Frequently, emergency responders issue traffic tickets at accident scenes to help insurance companies determine fault. But in many cases, these citations affect liability for damages as well. In fact, because of the negligence per se doctrine, they may conclusively determine liability.
The negligence per se doctrine applies if the tortfeasor (negligent driver) violated a safety law and that violation substantially caused injury. This doctrine saves time during the evidence collection process. As a result, it’s easier for Buffalo, MN auto accident lawyers to obtain fair compensation for accident victims.
If you were recently involved in a car accident due to one of the following offenses, you need to call a Buffalo car accident lawyer ASAP.
Consequences of Speeding in Buffalo and Minnesota
Excessive velocity is a factor in about a third of the fatal car crashes in Minnesota. That’s because speed affects the risk of a collision and the force in a collision.
Speed multiples stopping distance. At 30mph, most cars travel about six car lengths between the moment a driver sees a hazard and the moment the car safely stops. At 60mph, stopping distance multiplies to about eighteen car lengths. Other factors, such as vehicle weight and environmental conditions, often increase stopping distance.
Velocity also multiplies the force in a collision between two objects. In this context, speed transforms property damage fender-bender crashes into serious injury or fatal collisions.
In Minnesota, the posted speed limits are presumptively reasonable speeds. So, officers could issue speeding tickets even if the driver was not exceeding the posted limit, if the officer felt the driver was going too fast for the conditions. But officers rarely hand out such tickets. So, in these cases, Buffalo, MN auto accident lawyers normally rely on the ordinary negligence doctrine. Essentially, negligence is a lack of reasonable care.
Failure to Signal/Illegal Lane Change in Minnesota
These citations are especially common in serious motorcycle crash claims. Today’s cars are so solid that sideswipe collisions don’t often cause serious collisions, unless victims lose control of their vehicles. But motorcycle riders have no seatbelts, airbags, steel cocoons, or other things to protect them in these cases. They are completely exposed to danger.
Visibility is also a factor in these situations. Frequently, tortfeasors simply do not see motorcycle riders. But that’s no excuse for negligence, and certainly no defense to a negligence per se claim.
Crossing the Median
These citations illustrate the difference between fault at the scene and liability for damages. If a driver is ticketed for crossing the median, that driver is almost always faulted for the crash. But legal responsibility might be different, because of the last clear chance rule.
All drivers have a duty of reasonable care, regardless of what another driver does. This duty includes a responsibility to avoid accidents when possible. So, if Driver A saw Driver B cross the center line and Driver A did nothing to stop the wreck, Driver A might be legally responsible for the crash.
There’s a big difference between the last clear chance and any possible chance. Frequently, collisions happen so fast that there is no way to avoid them. Also, if the tortfeasor was driving erratically at the time, it’s very difficult to get out of the way.
Failure to Yield to Pedestrians in Buffalo, MN
Much like motorcyclists, pedestrians have no protection from onrushing cars. The moment they step into the street, they are completely exposed to danger.
Minnesota law is a bit vague when it comes to pedestrian right-of-way. If the pedestrian was in the crosswalk and crossing with the light, the pedestrian clearly had the right-of-way. Other situations, like crossing against the light in the crosswalk, are more uncertain.
In terms of legal liability, the last clear chance rule applies in pedestrian cases. If a driver sees a pedestrian in the road, the driver has a duty to avoid a crash, even if the driver has the right-of-way.
Sudden emergency, a related doctrine, sometimes comes up in pedestrian crashes as well. Frequently, insurance company lawyers argue that a pedestrian victim “darted out into traffic.” This argument sets up the sudden emergency defense. This doctrine excuses negligent conduct if the driver reasonably reacted to a sudden emergency.
But a jaywalking pedestrian is usually not a “sudden emergency.” This label only applies to lightning strikes, tire blowouts, and other completely unexpected situations.
School Bus Stop Arm Violations in MN
These citations are often perfect storm citations. Drivers who ignore school bus stop arms are frequently speeding. Children disembarking from school busses are vulnerable, and since they often cross in front of the stopped bus, they are hard to see.
What’s At Risk With These Common Traffic Tickets?
