Should I Call a Buffalo Motorcycle Crash Lawyer?

As the calendar inches toward spring, there will be more motorcycle riders on the road. The number of riders has increased significantly since 2008. The number of motorcycle crashes has increased commensurately, and in many cases, these crashes cause catastrophic injuries.

Consequently, many motorcycle crash victims may work with a Buffalo motorcycle crash lawyer and obtain significant compensation. If the victim sustained a serious injury, that compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, as well as noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Minnesota law generally defines a “serious injury” as one that involves more than $4,000 in medical bills.

What Causes Motorcycle Crashes?

Driver inattention causes about a third of the motorcycle crashes in Minnesota. Left turns are a particular hazard. In many cases, the tortfeasor (negligent driver) waits to make a left turn against traffic, shoots through a supposed gap in traffic, and turns directly into the path of an oncoming motorcycle.

When these crashes happen, the tortfeasor typically says something like the motorcycle rider “came out of nowhere.” That phrase usually means that the tortfeasor was not maintaining a proper lookout.

Nevertheless, these incidents sometimes give rise to the last clear chance defense, so a Buffalo motorcycle crash lawyer should be ready for this legal loophole. If the motorcycle rider had a reasonable chance to avoid a head-on collision, perhaps by changing lanes, the rider is legally responsible for the crash if s/he failed to take advantage of that chance.

This defense is normally inapplicable in motorcycle crash cases. It is almost impossible to maneuver a motorcycle in an emergency. Even experienced riders may lose control, causing a far worse crash.

Alcohol causes almost half of the motorcycle crashes in Wright County. Just one sip of alcohol impairs judgment and slows reflexes, significantly increasing the risk of a crash.

Alcohol-related motorcycle crashes often involve dram shop liability. Under Minnesota law, grocery stores, bars, convenience stores, restaurants, and other commercial alcohol providers may be liable for damages if their impaired patrons negligently injure someone else. Minnesota Statutes section 340A.801 applies if the sale was illegal. Such transactions include:

  • Minors,
  • After-hours sales, and
  • Sales to obviously intoxicated persons.

Third party liability theories like this one are especially important in catastrophic injury situations. Minnesota has one of the lowest auto insurance minimum requirements in the country. So, many tortfeasors do not have sufficient coverage to fully compensate the victim/plaintiff. Vicarious liability theories give these individuals an additional source of recovery.

Motorcycle Crash Injuries

Many motorcycle crashes do involve catastrophic injuries. In fact, motorcycle riders are twenty-eight times more likely to die in a crash than vehicle occupants. Some common injuries include:

  • Internal Bleeding: Typically, vehicle-on-motorcycle collisions throw the rider off the bike. When that happens, internal organs bump and grind against one another. Since these organs have no protective skin, the bleeding is often intense. Typically, the victim is on the verge of hypovolemic shock and organ shut-down before emergency responders even arrive.
  • Head Injuries: Motorcycle helmets prevent some forms of head injuries. But they do not protect against neck injuries. Furthermore, helmets do not prevent motion-related head injuries. Just like a person can scramble an egg just by shaking it, a sudden violent motion can scramble the brain.
  • Broken Bones: Even if they are not life-threatening, these injuries are often debilitating. Typically, doctors must use metal pins or screws to set the bone. As a result, the victim must undergo extensive physical therapy to regain lost function.

Injuries like these demand immediate medical attention. But many health insurance companies do not pay for MVC (Motor Vehicle Collision) losses. Fortunately, a Buffalo motorcycle crash attorney can usually arrange for medical care at no upfront cost. Later, an attorney can also negotiate with the provider for a lower fee. As a result, the victim keeps more of the settlement money.

How Buffalo Motorcycle Crash Lawyers Obtain Maximum Compensation

The last clear chance defense may not be effective in most of these cases. However, the insurance company still has some tricks up its sleeve.

Contributory negligence is one of these tricks. This doctrine shifts blame for the crash from the tortfeasor to the victim. For example, the insurance company might admit that the tortfeasor was drunk, but point out that the motorcycle rider was speeding.

Minnesota is a modified comparative fault state with a 51 percent bar. So, even if the victim is 49 percent responsible for the crash, the victim is still entitled to a proportional share of damages.

Comparative fault is often easier to prove in motorcycle crash cases, due to the motorcycle prejudice. This mentality is not as strong as it was, but it is still pervasive. Many Wright County jurors believe that motorcycle riders are reckless thugs.

Understanding the motorcycle prejudice may be the key to overcoming it. In most cases, it is fairly easy to hate a group, such as motorcycle riders, white people, Democrats, or whatever. But it is much harder to hate an individual. So, a Buffalo motorcycle crash lawyer might emphasize the victim’s good character, to separate the victim from the prejudice.

Reach Out to Experienced Attorneys

Motorcycle crashes often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo motorcycle crash lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.

How Do Brainerd Car Accident Lawyers Win Truck Crash Claims?

Pretty much every product on a Minnesota store shelf spent at least some time on a large truck. So, today’s semi trucks are larger and heavier than ever. As a result, the large truck fatality rate has increased 30 percent since 2009. These large vehicles are basically impossible for even experienced drivers to operate in any sort of emergency.

The stakes are very high. These crashes normally cause catastrophic injuries, such as serious burns, brain injuries, and wrongful death. Damages usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, as well as noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages may also be available, in some cases.

