Comparative Negligence in Minnesota

Minnesota follows modified comparative negligence law, meaning you can collect damages only if you are not more than 50% at fault.
Written by Tiffany Leung
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Minnesota is a modified comparative negligence state. This means drivers can recover their damages from the other driver’s insurance if their fault does not exceed 50%. 
Comparative negligence laws can have slight differences depending on the state, but they are all designed to determine if you are entitled to damage recovery. Familiarizing yourself with the state laws is beneficial for handling your insurance claims properly.
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What is comparative negligence?

Comparative negligence is a principle used to determine if the drivers involved can recover damage costs and how much of the cost can be recovered depending on their assigned fault.
As an example, if you are assigned 60% of the fault, you will have to cover 60% of the damages of the other driver. The other driver will be responsible for 40% of your damage costs.
Comparative negligence principles are followed when personal injury lawsuits and third-party insurance claims are being assessed. In personal injury suits, a judge or jury will determine responsibility. For insurance claims, insurance companies use comparative negligence to assign the percentage of damages they’ll pay following an accident.
MORE: How to file a car insurance claim

Comparative negligence vs. contributory negligence

Pure comparative negligence, partial or modified comparative negligence, and contributory negligence are three categories of comparative negligence. Depending on which state you’re driving in, the law will follow one of the following: 
  • Pure comparative negligence: All drivers are entitled to claim damages with the other driver’s insurance unless they are 100% at fault.
  • Partial or modified comparative negligence: Drivers who are assigned under 50% or 51% of the blame can recover damages. 
  • Contributory negligence: Only drivers with zero fault will be able to claim for their damages with the other driver. 
Currently, the pure comparative negligence doctrine is in effect in 12 states and the contributory negligence doctrine is in effect in 5 states.

What is Minnesota’s comparative negligence law? 

Minnesota state laws follow the modified comparative negligence doctrine. This means that you will only be entitled to recover damages if you have no more than 50% fault. 
For example, if the other driver is assigned 60% fault, you can submit a claim to the other driver’s insurance for 60% of your damages. On the other hand, the other driver will not be granted any compensation since they are over 50% at fault.

What happens if there are more than two responsible parties? 

If the accident was caused by more than two drivers, all drivers involved will be assigned part of the blame. You can file a claim with either or both insurance companies and be compensated by the amount proportional to the fault assigned to each driver. 

How is fault decided in a comparative negligence case?

All evidence submitted will be considered and investigated before the insurance companies assign fault to the drivers involved.
Be sure to write down as much detail as possible at the scene of the accident. Important information that the insurance companies will be looking for includes the date and time of the accident, the road conditions, the weather, and the make and model of the cars involved. For your records, try to get the contact information of all the drivers.
If there were witnesses, collect their statements. Take photos of any damages to the vehicles and the surrounding area. 
These details will help the insurance companies to more accurately distribute the fault amongst the drivers.

How does car insurance work with comparative negligence? 

As a modified comparative negligence state, Minnesota drivers can only recover damages from the other driver’s insurance company if they are not over 50% at fault. The compensation awarded will depend on the other driver’s portion of fault.
For example, imagine that you are backing out of your driveway. Suddenly, a car appears and hits your car and causes significant damage.
After investigating all the evidence and police reports, the insurance providers found that the other driver was grossly over the speed limit and was texting while driving. However, they also found that you were backing out quite fast. As a result, the insurance companies assign the other driver 80% fault since they were driving dangerously, and you are assigned 20% fault.
Under Minnesota’s pure comparative negligence law, you will be able to claim 80% of your damages from the other driver, whereas the other driver will not be awarded any compensation for his damages.
MORE: How to negotiate a settlement with insurance claims adjusters

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