Minnesota Personal Injury Settlements

A Jury Verdict Research study found that the median award in Minnesota in personal injury cases is an even $30,000. Minnesota personal injury plaintiffs receive an award in 67 percent of cases that go to trial.

The median compensation in Minnesota is somewhat below the national median of $38,179 and I suspect Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Rochester verdicts inflate that average a bit. But because Minnesota has no-fault coverage (or PIP) in motor vehicle wreck claims up to $40,000 ($20,000 for medical bills and $20,000 for economic loss) that is subject to the collateral source rule, Minnesota personal injury lawyers tend to have few small cases in Minnesota.

In other words, Minnesota law provides that awards are offset by collateral source payments (if the source of reimbursement does not have a subrogation right). So the gap between Minnesota’s median and the national median verdict is probably wider than the numbers reflect. Not surprisingly, U.S. Chamber of Commerce data found Minnesota juries to be the “15th best” which means the 15th worst for personal injury victims.

Interestingly, recovery probability in Minnesota tort suits is 67% compared to the national average of 53%. I would think that the fewer amount of smaller claims would lead to a lower recovery probability because there are fewer small cases that rarely involve a liability dispute (which you would think would lower the recovery probability). Accordingly, it is fair to infer from the data that Minnesota juries are inclined to believe the Minnesota plaintiff’s claims as to how/why the crash/malpractice/injury occurred.

Although Minnesota juries are rather conservative, the big complaint that drug and device companies have about Minnesota is that its laws are favorable to personal injury victims.

Last year, there was an ABA Journal article, Lawsuits Travel Up North: Land of Ten Thousand Lakes Is Flooded With Thousands of Out-of-State Filings, that discussed the benefits of filing product liability claims in Minnesota, including Minnesota’s reasonable six-year statute of limitations in products liability cases.

While Minnesota personal injury lawyers rarely have seriously injured clients in a car accident that come to them years after the cause of action arose, this is a far more common occurrence in products liability cases because it sometimes takes a while for people to understand the connection between the negligence and their injuries, even if that information is available under the “know or have reason to know” standard.”

Recent Minnesota Verdicts

Below are medical malpractice and personal injury settlements in Minnesota in recent years.