However, stingy insurance companies do not simply give away this compensation. Instead, a Brainerd car accident lawyer must fight hard to obtain it. Many times, that fight involves the same basic steps.

Obtaining Medical Care for Victims

Immediate medical attention is one of the keys to a successful outcome. The settlement process cannot begin in earnest until medical treatment is at least substantially complete. Otherwise, your Brainerd car accident lawyer does not know the case’s full financial value, and your settlement may not cover all your losses. So, the sooner the medical treatment ball gets rolling, the sooner the case will be over.

Additionally, if the victim does not seek immediate medical treatment, the insurance company usually later claims that the victim’s injuries must not have been very severe.

The medical treatment needs to be more than quick. It also needs to be the right kind of treatment. Many car crash injuries, like whiplash, are difficult to diagnose and treat. So, victims need injury specialists.

A Brainerd car accident lawyer can typically connect truck crash victims with the medical help they need. As a bonus, these top-rated truck crash physicians usually charge no money upfront. Instead, they defer payment until the case is resolved, and they also often discount their fees.

Understanding the Legal Context

To obtain compensation, the victim/plaintiff must prove that the crash was not just a random incident. Instead, a Brainerd car accident lawyer must establish negligence by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). This showing is easier to make in truck crash cases. In Minnesota, commercial drivers are common carriers. They have a higher duty of care than non-commercial drivers.

Driving in the rain is a good example. Non-commercial drivers have a duty to slow down and drive more carefully when it is raining. Arguably, since the duty of care is higher, commercial drivers must pull over and wait for it to stop raining. That’s especially true if the common carrier is a bus, taxi, or other vehicle which carries passengers for a fare.

Truck crash cases are more complex than car crash cases, because of the respondeat superior doctrine. This rule states that employers, like transportation or shipping companies, are vicariously liable for damages. Respondeat superior applies if:

  • Employee: Independent contractors and owner-operators are employees in this context. The employer controls these individuals in terms of things like hours worked and route traveled. That control is all that’s necessary.
  • Scope of Employment: The law defines this prong very broadly as well. Delivery drivers working their normal routes operate within the scope of employment. But this designation also applies to any activity which benefits the employer in any way. That could include driving an empty truck back to the warehouse.

Third party liability theories like this one are important in truck crash cases. Because of the aforementioned catastrophic injuries, the individual tortfeasor (negligent driver) may not have enough insurance coverage to provide fair compensation. Respondeat superior gives a Brainerd car accident lawyer an additional source of compensation.

Using the SMS Score

Most truck drivers have licenses in several different states. So, it’s difficult to obtain complete driving records. Fortunately, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration maintains the Safety Management System database. The SMS keeps track of:

  • Unsafe driving citations, such as speeding or distracted driving,
  • Alcohol or substance abuse,
  • Vehicle maintenance violations,
  • HOS (Hours of Service) compliance,
  • Driver physical fitness, and
  • Crash history.

To access some of these records, most notably the critical crash history report, a Brainerd car accident lawyer usually needs a court order. Strict privacy laws protect much of the SMS data.

This data comes from law enforcement sources as opposed to judicial records, so it’s usually more accurate. For example, if a truck driver receives a citation for defective brakes and gets the brakes fixed, the citation probably will not show up in judicial records. But it will appear in law enforcement records.

Brainerd Car Accident Lawyers and Electronic Evidence

HOS compliance is especially important in the many drowsy driving-related truck crashes. To stem the tide of fatigue-induced collisions, the FMCSA rolled out the Electronic Logging Device mandate in the spring of 2018. The ELD is attached to the truck’s ignition, so it contains an almost foolproof record. Because of the ELD, a Brainerd car accident lawyer knows exactly when the truck driver was on the road and how much rest s/he had prior to the crash.

Downloading ELD information requires both legal and technical expertise. Because of the aforementioned privacy laws, a Brainerd car accident lawyer usually needs a court order to access the ELD. Furthermore, these devices are extremely sophisticated. It takes a lot more than a screwdriver and a laptop to download ELD information. This process requires special machinery, and a Brainerd car accident lawyer has access to the necessary technology.

Other electronic evidence in truck crash cases includes the vehicle’s Event Data Recorder, which is a little like a commercial jet’s black box, and any nearby surveillance camera footage.

Rely on Experienced Attorneys

Truck crashes usually involve complex legal issues and serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd car accident lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Crow Wing County and nearby jurisdictions.

What to Expect When a Buffalo Family Law Attorney Handles Your Divorce

In many ways, February is a month of romantic extremes. For example, February means Valentines Day, and it also means Divorce Month.

Typically, feuding couples bury the hatchet between Haloween and Thanksgiving in anticipation of the coming winter holidays. The truce usually lasts until mid or late January. At that point, the barrage of “Don’t forget to buy roses for your sweetheart” Valentines Day ads reaches a fevered pitch. Then, some of these unsatisfied spouses reflect on how bad their marriages have become. They want out, and they call a Buffalo family law attorney.

Fling Divorce in Wright County

Like many other jurisdictions, Minnesota is a pure no-fault state. Irreconcileable differences is the only grounds for marriage dissolution in the Gopher State. Marital fault, like adultery, abandonment, or cruelty, is usually irrelevant.

