minnesota Car Accident

Protect your rights and maximize your payout after a Minnesota car accident. We answer key questions and show you how to build a strong insurance claim.

Minnesota car accident

Today’s cars are safer than ever. Yet even with the latest safety equipment, more than 37,000 people die in road crashes each year, and over 2 million more are injured or disabled. ¹

Minnesota has its share of car accidents each year. Close to 75,000 accidents are reported and more than 30,000 people killed or injured every year on Minnesota roadways. ²

Accidents happen without warning. One minute you’re in your vehicle going about your business, and the next minute you’re on the roadside, waiting for help.

You can’t avoid an unexpected collision, but you can be ready to protect yourself after a car accident happens.  Your successful insurance claim starts at the accident scene, if you know what to say and do, and just as importantly, what not to say or do.

What You Need to Know if You’ve Been in a Minnesota Car Accident  

There’s a lot you need to know if you’ve suffered personal injuries or property damage from a vehicle crash. We can help.

Here are ten steps to help you build a successful Minnesota car accident claim.  We also answer the 27 most commonly asked questions about accident claims.

Step 1.  Stop, Call 911 and Help the Injured

Minnesota stop help call

If you’ve been in a car accident in Minnesota, immediately stop as close to the crash as you safely can. See if anyone is injured and call 911. Stay on the phone until the dispatcher ends the call or help has arrived.

What information will the 911 dispatcher need?

Your location:  Emergency help can get there faster if they know where to find you, so tell the dispatcher the street or highway you’re on, what direction you were heading, the nearest intersecting streets or mile markers, or any other landmarks you can see to help describe your location.

Possible injuries: Tell the dispatcher if anyone looks injured or is asking for medical assistance.

Scene description: Accidents scenes can be dangerous, with plenty of activity and noise around the crash and from passing traffic. Tell the dispatcher if you think anyone is in danger, or if there are hazards in the area like downed power lines or leaking fuel.

Do I have to stay at the accident scene?

Yes.  Drivers in Minnesota are required to stay at the accident scene and exchange information for any accident that involves injuries, death, or property damage.

What do I have to do at the accident scene?

If anyone is injured, you must render “reasonable assistance.” This means making arrangements to get the injured person to a medical facility, such as calling an ambulance.

Drivers involved in a Minnesota car accident are required to show their driver’s license if requested by anyone else involved in the crash. Drivers must also exchange the following information:

  • Name and address
  • Birth date
  • Vehicle registration
  • Insurance company name and address
  • Insurance agent name and address

Will the police be sent to the accident?

Dispatchers will usually send a police officer to any accident scene that has reported hazards, requires traffic management, or where people are injured.

Do I have to fill out an accident report?

Yes. Drivers involved in an accident that caused any injuries or death, or property damage in the amount of $1,000 or more, must file a Minnesota Motor Vehicle Crash Report with the Minnesota Commissioner of Public Safety within ten days of the accident.

Download the Minnesota Motor Vehicle Crash Report form here.

Once completed, mail the Vehicle Crash Report to:

DVS / Crash Records
445 Minnesota Street Suite 181
Saint Paul, MN 55101-5181

Where can I get a copy of a Crash Report?

To request a copy of a Crash Report filed by the other driver, go here to print a Minnesota Crash Record Request form.

Submit the completed form and $5 for each request, in person or by mail to:

Driver and Vehicle Services
445 Minnesota Street
St. Paul, MN 55101-5161

What if I hit an unattended vehicle?

If you hit an unattended vehicle, stop at the scene and notify the unattended vehicle owner or driver. Minnesota law gives you three notification options:

  • Locate the driver or owner of the vehicle you hit and share your name and address. If you don’t own the car the car you were driving, you’ll also have to provide the owner’s name and address.
  • Report the crash to local law enforcement.
  • Leave a note in a conspicuous place on the vehicle you hit, with your name and address and the name and address of the owner of the car you were driving if the car isn’t yours.

What if I’m injured?

Your injuries from a car accident may be noticeable right away, like heavy bleeding or broken bones. But, accident injuries aren’t always easy to see, even serious injuries like head trauma or internal damage.  Some injury symptoms may not appear for hours or days after the crash.

