Making a Claim Under the Minnesota Tort Claims Act

Learn about filing a personal injury lawsuit against the State of Minnesota for personal injuries sustained from a state government entity or employee.

If you're injured by a private individual (or a private business) in Minnesota, you can usually bring a  personal injury lawsuit  in Minnesota's civil courts. But if you are injured by a government entity or agency, you’ll need to follow a specific set of rules for bringing a claim, including strict filing deadlines. In this article, we'll cover the key points of filing an injury-related claim against the government in Minnesota.

Bringing a Tort Claim Against the Government in Minnesota

Tort claims against the government in Minnesota are covered by  Minnesota Statutes section 3.736. As a rule, the state "will pay compensation for" property damage, injury, or death "caused by an act or omission of an employee of the state while acting within the scope of office or employment." Some exceptions do apply, and those are listed in the same statute (and touched on below).

Minnesota's law represents a departure from the longstanding legal rule of "sovereign immunity," which entitles states to protection from liability for most kinds of harm resulting from government action (or inaction). Today, every U.S. state has waived, limited, or created exceptions to the rule of sovereign immunity, allowing injured citizens to seek compensation from the state in certain circumstances.

Possible Claims Against the Government in Minnesota

Minnesota’s tort claims act allows injured persons to bring a variety of different injury claims against the government. These include:

  • claims arising from  car accidents, including crashes causing injury or property damage
  • claims involving  premises liability, like a slip and fall accident or other mishap caused by a dangerous property condition
  • wrongful death claims, and
  • other situations where a government employee's negligence caused injury (unless section 3.736 says otherwise).

Generally speaking, if the injury or loss was caused by a government employee who was acting in line with his or her duties, the injured person can seek compensation for the injuries or harm caused. (Learn more about  Negligence and Fault for an Accident.) But you will generally  not  be able to seek compensation if your injuries resulted from, among other causes:

  • snow or ice, unless it was "affirmatively" the result of negligence
  • "wild animals in their natural state"
  • conditions on "unimproved real property" that is owned by the state
  • events that take place within the state's recreation system, including water access sites,
  • usual care and treatment (or lack thereof) in a state corrections facility
  • property damage or loss incurred by an inmate in any state institution, and
  • use of a logging road on public land.

Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list of exclusions from government liability in Minnesota, only the highlights. For the full list, check out  Minnesota Statutes section 3.736(3).

Filing a Claim Against the Government in Minnesota

In order to file a claim against a state, local or municipal government entity in Minnesota, the injured person must first give notice of the claim -- usually to the state's attorney general and also to any employee whose negligence is alleged -- within  180 days  of the date of injury. Notice should be given in writing and should state all relevant facts and allegations related to the loss, including:

  • time, place and circumstances
  • names of any state employees known to be involved, and
  • amount of compensation demanded.

Typically, the government will review the notice of claim and decide whether or not to pay it.

If the claim is rejected, the state's standard statutes of limitations for filing lawsuits apply. So, the claimant has  6 years  from the date of injury to file a lawsuit in court if it is a personal injury claim,  4 years for  a  Minnesota medical malpractice claim, and  3 years  for a  Minnesota wrongful death claim.

Limits on Damages in Injury Claims Against the Government in Minnesota

Damages in injury claims against the government in Minnesota are limited in ways that damages in other types of personal injury cases are not. For claims that arise after July 1, 2009, the total damages award is capped, or limited, to  $1,500,000.  If the claim involves an outdoor recreational activity run by a nonprofit, but funded by the state or subject to a permit issued by the state, damages are limited to  $1,000,000.  Learn more about  Damages: How Much is an Injury Claim Worth?

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