Unlike many other jurisdictions, there is no divorce waiting period in Minnesota. The law only requires that at least one spouse resided in Minnesota for at least 180 days prior to the petition’s filing date.

The filing party must also notify the other party about the filing. If at all possible, personal service is best. A waiver of citation is the next best thing, but these waivers have some intricate technical requirements. In 2015, a New York judge allowed a divorce petitioner to serve her husband via Facebook, but another court later rescinded that order. As far as Buffalo family law attorneys are concerned, online service is not yet a reality.

Buffalo Family Law Attorneys and the Divorce Temporary Hearing

The temporary hearing usually occurs about two or three weeks after the petition is filed. The brief delay gives both sides ample time to retain a Buffalo family law attorney. Both sides need representation at this point, because the temporary hearing is a very critical point in the case.

At this hearing, the judge makes a lot of decisions based on very little evidence. So, arguments of counsel are critical. Some of these decisions include:

  • Interim spousal support,
  • Child custody and visitation arrangements,
  • Temporary child support, and
  • Temporary property division.

Technically, these orders automatically expire when the divorce becomes final. But as a practical matter, the judge often rolls the temporary orders into the final orders. To change this outcome, there must be dramatic new evidence. For example, a social services investigation might reveal a history of child abuse.

The Pretrial Process

Next comes the most time-consuming part of any marriage dissolution case. A lot of things happen between the temporary hearing and the case’s resolution.

Discovery

Fundamentally, a marriage dissolution case is not about choosing a “winner” and a “loser.” Rather, the case must divide marital property in an equitable way and contain a parenting time plan which reflects the best interests of the children.

So, divorce cases always involve discovery. Sometimes, discovery involves a document exchange, and that’s about it. But in most cases, discovery is much more intense. In addition to document exchanges, there are things like:

  • Oral depositions,
  • A social services investigation,
  • Long lists of questions that must be answered under oath, and
  • Property inspections.

Discovery is especially protracted if a Buffalo family law attorney suspects that a spouse is concealing financial or other information from the other spouse.

Social Services Investigation

If parenting time is contested, most Wright County family law judges order social services investigations.

Typically, a government social worker talks to the parents, interviews the children, conducts at least one home inspection, speaks with witnesses, such as teachers or doctors, and reviews documents, such as school report cards and medical records. Based on all this evidence, the social worker prepares a report and files it with the court.

The social worker’s recommendation is not binding. But in many cases, the judge gives it considerable weight.

Settlement Negotiations

The vast majority of divorce cases settle out of court. Some settlements occur very early, perhaps even at the temporary hearing. Others take place very late, sometimes literally just before trial is about to begin. Mostly, however, settlement occurs once discovery is at least substantially complete.

If Buffalo family law attorneys cannot settle the case on their own, a trained mediator sometimes helps. This person is usually either a retired judge or a family law attorney who is unaffiliated with the case. If both parties participate with open minds and in good faith, mediation is successful about 75 percent of the time.

Agreed settlement is usually preferable to an emotional trial. Additionally, a negotiated settlement gives the parties more control over the outcome. As a result, voluntary compliance is a little higher. Finally, when problems crop up later, and they always do, the parties feel empowered to talk things out instead of running to court. That situation is better for everybody.

Speak with a Dedicated Lawyer

The divorce process is usually costly, both emotionally and financially. But an experienced Buffalo family law attorney from Carlson & Jones, P.A. can greatly minimize these costs. Call us today for a free consultation.

A Hutchinson Family Law Attorney Talks About the 2019 Alimony Rules

For about a generation, alimony payments have been tax-deductible and alimony receipts have been tax reportable. That all changed on January 1.

The 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act eliminated the alimony payments tax deduction. The TCJA also ended the reporting requirement.

No one is really sure what effect the change will have. TCJA backers say the new rules will benefit divorced women because it reduces their taxable income. Others, however, say the change will hurt divorced women. An ex-husband might claim that, since the tax deduction is going away, he can no longer afford to pay alimony.

Duration of Alimony Payments in McLeod County

Under Minnesota law, a divorce cannot be an unfair financial burden for either party. Statistically, divorced men rebuild wealth more quickly than divorced women. Add two and two together, and you get four. Because of these facts, most husbands pay spousal support to most wives.

In the Gopher State, judges have a great deal of discretion when setting the duration of payments. Typically, alimony comes in three forms:

  • Temporary Alimony: When a couple divorces, a number of immediate short-term financial needs pop up. Attorneys’ fees to a Hutchinson family law attorney and ordinary household expenses spring immediately to mind. If the obligee spouse (usually the wife) needs help with these expenses and the obligor spouse (usually the husband) has the ability to pay, a judge will probably award temporary alimony. This type of alimony automatically terminates when the divorce becomes final.
  • Short Term Spousal Maintenance: Once the divorce is final, many obligee spouses need some time to become economically self-sufficient. This journey may involve going back to school to finish a degree or accepting a low-paying internship to merge back into the workforce. If the economic need continues, and the ability to pay continues as well, the judge may extend maintenance payments for a year or two, based on the evidence.
  • Long Term Alimony: If the couple was married for a long time (usually over ten years) or the obligee spouse will never become economically self-sufficient due to a disability, the judge may order permanent or long term alimony. Sometimes, these payments last forever. Other times, the payments end after a period of years (perhaps twice the duration of the marriage).

