To All Do-It-Yourselfers: Call Before Going To Conciliation Court After a Car Crash

July 25, 2011  |  John T. Buchman

With the internet and so many resources available, many people are doing things on their own without hiring others in order to save money.
Conciliation Court is actually set up for the “Do-It-Yourself-er” to resolve legal disputes involving up to $7,500.00. However, a person involved in a car crash that uses Conciliation Court can unwittingly lose other rights arising form that same crash. A recent Minnesota Supreme Court case highlights the danger. The Court ruled on July 20, 2011, that the injured party who had previously won a judgment in Conciliation Court for damages to her car could continue for her claim with physical injuries but had to forfeit her Conciliation Court judgment and repay the defendant. The Supreme Court overturned a Court of Appeals decision that threw out her personal injury claim.
Plaintiff ran into a little-known doctrine which prevents “splitting a cause of action.” This generally means that you can’t sue the same defendant or an agent of the defendant more than once for different claims arising from the same injury. Plaintiff, at first brought a Conciliation Court claim for property damage when the defendant’s insured failed to pay for all of the damage to her car. She hadn’t hired a lawyer yet but had talked to one briefly. She tried to do it herself and get money for her damaged car. She didn’t realize until two years later that she had met the “tort threshold” and that her physical injuries would not resolve. She hired an attorney to try to pursue her more important claim for her own injuries. The small Conciliation Court judgment almost cost her her more valuable personal injury claim.
So, if you’re in a car crash, call a personal injury attorney before you bring any claim against one of the other drivers in Conciliation Court.
~ John T. Buchman
Person Injury Attorney