We’ve already mentioned how Minnesota courts often determine car accident fault based on traffic citations issued on the scene. But being at fault for the accident, injuries to the other driver, and property damage aren’t the only consequences the other driver has to worry about.
When someone receives a traffic ticket in Buffalo, MN, they’ll also have to pay a fine. The exact fines for traffic tickets vary by county and by violation.
Speeding Ticket Fines in Buffalo, MN
The fines for Minnesota speeding tickets vary based on how many miles per hour the driver was going over the speed limit. Fines break down as the following:
- 1–10 mph over the speed limit: $125 fine
- 11–14 mph over the speed limit: $135 fine
- 15–19 mph over the speed limit: $145 fine
- 20–25 mph over the speed limit: $225 fine
- 26–30 mph over the speed limit: $285 fine
If a law enforcement officer catches a driver going 31 mph or more over the speed limit, the fine increases to $385.
Failure to Signal/Illegal Lane Change Fines
Failure to signal and illegal lane change (i.e., “improper lane use” in Minnesota) are separate crimes. As such, they can incur two different fines.
Failing to signal while driving can incur a $125 fine. Meanwhile, improper lane use, which might include failure to signal, incurs a higher penalty. Offenders have to pay $135 for this type of traffic violation.
Crossing the Median Fines
The Minnesota Statutes don’t have a specific traffic fine for crossing the median. This violation is typically charged under another type of driving offense. The discretion is largely left up to the charging officer.
For example, an officer could charge someone with inattentive driving, which caused that driver to cross into the median. This type of traffic violation comes with a $125 fine.
Another way to charge drivers with crossing the median is with a “failure to obey traffic control devices” citation. After all, median lines are tools for traffic control. Receiving a charge for this violation typically incurs a $135 fine.
Failure to Yield to Pedestrians Fines in Minnesota
The fines for failure to yield right of way and failure to yield to pedestrians are a world apart. The former incurs a mere $135 fine. But failing to yield to pedestrians is a much more severe crime in Minnesota.
The first time someone fails to yield to pedestrians in Minnesota, he or she will receive a misdemeanor. Conviction penalties include up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $700.
A second or more violation becomes a gross misdemeanor. Traffic violators convicted of subsequent failure to yield to pedestrian citations must pay up to $3000 in fines, spend up to one year in prison, or both.
School Bus Stop Arm Violation Fines
The House Transportation Finance and Policy Committee recently approved HF2172, which intends to change how law enforcement charges school bus stop arm violations in Minnesota.
Currently, drivers who fail to stop behind school busses can incur a misdemeanor. If convicted, the driver faces a $500 fine.
Unfortunately, officers can’t always identify the driver in these situations. When that happens, they will cite the violation to the owner of the vehicle. Today, the fine for vehicle owners is $100.
HF2172 seeks to increase the fine to the vehicle owner. The auto owner would be faced with a misdemeanor and an increased $300 fine.
Minnesota intends to apply the majority of funds received through these fines to equip school busses with cameras. That way, officers can more easily catch and charge the actual school bus stop arm violation offenders.
What Happens If Someone Gets Injured Due to These Common Traffic Violations?
In Minnesota, it is a serious crime to negligently commit one of the above traffic violations, which in turn causes harm to another party. These crimes are known as criminal vehicular operation (CVO) and criminal vehicular homicide.
Vehicular Assault in Minnesota
In Minnesota, vehicular assault is also known as criminal vehicular operation. The penalty for CVO depends on the severity of injury to the other party. In other words, it depends on whether the victim experienced bodily harm, great bodily harm, or substantial bodily harm.
Bodily harm (BH) means causing physical pain, injury, illness, or impairment to another party. Substantial bodily harm (SBH) is any injury that leads to temporary disfigurement, impairment, or fracture. The state defines great bodily harm (GBH) as any injury that confers a high risk of death, permanent disfigurement, or permanent loss or impairment of a body part.
CVO resulting in BH comes with prison time and fines. A conviction means up to one year in prison and/or up to a $3,000 fine.
CVO resulting in SBH is a felony. A conviction for this crime can incur up to three years in prison, $10,000 in fines, or both.
CVO resulting in GBH is also a felony. This crime can earn offenders up to five years in prison and/or $10,000 in fines.