  • October 2020, Minnesota: $250,000: A man was hit by a car in Scott County.  He settled with the defendant for $30,000 but he had an uninsured motorist policy with State Farm and refused to pay.  State Farm blamed the plaintiff for the crash.  The jury found the other driver was mostly at fault for the crash and he received a $250,000 payout as compensation for his injuries under a high-low agreement that was reached before trial.
  • February 2020, Minnesota: $173,504 Verdict: A man sustained a traumatic brain injury and a neck injury after his vehicle was rear-ended. His TBI caused headaches, dizziness, tinnitus, and imbalance. He underwent surgery to treat his neck injury. The man sued the other driver for falling asleep at the wheel which resulted in a collision that caused his permanent injuries. He also sued their employer for vicarious liability. The Dakota County jury awarded $173,504. This consisted of past health care expenses, past lost wages, past pain, disability, and disfigurement. However, they did not award him future damages which is a pretty tough outcome in a case like this.
  • February 2020, Minnesota: $974,215 Verdict: A 57-year-old motorcyclist hit a grass median after sand and gravel that fell out of a dump truck obstructed his view. He suffered left ankle, left leg, right shoulder, and rib fractures. The man underwent multiple surgeries to treat these injuries. He sued the dump truck’s driver for reckless operation of his vehicle by causing debris to fall out of the truck. The Shelburne County jury returned a $974,215 verdict.
  • January 2020, Minnesota: $1,719 Verdict: A man was rear-ended at an intersection as he attempted a left turn. He sustained permanent aggravation to a pre-existing lumbar spinal injury. The man sued the other driver, who denied negligence and contested the injury’s nature and extent. An Anoka County jury awarded a $1,719 verdict, which was only in medical expenses.  Not a big case but how can the pain and suffering amount to zero.  But this was another high-low agreement and the plaintiff received $30,000 under the agreement despite the loss.  (Good job by Plaintiff’s counsel for getting that agreement.)
  • November 2019, Minnesota: $11,756 Verdict: A man suffered unspecified neck and back injuries after his vehicle was rear-ended. He sued the other driver for following his vehicle too close and failing to pay attention to the road. The other driver disputed the damages’ extent. A Ramsey County jury awarded the man $11,756.  The award was $2,000 for pain and suffering.  The rest was for the victim’s medical bills. The plaintiff’s lawyers were Michael B. Lammers and Taylor Cunningham with Heimerl & Lammers in Minneapolis.
  • November 2019, Minnesota: $400,000 Settlement: A man sustained a traumatic brain injury, left rib fractures, and a kidney injury after his motorcycle collided with a pickup truck that failed to yield the right-of-way. At that time, he escorted a funeral procession.  His rib fractures caused lung contusions, hydropneumothorax, pneumonia, and MSSA. The man’s kidney injury caused hyperglycemia. He sued the pickup truck’s driver for entering the funeral procession and passing him on the right. The man also claimed that the driver’s negligence was the direct cause of his injuries. Before trial, the parties agreed to a stipulated $500,000 limit. A Hennepin County jury found the pickup truck driver 80 percent liable, and the man 20 percent liable. The court entered a final judgment of $400,000, which was 80 percent of the stipulated $500,000.
  • October 2019, Minnesota: $231,000 Verdict: A man suffered undisclosed injuries to his head and L5-S1 disc after an underinsured motorist struck his vehicle. He underwent surgery to repair his L5-S1 injury. He sued his UIM insurer State Farm. The jury awarded him $231,000.
  • September 2019, Minnesota: $85,000 Verdict: A driver suffered undisclosed injuries to their neck, back, and elbow after another driver failed to yield right-of-way at an intersection. Their elbow injury necessitated surgery. The jury awarded $85,0000.
  • January 2013, Minnesota: $283,000 Verdict: Plaintiff was a front-seat passenger in her friend’s compact car on their way to a local college. While at an intersection, the car veered off the roadway and entered a holding pond on the side of the road. The depth of the pond was deep enough to nearly submerge the vehicle and crack the front windshield.  Following the accident, the plaintiff was treated by a chiropractor for sprains and strains in her cervical and lumbar spine and soft-tissue damage in her neck.  The woman hired a Minnesota personal injury lawyer who filed suit, alleging she experienced terrifying memories and nightmares after the accident and began treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. The plaintiff claimed that because of the accident, she is afraid of driving, has withdrawn from “all aspects of normal life” and has found the fear has crippled her ability to seek gainful employment. She hired a Minnesota car accident lawyer and sued the driver of the car and the driver’s mother who was vicariously responsible as the owner of the vehicle. The plaintiff’s treating chiropractor and psychiatrist confirmed her injuries (physical and mental, respectively) had been caused by the accident and would require ongoing, if not permanent, treatment.  The jury found in favor of the plaintiff and awarded her $283,000.minnesota injury verdicts
  • July 2012, Minnesota: $500,000 Settlement: The twenty-nine-year-old decedent arrived at the emergency department of the defendant complaining of respiratory distress. The triage nurse noted shortness of breath and severe distress and shortly thereafter placed the decedent by herself in a treatment room while the nurse went to secure a nebulizer treatment. When the nurse returned, the decedent was not breathing and was unresponsive. The staff attempted to resuscitate the descendent, but she soon suffered a hypoxic anoxic brain injury and ultimately died. The noted cause of death was acute asthma exacerbation complicated by acute respiratory arrest and cardiac arrest resulting in brain injury.  The plaintiffs filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Minnesota. The family’s malpractice lawsuit alleged the defendants’ failure to recognize the condition as one that required immediate attention and fell below the standards of care.  The lawyers also alleged that had a physician immediately seen the descendent, she could have been intubated and would have survived. The defendants denied the allegations and argued the delay in treatment was a matter of minutes and that earlier involvement would not have led to survival.  The parties reached a wrongful death settlement during mediation for $500,000.
  • September 2011, Minnesota: $79,385 Verdict: Plaintiff was driving westbound on an interstate near an intersection. The plaintiff stops his vehicle because of traffic and is struck in the rear by the defendant’s vehicle, pushing the plaintiff’s vehicle into the one in front of him. The plaintiff claimed he suffered serious and permanent injuries in his neck and shoulders that caused persistent headaches. The jury found the defendant was negligently operating his vehicle and responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries and awarded the plaintiff $79,385.  The plaintiff’s lawyer was Elliott Olsen.
  • September 2011, Minnesota: $3,250,000 Settlement: A bus making a return trip from a casino was traveling on the interstate. En route, the bus went off the roadway and rolled over. Two passengers were killed and twenty were injured. In a class action suit, the plaintiffs sued the bus company and driver for motor vehicle negligence and wrongful death.  The plaintiffs’ counsel accused the driver of falling asleep at the wheel because of an untreated condition of sleep apnea. They accused the driver of refusing treatment after his original diagnosis in 2001 and of lying about his condition on more than one occasion when renewing his commercial license. Plaintiff witnesses testified that his head nodded for a few minutes before driving off the highway. The defense counsel argued that many passengers saw the driver lose consciousness seconds before the accident. They noted that after the accident the driver was taken to the hospital and treated for bleeding esophageal varices and pointed out that upon further treatment, the providers found that this condition caused him to lose consciousness at the time of the accident. The case settled globally for $3,250,000.
  • September 2011, Minnesota: $3,290.59 Verdict: Plaintiff’s vehicle spun out on an icy highway shortly after being struck by the defendant. The plaintiff was taken to the hospital by ambulance and the defendant is arrested for DWI with a .09 BAC. The plaintiff had a history of treatment for neck and back problems and had received an epidural cortisone injection in his back one week before the accident. The plaintiff claimed soft tissue injuries in his neck and back from the accident. His treating doctors limited any causal relationship between the plaintiff’s claimed injuries and the accident to treatments for between 12-16 weeks post-accident. The plaintiff’s car accident settlement is a measly $3,561.66.
  • May 2011, Minnesota: $15,671.54 Verdict: Plaintiff is stopped on a parkway and is rear-ended by an uninsured drunk driver. Plaintiff claimed the collision totaled her car and caused her injuries in her shoulders and knees that had to be treated with surgeries. She also alleged injuries to her neck and back besides suffering lost wages. She claimed the defendant who rear-ended her was negligent at the time of the collision. The jury awarded the plaintiff $15,671.54 for past pain, emotional distress, past wage loss, and healthcare expenses but did not find the Plaintiff sustained a permanent injury, nor was she disabled because of the accident.

It is hard to argue these are “sample” verdicts and settlements.  Our personal injury and malpractice lawyers have clearly cherry-picked some better results.  Still, I think these personal injury settlement examples are instructive in helping determine the value of these cases.

Minnesota Wrongful Death Settlements

A few closing thoughts about Minnesota wrongful death settlements:

  • There is no cap on damages
  • The beneficiaries under the wrongful death law in Minnesota are the surviving spouse and children of the deceased person, and/or the parents, grandparents, and siblings of the deceased person. This is pretty typical except for the rule that allows siblings to recover as well.
  • The wrongful death statute of limitations in Minnesota in most cases is three years.
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