A judge may order one or more forms of alimony. Typically, these awards can be modified, as outlined below.

Spousal Support Amount

As mentioned, when considering alimony payments, a Hutchinson family law attorney must take into account the obligee’s economic need and the obligor’s ability to pay. To assist in this process, Minnesota law sets out a number of factors to consider, including:

  • Financial resources of each spouse,
  • Standard of living during the marriage,
  • Amount of time the obligee needs to become self-sufficient,
  • Length of the marriage,
  • Custody of minor children (i.e. does the residential custodian need help with the house payment),
  • Economic and noneconomic contributions to the marriage,
  • Tax consequences,
  • Agreements between the parties, and
  • Relative age and health of each spouse.

Often, a Hutchinson family law attorney asks the judge to sign findings of facts and conclusions of law. This separate document lays out the judge’s rationale for the amount and duration of alimony payments, as well as other issues in the case. If the judge does so, it may be easier to modify the spousal support obligation later, if need be.

Assume the judge awards Ramona significant short term spousal maintenance because she says she will attend school full time. If she drops out of school, her ex-husband Mike has a very good case for modification.

Changing the Amount and Duration of Payments

Generally, a Hutchinson family law attorney may ask the judge to move the amount and/or duration of payments either up or down. The law states that the judge may modify the amount if circumstances have materially and substantially changed. There are some subparts as well. In addition to new, the circumstances must be:

  • Permanent,
  • Involuntary, and
  • Unanticipated.

Let’s return to Ramona and Mike and change the facts a little. Assume Ramona struggles in school and must reduce the number of hours she takes per semester. If she asks the court to extend the short term maintenance duration, a Hutchinson family law attorney faces an uphill climb.

Or, assume Mike starts a freelance consulting business and claims he can no longer afford to pay alimony. If he changed jobs to avoid paying alimony, he is probably not entitled to a reduction.

Work with an Experienced Lawyer

Some alimony rules are different in the New Year, and others are the same. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson family law attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

The Five Elements of a MN Distracted Driving Claim

Increased distracted driving is almost directly related to increased smartphone use and capability. It’s amazing how much these gadgets have advanced since the first iPhone came out in 2007. To keep up with these changes, Minnesota has one of the broadest device distraction laws in the county. MS 169.475 prohibits sending or viewing any text-based message, or accessing the internet in any way, while the vehicle is part of traffic. The law even applies if the driver is stopped at a red light.

Nevertheless, there are some significant gaps. As broad as it is, Minnesota’s device distraction law does not apply to some common activities, such as:

  • Using an app,
  • Recording audio,
  • Taking a selfie,
  • Recording video, or
  • Playing a game.

Sometimes, these activities may constitute reckless driving. MS 169.13 applies if the driver’s behavior “constitutes a significant deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe in the situation.” But officers usually only write reckless driving citations if the driver violated several traffic laws at about the same time (e.g. changing lanes illegally while speeding).

So, in most device distraction cases, Brainerd car accident lawyers must rely on a traditional five-point negligence case. The victim/plaintiff must establish each element by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).

Duty

Most drivers have a duty of reasonable care. This legal obligation means drivers must obey the rules of the road and, as my grandfather said, watch out for th’ other fella.

A case from the 1930s, Donoghue v. Stevenson, laid the foundation for this concept. In Donoghue, a woman sued a beer bottler after the found a dead snail in her beer bottle. The court held that a person “must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably foresee would be likely to injure your neighbor.” According to the court, neighbors were “persons who are so closely and directly affected by my act that I ought reasonably to have them in contemplation as being so affected when I am directing my mind to the acts or omissions which are called in question.” The so-called neighbor principle evolved into the duty of care.

Uber drivers, taxi drivers, and other commercial drivers have a higher duty of care. Essentially, these drivers must do whatever it takes to avoid accidents. For example, a non-commercial driver must slow down in the rain. But a Brainerd car accident lawyer can argue that a commercial driver has a duty to pull over in a heavy rainstorm.

Breach

A Crow Wing County judge usually determines duty. It is a legal question. But a jury usually determines breach. The violation of that duty is a fact question.

Let’s return to the list of device distractions which the law does not cover. Most people would consider something like snapping a selfie on the highway to be a breach of the duty of reasonable care. But if the driver’s phone went off and the driver swiped the “ignore call” icon, most people would not consider that action to be a breach of duty, even though the act technically constitutes device distraction.

Brainerd Car Accident Lawyers and Cause

To win a distracted driving negligence case in Minnesota, driver inattention must be the underlying cause of the vehicle collision.

Assume Tim was so into PUBG Mobile that he ran a stop sign and collided with Carlos. Running the stop sign was the direct cause, but device distraction was the underlying cause. And, since it’s technically legal to play PUBG Mobile, or any other game, while driving, Carlos’ Brainerd car accident lawyer would also have to establish all the other prongs of a negligence case.

Proximate Cause

Proximate cause is a legal term which basically means foreseeability. Benjamin Frankin was a smart guy, but he was clearly not an attorney. He had an extremely broad view of foreseeability, as evidenced by this poem which he wrote.

As far as Brainerd car accident lawyers are concerned, foreseeability has a rather narrow meaning. Assume that when Carlos went to the hospital after a crash, the doctor made a medical mistake. Even though Carlos would not have gone under the knife if Tim had not hit him, Tim is not legally responsible for that injury. A medical mistake is not a foreseeable consequence of a car crash.

