The Mn Criminal Defense, Personal Injury & Family Law Blog
Ask a Personal Injury Lawyer in Hutchinson, MN: How Much Can Someone Sue for a Car Accident?
February 18, 2020
The average injury-related hospital bill often exceeds $100,000. This figure does not include indirect medical expenses, such as medical devices and prescription drugs. It also does not include noneconomic losses. Depending on the facts of a case, fair compensation for things like pain and suffering could be two or three times the economic losses.
A car crash claim is about more than money. The claim is also about justice. We all make mistakes while driving. And, we are all accountable for the mistakes that we make. That accountability includes liability for damages, if any.
Personal injury lawyers in Hutchinson, MN are committed to maximum compensation for victims, in terms of both money and justice. On the other hand, insurance company lawyers are committed to minimum compensation for victims, in both these areas. In most cases, the amount someone can sue for a car accident depends on several basic variables.
Evidence in Vehicle Collision Claims
The victim/plaintiff must establish liability by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). Although that’s the lowest burden of proof in Minnesota law, evidence collection is still the foundation of all successful car crash claims.
Basic vehicle collision evidence usually includes the police accident report and medical bills. Knowledgable personal injury lawyers in Hutchinson, MN can easily overcome privacy and other restrictions to obtain this evidence. These same privacy laws also apply to electronic evidence, as outlined below.
If liability is clear and the insurance company has no legal defenses, this basic evidence is usually sufficient. However, such cases are few and far between. Additionally, the more evidence a victim/plaintiff assembles, the more settlement value increases.
Frequently, personal injury lawyers in Hutchinson, MN use electronic evidence to bolster the proof in car wreck claims. Some forms of electronic evidence include:
Event Data Recorder: Much like black box flight data recorders, EDRs measure and store operational information such as vehicle speed, steering angle, and brake application. Data such as this is often critical in car crash claims, especially when it comes to refuting insurance company defenses.
Cell Phone Data: Text message history, call logs, browsing history, and other such information could be critical in distracted driving claims. Cell phone location history could be important as well. For example, such data could establish that the tortfeasor (negligent driver) had been drinking recently.
Electronic Logging Device: Many commercial vehicles have ELDs. Since these gadgets keep track of service hours, they are often critical in drowsy driving cases.
As mentioned, Minnesota has very strong privacy laws, especially with regard to vehicle information. So, personal injury lawyers in Hutchinson, MN must normally obtain court orders to access EDRs, cell phone data, and other such information.
Obtaining electronic evidence is only part of the picture. Attorneys must also know how to effectively present this information in court. On a related note, special evidentiary rules often apply to electronic evidence, in terms of things like authentication and verification.
Personal Injury Lawyers in Hutchinson, MN and Legal Theories
Car crash evidence is like the pieces of a large jigsaw puzzle. Attorneys must put the pieces together. Personal injury lawyers in Hutchinson, MN often partner with accident reconstruction professionals to help ensure maximum compensation.
Some claims, such as the aforementioned drowsy driving and distracted driving claims, rely on the ordinary negligence theory. Minnesota law forbids device distraction and fatigued driving, but these laws only apply in limited situations.
Ordinary negligence is basically a lack of care. Generally, drivers have a duty of reasonable care. They must avoid accidents when possible and obey the rules of the road. Commercial drivers, such as Uber drivers, might have a higher duty of care.
Roughly half of all the fatal car crashes in McLeod County involve drug use, excessive speed, and/or alcohol use. These driving behaviors are illegal under almost any circumstances. So, the negligence per se shortcut usually applies. Tortfeasors are usually liable for damages as a matter of law if:
They violate a safety law, and
That infraction substantially causes injury.
Frequently, the tortfeasor is not the only party who is responsible for damages. For example, Minnesota has one of the broadest dram shop laws in the country. Bars, grocery stores, restaurants, and other commercial providers might be vicariously liable for car crash damages.
The Contributory Negligence Defense
Comparative fault is probably the most common insurance company defense in car wreck claims. This legal loophole shifts blame for the accident from the tortfeasor to the victim.
Assume Vicky Victim was traveling 50mph in a 45mph zone when Timmy Tortfeasor illegally moved into her lane. A McLeod County jury must consider the evidence and divide responsibility on a percentage basis. Since Minnesota is a modified comparative fault state with a 51 percent bar, Timmy must be at least 51 percent responsible for Vicky to recover a proportionate share of damages.
To blunt the contributory negligence defense, Vicky’s personal injury lawyer in Hutchinson, MN could argue that although she was technically speeding, Vicky was not traveling fast enough to cause the crash.