When can a Buffalo, MN Family Law Attorney Adjust a Child Support Obligation?

Typically, child support obligations should be adjusted, either up or down, at least once every three years. That’s the only way to keep up with things like employment changes, lifestyle changes, and emotional changes. Child support adjustments usually require parenting plan modifications as well, because these changes frequently overlap. For example, a new job usually means a different commute time or even a relocation.

In both these situations, it’s very important that the judge approve the changes. Informal side agreements regarding parenting time changes, even if these pacts are in writing, are unenforceable in Wright County family court. Additionally, as far as the state is concerned, the child support obligation listed in the decree, and not the one the parties agreed on, is the only one that matters.

So, even if the child support change is agreed, a Buffalo, MN family law attorney should be part of the process. Typically, judges approve agreed changes without holding hearings. Moreover, if the parties do not agree 100 percent on everything, a Buffalo, MN family law attorney can usually bring them together. That way, they can present an agreed order to the judge and streamline the modification process.

Income Changes

Most people change jobs at least twelve times during their careers. Most of these changes involve compensation changes as well. Additionally, even if people stay put, annual salary adjustments are commonplace.

As for proof, sometimes a recent paystub is sufficient, for obligors requesting increases or decreases. But that’s not true in most cases. A significant number of people freelance on the side, or they might be completely self-employed. Additionally, some compensation, such as a company car or provided housing, does not appear on paystubs.

Obligees seeking to increase the child support obligation often face different issues. So, a Buffalo, MN family law attorney requests financial documents during discovery. Obligees can also look for red flags, such as lifestyle changes, which indicate the obligor is making more money.

Income changes, along with any other ground for modification, must be mostly involuntary. Obligors cannot leave high-paying jobs in order to reduce their child support obligations. The same thing holds true for alimony reductions. Circumstantial evidence of intentional underemployment includes social media posts about high support payments.

Buffalo, MN Family Law Attorneys and Expense Changes

In a few states, parental income, and specifically the obligor’s income, is basically the only factor to consider. But Minnesota is an income share state. Child support payments in these states are designed to give the children the same standard of living they would have had if their parents were still married.

So, in Wright County, expense changes could prompt payment changes. Some expenses, such as insurance costs, are factored into the child support guidelines. Others, such as private school tuition costs, are not factored in.

Expense changes will not support a motion to modify child support unless they were unanticipated at the time the decree was entered. Daycare expenses are a good example. These changes are inevitable. Children get older, leave daycare, and attend school. The added money obligees receive through elementary and middle school years helps them cope with the increased expenses which come during the high school years.

Moreover, expense changes must be in the best interests of the children. That’s different from the best interests of the parents. Private afterschool care might be much more convenient than the YMCA, but it may not necessarily be in the best interests of the child.

Emotional Changes

Speaking of children growing older, child support terminates at age 18, in most cases. Most decrees include language to that effect, but sometimes, a Buffalo, MN family law attorney needs to file a motion to modify based on age, marriage, emancipation, or whatever.

Not all emotional changes are this dramatic. As mentioned, Minnesota is an income share state. So, the parenting time division is relevant to the child support obligation. As children get older, visitation time often changes as well. Eight or ten overnights a month might become a dozen or more.

If the emotional change is significant, the judge will probably adjust the child support obligation appropriately. Usually, this adjustment is just a matter of recalculating the guideline amount using the correct number of overnights. Smaller changes, such as children staying with Mom after school, probably do not qualify as significant.

Reach Out to a Compassionate Lawyer

Child support obligation amounts are not set in stone. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN family law attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

How does a Hutchinson, MN Lawyer Win Money in Truck Crash Claims?

Evidence is usually the key to a successful outcome in any civil case. Accident victims have the burden of proof. They must establish negligence by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). Imagine two equally-full cups of coffee are on the same table. If the waitress adds one drop of coffee to one cup, it’s fuller than the other one. That’s what a preponderance of the evidence looks like.

The good news is that a preponderance of proof is the lowest standard of evidence in Minnesota. The bad news is that truck crashes are often so catastrophic that little or no physical evidence remains at the scene.

To make up for this lack of evidence, a Hutchinson, MN lawyer must work extra hard to amass the proof necessary to establish negligence. If jurors hear a sufficient amount of compelling evidence, they often award significant damages in these cases. These damages usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Event Data Recorder

After large airplanes crash, investigators often rely on black box flight data recorders to determine what caused the crash. Large truck Event Data Recorders are much the same. Generally, EDRs measure and record key operational information like:

  • Vehicle speed,
  • Steering angle,
  • Engine acceleration or deceleration, and
  • Brake application.

A Hutchinson, MN lawyer, often working with an accident reconstructionist, can use this information like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Once an attorney puts the pieces together for jurors, they see a compelling picture of operator negligence.

EDRs are valuable, and Hutchinson, MN lawyers must act quickly to preserve this evidence. As mentioned, truck crashes are often devastating. Following such wrecks, insurance companies usually destroy totaled vehicles, rather than paying to store them. If that happens, the EDR, and all other physical evidence on the truck, is gone forever.

