A Buffalo, MN Auto Accident Lawyer Looks at Some Common Traffic Tickets

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.

Aggressiveness

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.

Personal Comfort

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.

Location

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.

Cost

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.

Ask a Brainerd, MN Injury Lawyer: How Much Will I Get for Pain and Suffering from a Car Accident Settlement?

After a car crash, the economic losses are normally staggering. Emergency care alone might cost $100,000 or even more. This figure does not include physical therapy and other costs. This figure also does not include other economic losses, such as property damage and lost wages.

Generally, car crash victims are eligible for noneconomic damages as well. Minnesota has a limited no-fault law. If the victim’s medical bills exceeded $4,000, additional compensation for things like pain and suffering is available. Many hospitals charge that much to walk in the door.

No amount of money can fully compensate for things like loss of enjoyment in life, emotional distress, and loss of consortium (companionship). But since money damages are the only available remedy, Brainerd, MN injury lawyerswork hard to help victims get money for pain and suffering in a car accident settlement.

Determining a Fair Amount of Compensation

Most personal injury claims settle out of court. Brainerd, MN injury lawyers usually send demand letters to initiate settlement negotiations. These demand letters must include an amount for both economic and noneconomic losses.

The economic damage calculation is rather straightforward, but there are some curves. Property loss is a good example. Many times, the family car has an emotional value which exceeds its financial value. Victims deserve compensation for both kinds of losses.

Additionally, many victims return to work before they are 100 percent better. If they are self-employed, they are less productive. Alternatively, they might come in late or leave early. Lost wages compensation must account for these things.

Calculating noneconomic losses, however, is a different matter. To determine a fair amount, most Brainerd, MN injury lawyers use one of the following formulas:

  • Some lawyers use the days of missed work as a basis for pain and suffering. For example, if Ralph missed 100 days of work after a crash, including both emergency and followup treatment, and Ralph makes $200 per day, his pain and suffering is approximately $20,000.
  • Other lawyers multiply the economic losses by two, three, or four (usually three), largely depending on the factors listed below. If Jill’s medical bills and other economic losses were $10,000, her pain and suffering calculation might be $30,000.

These hypothetical figures are initial offers. To resolve the case, Brainerd, MN injury lawyers typically have a legal duty to negotiate in good faith. They must make sacrifices to complete a deal. The extent of these sacrifices varies greatly, depending on a number of items.

Minnesota Personal Injury Settlement Statistics

To understand how much compensation you could receive for your personal injury case, it’s important to know the average settlement amounts. That way, you can temper your expectations.

The national median for personal injury awards is $38,179. In Minnesota, the median personal injury case settlement is $30,000. So, Minnesota judges tend to award personal injury plaintiffs about 21% less than the national median.

At the same time, research shows that the national average for the chance of winning a personal injury settlement is 53%. Compare that to Minnesota’s average settlement probability of 67%, which is 14% greater than the national average.

In summary, Minnesota judges award smaller settlement sums than the national median award size. But Minnesota judges award settlements of any size more often than the national average. That means your Brainerd personal injury lawyer has a pretty good chance of winning settlement funds for you.

What Happens When the Defendant Doesn’t Want to Settle?

Settlements are the ideal outcome of personal injury cases. And personal injury cases do settle about 95%–96% of the time. However, there is a small chance that your personal injury suit could go to trial.

Here are a few reasons why this could happen to you:

  • The defendant refuses to offer a settlement
  • The defendant offers a settlement amount, but you and your lawyer determine the amount isn’t sufficient for your damages
  • You and your attorney offer a settlement that the defendant perceives as unreasonable
  • You want the opportunity to seek punitive damages, which are only awarded by a trial judge’s discretion

If any of these four things happen, you will have to the forfeit settlement. You and your attorney will then have to prepare for trial.

Brained, MN Injury Lawyers and Car Crash Evidence

The victim/plaintiff has the burden of proof in a negligence case. So, the possibility of success increases if the victim/plaintiff has substantial evidence. As a result, the claim’s settlement value increases.

Evidence in a car crash claim often includes physical evidence, such as medical bills. Generally, these documents provide more than diagnosis, treatment, and financial data. They also include notes which describe the patient’s physical and emotional state on certain days. Brainerd, MN injury lawyers can normally introduce these records at trial.

Nonphysical evidence, such as witness testimony, is also admissible. Many witnesses can connect with jurors in ways that paper documents cannot.

