The death of a family member may be the worst experience you ever go through. What seemed like big problems the previous day suddenly seem trivial after the loss of a loved one. The Minnesota legislature has just provided some additional compensation to ease the burden of grieving Minnesotans whose family member had been injured by the fault of others.
The Minnesota Survivorship Statute, included in the Omnibus Judiciary and Public Safety Bill, became law May 20, 2023, the day after the governor signed it. Unlike the previous law, surviving spouses and family members may now include claims for the pain, suffering, embarrassment, emotional distress, disability and disfigurement suffered by the injured person before they died, regardless of whether the death was caused by the injury or was just coincidental.
Previously, when an injured person died, most of their personal injury claim for damages died with them. If the death was unrelated to the injury, the only surviving claim was the “special damages” — medical bills and lost wages caused by the injuries.
On the other hand, if the death was caused by the injury, the family was limited to those economic losses and the value of lost “counsel, guidance and aid” and “advice, comfort, assistance, companionship and protection.”
The previous law allowed nothing for the pain, suffering, embarrassment, emotional distress, disability and disfigurement suffered by the injured person before they died. That’s what was changed.
Up to now, insurance adjusters and defense attorneys have been known to drag their feet if an injured person was either very old or sick. They knew that if they delayed long enough and the injured person passed away, a large portion of the claim would simply disappear. That is no longer the case. All personal injury damages now survive the death of the injured person.
Most importantly, this change is effective immediately, and affects all pending and future claims. If you have lost a family member through negligence or fault, it’s now a much better case.
This is a dramatic and important change in the law. There are numerous personal injuries where the unrelated death of the victim would have killed the claim completely, and the defendant and insurer would receive a windfall benefit from the death. Many Minnesota auto crash cases are in this category, since only the claim for medical bills and wages would survive the death, and the first $20,000 of medical and first $20,000 of wages are usually deducted from the verdict because they are paid by car insurance. Many Minnesota families have experienced the economic loss when a personal injury case being negotiated between $700,000 and $900,000 suddenly lost all value because of the death of the injured person. Not anymore.
Suffering the loss of a family member is a terrible time, and there is no amount of money that can ease the pain of such a loss. This new law provides at least a small measure of justice for people suffering such terrible losses.
As a partner with Bradshaw & Bryant, Joe Crumley has over 30 years experience helping injured people and their families to secure just and fair compensation. Excelling in personal injury litigation, Mr. Crumley has secured numerous record-setting verdicts and settlements and won accolades such as MTLA’s “Trial Lawyer of the Year” and “Excellence” Awards.