Spoliation letters usually help. These letters create a legal duty to preserve all potential physical evidence, including the EDR.

There is more. Minnesota has very strict vehicle information privacy laws. So, to access and download EDR information, a Hutchinson, MN lawyer typically must obtain a court order.

Hutchinson, MN Lawyers and Electronic Logging Devices

EDRs are usually important in all truck wreck claims. ELDs are often critical in drowsy driving claims. Biologically, driving while fatigued is like driving while intoxicated. Driving after eighteen consecutive awake hours, which is basically a long day on the road, is like driving with a .05 BAC level. That’s above the legal limit for commercial drivers in Minnesota.

Trucking industry executives know how important this issue is. Their lawyers fought the ELD mandate all the way to the Supreme Court. But it finally took full effect in December 2019.

ELDs are basically electronic work logs which are connected to the ignition. If the truck is running, the HOS (hours of service) clock is ticking. Minnesota and the federal government both have strict laws in this area. If a driver does not get enough rest and causes a crash, the driver could be liable for damages as a matter of law.

Furthermore, ELDs are often circumstantial evidence of fatigue. Drivers can technically be in compliance with the HOS rules and still be dangerously fatigued. Research shows that even an hour or two of less sleep makes a difference.

To use this critical data in court, Hutchinson, MN lawyers must overcome the aforementioned vehicle information privacy laws as well as some other privacy laws, mostly regarding medical data.

Safety Maintenance System

Lack of physical evidence is not the only issue in truck crash claims. Generally, these operators have drivers’ licenses in several different states. As a result, it’s difficult or impossible to obtain all relevant driving records.

Several years ago, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration began keeping multistate driving records on all American truck drivers. The SMS database focuses on:

  • HOS compliance,
  • Vehicle maintenance history,
  • Prior collisions,
  • Substance abuse history, and
  • Previous traffic citations.

The SMS relies on law enforcement records as opposed to judicial records. So, it is more accurate. For example, if a tortfeasor (negligent driver) received a speeding ticket and took defensive driving, that citation would probably not appear in a judicial database. But it would pop up in the SMS database.

Connect with a Diligent Attorney

Industrious evidence collection lays the groundwork for fair compensation in a truck wreck case. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in McLeod County and nearby jurisdictions.

Can a Brainerd, MN Criminal Defense Lawyer Beat a DWI if I Took a Breath or Blood Test?

This question is an important one. Roughly 80 percent of DWI suspects provide breath or blood samples. And, in Minnesota, if the defendant’s BAC is above the legal limit, the defendant is guilty as a matter of law.

Briefly, it is usually a good idea to refuse to provide a chemical sample. Yes, you will face additional drivers’ license suspension penalties. And yes, Minnesota has a refusal-to-submit law. So, people who refuse face additional criminal charges independent of DWI. But your drivers’ license will also be suspended if you fail the test. And, a refusal-to-submit conviction usually does not have the same collateral consequences as a DWI conviction.

Nevertheless, if you provided a sample, what’s done is done. Fortunately, there are a number of ways a Brainerd, MN criminal defense lawyer can successfully challenge chemical test results, as outlined below.

Probable Cause for Breath Tests

Before officers administer Breathalyzer tests, they must have probable cause to demand a sample. That’s a higher evidentiary standard than reasonable suspicion, which is the standard that applies at traffic stops. So, officers cannot pull over motorists, smell alcohol on their breaths, and demand chemical samples. They must collect additional evidence. Normally, the field sobriety tests provide this evidence.

However, many defendants refuse to perform these tests, like walking a straight line. Additionally, especially during high-enforcement periods, many hurried offers skip the probable cause phase. In these cases, a Brainerd, MN criminal defense lawyer can argue the state does not have enough evidence to establish this critical element.

Brainerd, MN Criminal Defense Lawyers and Breathalyzer Flaws

Pretty much all DWI-alcohol prosecutions involve breath tests. These gadgets may also soon be available for marijuana “drugged driving” cases. So, we’ll spend a little more time on this point.

No device is 100 percent accurate 100 percent of the time. That’s especially true of a Breathalyzer. This device is essentially a 1920s contraption that could “test a tippler’s breath,” except it has additional bells and whistles. Those early devices were flawed, and modern Breathalyzers have many of these same problems.

  • Mouth Alcohol: Technically, officers are supposed to closely monitor defendants before they provide breath samples. However, they almost never do so. So, there is no way to know if the defendant burped, vomited, or belched. If that happened, ethanol particles from the stomach gushed into the mouth. So, a BAC reading would be artificially high.
  • Errant Count: Ethanol is one of many, many ethyl particles in a person’s breath. The Breathalyzer often registers all these particles as alcohol. So, when police techs brag about how many particles the gadget measures, a good Brainerd, MN criminal defense lawyer can turn this statistic against the state.
  • Temperature: As a rule of thumb, the smaller the device is, the more sensitive it is to the environment. Drop a laptop and it might survive. Drop a smartphone and it’s probably toast. This same principle applies to Breathalyzers, especially regarding temperature extremes. A few degrees often affects the results significantly.
  • Undigested Alcohol: This one is a bit complicated. Most alcohol goes from the mouth to the stomach to the liver to the blood. Because of this slower process, if the defendant has been drinking within the past hour, the breath alcohol count will be higher than the blood alcohol count.

