Imagine this scenario. A woman is driving a car in which her husband is a passenger. She reaches a 4-way stop, but fails to stop at the stop sign. Another driver, also arrives at the same 4-way stop and fails to stop as well. The cars collide and the husband is critically injured in the accident. In court, the husband’s injuries were found to be worth $100,000. Both the wife who was driving the vehicle and the driver of the other vehicle were found to be responsible for the accident. Each party is given a 50% share of the responsibility. The wife is responsible for paying 50% for the damages resulting in the accident and the other driver is found 50% responsible for damages. The wife’s share of the accident is deemed uncollectible, so the family is slated to receive $50,000 from the other driver.
Minnesota law allows uncollectible damages to be re-allocated. The question then stands. Does the other driver owe $50,000, his or her share of the responsibility, or the full $100,000 under the re-allocated sum?
A recent Minnesotta Supreme Court decision may shed some light on this.
In the case of Staab v. Diocese of St. Cloud, the Diocese was found 50% responsible for one woman’s personal injuries. Alice Staab sued the Diocese for negligence when her husband pushed her wheelchair through an open doorway and over an unmarked five inch drop off. Ms. Staab was injured in the accident. The jury found that Ms. Staab’s husband was 50% responsible for the accident and the Diocese 50% responsible for failing to mark the drop-off. Richard Staab, Alice Staab’s husband, sought to re-allocate the amount he owed, because the amount he owed was deemed uncollectible. Minnesota law allows for an uncollectible share of damages to be re-allocated. The district court re-allocated Mr. Staab’s share to the Diocese, meaning that the Diocese would have to pay the full amount of personal injury damages owed to Alice Staab.
The Diocese fought this judgment, stating that in re-allocating damages, the district court’s ruling was in contradiction to the initial judgment that Mr. Staab was liable for 50% of the damages.
The implications of this case suggest that when an individual or company is found to be partially liable, the company or individual cannot be required to pay more than the percentage that required fault allows. The Diocese was only required to pay the 50% it owed to the Staabs.
Minnesota state law requires all automobile owners to carry no-fault coverage. Even so, insurance does not always cover the total amount of personal injury damage sometimes sustained in an accident. In this case, while the insurer will be required to pay for damages regardless of fault, individuals seeking reimbursement in court will be held accountable for comparative fault.
In complex cases where fault must be determined, individuals should seek the advice of a skilled and experienced personal injury lawyer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Law Office of Martin T. Montilino has years of experience providing guidance for individuals injured in car accidents in the state of Minnesota. Contact us today to learn about how you can protect your rights and seek justice for injuries you may have sustained in an accident.