Criminal Vehicular Homicide in Minnesota
In Minnesota, criminal vehicular homicide occurs after a driver causes someone else’s death because he or she was driving in a grossly negligent manner.
A criminal vehicular homicide charge is a serious felony. As such, offenders who receive a conviction can get up to ten years in prison and/or have to pay a $20,000 fine.
If a Minnesota court finds a person guilty of vehicular murder or manslaughter, though, the penalties increase even further.
If you or someone you love were a victim of either of these crimes, it might be time to call a Buffalo car accident attorney.
Do You Need a Buffalo Car Accident Lawyer in Minnesota?
If you were injured in a car accident caused by one of the above traffic violations, you need to call a Buffalo personal injury lawyer ASAP.
Your attorney can help you understand how much to expect from a car accident settlement, whether you want to file suit against your insurance company or the other driver.
Insurance companies love to low-ball their settlement offers. But a seasoned Buffalo car accident attorney knows how to fight for the damages you deserve. Your lawyer can help you negotiate a better settlement or, when that doesn’t work, fight for your rights in court.
In Minnesota, insurance companies are only required to pay up to $20,000 of medical care for a car wreck injury. This is called personal injury protection (PIP). But, if that doesn’t suffice to cover your medical expenses, your attorney can file a lawsuit against the negligent driver and recover damages.
What You Could Win in a Personal Injury Settlement
By now, you may be wondering: what happens if your PIP payout doesn’t cover your medical expenses? A Buffalo auto accident lawyer can help you bring a suit against the at-fault party. And, in Minnesota, the average personal injury case award is $30,000.
With that said, you could stand to win even more. For example, a 2020 personal injury case resulted in a $173,504 payout after a man received a traumatic brain injury from a wreck with a trucker. Only a few days later, a motorcyclist sued a dump truck driver and won a whopping $974,215.
You deserve compensation for your pain and suffering after an auto accident. But only the best car accident lawyer in Buffalo, MN can win you the damages you deserve.
Qualities to Look for in a Buffalo Auto Accident Lawyer in MN
When you have significant medical bills or pain and suffering on the line, you need the best attorney around. Here are the qualities to search for in the best auto accident lawyer.
Experience and Expertise
The best lawyer holds a license, has a good track record, and is an expert in his or her specialty. Expertise can only come with significant experience. So, make sure to choose an attorney who has a substantial amount of car accident and personal litigation successes.
The best auto accident attorneys never drag their feet. They fight aggressively and tirelessly to make sure you get the recompensation you deserve.
However, always be careful of lawyers with aggressive personalities. An aggressive strategy can save you money and ensure a better outcome. An aggressive personality, though, could prolong the lawsuit, costing you money and time.
Most importantly, you should feel personally comfortable with your Buffalo, MN accident attorney. After all, personal injury isn’t just about the case at hand. Your lawyer should also offer you the support you need as a victim.
It’s important to choose an attorney that practices in Minnesota. But it’s better to choose a local lawyer who argues cases in Buffalo courts.
Why? A local attorney may know judges and prosecutors in the area. Your car accident lawyer can then leverage those relationships to fight for the settlement you deserve.
Reliability and Dedication
Is your attorney going to work on your case himself? Does your lawyer have the time to dedicate to your case? These two questions are critical to ask during your initial consultation because the way your attorney answers determines whether he or she will be dedicated to your case.
With attorneys, you get what you pay for. That’s why you should never let cost deter you from the right lawyer.
However, we know cost is a factor, especially if you’re already stressed about accident-related medical expenses. The car accident attorneys at Carlson & Jones offer free consultations and a flat-fee billing option, so you never have to forego good representation because your budget won’t allow for it.
Reaching Out to Personal Injury Lawyers in Buffalo, Minnesota
Some of the top reasons for Minnesota traffic citations include speeding, failing to signal, crossing the median, failure to yield to pedestrians, and school bus stop arm violations. Receiving one of these tickets incurs fines and, sometimes, jail time, especially if the offense caused a wreck.
Were you recently injured in a car accident caused by another driver’s negligence? Then you need to hire a Buffalo car accident lawyer. Traffic violations make it easier to obtain compensation in car wreck claims.
For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN auto accident lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.
Original article published on October 1, 2021 and updated on November 28, 2021.