Brainerd, MN criminal defense lawyers often partner with degreed chemists to drive home these flaws with the jury. These professionals carry more weight with jurors than police department technicians. Generally, Breathalyzer techs learned everything they know about these gadgets at brief, law enforcement-sponsored seminars.

Search Warrants for Blood Tests

These flaws normally do not apply in blood test cases. Blood samples are much more accurate than breath samples. However, the Supreme Court recently rules that officers must have search warrants to extract blood samples. Generally, officers do not bother to take this extra step.

Under the Fourth Amendment, search warrants must be based on affidavits which show probable cause. The probable cause portion was discussed above. An affidavit is a written and specific document supported by an oath or affirmation. A phone call to a judge is not a written document. And, a vague description of the arrest, like “we pulled over a guy for suspicion of DWI,” is not specific.

Blood Test Flaws

As mentioned, blood samples are usually accurate. However, the method that police technicians use to examine these samples is not always accurate. So, Brainerd, MN criminal defense lawyers routinely order re-tests. Frequently, professionals at independent labs uncover results that are markedly different from the ones police officers claimed they found.

Additionally, blood samples often have chain of custody issues. These samples must travel from the defendant’s body to a police lab to an evidence room to the courtroom. A gap in the chain of custody might not invalidate the evidence, but it does cast doubt on its authenticity.

Team Up with a Hard-Hitting Attorney

Chemical tests are not always accurate in DWI cases. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN criminal defense lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Home and jail visits are available.

Love, Baseball, Premarital Agreements, and Buffalo, MN Divorce Lawyers

Those are four items you probably never thought you’d see in the same sentence. Yet beginning in the spring of 2011, they all came together. Well, all of them except for the Buffalo, MN divorce lawyers component. Nevertheless, the Frank and Jamie McCourt divorce saga has some important lessons for Wright County family law attorneys.

Some baseball fans might remember the McCourts. This billionaire power couple owned the Los Angeles Dodgers in the early 2000s.

Minnesota is one of the few states which has not adopted the Uniform Marital and Premarital Agreements Act. Generally, lawmakers in St. Paul do not follow trends. They either start them or ignore them. Nevertheless, the issues presented in the McCourt prenup matter are very similar to the ones Buffalo, MN divorce lawyers face on an ongoing basis.

Prenups in Minnesota and Buffalo, MN Divorce Lawyers: An Overview

Rich couples who own baseball teams are by no means the only people who should consider prenuptial agreements. For the most part, these pacts are much more than divorce insurance. Since they decide most financial matters in advance, prenups usually make marriages stronger. Money is the leading cause of marital distress. And, premarital agreements remove money from the equation.

In Minnesota, prenuptial agreements can cover more than property division, spousal support, and property management issues. These pacts also often address inheritance and succession matters, especially if the couple owns a family business and stepchildren are involved. Frequently, Minnesota’s antiquated inheritance laws do not jive with a couple’s intentions.

Generally, premarital agreements are valid as long as each couple had an independent Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer, the agreement was properly recorded in the deed records, it was not blatantly one-sided, and it was voluntary. Those first two requirements are largely technicalities. The second two requirements, however, merit closer attention.

Dodgers Bankruptcy

Aided greatly by Kirk Gibson’s impossible home run in Game One, the Dodgers won the World Series in 1988. After that, the club fielded a succession of underachieving teams. Fan interest waned, and so did team revenues. When the McCourts bought the Dodgers in the early 2000s, they probably thought their investment epitomized the old axiom of buying low and selling high. Little did they know that the Dodgers would sink even lower before they rose again.

The team finally bottomed out in June 2011. Reportedly, Frank McCourt, who was the only remaining owner, did not have enough cash to make payroll. So, the club filed bankruptcy.

Then, something else impossible happened. The Dodgers suddenly became contenders again, largely due to the emergence of pitching ace Clayton Kershaw. Notoriously fickle SoCal fans returned and the team’s revenue exploded. As a result, Frank sold the team for a whopping $2.15 billion.

Breaking Down the McCourt Property Agreement

Just before the Dodgers went to bankruptcy court, the team owners were in divorce court. Supposedly, things came to a head for the feuding couple when Jamie had an affair with her bodyguard.

The divorce was contentious to say the least. Lawyers spent most of their time on the property division. Since the team was on the edge of bankruptcy and almost worthless, Jamie agreed to give up her half of the team for about $180 million in cash and property. That seemed like a good deal at the time.

Jamie’s jaw probably fell open when she saw the news of the sale. After all, California is a community property state. So, she argued in court, half that $2.15 billion was hers.

Eventually, a Superior Court judge disagreed. As mentioned above, Buffalo, MN divorce lawyers can use these same arguments in Wright County.