In that situation, Carlos might have a separate negligence claim against the doctor.

Damages

Generally, the victim must suffer a physical injury to have a claim for damages. That physical injury could be either property damage or personal injury. Obviously, the greater the damage, the more compensation a Brainerd car accident lawyer is able to recover.

In some cases, victims may be able to pursue negligent infliction of emotional distress claims if they suffered no physical injury. But these situations are limited.

Rely on Experienced Attorneys

Device distraction crash victims may be entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd car accident lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle cases in Crow Wing County and nearby jurisdictions.

Can a Buffalo Criminal Defense Lawyer Clear My Name?

In 2015, the Minnesota legislature significantly expanded the state’s expungement law. The expansion included additional eligible offenses as well as additional forms of relief. There is no guarantee that the new expungement law will erase your criminal past. However, the law gives assertive Buffalo criminal defense lawyers additional opportunities. And sometimes, that chance is all it takes.

A criminal conviction greatly interferes with some things which many people take for granted. For example, Minnesota’s ban the box law prohibits employers from asking about criminal backgrounds during the initial screening process. But employers can, and often do, refuse to interview people with criminal histories. Courts have repeatedly upheld these blanket policies.

If potential employers do not see your conviction record, they cannot ask about it. This proactive approach is the best way to deal with problems like this one.

A Buffalo Criminal Defense Lawyer Explains the Different Kinds of Expungement

There are basically three forms of expungement in Minnesota, and not all of them follow the traditional expungement pathway.

Deferred Adjudication

Initial plea bargain agreements often include deferred adjudication. Prosecutors normally recommend deferred if the case is a nonviolent offense and the defendant has no criminal history. In other situations, a judge may unilaterally grant deferred adjudication. Open pleas like this one, however, are rather risky.

Then again, the entire concept of deferred adjudication is risky. Procedurally, the defendant enters a plea and the judge places the defendant on probation. However, the judge does not enter a finding of guilt. Instead, the judge defers this part of the proceeding until after the defendant completes probation.

If the defendant successfully completes probation, the judge dismisses the criminal charges. However, if the defendant violates probation, the judge may sentence the defendant to anything up to the maximum. If the case is a serious felony, that could mean a very long prison term. Common probation violations include:

  • Failure to report,
  • Committing a new offense while on probation,
  • Failure to pay money, and
  • Violating an offense-specific condition, like failing a drug test.

Many times, a Buffalo criminal defense lawyer bundles a motion for early discharge from probation with deferred adjudication probation. Typically, defendants who have squeaky-clean probation records, have completed at least half the term, and have fulfilled all outstanding obligations (e.g. paid restitution and completed required classes) are eligible for early discharge.

Early release from probation eliminates the risk of violating probation. That’s a very significant plus. Additionally, for expungement purposes, early release makes a probation officer’s endorsement more likely. That endorsement is not quite the Midas touch, but it is pretty close.

Partial Expungement

Deferred adjudication, by itself, eliminates the conviction record. The arrest record remains and is still in full public view. A Buffalo criminal defense lawyer can also ask the court to seal the record. Under the new expungement law, courts have almost unlimited authority to expunge their own records.

However, courts lack the authority to expunge executive branch records. So, the BCA and all other law enforcement agencies still have their arrest records. That could be important if, for example, the defendant needs to undergo a background check for security reasons.

That being said, a residual arrest record is not the end of the world. That’s certainly true in the aforementioned employment situations. Most employers want to know about convictions and not arrests.

Full Expungement

In some cases, a Buffalo criminal defense lawyer may be able to clear your name for any and all purposes. Before 2015, full expungement was only available in a limited number of cases. Now, expungement may be available in the following situations:

  • First-time drug possession offenses,
  • Juvenile matters prosecuted in adult court,
  • Not guilty finding at trial,
  • Any of the property crimes listed here, and
  • Case dismissed for cause.

A for-cause dismissal means something like a lack of evidence or a lack of probable cause. Prosecutorial discretion dismissals are usually not eligible for expungement.

Most domestic violence cases, such as assault and violation of a protective order, are never expungeable. The same thing is basically true of most sex offenses. Additionally, a waiting period of between one and five years may apply.

Factors the Judge May Consider

Plea bargains resolve most original criminal cases. But there is no plea bargaining in expungement matters. If the probation officer endorses the petition, the prosecutor may not contest it. However, the judge always has the final say. The factors to consider include:

  • Severity of the offense,
  • Amount of time that’s passed since the conviction,
  • Defendant’s employment status and community ties,
  • Criminal history, and
  • Affirmative rehabilitation steps.

Generally, the judge will grant the expungement petition if the defendant meets all the technical requirements, the probation officer endorses the petition, and the defendant has a good reason for the request.

Rely on Experienced Attorneys

Most defendants are eligible for some form of expungement. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo criminal defense lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.

Five Reasons Hutchinson Divorce Lawyers Need to Change Your Decree

In many civil cases, such as car crash claims, judicial orders close the matter. Typically, these orders contain claims waivers. So, it’s difficult or impossible to re-open the case.

Divorce decrees are different, specifically with regard to visitation and parenting time matters. In these situations, the divorce decree was never meant to be permanent. Typically, a Hutchinson divorce lawyer must modify these decrees at least once every three or four years.

