Driving in Minnesota has its hazards, and even the most careful drivers can end up with a crumpled fender or other auto damage requiring a trip to the repair shop. Add winter conditions of icy, snowy roads with motorists who aren't used to these conditions and the risk of car crashes increases. Not to mention the risk of severe weather, which often damages cars and other vehicles when they are parked outside in the street or driveway.
Don't wait until your car slides through an icy intersection or a tree falls on your truck to find out whether you are covered for any losses. For example, motorists with collision insurance may be reimbursed for damage to their vehicle in a crash. However, drivers with comprehensive coverage may be reimbursed for damage other than a collision (such as running into a deer). Minnesota law doesn't require comprehensive coverage and some people with older vehicles don't purchase this coverage. It's up to you to decide what insurance you need.
When drivers file an insurance claim to help pay for repairs, they often have questions about what is required of them and the insurance company. The Minnesota Department of Commerce, which regulates the state's insurance industry, responds to requests for information or assistance through the Department's Consumer Response Team (CRT). The following information will tell you what your insurance company must do, and what they cannot do when you file your auto insurance claim.
The following are frequently asked questions we receive from consumers about the auto claims process and what is covered by auto insurance policies.
Before an accident, understand your insurance policy. To find out what is covered, call your insurance agent or company; find your last renewal billing; or look on the "Declaration" page at the front of your insurance policy. This page lists each vehicle and the type of coverage you have.
In an accident:
You must stop. If the crash results only in property damage, move to a safe location. Pull out of the driving lane, if possible, onto the shoulder. Do not step out of your vehicle until you have moved to a safe location away from traffic.
If someone in the crash is injured or killed, you must call the nearest law enforcement agency or 911 as quickly as possible.
If you are qualified, administer first aid. Otherwise, do what you can to make injured persons comfortable. You are required by law to provide a reasonable degree of assistance to crash victims.
If a crash results only in property damage, it is not necessary to notify law enforcement. If your vehicle is disabled, have it towed as soon as possible. If you damage property other than a vehicle, you must inform the property owner.
Exchange information with the other parties. Get the other driver's name, address, phone, vehicle license number, vehicle identification number, driver license number, insurance company name and insurer's phone number.
Ask witnesses for their names and phone numbers.
If you have a camera or a camera cell phone, take pictures of the accident scene and damage to all vehicles involved, even if it is a one-car accident. If you don't have a camera, sketch how the accident occurred.
Contact your insurance company as soon as possible. Most policies require prompt notification of a claim. It's important that you review and follow any instructions from your company as to the steps to take following an accident.
The insurance company has up to 30 business days to investigate the accident to determine the extent of liability and coverage.
If you have collision coverage, your insurance will cover damage to your vehicle after you pay the deductible. If you don't have collision coverage, damage to your vehicle won't be covered. If you are determined to be responsible, your required liability insurance will cover property damage and/or injuries to the other vehicle and its occupants up to the limits of your policy.
Minnesota law requires your insurance policy to provide a minimum of $40,000 personal injury protection coverage ($20,000 for hospital/medical expenses and $20,000 for non-medical expenses such as lost wages, replacement services, etc.) This coverage is available regardless of who is at fault in a crash.
Collision covers damage to your auto when you are involved in an accident with another vehicle or object. Comprehensive insurance covers you for physical damage other than collision. This includes losses from fire, theft, hail, falling objects, vandalism, animal collisions and floods. Neither type of insurance is required in Minnesota. Most often there is a deductible to be satisfied before payment is made under collision or comprehensive coverage.
Auto insurance coverage follows the vehicle, so your car will generally be covered while your relative is driving, the same as if you were driving. For example, if your family member slides off an icy road and you don't have collision coverage, there would not be coverage for any damage to the car itself, no matter who was driving. In addition, keep in mind that your premiums might increase due to the accident.
The existing auto insurance policy on the borrowed vehicle would provide primary coverage. If no coverage exists, your auto insurance policy might provide coverage. Talk with your insurance agent or company to find out if your auto coverage will extend to a friend or family member's car you plan on operating.
Your insurance company cannot require you to have your vehicle repaired at a specific shop, but it may require you to obtain more than one estimate. Therefore you can take the car to a shop of your choice, but if you are required to get more than one estimate and the shop of your choice is not the low bidder, you may be responsible for paying the difference.
If the insurance company requires more than two estimates, it must reimburse you for the cost of any additional estimates (if any).
Your insurance agent or company can explain your policy and what to do following an accident.
If you have a dispute with your insurer, Speak first to the adjuster assigned to your claim, or his or her supervisor.
If you still can't resolve the issue, contact the Department of Commerce CRT. Call 651-296-2488 in the Twin Cities area, or toll free 800-657-3602 from elsewhere in Minnesota. The CRT can explain the claims handling process and how to file a complaint if you feel your insurance company isn't handling your claim correctly. Our help is free.
You might also want to check out our brochure "Nuts & Bolts" for additional information.
If you have a problem with your insurance company, call our Consumer Response Team (CRT). You can reach a CRT representative between the hours of 8:00am and 5:00pm, Monday through Friday. CRT contact information is below.
Phone: (651) 296-2488 or (800) 657-3602 (Greater Minnesota)
Fax: (651) 296-4328
Address: Minnesota Department of Commerce, Consumer Protection and Education Division
85 7th Place East, St. Paul, MN 55101
The CRT helps consumers with questions about laws concerning industries regulated by the Department of Commerce. You may also check on the status of a license held by an industry practitioner. In addition, if there is a dispute with a licensee, the CRT will attempt to resolve the matter informally. If the dispute can not be resolved, the CRT will suggest the consumer write a letter, with all of the relevant information, in order to begin a formal investigation.
If you are unable to resolve a problem or complaint with your insurance company, the CRT may be able to help. The Minnesota Department of Commerce investigates written complaints against licensees. Investigations seek to determine if there has been a violation of current Minnesota statutes or rules. If a violation has occurred, administrative sanctions (license revocation, fines, etc.) may be taken. The Department attempts to secure the payment of claims or obtain refunds for consumers who have been victimized by licensee misconduct. When filing a complaint:
Write, in your own words, the details of the dispute
Include as many details as possible such as dates, what was said, policy and claim numbers, etc.
Provide copies of relevant documents
Include your phone number and return address
To fully understand what your insurance company MUST and CANNOT do when processing your complaint, visit our Know Your Rights page and contact a CRT representative with any questions.