  • Withheld Information: In both California and Minnesota, prenuptial agreements are invalid if a party withholds financial data. Jamie claimed that Frank misled her about the team’s value. However, the judge noted that Frank produced tens of thousands of financial documents during discovery. Additionally, even if Frank did lie to her, Jamie was a co-owner at the time. So, she could have reviewed all the financial data she wanted.
  • Unconscionable Agreement: By almost any definition, the property agreement’s result was unconscionable. It left Jamie $900 million shy of a 50-50 split in a community property state. However, the agreement was not unconscionable when it was made. According to the court: “Jamie simply chose the security of a guaranteed $131 million payment, plus more than $50 million in real and personal property, over the uncertainty and risk presented by the valuation and sale of the Dodger assets.”

So, Jamie lost her appeal and even had to pay her ex-husband’s legal fees. But her story has a somewhat happy ending. The longtime GOP fundraiser recently became the U.S. ambassador to France and Monaco.

Contact a Dedicated Attorney

Prenups are not just for billionaires. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

The Field Sobriety Tests and Hutchinson, MN DUI Lawyers

Most people know that, under the Fifth Amendment, they have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions without a lawyer present. However, most people do not know how broad this right is. Defendants also have the right to remain silent in terms of their actions. They need not appear in staged lineups, pose for pictures to be used in photo lineups, or perform DUI field sobriety tests.

The FSTs are always an integral part of a DUI case. If the defendant provided a chemical sample, the FSTs serve as probable cause. If the defendant refused to provide this sample, McLeod County prosecutors normally use the FSTs as circumstantial evidence of guilt. Either way, if a Hutchinson, MN DUI lawyer undermines the FST results, it is much easier to successfully resolve these cases.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus

Once upon a time, many people believed the HGN was the most reliable FST. But times have changed. As a result, many McLeod County judges only allow HGN results for limited purposes.

Nystagmus, which is also called lazy eye, is involuntary pupil movements at certain viewing angles. Most patients have probably taken a “follow my finger” eye test at one time or another. Doctors determined that many of these people had nystagmus, but almost none of them were intoxicated. That’s because a childhood brain injury and a genetic abnormality are responsible for most nystagmus cases.

Furthermore, this test has environmental problems. Laboratory HGN tests are usually accurate. Roadside HGN tests are more of a question mark. These tests do not occur under controlled conditions. Hutchinson, MN DUI lawyers can often challenge test results based solely on adverse environmental factors.

Walk and Turn

In many ways, the WAT, which is also known as the heel to toe walk (HTW), might be the signature field sobriety test. Subjects must walk as straight line heel to toe forward and backward while keeping their arms at their sides. During the test, officers look for intoxication clues, such as:

  • Beginning the test before the officer says “start,”
  • Starting with the wrong foot,
  • Not stepping heel to toe,
  • Falling off the line,
  • Taking the wrong number of steps,
  • Using hands or arms for balance, and
  • Ending the test before the officer says “stop.”

Environmental issues are even more of a problem in this test than in the HGN test. It’s very difficult to walk heel to toe on an imaginary line, yet officers often demand that suspects do this. It’s also very hard to walk a straight line in anything other than athletic shoes.

Hutchinson, MN DUI Lawyers and the One-Leg Stand

In this test, officers instruct suspects to elevate one leg about forty-five degrees, keep it there for about fifteen seconds, and stand perfectly still the entire time.

Repeating a familiar theme, environmental problems plague the one-leg stand. It is very difficult for anyone with any mobility impairment to stand on one leg for more than a second or two. Additionally, the OLS is often the last test that officers administer. That order is intentional. Since the suspect is mentally and physically tired, the suspect usually does not do as well on this test.

Nevertheless, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the OLS is a reliable indicator of intoxication. Of course, NHTSA says the same thing about the HGN test, so its opinion is shaky.

Portable Breathalyzer

The final FST is rather unique to Minnesota. In most states, officers only administer chemical tests at the stationhouse. But in the Gopher State, officers usually administer portable Breathalyzer tests at the scene. Authorities believe this additional test gives the FST battery additional credibility with jurors. However, the opposite might be true, because portable Breathalyzers have a number of flaws.

Temperature is a good example. Portable Breathalyzers are very sensitive to temperature changes. And in Minnesota, the weather changes rapidly, especially during certain times of the year. If the gadget was not calibrated according to the current temperature, the result might be off.

To drive home flaws like this one with jurors, many Hutchinson, MN DUI lawyers partner with chemists. These professionals carry much more weight with jurors than the police technicians that prosecutors usually call to the stand.

Rely on an Experienced Attorney

Undermining the FSTs is usually the first step toward a successful resolution in these cases. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN DUI lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in McLeod County and nearby jurisdictions.

How Can a Brainerd, MN Accident Lawyer Overcome Common Motorcycle Crash Defenses?

On average, motorcycle crashes are twenty-seven times deadlier than four-wheel vehicle crashes. So, for survivors and insurance companies, the financial stakes are much higher. Insurance companies that generally settle claims quickly batten down the hatches. And, insurance companies that normally contest car crash claims fight motorcycle wreck claims even harder.