Never refuse medical treatment from the police or rescue workers at the scene. Speak up about any pain or other symptoms you have, even if you think they are mild. If paramedics want to transport you to the hospital, go.

If you are not taken directly to a hospital from the accident scene, make sure you are seen by a medical provider as soon as possible after the accident.

Refusing or delaying medical treatment after an accident can seriously undermine your insurance claim later, when the insurance company contends that your injuries were not caused by the accident.

Step 2. Collect Evidence at the Scene

Minnesota gather photo evidence

If you’ve been injured, or your vehicle is damaged in an accident, you’ll want to be fully compensated for your damages. To get a fair insurance settlement, you’ll need evidence that the other driver did something wrong or failed to drive responsibly.

Evidence gathered at the accident scene will significantly support your claim with the insurance company.

Accident scenes are cleared away quickly. The vehicles will be towed, and the drivers and witnesses will leave. If you are able, take advantage of the short time right after the accident to get contact information and comments from the other driver, other people involved in the crash, and any witnesses.

Take pictures or video of the cars, the road conditions and anything that could have contributed to what happened, like road construction, gravel, or distractions.

Make note of the date and time, the weather, if it was daylight or getting dark, and anything else you may have seen, heard or even smelled (like alcohol) before, during and after the accident.

We’ve made it easier for you, with a free Car Accident Information Form. Keep a copy of the form and a pen in your car along with your proof of insurance.  You’ll always be ready to collect important information you need from an accident scene.

Where do I begin gathering evidence?

Start by complying with Minnesota car accident law.  Exchange with the other driver:

  • Name and address
  • Vehicle owner name and address, if different from driver
  • Vehicle registration information
  • Driver’s license information
  • Insurance information

Passengers: Ask for all passengers’ full names, birth dates, addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, and any other contact information. Passengers are not required to disclose any information to you, but you can make notes for yourself about how many passengers, approximate ages, and a description of the appearance, statements, and behaviors you saw and heard.

Vehicles:  Write down the make, model, year, license plate number, expiration date, and vehicle identification number (VIN) for each vehicle involved in the accident. The VIN can usually be found on the car’s dashboard in the left corner at the bottom where the dashboard and windshield meet, on the driver’s insurance card, or inside the door jamb of the driver’s side door. Don’t go into another driver’s car to look for the VIN without permission.

Witnesses: Try to speak with any potential witnesses long enough to find out if they saw anything that may help your claim. Witnesses are not obligated to stay and talk to you, but you can ask any witness for their name, address, phone numbers, e-mail address, and if they will write down a statement of what they witnessed.

Diagrams: Make a drawing of the accident scene to show where each car was before and after the crash. Show the direction each car was heading. Be sure to indicate road conditions like ice or construction zones, and add notes about the weather, visibility, and anything else that may have contributed to the accident.

While it’s fresh in your mind, write down the time of day, approximate speed of the cars, and what traffic was like when the accident happened.

Should I take photographs and videos?

Yes. Taking photographs or videos with your cell phone, tablet, camera or any other device will be immensely helpful to your claim.

Photographs and videos can show important details of the vehicles involved, the accident scene and the surrounding area. Sometimes, pictures or video can help show how the drivers and passengers were acting, apparent injuries, and other factors about the people involved.

Photos and videos are compelling evidence that makes it harder for people to change their story later.

How about witness statements?

Witnesses are not required to stay on the scene after an accident. Try talking with witnesses to find out if they saw anything that might help your insurance claim. Ask witnesses to write down what they saw and heard, along with their name and contact information.

Step 3. Report the Accident to Your Insurance Company

Minnesota call insurance

Your car insurance policy probably contains a Notice of Occurrence and Cooperation clause. The clause means that you agree to tell your insurance company if you are in an accident, and you also agree to cooperate with your insurance company’s investigation of the accident. The clause will look something like this:

“Insured agrees to notify the insurer (insurance company) of any accidents and thereafter comply with all information, assistance and cooperation which the insurer reasonably requests, and agrees that in the event of a claim the insurer and the insured will do nothing that shall prejudice the insurer’s position…”

Do I have to report the accident to my insurance company if no one was hurt?