If both parents agree on the change, at least in principle, these matters are straightforward. Even if there are some lingering disagreements, a Hutchinson divorce lawyer can usually iron them out rather quickly and then present the agreement to the judge. Usually, McLeod County judges approve these agreements. Sometimes, they do not even hold hearings.

If the motion is contested, the moving party must prove that circumstances have materially changed and the requested modification is in the best interests of the children. Note that the best interests of the children is different from the preferred outcome for the children or the best interests of the parents.

Remarriage

Statistically, most divorced parents remarry more than once. Overall, the divorce rate is less than 50 percent. But roughly two-thirds of second marriages end in divorce. For third marriages, the divorce rate increases to three out of four. New marriages fundamentally alter family dynamics, especially if both spouses have children from prior relationships.

So, a new spouse is one of the most common reasons for a custody or visitation modification. However, the change is not automatic. The new situation must affect the children. For example, an adult might have a prior domestic violence conviction or a stepchild might have documented serious emotional issues.

Job Change

Job changes often affect alimony and child support obligations, since these moves usually involve a lower or greater salary. The change might also affect parenting time. Most new jobs usually mean longer (or shorter) commutes and different hours.

Typically, the parenting time changes are rather subtle. For example, instead of picking up the children at 6:00 p.m, Dad may not be able to get to the house until 6:30. In these situations, many parents make “side agreements.” Often, these agreements may be a text message string. Such pacts are unenforceable in family court. If one parent unilaterally decides to go back to the way things were, the other parent has no recourse.

Relocation

Most people relocate quite frequently. Perhaps they change jobs, want to be closer to (or further away from) family, have financial problems, buy a house, or need a change of scenery. Some of these changes affect the children, and some do not.

McLeod County is very spread out. Even if a family just moves a few blocks, the move could alter the delicate pickup and dropoff balance, especially on weeknights. If you need to make changes, make sure a Hutchinson divorce lawyer puts them in writing and a judge signs off on the change. Otherwise, the parents could wind up back in court on an enforcement motion. Even if the parent only committed technical violations, the punishment could be severe.

Onset or Removal of Disability

These changes are quite common as well. A serious illness could mean time-consuming treatments away from home and lack of energy at home. Other people develop, or overcome, substance abuse problems. Finally, many parents successfully complete court-ordered parenting or anger management classes.

All these situations directly affect the children. Furthermore, they are clearly substantial changes. However, the change must also be permanent. For example, broken bones, even serious ones, usually heal eventually. As a rule of thumb, if the disability will not last more than three or four months, a judge will probably not modify the orders. The parties would just be back in court a few weeks later.

Children’s Ages

Kids grow up and their schedules get busy. This change is inevitable. So, a judge will probably not modify orders because the children are older.

While these physical changes are generally predictable, emotional changes are different. Sometimes, parents and children drift apart, especially after many years of part-time parenting. When children are young, if they refuse to go on a visit, a parent can force, cajole, bribe, or threaten them. The older the children get, the less effective these things become. Eventually, a Hutchinson divorce lawyer may need to change the decree to account for these emotional changes.

Count on Experienced Attorneys

Families change, and divorce decrees must change as well. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson divorce lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in McLeod County and nearby jurisdictions.

Can Brainerd Personal Injury Attorneys Obtain Compensation for Mesothelioma Victims?

Mesothelioma is a very rare and aggressive form of lung cancer. Asbestos exposure is basically the only known cause. Back in the day, builders commonly used this natural mineral in ships, skyscrapers, churches, and even family homes. The tiny fibers are so small that about 20,000 of them can fit in the space between Abraham Lincoln’s nose and lips on a U.S. penny. Victims can easily inhale one of these fibers. These fibers are also small enough to absorb through the skin. In other cases, workers unintentionally carry these fibers home on their clothes, exposing their families to possible mesothelioma.

Rather than face aggressive Brainerd personal injury attorneys, many companies which used asbestos filed bankruptcy. Whether or not the negligent company is still in business, substantial compensation may be available.

Difficulties in Diagnosing Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma tumors form in the soft lining between the heart and lungs. The pressure creates symptoms like shortness of breath and coughing. These symptoms are rather generic. If blood or other tests indicate cancer, many doctors diagnose mesothelioma patients with non-small cell lung cancer. NSCLC is by far the most common type of lung cancer in the United States. It is also not very aggressive, so many times, doctors recommend conservative treatments. These treatments, while effective against NSCLC, are essentially useless against mesothelioma. So, the cancer continues to grow.

There are other difficulties as well. As mentioned, just one tiny asbestos fiber may trigger mesothelioma. So, a victim could walk by a construction or renovation worksite and inhale a fiber without ever knowing it. Symptoms may not appear for twenty to forty years. After so much time passes, it’s very difficult to trace mesothelioma to such a random incident.

So, by the time the victim receives an accurate diagnosis, the disease might already be at an advanced stage. At this point, mesothelioma is very difficult to treat.

Mesothelioma Treatment Options

The cancer mortality rate has dropped precipitously since 1991. Back then, a mesothelioma diagnosis was basically a death sentence. Since tumors form in the meso lining, they are difficult to remove. Additionally, they are so close to vital organs that other treatments are problematic.