Many times, insurance company strategies hinge upon one of the defenses listed below. Generally, insurance company lawyers have the burden of proof and the burden of persuasion in these situations.

So, to obtain maximum compensation, a Brainerd, MN accident lawyer must do more than prepare a solid damages claim. Good lawyers also anticipate insurance company defenses, so they can refute them in court. This dual approach is usually the best way to obtain compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Helmet Defense

Minnesota has a limited motorcycle helmet law. Additionally, there are multiple studies and statistics which at least purport to show a relationship between helmet use and injury reduction. For these reasons, many Crow Wing County victims believe that, if they were helmetless, they are ineligible for compensation.

Insurance companies count on this attitude. They hope that this belief prevents victims from consulting a Brainerd, MN accident lawyer.

But not so fast. The so-called helmet defense is flatly illegal in Minnesota. Insurance company lawyers cannot bring up helmet non-use in either the liability or damages portion of a negligence trial. So, helmet non-use is also irrelevant during pretrial settlement negotiations.

Brainerd, MN Accident Lawyers and Contributory Negligence

Comparative fault is probably the most common insurance company defense in vehicle collision claims. This legal loophole might apply if both parties were arguably at fault for a crash. For example, a rider might have been speeding when a tortfeasor (negligent driver) illegally pulled into the rider’s lane.

As mentioned, insurance companies have the burden of proof, and the burden of persuasion, in these cases. Here’s how that works in this example. First, the insurance company must convince the judge that the defense is legally available. That’s probably not the case unless the rider was excessively speeding.

Then, the insurance company must convince a jury that the defense applies. Generally, the insurance company must present additional evidence of rider carelessness, like lane-splitting. If the jury applies the defense, the jury must divide fault on a percentage basis between the victim and tortfeasor.

Minnesota is a modified comparative fault state with a 51 percent bar. Even if the victim was 49 percent responsible for the crash, the tortfeasor is still responsible for a proportionate share of damages. Therefore, in most cases, the contributory negligence defense only reduces the victim’s damages

Last Clear Chance

This legal loophole is a bit like contributory negligence. However, if the last clear chance defense applies, the tortfeasor is not liable for damages at all.

Let’s return to the previous example. Insurance company lawyers could argue that the victim had the last clear chance to avoid the wreck. When the rider saw the tortfeasor change lanes illegally, the rider had a duty to change lanes or take other action to avoid the crash. At least, that’s how these defense works in theory.

In practice, it is almost impossible for riders to safely make sudden moves on their bikes. In most cases, they would lose control of their rides and cause a more serious accident than the one they prevented. That’s especially true if weather, traffic, and other conditions are anything less than ideal.

Motorcycle Prejudice

Unlike the first two, the motorcycle prejudice defense is not found in any law book. But it is real, and Brainerd, MN accident lawyers must be prepared to deal with it.

Many jurors believe that motorcycle riders are reckless thugs. Jurors who remember the Hell’s Angel days or the Twin Peaks motorcycle gang shootout in Waco are more likely to hold this belief. Frequently, insurance company lawyers make subtle emotional appeals during jury selection, opening arguments, and closing arguments. The motorcycle prejudice defense is especially common if the contributory negligence defense is also an issue.

To combat the motorcycle prejudice, many Brainerd, MN accident lawyers try to remove biased jurors. Judges allow these removals, in most cases. Alternatively, a lawyer might accentuate the victim’s positive aspects, so s/he does not fit the motorcycle gang member mold.

Connect with an Experienced Attorney

Insurance companies have several go-to defenses in motorcycle crash claims, but they are all flawed. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN accident lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no insurance or money.

How Do Buffalo, MN Personal Injury Lawyers Think Outside the Box and Obtain Maximum Compensation in Car Wreck Claims?

In many situations, proving liability is not the most difficult part of a negligence case. Driver error causes almost all car crashes in Minnesota, and the burden of proof is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).

Collecting compensation might be different. The Gopher State has one of the highest percentages of uninsured motorists in the country. Additionally, Minnesota has one of the lowest auto insurance minimum requirements in the United States. So, many tortfeasors (negligent drivers) might not have enough coverage to provide fair compensation, especially in a catastrophic injury case.

Fortunately, Minnesota also has some of the broadest vicarious liability laws in the country. Fundamentally, Buffalo, MN personal injury lawyers pursue these cases to hold people responsible for their mistakes. Vicarious liability, which is also called third party liability or imputed liability, extends this principle to the person, or organization, which mistakenly set the stage for the crash.

Vicarious liability is usually the best way to obtain maximum compensation in a catastrophic injury wreck. It’s possible to pursue a separate claim against the tortfeasor individually. But these claims are complex, and there is no guarantee of success.

Employer Liability

Truck crashes usually cause catastrophic injuries, such as serious burns and wrongful death. The same is true for high-speed Uber, Lyft, and other ridesharing accidents.