Yes.  You have an obligation under your insurance policy to report any accident, even if the accident was not your fault or no one seems to be hurt.

Reporting the accident, even a fender-bender, will help protect you later if the other driver decides to blame you for the crash, or anyone from the other vehicle begins to complain of injuries.

If anyone from the other car hires an attorney, you can be sure their attorney will contact your insurance company, putting you and the company at a disadvantage if you hadn’t already notified them of the accident.

Failing to notify your insurance company can cause the company to raise your rates, decline to renew your policy, or even cancel your auto insurance policy.

Are there cell phone apps for reporting a car accident?

Yes. There are plenty of free apps available to help you report a car accident, and many can help you gather information and start the claims process for your property damage or bodily injury claim.

Apps can make it easy for you to:

  • Gather personal information, including driver’s license information, car registration, and insurance information
  • Collect witness names and contact information
  • Draw diagrams of the accident scene
  • Take photographs and video of the accident scene
  • Identify the GPS location of the accident scene
  • Notify your insurance company

Below are links to just a few of the free accident reporting apps. Check with your insurance company to see if they offer a similar application.

Google Accident Report

Allstate Mobile

State Farm


Step 4. Minnesota is a No-Fault Insurance State

Minnesota no fault insurance

The State of Minnesota is a No-Fault insurance state. No-Fault means that no matter who caused a vehicle accident, each driver must use their own insurance to pay for medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, and lost wages. No-fault insurance will not pay for pain and suffering.

However, for serious injuries and some kinds of property damage, you can seek compensation from the at-fault driver.

When can I make claims against the other driver?

For bodily injury, if your medical expenses are at least $4,000, or you have been disabled for at least 60 days, or you have been permanently injured or disfigured, you can make an injury liability claim against the other driver, but only for the amounts not covered by your personal injury protection (PIP) insurance.

If you have property damage to your car or personal items that were in your vehicle, you can file a claim with your insurance company, or file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, or sue the at-fault driver.

Step 5. Minnesota Car Insurance Requirements

Minnesota insurance

Minnesota requires drivers to carry personal injury protection (PIP) insurance, liability insurance, and uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance. The minimum required amounts are as follows:

What are Minnesota’s Insurance Limits?

Drivers insured in Minnesota are required by law to carry at least the minimum amount of four types of auto insurance coverage:

Personal Injury Protection (PIP) protects you and anyone else covered under your auto policy if you are hurt in an accident. You must carry PIP coverage of least $40,000 per person for each accident, broken down into a minimum of $20,000 for medical expenses and $20,000 for related expenses such as lost wages, replacement service loss, and funeral expenses.

Liability Insurance covers injuries or damage to other people or property when you are at fault for an accident. You’re required to have at least minimum liability coverage for bodily injury in the amounts of $30,000 per person and $60,000 per accident, as well as $10,000 per accident for property damage.

Uninsured Motorist coverage is triggered if you’re injured in an accident caused by a driver who has no insurance. You must carry uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage of at least $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident.

Underinsured Motorist coverage comes into play when you are injured in an accident caused by another driver, and the cost of your injuries is more than the at-fault driver’s liability coverage. You must carry underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage of at least $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident.

Step 6. Minnesota’s Comparative Negligence Rule

Minnesota comparative negligence

Minnesota follows the Comparative Negligence Rule, meaning you can file a car accident claim against the other driver, even if you are partially to blame for the accident, so long as the other driver was more at fault than you.

If you are equally to blame, you will not be able to recover any damages from the other driver. If you are partially to blame, you can still be paid for your damages, but the amount will be adjusted according to your share of liability for the accident.

How can the Comparative Negligence Rule affect me?

If you sue another driver for causing your auto accident, the Comparative Negligence Rule can be used to reduce the amount of your settlement even if you win your case in court.

Example of how Comparative Negligence can affect an insurance settlement: 

Anthony and Loni were involved in a Minnesota car accident. Loni filed a claim for $20,000 with Anthony’s insurance company, claiming Anthony ran a red light and caused the crash.

The insurance claim couldn’t be settled, so Loni sued Anthony.

At trial, witnesses testified they saw Anthony run the red light, but they also saw Loni speeding right before the crash.  The jury decided that Anthony was the person most at fault (60%) for running a red light, but that he wasn’t the only one to blame for Loni’s damages.