But since then, standard cancer treatments have improved significantly. These improvements give hope to mesothelioma victims:

  • Radiation: Before doctors try to remove tumors, they use radiation blasts to shrink them. Today’s radiation therapy treatments are much more targeted than they were thirty years ago. So, doctors know that they are shrinking tumors and not harming nearby organs.
  • Surgery: Tools and technology have advanced so much that it’s easier to remove most or all of these tumors. Successful removal often leads to remission.
  • Chemotherapy: These drugs kill cancer and other fast-dividing cells. Yesterday’s chemotherapy drugs had many side effects, so patients could only tolerate limited doses. That’s not true today, at least in most cases.

There are other emerging treatment options as well, such as gene therapy and phototherapy. Gene therapy, which usually includes stem cells, may actually reprogram cells so they are no longer cancerous. Phototherapy has shown tremendous promise in clinical trials.

Treatment options are available, even in cases like Stage III mesothelioma. But these treatments are quite expensive. That’s where a Brainerd personal injury attorney comes in. Attorneys help families obtain the financial resources they need to fight their illnesses and live their lives.

Brainerd Personal Injury Attorneys and Your Claim for Damages

Asbestos was legal in most parts of the United States until the early 1980s. Many people were exposed back then, but they are only now developing symptoms. Asbestos is a dangerous product. Its carcinogenic properties are very well known. So, the companies which used it in construction projects are strictly liable for damages. Victims typically need only prove cause. And, since asbestos is mesothelioma’s sole major cause, this showing is relatively easy to make.

Other victims can apply to asbestos trust funds. Collectively, there is about $30 billion in these funds. Once again, victims typically need only prove cause. However, trust fund managers are very stingy. The more money they pay, the less money they keep. So, most trust fund claimants need an assertive Brainerd personal injury attorney to ensure full compensation. Otherwise, victims may not have enough money to fight their diseases and live their lives.

Finally, many demolition and renovation companies do not take the proper precautions when they remove asbestos from old buildings. If their lack of care substantially caused injury, these firms are legally responsible for damages. In all three kinds of cases, these damages usually include money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. In many defective product cases, additional punitive damages may be available as well.

Reach Out to Tenacious Lawyers

Asbestos-induced mesothelioma is one of the most widespread mass torts in history. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd personal injury attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these cases.

 

Three Liability Theories Buffalo Personal Injury Lawyers Use in Dog Bite Claims

Every year, dogs attack over four million people. A number of these incidents cause serious injury, and many of these injuries are invisible to the naked eye.

Many dog bite victims are young children, and in these cases, the physical injuries are often gruesome. Dogs usually bite into flesh and then tear it. As a result, victims have both deep puncture wounds and serious abrasions. This combination usually necessitates reconstructive surgery. Techniques in this area have improved significantly since 2009. Progress has not been cheap, which probably explains why medical costs have escalated so much over the last ten years.

Buffalo personal injury lawyers can also obtain compensation for noneconomic damages. Typically, animal attack victims suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-type symptoms. High-stress events, like sudden dog bites or being in combat, erode the cerebral cortex. This part of the brain controls logical thought. As a result, the amygdala, which controls emotional responses, becomes too powerful. This imbalance explains symptoms like flashbacks, heightened awareness, and an unnatural fear of dogs.

Both animal owners and non-owners may be legally responsible for damages in Minnesota. In a nutshell, the Gopher State’s law gives Buffalo personal injury lawyers multiple options in these situations.

Minnesota’s Strict Liability Animal Attack Law

Buffalo dog owners are liable for all animal attack damages as a matter of law. Victims need not prove that the owner knew the animal was dangerous. Victims also do not need to prove fault or negligence. They only need to establish causation.

This law broadly defines “owners.” This term includes both record owners and temporary custodians. Furthermore, if a person takes in a stray dog and never legally adopts it, that person is still the dog’s owner. A temporary custodian could be a veterinarian or a vet assistant.

Minnesota’s strict liability rule is one of the broadest ones in the country. Owners or custodians must pay full compensation for all damages. Moreover, the law bars most of the normal common-law negligence defenses. That includes things like contributory negligence.

Provocation is the only recognized defense, so insurance companies almost always raise it. In this context, provocation means more than aggressive teasing or even physical harm. Instead, victims provoke animals when they inflict so much pain that the animal must respond violently. Moreover, Minnesota’s version of the provocation defense usually requires multiple or extended incidents. And, some individuals, such as very young children, cannot provoke a dog as a matter of law.

Buffalo Personal Injury Lawyers and Negligence Claims

As mentioned, dog bites often cause catastrophic injuries. Fortunately, most homeowners insurance policies have very high claims limits. But in some cases, especially if someone like a dog walker was primarily responsible, the victim may need an additional source of compensation.

Negligence is essentially a lack of ordinary care. Persons who act carelessly are usually liable for the damages they cause, strict liability law or not. To establish negligence, the tortfeasor (negligent actor) must violate a legal duty and thereby cause damages.

These claims also introduce the prospect of third-party liability. Let’s return to the dog walker example. Assume Cindy is walking a dog in an off-leash park. While she is not looking, the dog then attacks a nearby child. If Cindy worked for a dog walking company or even got her gig from a referral agency, that company may be liable for damages under the respondeat superior rule. This doctrine applies if the tortfeasor was:

  • An employee who
  • Was acting within the scope of employment.