Respondeat superior (let the master answer) usually applies in these situations. Back in the day, respondeat superior was available only in limited situations. Now, the doctrine is much broader. Buffalo, MN personal injury lawyers can hold employers responsible for the negligent acts of their employees if:

  • Employee: In the car crash realm, employees are not just workers who work regular hours and take home regular paychecks. If the employer controlled the worker, that worker is an “employee” for negligence purposes. This category includes owner-operators, independent contractors, and many unpaid volunteers.
  • Scope of Employment: This prong was once limited to situations like a regular delivery driver on a regular route. Today, Minnesota courts define the scope of employment as any act which benefits the employer in any way. That could include driving a vehicle which bears the company logo. In that case, the free advertising benefits the employer.

Think about an Amazon driver accident. The individual drivers usually have little or no insurance. But Amazon has almost unlimited resources.

Other employer liability theories, which often come up in nursing home abuse or other intentional tort claims, include negligent hiring and negligent supervision.

Buffalo, MN Personal Injury Lawyers and Alcohol Provider Liability

Along these same lines, Minnesota’s dram shop law is one of the broadest ones in the country. Recently, many states have curtailed their dram shop laws, falsely reasoning that they discount individual responsibility in drunk driving cases. However, in Wright County, commercial alcohol providers are vicariously liable for car crash damages if they illegally sold alcohol to a patron who later caused a car crash. Examples of illegal sales include:

  • Under 21,
  • No valid liquor license,
  • After-hours sale, or
  • Sale to an intoxicated person.

Circumstantial evidence of intoxication at the time of sale includes things like unsteady balance, bloodshot eyes, odor of alcohol, and slurred speech. As mentioned, the standard of evidence is quite low in these cases. So, a Buffalo, MN personal injury lawyer need not produce much evidence to establish this point in court.

Social hosts might be vicariously liable for damages as well, under a theory like negligent undertaking. This legal doctrine applies if a host vaguely promises to do something, like call a taxi for an intoxicated guest, and then fails to follow through on that promise.

Owner Liability

Teen drivers cause a disproportionate number of crashes in Minnesota, mostly because they lack driving experience. People under 18 cannot legally own vehicles or other property. Therefore, the negligent entrustment doctrine usually applies in teen driver crashes. Vehicle owners are vicariously liable for damages if they allow incompetent operators to use their vehicles, and these operators subsequently cause car crashes. Evidence of incompetency includes:

  • No valid drivers’ license,
  • Driving in violation of a license restriction, like driving at night, and
  • A poor driving record.

Minnesota is a family purpose doctrine state. If a minor drove a vehicle for a family purpose, like picking up siblings from soccer practice, it is easier to establish owner responsibility for car crash damages.

These damages normally include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages might be available as well, in extreme cases.

Contact an Aggressive Attorney

The tortfeasor is frequently not the only legally responsible party in a vehicle collision claim. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN personal injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. You have a limited amount of time to act.

A U-Haul Truck Hit Me. Can a Hutchinson, MN Lawyer Help Me?

Frequently, U-Haul and other rental drivers have little or no insurance. Under the traditional negligent entrustment rule, vehicle owners are liable for damages if they allow incompetent operators to use their vehicles. Generally, drivers are incompetent if there was a good chance they might cause a crash. Examples include operators with poor driving records or safety-suspended licenses.

However, commercial negligent entrustment cases work a bit differently, because of the Graves Amendment. This obscure federal law gives U-Haul and other owners negligent entrustment immunity in some situations.

So, to establish owner liability in U-Haul crash claims, a Hutchinson, MN lawyer must establish some additional elements. The burden of proof is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). So, a little proof goes a long way.

The Graves Amendment: A Closer Look

A key to winning any fight, be it a claim for damages or a high school football game, is sizing up your opponent. So, before the best Hutchinson, MN lawyers aggressively represent their clients, they take a step back to see what they are up against.

Tort reform is sometimes in the news. For example, Minnesota lawmakers recently limited damages in medical malpractice claims so insurance companies need not pay large sums when doctors go off the rails. The Graves Amendment is basically the same thing. It protects U-Haul and other vehicle rental companies from large liability judgments, even when these companies are clearly at fault.

It all started in the late 1990s. An Enterprise outlet in Connecticut rented a car to a clearly negligent driver. That driver killed someone in a fireball collision, and a jury awarded millions of dollars in damages. When Enterprise threatened to pull out of Connecticut and some other states with strong negligent entrustment laws, lawmakers added the Graves Aemdnement to a large transportation bill.

Like many policy riders, 49 USC 30106 is short and poorly drafted. Specifically, there are two key holes in this law which a Hutchinson, MN lawyer can use to pierce the immunity and hold these companies responsible for the mistakes they make.

Trade or Business

Under subsection (a)(1), immunity does not apply unless the owner is in the vehicle rental trade or business. Because of the aforementioned drafting problems, the Graves Amendment does not define this key phrase. So, Hutchinson, MN lawyers must look elsewhere to interpret it.

The Universal Commercial Code is a mainstay in contract law. The UCC does not define “trade or business,” but it does define “merchant,” which is a similar term. According to Article Two, merchants are:

  • Dealers in a particular kind of good or service
  • Who profess to have additional knowledge about the goods they sell.