Loni was found to be 40% to blame for the accident. The jury determined that the crash wouldn’t have been as severe and Loni’s injuries wouldn’t have been as bad if she hadn’t been speeding.

Since Anthony was more at fault than Loni, she won her case. But, while the jury agreed that Loni had $20,000 in damages, she was only entitled to 60% of that amount under the Comparative Negligence Rule. Loni received $12,000 after the adjustment for Larry’s 60% negligence and Loni’s 40% negligence.

If the jury had determined Loni’s part in causing her damages was 50% or more, she would not have been awarded any settlement money.

Step 7.  Law Enforcement at the Accident Scene

Minnesota police accident scene

The police and other emergency responders will usually be sent to any accident where people are injured, the accident is blocking traffic, or there are dangerous conditions near the accident scene.

What is the role of law enforcement at accident scenes?

Law enforcement officers are highly trained in the management and investigation of accident scenes. Upon arrival, the police officer has the authority to:

  • Secure the accident scene
  • Make arrangements for the care and transport of the injured
  • Take statements from the drivers, passengers and witnesses
  • Conduct sobriety tests
  • Determine fault
  • Issue traffic citations

Do the police have to listen to me?

No. When law enforcement officers arrive at an accident, they are in charge, and they have a job to do. While you can attempt to speak with the officers to give them your version of the events, the police are not under a legal duty to listen to you.

Never argue with the police. When a law enforcement officer tells you to wait, asks for your insurance information, or gives you other instructions, you must cooperate. Making aggressive statements like “I know my rights” or otherwise arguing with the officer will only interfere with the official investigation, and in extreme circumstances can get you arrested and taken to jail.

What if I’m issued a traffic citation?

While there is nothing wrong with attempting to talk the officer out of issuing a traffic citation, once a police officer gives you a ticket, you must accept it, and if asked, sign it. The officer has the right to arrest you if you refuse the citation.

Accepting a traffic citation is not an admission of guilt. It only means you agree to appear in court to deal with the charges. Court is the place to argue about the citation, not the accident scene.

Step 8.  When You Need an Attorney

Minnesota hire attorney self represent

Some property damage claims and minor injury claims can be negotiated without an attorney. Other claims require legal representation by an experienced personal injury attorney to get a fair settlement from the insurance company.

Why should I hire an attorney?

An attorney can help you figure out the value of your personal injury claim, and if the value of your claim exceeds the limits set by the Minnesota no-fault insurance laws.

If your injury claim value is more than your personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, you’ll almost always need an experienced personal injury attorney to negotiate a fair settlement from the other driver’s insurance company.

Don’t assume the value of your claim will be covered by PIP just because of the amount offered by an insurance adjuster.  Protect yourself by discussing your case with an experienced personal injury attorney.

Two Types of Injuries:

Car accident injuries fall into two categories. The type and severity of your injuries will be key factors in determining your claim’s value.

“Soft tissue” injuries can include sprains, minor bruising, scrapes, cuts without stitches, whiplash, and similarly minor injuries. Soft tissue injuries usually can be resolved with a few weeks or months of physical therapy, minimal medications, some lost wages and relatively low pain and suffering.

Soft tissue injuries don’t typically run up high treatment bills, don’t need expensive diagnostic tests like MRIs, and can be settled without expert testimony or filing a lawsuit.

“Hard” injuries are much more serious and can include fractures, deep gashes requiring stitches, serious burns, head trauma, amputations, and similar severe, and sometimes life-threatening injuries. Hard injury claims are complicated, requiring the insurance company to pay out significantly more money for a fair settlement.

There’s too much at risk for you to represent yourself in a severe injury claim.

When it comes to insurance policies and legal issues, you have limited power on your own, especially if you’re still suffering from being injured in an accident. Without an attorney, once the insurance company says, “That’s our final offer,” you probably won’t have the knowledge or energy to fight them. Insurance companies count on that and usually offer far less settlement money to unrepresented claimants.

Experienced personal injury attorneys have the skills, knowledge, and legal tools needed to convince the insurance company to pay what you deserve for your injuries and suffering.

How much do attorneys charge?

