What should I do if I'm in an auto accident in Minnesota?*

Consider these points:

  • STOP - Failure to stop is a crime. Do not obstruct traffic more than is necessary.
  • MEDICAL ATTENTION - Assess your own condition. If you are uninjured and the scene is safe, determine if there are other injured persons and contact 911 emergency services if necessary.
  • SAFETY - Take all precautions to prevent further accidents: flags, flares, etc.
  • CALL THE POLICE - Call City Police, County Sheriff or Highway Patrol.
  • COMMENTS - Don't make any comments to anyone about the accident. Cooperate with the police by stating basic facts, but don't make admissions or give opinions.
  • IDENTIFICATION - Give your name, address, vehicle registration number, and upon request, exhibit your driver's license and insurance information to any other party to the accident and to the police officer. Get the same information from the other driver(s).
  • WITNESSES - Get witnesses' names, addresses, phone numbers, comments, etc.
  • TAKE PICTURES OR VIDEO - Take pictures or video (use your smartphone) of the vehicle damage and the accident scene, and to record the year, make, model and license plate number of all vehicles involved.
  • TAKE NOTES - Make your own written notes to help you remember the facts.
  • DON'T LEAVE - Unless you are seriously injured or have to go with an injured person, don't leave unless the police officer leaves or tells you to leave.
  • UNATTENDED VEHICLES - If you collide with an unattended vehicle or other property, you must STOP as above and either locate the owner or leave a conspicuous written notice for the owner giving the name and address of the driver and owner of your vehicle, the registration notice of the vehicle you are driving, and a statement of the circumstances, and then notify the nearest police authority as soon as possible.
  • CONTACT YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY - Notify your insurance company as soon as possible. But, do not give a recorded statement about the accident to anyone until you consult with an attorney.
  • CALL ESPE LAW - If the accident was not your fault and you or someone you know was injured.

*This is only a brief summary of Minnesota law. Additional steps are usually necessary to protect your rights.

Do I need an attorney?

Likely you do. When an injury or loss occurs, a call to an attorney after the accident can be a positive choice. If it turns out you don't need an attorney, all you have lost is the time it takes to make a phone call or stop by. If you wait too long, it may jeopardize your ability to recover. Justice is not automatic even when it is clear that you have been injured by another person's negligence/carelessness. Many cases are more complex than they first appear. In order to protect the legal rights of someone who has been injured, a number of issues must be carefully considered and properly addressed. These include complying with various time deadlines, maneuvering through the insurance company minefield, and taking advantage of all benefits afforded under various laws and insurance policies. Sometimes these issues can be quite complex, and errors can be costly. Knowing the applicable law requires not only knowledge of statutes, but also a good understanding of the court cases that have interpreted and applied those statutes. Make a mistake, such as failing to comply with a legal time deadline or notice requirement in an insurance policy, and you can lose your right to make a claim. Say the wrong thing to an adjuster, and you may greatly harm the value of your claim.

The system is stacked against someone who is not represented by an attorney. Insurance companies have their own lawyers and well-trained adjusters. Even when insurance adjusters seem nice, it is important to remember they represent the interests of the insurance company, not yours. Even if the adjuster genuinely wants to help you, the policies and procedures of the company may make that impossible. Handling a claim can be a full-time job; the insurance company has many employees working on your case.

How much will it cost to retain ESPE LAW?

The first consultation is free, whether by phone or in person. We will talk in depth about your situation. If I find I can help you, and you decide you want to hire me, we will come to a written agreement on attorney's fees. Most of the cases I take are on a contingency fee basis. This means that if I recover money on your behalf, fees, plus the costs and expenses incurred on your behalf, are paid from that recovery.

Should I give the insurance company the information they are requesting - They want me to sign a release and to give a statement?

Do not sign anything for an insurance company or give a statement to anyone until you speak with an attorney. Insurance companies and other businesses often try to get injured consumers to sign a release right away, before they talk with a lawyer. Sometimes they actually say that they're trying to protect or take care of the consumer, and that there's "no need to get lawyers involved." The truth is that you should always talk with an attorney before signing a release (or any other important legal document). We always advise our clients not to speak with the insurance company or give a recorded statement. Many times the insurance company will attempt to use statements you made to disprove later claims. An attorney can protect your interests and ensure that you are not taken advantage of.

Are there any deadlines to make a claim?

Certain steps are required to protect your rights, and failure to take those actions can result in the loss of your right to make a claim. So proceeding without legal advice can be very risky. Please keep in mind that various time deadlines or "Statutes of Limitations" apply to all legal matters. These limitations mean that if certain actions (such as giving proper notice of filing suit, to name a few) are not taken within applicable time periods, you can lose valuable legal rights, including your right to pursue a claim. Time deadlines in insurance policies may also affect your rights. Only an attorney who very closely examines your situation can determine exactly what time limitations apply to a particular legal matter. Therefore, you should always consult an attorney promptly to learn about your rights and any time deadlines that may apply.

How long will my case take to settle?

It is impossible to predict exactly how long a particular case will take. At ESPE LAW, we work to resolve your case quickly, but won't rush you through the process. Generally, the longest portion of any case is the treatment phase. It is impossible to ensure our clients receive the compensation they deserve until all injuries have been identified and treated or noted as permanent. While we understand our clients' desires to move forward quickly, settling a case without gathering all the evidence and receiving all the necessary treatment may leave our clients in an undesirable position later.

Who will pay to fix my car and give me a rental vehicle?

If the driver who caused your accident was insured, his or her insurance company should pay to fix your car and also for a rental vehicle for you to use during the repair. If the driver who caused the accident was uninsured or unidentified, you may have to use your own insurance policy to pay for repairs and a rental, if you have collision coverage.