Normally, a store is in a trade or business if it sells a particular kind of goods. Best Buy is an electronics store, even though it also sells home appliances, office supplies, and other non-electronics. Typically, U-Haul franchises are moving and storage companies, even though they rent a few trucks on the side.

Furthermore, the employees and franchisees at most of these locations do not have specialized knowledge about the trucks they rent. For example, they know how to turn on the air conditioner, but they could not tell you the unit’s BTU capacity.

Not Otherwise Negligent

According to section (a)(2) of the Graves Amendment, negligent entrustment immunity only applies if “there is no negligence or criminal wrongdoing on the part of the owner (or an affiliate of the owner).”

Lawmakers approved the 49 USC 30106 in the early 2000s. Back then, it was impossible to verify an operator’s drivers’ license, aside from a visual inspection. Now, technology makes it possible to run a thorough check. In fact, such evaluations are arguably the industry standard. Owners and affiliates are negligent when they violate such standards.

How Hutchinson, MN Lawyers Establish Liability

Getting around the Graves Amendment is only part of the fight. A Hutchinson, MN lawyer must also establish the key elements of the negligent entrustment doctrine. Owners are liable for damages if they knowingly allow incompetent drivers to operate their motor vehicles. Evidence of incompetency includes:

  • No drivers’ license,
  • Safety-suspended drivers’ license,
  • Driving in violation of license restrictions (e.g. without glasses),
  • Prior safety suspensions, and
  • A poor driving record.

These items are roughly in descending order. People without valid licenses are usually incompetent as a matter of law. A poor driving record, in and of itself, is probably not enough to prove negligence.

Damages in a truck crash claim usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Given the size of a fully-loaded U-Haul truck, these damages are often substantial.

Contact a Dedicated Attorney

The best injury lawyers do not let legal loopholes decide cases. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these cases.

Three Key Elements of Marijuana Possession Cases and Drug Crime Lawyers in Brainerd, MN

Minnesota peace officers are very aggressive when it comes to marijuana possession arrests. In fact, in 2019, these arrests increased 66 percent, partially due to marijuana edibles from Illinois and other states where recreational pot is legal. Traditional joint and dime bag arrests are very common as well.

Many advocates point to these high arrest figures as proof that Minnesota should legalize pot and focus law enforcement resources elsewhere. But as the 2020 legislative session gets underway, it’s very unlikely that the Republican-controlled Senate will pass a legalization measure.

So for now, POM (possession of marijuana) cases will continue to dominate Crow Wing County criminal court dockets. Fortunately, there are a number of ways for a Brainerd, MN drug crime lawyer to successfully resolve these cases. Most of these resolutions involve one of the three main elements of a POM case, as outlined below.

Produce the Substance

Possession cases always involve physical evidence. An officer can testify that the defendant had a marijuana edible or a joint, but oral testimony is not good enough.

According to the Fourth Amendment, it’s illegal to search private property, like a backpack, and seize contraband, like drugs, unless the officer has a warrant or a narrow exception applies. Drug possession arrests often happen so quickly that officers do not have warrants. So, to produce the alleged illegal substance in court, Crow Wing County prosecutors must normally rely on a search warrant exception. Some examples include:

  • Consent: Owners or apparent owners can allow peace officers to search property, like a dwelling, car, or cell phone. Usually, consent is a voluntary, affirmative act made at the time of the search. Special rules might apply if the defendant is currently on probation or parole.
  • Exigent Circumstances: If officers respond to a disturbance call or see an erratically-parked car, they can usually enter the dwelling or car without a warrant and perform a security sweep to make sure the occupants are okay. During this sweep, they can seize any contraband they see in plain view.
  • Plain View: Drugs and other contraband are in plain view if they are at least partially visible to the naked eye. These seizures are lawful if officers were legally in that place to begin with. So, the traffic stop, DUI roadblock, or whatever must have been legitimate.

The state has the burden of proof on this point. A Brainerd, MN drug crime lawyer need only raise the issue in court and cast doubt on the search’s legality.

Brainerd, MN Drug Crime Lawyers and Proof of Illegality

In many possession cases, legality or the lack thereof is rather easy to establish. For many years, that was the case with leafy marijuana, marijuana edibles, and black-market marijuana vaping cartridges. But then, Congress legalized industrial hemp, and everything changed.

Physically, hemp and marijuana are indistinguishable. They look the same, feel the same, and smell the same. Additionally, they can be used in roughly the same way.

In order to distinguish between legal hemp and illegal marijuana, prosecutors must generally administer a Tetrahydrocannabinol content test. Legally, hemp is marijuana which has a THC content less than .3 percent. If the alleged “marijuana” has a .29999 THC content, legally, it is not marijuana.

These chemical tests are often unavailable, so there may be no such evidence. THC content tests are quite expensive, so many small counties, like Crow Wing County, cannot afford them.

Regarding edibles, some prosecutors try to introduce labels which state the product has the requisite THC content. But a product label is not the best evidence of a product’s content. Therefore, like an officer’s testimony about substance possession, such evidence is usually inadmissible.

