The Mn Criminal Defense, Personal Injury & Family Law Blog
Brainerd, MN Accident Lawyers and Third Party Liability
November 9, 2019
In catastrophic injury situations, such as spine injuries, the medical bills alone may exceed $1 million. Most families do not have the financial resources to cope with expenses like these. Furthermore, many health insurance companies refuse to pay injury-related costs, for liability reasons. Finally, many tortfeasors (negligent drivers) have less than $50,000 in personal injury coverage.
Attorneys can connect these victims with doctors, so they get the medical help they need when they need it. Additionally, a Brainerd, MN accident lawyer can usually arrange for this treatment at no upfront cost. So, the aforementioned money worries temporarily fade into the background.
Legal help in catastrophic injury situations extended beyond temporarily free doctor visits. Brainerd, MN accident lawyers use vicarious liability theories to help ensure that these costs, and other expenses, do not come from the victim’s own pocket.
Establishing First Party Liability
Vicarious liability is irrelevant unless the driver was negligent. So, establishing first party liability is an essential component of a vicarious liability claim. There are basically three kinds of negligence in vehicle collision matters:
Behavioral, usually alcohol or drug impairment,
Operational, such as making an illegal turn, and
Environmental, such as traveling too fast under adverse conditions.
We all make mistakes like these from time to time, and we must all accept the consequences of the mistakes we make. Compensation for injuries is one of these consequences.
Alcohol Provider Liability
In recent years, some states have limited their dram shop laws, or done away with them entirely. According to some, holding commercial providers liable for alcohol-related crash damages diminishes personal responsibility.
But Minnesota lawmakers see the big picture. They understand that responsible alcohol sales can prevent many collisions. So, Brainerd, MN accident lawyers may still turn to a dram shop law. Minnesota Statute Section 340A.801 states that bars, grocery stores, restaurants, and other commercial providers are liable for subsequent car crash damages if they illegally sold alcohol to the tortfeasor. Illegal sales include:
Minor: Generally, strict liability applies in these situations. The old “s/he looked older” defense hardly ever holds up in court. Even if the tortfeasor presented a false ID, dram shop liability may attach.
Obviously Intoxicated: Regardless of the tortfeasor’s age, dram shop liability may attach if the tortfeasor was obviously intoxicated at the time of sale. Evidence on this point includes bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and unsteady balance.
Before/After Hours Sale: A few minutes on the clock may mean little to a store that is anxious to make a sale. But those few minutes may make a tremendous difference in terms of dram shop liability.
Unlicensed Sale: Authorities routinely suspend alcoholic beverage licenses for a wide range of misconduct. Yet many providers ignore these suspensions and continue doing business as usual. In other situations, a provider starts selling alcohol before the licensure paperwork is fully processed.
Dram shop liability may also extend to social hosts. These same laws apply to social hosts who serve minors. If these impaired minors cause car crashes, the host may be legally responsible for damages. If the tortfeasor was an adult, another theory, such as negligent undertaking, may apply.
Brainerd, MN Accident Lawyers and Owner Liability
These same principles apply when owners loan their vehicles to children, roommates, friends, spouses, or anyone else. If the owner knew the driver was incompetent, and that driver causes a car crash, the owner may be liable for damages. Evidence of incompetency includes:
No drivers’ license,
Violating a restriction, such as no freeway driving,
Safety-suspended drivers’ license,
A poor driving record, and
Inexperience behind the wheel.
These bullets are in roughly descending order. Unlicensed drivers may be incompetent as a matter of law. On the other end of the spectrum, driver inexperience, by itself, rarely makes someone incompetent.
Commercial negligent entrustment cases, such as U-Haul moving trucks, work differently, because of the Graves Amendment. In these situations, Brainerd, MN accident lawyers typically must introduce additional evidence of negligence or other misconduct.
Owners and alcohol providers are in a good position to prevent crashes, and so are employers. So, the respondeat superior doctrine is very broad. It typically applies if both these prongs are present:
Employee: Minnesota negligence law defines this key word very broadly. Anyone an employer controls is usually an employee in this context. That could include not only regular nine-to-five employees, but also independent contractors, owner-operators, and even unpaid church volunteers.
Scope of Employment: Similarly, any act which benefits the employer in any way is typically within the scope of employment. For example, in workers’ compensation cases, injuries sustained at company softball games are within the scope of employment. Healthy and happy workers benefit the employer.
In all vicarious liability claims, the injury must be foreseeable. Typically, a car crash is always a foreseeable result in employer liability situations, unless the employee did something like steal a car from the parking garage.
Contact an Experienced Attorney
The tortfeasor is often not the only party responsible for damages. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN accident lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Crow Wing County and nearby jurisdictions.