Your first consultation with a personal injury attorney is usually free. You can meet attorneys from more than one law office before deciding who will best represent you.

If you’ve been seriously injured, gather your medical records, accident report, witness statements and other documents related to the accident. Bring those documents to your initial consultation, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

After reviewing the information you’ve provided, the attorney will be able to tell you the strength of your claim, the approximate value of your claim, if your claim clearly exceeds the no-fault limit, and if a lawsuit may have to be filed.

Personal injury attorneys normally charge a contingency fee, meaning that your attorney’s fees will be paid out of the total amount paid by the insurance company. Contingency fees can range from around 25% up to a maximum of about 40% of the settlement amount or court verdict. If your claim isn’t settled, your attorney won’t be paid any contingency fees.

Step 9.  Minnesota Small Claims Courts

Minnesota small claims court

In Minnesota, the judicial branch commonly referred to as “small claims courts” are called “Conciliation Courts.”  If you haven’t been able to settle your personal injury or property damage claim after an accident, suing the other driver in Conciliation Court might be the right option for you.

How much can I sue for in Minnesota’s Conciliation Court?

At $15,000, Minnesota’s Conciliation Court has one of the highest small claims dollar limits in the United States.  You can easily represent yourself in Conciliation Court, but make sure you understand the laws that apply to your case before you file.

Speaking with an attorney will help you decide if small claims court is best for you. Remember, once you file a small claims action in Conciliation Court, you won’t be allowed to file another claim later to ask for more money related to the same accident.

Why should I file a small claims court lawsuit?

Filing a small claims lawsuit in Conciliation Court might be your best option if you are experiencing one or more of these issues with your claim:

  • Your injuries are not severe, but your medical bills are more than the no-fault insurance limits.
  • The at-fault driver was uninsured or underinsured.
  • The at-fault driver’s insurance company will only make low-ball settlement offers or completely denies your claim.
  • An attorney will not agree to accept your case on a contingency fee basis.

Do I sue the at-fault driver or his insurance company?

You must file your lawsuit against the driver who caused the accident, not the driver’s insurance company. Although you will sue the individual driver, usually the at-fault driver’s insurance company will hire an attorney to defend their insured, and the money from their policy will be used to pay your settlement if you win your case in court.

Note: You may not file a claim in Conciliation Court against a deceased person.

Will I need an attorney in small claims court?

No. You don’t have to hire a lawyer for Conciliation Court. Small claims courts are meant to make it easier for people to settle smaller claims without complicated legal procedures and high costs.

How can I find out more about Conciliation Court?

To learn more about Minnesota’s Conciliation Court, including procedure, filing fees, rules of court, and more, go to Conciliation Court (Small Claims Court) Help Topics. 

Step 10.  Beware of Minnesota’s Statute of Limitations

Minnesota statute limitations

A statute of limitations determines the deadline for legal actions. Minnesota has a two-year statute of limitations for car accident claims, meaning you must either settle your insurance claim or file a lawsuit within the two years.

If you haven’t settled your claim or filed a lawsuit before the time runs out, you’ll lose the right to seek compensation from the at-fault driver or insurance company, no matter how badly you were injured.

What is the Statute of Limitations in Minnesota?

The State of Minnesota has a two-year statute of limitations for property damage and personal injury claims. The statute begins to “run” on the date of the accident. This means to protect your interests, you must either settle your claim or file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver within two years from the date of the accident.

The insurance company does not have to help you settle your claim before the statute of limitations runs out. If you miss the deadline, there is nothing you can do to make the insurance company pay you a fair claim settlement.

Use alerts on your phone and other calendars to provide advance reminders of the statute of limitations deadline for your accident. If you haven’t settled with the insurance company, don’t wait until the last day to preserve your claim by filing a lawsuit, no matter what the claims adjuster promises. Remember, the insurance company does not have the authority to give you an “extension” on the statute of limitations.

Charles R. Gueli, Esq. is a personal injury attorney with over 20 years of legal experience. He’s admitted to the NY State Bar, and been named a Super Lawyer for the NY Metro area, an exclusive honor awarded to the top five percent of attorneys. Charles has worked extensively in the areas of auto accidents,... Read More >>