Establishing Possession

The state’s job is not over yet. Even if prosecutors produce the substance and prove it was illegal, they must still prove legal possession. Under Minnesota law, possession is more than proximity. Prosecutors must also establish knowledge and control. Here are some examples that Brainerd, MN drug crime lawyers often deal with.

Assume Tommy is a passenger in Frank’s car. Unbeknownst to Tommy, Frank recently purchased some marijuana edibles in Illinois. Even if the edibles were within Tommy’s reach, he did not legally possess them. He did not know about them.

Let’s change the facts a bit. Now assume Tommy knows about the edibles, but they are locked in Frank’s glove compartment. Even if Tommy was in the passenger’s seat, he did not possess the edibles. He did not control them.

In both these situations, Tommy is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. So, prosecutors must have overwhelming evidence on all three elements of marijuana possession. Otherwise, the presumption of innocence alone might be enough to acquit Tommy.

Contact an Aggressive Attorney

Marijuana possession charges often do not hold up in court. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN drug crime lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

Why Should a Law Firm in Buffalo, MN File a Paternity Action?

In the United States, almost half of all children are born out of wedlock. The proportion is much higher in certain ethnic groups. For many families, such births are the best possible lifestyle choice for everyone concerned.

Like all the decisions we make, these choices have some costs. In this case, these costs are both financial and emotional. As mentioned, these costs are usually worth paying.

However, a law firm in Buffalo, MN can easily minimize these costs. Generally, the legal process is rather straightforward. And, the benefits of a paternity order are difficult to ignore.

Protection for You and Your Child

Some mothers have very poor relationships with biological fathers. Many mothers are afraid to disclose their addresses in court documents. Generally, a law firm in Buffalo, MN can redact this information, so it’s unavailable to anyone other than the judge and court personnel.

Additionally, most paternity actions include protective orders. These orders generally last at least until the case is over, and many times, they become permanent injunctions in the final paternity decree. These orders prohibit biological fathers from going certain places and doing certain things. The orders might also limit firearm ownership and contain other such provisions.

Protective orders are more than pieces of paper. Violating a protective order, even in a nonviolent manner, is a serious offense. Additionally, these orders allow mothers to give daycares and other groups notice about the situation.

Financial Support

In terms of child support, Minnesota is an income share state. Child support payments are designed to give children the lifestyle they would have if their parents were married. So, in many cases, the child support obligation is substantial.

Buffalo, MN law firms can include other financial support provisions as well. Typically, biological fathers must include their children on their group health insurance plans. Moreover, a Wright County judge might order the biological father to pay for part of the hospital bill, reimburse the mother for certain costs, and pay other expenses.

A Buffalo, MN Law Firm and a Written Visitation Plan

Some mothers have relatively good relationships with biological fathers. They have an informal and unwritten parenting timeshare plan which works pretty well. But even the best-laid plans sometimes go awry. It’s much better to have things in writing. If these writings are enforceable in court, that’s better still. The parties can still generally agree on any parenting time division. But the written orders give everyone something to fall back on.

Many parenting plans also include limitations where appropriate. For example, a father might lack the parenting skills to take care of a baby for more than a few hours. Or, the father might have a substance abuse problem or a bad temper. A Buffalo, MN law firm can insert requirements like parenting classes and alcohol treatment into a paternity order. Generally, contact with the child is tied to the successful completion of these conditions.

These provisions often help biological fathers grow up and become responsible parents. This change has some other benefits as well, as outlined below.

Access to Medical Records

When children get sick, doctors often rely on family medical history to make accurate diagnoses. If the doctor only has access to the mother’s family medical history, the doctor only has half the pieces to a puzzle, at best.

A legal paternity order gives physicians full access to all family medical history. That additional access could make a big difference in your child’s health.

Emotional Aspects

In many ways, paternity orders are like adoption decrees or name change orders. These legal documents have emotional power. Children have identifiable fathers, and fathers are more like dads. As mentioned, that same father-to-dad transformation positively affects many fathers.

Moreover, at some point in the future, many children become curious about their parents’ ancestry and family history. A paternity order now makes these future conversations much easier to have.

Reach Out to a Dedicated Attorney

Paternity orders have financial and emotional benefits for mothers and children. For a free consultation at a Buffalo, MN law firm, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.

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Buffalo Lawyers

215 East Highway 55, Suite 201
Buffalo, MN 55313

Toll Free: (877) 344-1555
Phone: (612) 800-8057
Fax: 763-682-3330

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Brainerd Lawyers

17025 Commercial Park Rd, Suite 2
Brainerd, MN 56401

Toll Free: (877) 344-1555
Phone: (218) 736-9429
Fax: 763-682-3330

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Hutchinson Lawyers

114 Main Street North
Hutchinson, MN 55350

Toll Free: (877) 344-1555
Phone: (320) 289-4761
Fax: 763-682-3330

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Minnetonka Lawyers

3911 Ridgedale Dr, Suite 404E
Minnetonka, MN 55305

Toll Free: (877) 344-1555
Phone: (952) 260-9640
Fax: 763-682-3330

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