Before filing a personal injury lawsuit in Minnesota, you probably have many questions about how the state’s legal system works. Are there any deadlines? What costs can I recover? How much can I expect to pay? Unless you plan on filing a case without the help of legal counsel, a local attorney, like a Minneapolis personal injury lawyer, will be able to assist you with all of these issues. Nevertheless, having general knowledge of the litigation process is beneficial as you make the important decisions leading up to the filing of your case.
Beginning a Civil Action in Minnesota
In Minnesota, any civil action begins with the service of the Summons and Complaint on the defending party, which can be done by personal service or by mail. A lawsuit can be started without filing the summons and complaint with the court, but must be filed within one year of service for the case to move forward.
After the Summons and Complaint are served, the defendant usually has 20 days to respond by serving a written answer on the plaintiff. The defending party may request for additional time to answer the complaint, but the plaintiff and their counsel are not required to grant it. If the defendant does not respond to the complaint within 20 days or the agreed upon time limit, then the plaintiff may get default judgement against the plaintiff.
After the civil action has been filed with the court and the complaint answered, the process of motion filing and discovery begins. During this time period, there will be various deadlines that apply to discovery requests and motions. Unless you plan on filing pro-se, then your attorney will be able to track these various deadlines for you.
Filing a case pro-se is derived from a Latin phrase meaning “on one’s own behalf” rather than being represented by a lawyer. Depending on your financial situation and level of comfort in the court room, representing yourself may be a viable option, especially since Minnesota ranks as one of the highest scoring states in the nation in terms of access to justice for those who can’t afford an attorney, have limited English proficiency, and disabilities.
Statute of Limitations
“Statute of limitations” is the time period by which a party has to file a lawsuit. A case will almost certainly be dismissed if this deadline is missed. In Minnesota, the statute of limitations for personal injury cases ranges between two and six years depending on the type of claim.
- Personal injury: 2 years
- Property Damage: 6 six years
- Product Liability: 4 years
- Wrongful Death: 3-6 years
- Medical Malpractice: 4 years
Damages in Minnesota personal injury cases fall under three different categories: economic, non-economic, and punitive. Economic damages include out-of-pocket expenses that result from the injury, such as various medical expenses, lost income, and lost earning capacity. Non-economic damages are more subjective and harder to quantify monetarily, such as pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of companionship. As the name implies, punitive damages are intended to dissuade others from engaging in especially negligent behavior. They are not available for personal injury claims in some states, but in Minnesota they can be awarded if the person at fault showed a deliberate disregard for the rights or safety of others.
States use different rules to determine fault and thereby award damages. Minnesota uses a system called modified comparative negligence, which bars a party from recovering any costs if they are found to be more than 50% at fault for the incident. Any party who is less than 50% at fault for the incident can recover damages, but their overall reward is reduced by their share of fault for the incident.
Is a Contingency Fee Right For You?
Very often, personal injury lawyers will operate using contingency fee agreements, meaning that the attorney being paid for their services is contingent on them winning or settling the case. This type of fee agreement severely reduces the upfront costs needed for litigation, but can end up deducting between 30-50% percentage of the winnings when all is said and done. The terms of this fee agreement and deciding whether it is right for your specific case will be a large factor in choosing the right attorney.
If you have more questions on the nature of lawsuits in Minnesota, contact us at i-lawsuit today for more information.