CAN MY LAWYER PROSECUTE THE PERSON WHO INJURED ME IN ACCIDENT? PUT THEM IN JAIL?
Our personal injury lawyers represent people who have been tragically injured or the family of someone killed in an accident. Sometimes the accident is caused by a simple mistake like accidentally running a red light. But sometimes the cause is much worse. Examples include drunk driver car accident, or a defective product that the manufacturer knew was defective and decided to sell anyway, or an auto accident with the driver on a cell phone or texting. Any of these very bad negligent acts by someone can cause serious injury or death.
When the accident injury victim is so catastrophically injured or the family is faced with the death of a loved one, they may understandably become very angry at the person who caused the unnecessary tragedy. Our attorneys sometimes are asked by the injured client or their family if we can do anything to punish the person who caused the accident, i.e. make sure they go to jail. The answer to that question is usually “no.” We are “civil” lawyers and our jurisdiction is limited to bringing a civil claim for money damages against the person who caused the accident. This is true even if it was a drunk driver that killed someone or they were illegally texting and driving.
If the accident is caused because of breaking the law, e.g. drunk driver or texting while driving, the person who caused the accident may be prosecuted by the police and the government prosecutor and, if convicted, could possibly go to jail. However, that is not something a personal injury attorney can control. We do make sure the prosecutor knows we are interested and watching, to at least put some pressure on, but ultimately it is the prosecutor’s decision.
COMPENSATION FOR INJURY ACCIDENT
What a personal injury lawyer can do is obtain money compensation for our clients from the other person’s insurance. Sometimes the clients want us to get “every last cent” of the other person’s money. Unfortunately, we cannot even do that: There are judgment exemption laws in Minnesota and at the federal level that limit what a lawyer can take from someone, as well as bankruptcy protection that will also protect the person at fault to some degree. In most cases, our primary focus is on insurance coverage. Our goal is to get our client as full compensation as possible.
Although we can pursue someone to the point that they at least have to declare bankruptcy, that is usually not in the best interest of our clients either. It puts the client through an unnecessary trial to relive the accident, it risks the insurance money because trials always have some risk, and it increases costs of the case so the client ultimately gets less money compensation.
Occasionally, the person who caused the accident will actually have significant money or assets beyond their insurance. Our attorneys always investigate this possibility and we have had a few cases where the other person had to make a payment beyond their insurance. However, this is rare.