MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Already this winter, there have been two multi-car crashes in the Twin Cities metro.

One near Rogers on I-94 happened over the weekend. The other was in January along Highway 169 and involved 23 cars.

That has Nicole from St. Paul and Oliver from Osseo wanting to know: Who pays for these pileups? Good Question.

“If it’s a medical injury, it’s an easy answer,” says Mark Kulda with the Insurance Federation of Minnesota. “If it’s property damage, it’s a lot more complicated.”

When it comes to injuries, Minnesota is a no-fault state, which means a person’s own insurance company pays for their medical injuries and those who were in their car. But when it comes to repairs, Minnesota has a traditional system where investigators, courts and insurance companies have to figure out who is at fault.

“And then the at-fault insurance drivers would have to pay,” says Kulda.

In Minnesota, drivers are required to have property damage liability insurance to cover any costs if they cause the crash. For cars, the minimum coverage is $10,000. For commercial trucks, it’s $750,000 and for commercial trucks with hazardous materials, it’s $5 million.

That can be a problem for multi-car crashes, because the damages generally goes far beyond $10,000.

“If your $10,000 pays out and there’s still more owed, they’re not going to go away,” says Kulda. “You’re going to owe that out of your personal assets.”

It can be difficult to determine who is at-fault in a multi-car crash.

“Often times, people have no idea who they hit or who hit them,” says Minnesota State Patrol Lt. Tiffani Nielson.

In its crash report, the State Patrol will code each car involved and note whether or not the investigator believes that drivers contributed to the crash.

“We don’t work with insurance companies, we try to determine the factors that contributed to the crash,” says Lt. Nielson. “If a driver is driving at an unsafe speed, if they’re not aware of hazards around them, driving with distractions or driving too close, those are factors that we code as the cause of the crash and then the insurance companies work out their magic after the crash.”

In the Rogers crash, the State Patrol gave out five citations for fail to use due care. In the Highway 169 crash, the State Patrol gave out no citations.

If no one is determined to be at-fault in a crash, drivers will fall back on their own collision coverage. That’s only required for drivers with car loans in Minnesota.

“If you don’t have a collision policy and your car was damaged and no one was at fault, you’re kind of on your own in that case,” says Kulda.

Ultimately, both Lt. Nielson and Kulda point out – every pileup is different and who pays always depends.

Heather Brown