The Mn Criminal Defense, Personal Injury & Family Law Blog
Brainerd, MN Accident Lawyers and Liability Issues in Truck Crash Claims
July 15, 2019
Large trucks move over 70 percent of the goods sold in the United States. So, most of the items at local stores, from the croutons in fast-food salads to the SUVs at local car dealerships, arrive in Brainerd by truck.
Many times, due to the ongoing truck driver shortage, these operators have little experience behind the wheel. Additionally, truck drivers often drive long miles at odd hours to reach places like the Dollar Tree. That combination often produces devastating truck crashes. These victims may be entitled to substantial compensation. However, the insurance company does not simply give this money away. In fact, most companies have large posses of lawyers whose only mission is to reduce or deny victim compensation.
Truck crashes often cause serious burns. These vehicles carry hundreds of gallons of diesel fuel. This liquid burns at a different temperature than ordinary gasoline. And, many victims are pinned underneath burning vehicles. Very serious, and very expensive, injuries often result. Most burn patients spend at least two months in the hospital and leave with a medical bill approaching $1 million. In more serious cases, or if there are any complications, the stay and cost are exponentially higher.
Many of these wrecks also cause head and spine injuries. A fully-loaded large truck weighs over 80,000 pounds. Vehicle restraint systems cannot manage these massive forces. In many cases, spine and brain injuries are even more expensive than burn injuries, especially when considering the collateral costs, like lost wages.
A Brainerd, MN accident lawyer immediately connects victims with doctors. These physicians are injury doctors who know how to diagnose and treat massive truck crash injuries. Additionally, this medical assistance usually costs nothing upfront. Providers, including doctors and rental car agencies, typically agree to defer payment until the negligence case is resolved.
Brainerd, MN Accident Lawyers and Truck Crash Liability
Minnesota has one of the lowest insurance minimum requirements in the country. So, an individual tortfeasor (negligent driver) may not have enough coverage to provide fair compensation for catastrophic injuries. Fortunately, Minnesota also has extremely broad third party liability rules.
There is a two-step process. First, victim/plaintiffs must establish that the truck driver was negligent. That negligence could be a lack of ordinary care or a violation of a safety law. There are basically three types of negligence in these situations:
Behavioral: Drowsy driving is a serious problem among truck drivers, largely because of the aforementioned off hours and long trips. Drowsiness and alcohol have the same effect on the brain. Driving after eighteen sleepless hours is like driving with a .05 BAC level.
Operational: Speed is one of the leading contributing factors in car crashes. Excessive velocity increases the risk of a collision and the forces in a collision. Because large trucks are so big, these operators have a legal duty to drive in an appropriate manner, but many operators ignore this responsibility.
Environmental: It is very difficult for novice drivers to control large trucks when the weather is bad, and the weather is frequently bad in Minnesota, especially in the winter.
Large truck operators are common carriers under Minnesota law. Such drivers have a higher duty of care than noncommercial drivers. So, it is easier for a Brainerd, MN accident lawyer to establish negligence.
Next, the victim/plaintiff must establish third-party liability, which is a separate concept. The respondeat superior doctrine often applies in truck crash claims. This rule has two basic elements:
Employee: Owner-operators and independent contractors are “employees” for negligence purposes. In fact, unpaid volunteer drivers are probably employees as well. Employers control all these people, in terms of things like hours worked and routes traveled.
Scope of Employment: Similarly, any act which benefits the employer in any way is within the scope of employment. Simply driving the truck from POint A to Point B is sufficient. LOading or unloading cargo is not a requirement.
Other employer liability theories include negligent hiring, negligent supervision, and negligent entrustment. These doctrines often apply in assault and other intentional tort cases.
Possible Insurance Company Defenses
Contributory negligence is one of the leading defenses in truck crash cases. This doctrine shifts blame for the crash from the tortfeasor to the victim. For example, the insurance company might admit that the truck driver was speeding, but argue that the victim’s illegal lane change really caused the crash.
Brainerd, MN accident lawyers can defeat contributory negligence, and other insurance company defenses, by disproving the elements or minimizing their effect.
Other insurance company defenses include sudden emergency and last clear chance. These theories often come up in head-on and rear-end crash claims. Like contributory negligence, these doctrines shift the blame for the accident to the innocent party.
Connect with a Tenacious Attorney
Truck wreck victims may be entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN accident lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. You have a limited amount of time to act.