The law defines both these prongs in broad, victim-friendly terms. So, even if the company had no direct control over Cindy, it might still be an “employer” for negligence purposes. Minnesota is a modified joint and several liability state. Generally, if there are multiple responsible parties, the judge apportions damages among them based on their percentage of fault.

Scienter Claims in Minnesota

This Latin word means “knowledge.” Scienter harkens back to the common-law one bite rule. In many ways, scienter is like negligence. But the culpability level is higher. If the owner or custodian knew the animal was dangerous and the dog bites someone, carelessness does not matter. Evidence of knowledge includes things like:

  • Vicious barking,
  • Baring of teeth,
  • Lunging, and
  • Growling.

Assume Cindy never took her eyes off the dog. But the dog growls at a child and attacks the child a moment later. Under these facts, Cindy knew the dog was dangerous and did nothing to prevent the incident. Therefore, she may also be liable for additional punitive damages. These damages are available if the tortfeasor disregarded a known risk and endangered other people. That’s arguably the case in this situation.

Contact an Aggressive Attorney

Dog bite victims have several legal options. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo personal injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.

How Do Hutchinson Criminal Defense Lawyers Deal with Restraining Orders?

Every year, more than ten million Americans are the victims of domestic violence. The abuse could be physical or non-physical. Moreover, the abuse could also be a sudden explosion of violence or a long series of smaller events. Many of these incidents result in serious or even fatal injuries. Since so much is at stake, it’s important that people who need help get it straightaway.

Generally, McLeod County judges cannot take action without according all sides due process of law. Domestic protective orders are one of the few exceptions. If you need immediate protection, a Hutchinson criminal defense lawyer can make sure you get it.

However, the due process waiver is only temporary. Before a judge takes stronger action, it is important to hear both sides of the story. That’s especially true if there is a parallel family law or divorce proceeding. Very few victims manufacture or inflate domestic violence charges to gain an edge in civil court. But it has happened before, and it will happen again.

Who is Entitled to Protection

Over the last fifty years, the definition of “family” has changed significantly in Minnesota. Most Hutchinson children live in non-traditional households. Minnesota’s domestic violence law recognizes these shifts, so many different individuals are entitled to protection.

  • Common Child: Some people have children together but never marry. In fact, some of these couples never had much of a relationship at all. Nevertheless, violence still sometimes happens in these situations, so protection is available.
  • Current or Former Dating Partners: The above categories are objective. People are either married or they are not. But this category is a bit subjective. Two people need not be engaged to be “dating partners,” but they probably must have gone out more than once or twice.
  • Persons Related by Marriage: Most domestic violence claimants are current spouses, estranged spouses, or former spouses of the alleged abuser. This definition may also encompass in-laws and other non-marital relationships. Common-law marriages have not been legal in Minnesota since 1941, unless the couple was common-law married in another state.
  • Current or Former Roommates: This category is vague as well. One night on a sofa does not make one a roommate. However, there’s no requirement for a written roommate agreement or that a person is listed on a lease.

A number of individuals know they are entitled to protection and they know they need protection. Nevertheless, they do not contact Hutchinson criminal defense lawyers about a possible restraining order. Many of these people assume that the order is just a piece of paper which is almost meaningless.

But that’s not true. If a person obtains a restraining order, the alleged victim can distribute copies of that order to schools, daycares, churches, and other places their children frequent. If these organizations receive notice, they have a legal duty to honor the protective order. Furthermore, the ex parte restraining order is a springboard. Once the alleged victim obtains one, it’s much easier to secure broader and longer-lasting protection in a subsequent hearing.

Types of Restraining Orders

Alleged victims in McLeod County may obtain either an HRO (Harassment Restraining Order) or an OFP (Order For Protection). In general, victims who fear for their physical safety, or the safety of their children, should apply for OFPs. As the name implies, HROs usually prevent stalking and other non-physical forms of abuse.

Minnesota judges are about the only ones in the country who can issue long-term protective orders based on one side’s testimony. The judge will issue a protective order if there is an imminent threat of domestic violence and the applicant needs immediate protection. The judge will either grant a protective order that’s good for up to two years or deny protection and set a hearing. Once the alleged abuser receives notice, that person can also request a hearing.

If the alleged abuser previously violated a protective order, the OFP can be valid for up to fifty years. The alleged abuser can ask the judge to modify or vacate the order later. Normally, a five-year waiting period applies.

At the subsequent hearing, which either party can request, the judge may enter additional orders, such as:

  • Forfeiture of firearms,
  • Payment of support, and
  • Attending parenting, anger management, or other classes.

Generally, HROs offer the same protections. But there are some procedural differences. If the alleged victim cites only one harassment, stalking, or other incident, the alleged victim must also swear that there is an immediate threat of physical violence.

A Hutchinson criminal defense lawyer may also go to civil court and obtain roughly the same protection. The parties have more control over the matter in civil court, and criminal protective orders have more teeth. Many times, at Carlson & Jones, we suggest that alleged victims seek both types of protection.

We are dedicated to the rights of victims, and we also believe that there are usually two sides to every story. A protective order can have dire consequences, both professionally and personally. So, we sometimes represent alleged abusers and make sure they get their day in court.

Work with Assertive Attorneys

Whether you are faced with domestic violence or feel you have been unfairly charged, help is available. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson criminal defense lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. AFter-hours visits are available.

 

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