Insurance Company Defenses in Minnesota

Strong, evidence-based claims help Brainerd, MN injury lawyers negotiate settlements from a position of strength. But the amount of evidence is not the only consideration in settlement negotiations.

Defenses, such as comparative fault, often come into play. This legal doctrine shifts blame from the tortfeasor (negligent driver) to the victim. For example, in a freeway collision, one driver might have changed lanes without signaling and the other driver might have been speeding. In these cases, a Crow Wing County jury must divide fault on a percentage basis. Minnesota is a modified comparative fault state with a 51 percent bar. So, even if the victim was 49 percent responsible for the crash, the tortfeasor is still liable for a proportionate amount of damages.

Other insurance company defenses include sudden emergency, which often comes up in pedestrian accidents, and last clear chance, a frequent defense in rear-end or head-on crashes.

Much like strong evidence bolsters a victim/plaintiff’s claim, a strong defense supports the insurance company’s efforts to reduce or deny compensation.

How to Find an Aggressive Brainerd, MN Injury Lawyer

As we’ve mentioned, a strong defense is critical if you want fair compensation for your medical bills and/or pain and suffering. That’s why you need aggressive representation from a highly experienced attorney.

Here’s how to find the best personal injury lawyer in Brainerd, MN.

Consider Expertise

The first step to finding the best personal injury attorney is to look for lawyers who have experience and a successful track record with personal injury cases.

Here’s something else to consider: if you’re suing your insurance company, avoid attorneys who have worked with insurers. You don’t want to end up with a legal professional who has a soft spot for insurers. You want an attorney who will fight aggressively for the compensation you deserve.

Ask for Referrals

Once you have a long list of personal injury lawyers, ask around for referrals. Do you have friends or family who have been in your situation before? A referral to a lawyer who helped someone else win a settlement can go a long way.

However, don’t choose an attorney solely based on recommendation. You want to make sure the lawyer fits with your unique needs and specific case, so make sure you schedule a consultation. More on that later.

Search for Local Brainerd Personal Injury Attorneys

Anytime you’re looking for lawyers, you should always search in your state. Laws differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. A Minnesota attorney will know those laws and be prepared to use them in your case.

Further, consider an attorney near you. A local attorney has the added advantage of being familiar with the court system. That can be a major advantage, especially if your case ultimately goes to trial.

Read Online Reviews

To narrow down your list of attorneys, it’s always a good idea to check out online reviews. You should be able to access client reviews on the attorney website and via third-party platforms like Yelp.

Better yet, check out reviews from other lawyers. Websites like Best Lawyers and Super Lawyers have peer reviews for selected lawyers.

Schedule a Consultation

By now, you should have whittled your long list down to 2–3 personal injury attorneys in Brainerd. Now, it’s time to schedule that initial consultation we talked about earlier. Reputable lawyers typically offer free consultations, so you have nothing to lose.

Here are some questions to ask during your consultation:

  • Do you have the resources and time to take on my case?
  • If my case doesn’t settle, are you prepared to go to trial?
  • How often do you succeed with cases like mine?

It’s also important to ask about fees. You should never let cost determine which personal injury attorney you choose. After all, you get what you pay for when it comes to legal representation.

However, we understand that cost is always a factor in choosing the right lawyer. Make sure to understand your attorney’s fee structure, whether it’s by the hour, a flat fee, or a contingent fee. If it’s not a flat fee or a contingent fee, it may help to ask how long the case could take to get an idea of the total cost for representation.

Reach Out to an Aggressive Car Accident Attorney

The amount for pain and suffering from a car accident settlement depends on many factors. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no insurance or money.

 

Original article published on January 26, 2020 and updated on November 9, 2021.

Can a Car Accident Lawyer in Buffalo, MN Get Around the Graves Amendment?

You’ve probably never asked this question, but it’s a very important one this time of year. The period between October and May is usually the busiest time of year for moving. Summer is extreme in many parts of the country, and summer moving is always more expensive than fall or spring moves.

That interesting fact does not explain why this question is important, but we’re getting there. Many U-Haul, Ryder, and other rented moving trucks are large vehicles that normally require commercial licenses. Yet most business owners rent these monsters to anyone with a valid credit card. These vehicles are difficult enough to drive if the operator concentrates on driving. But many of these individuals have one eye on the road and one eye on their GPS navigation devices.

For years and years, if these drivers caused car crashes, the vehicle owner may have been vicariously liable for damages. These damages could be substantial, as large truck crashes usually cause wrongful death and other catastrophic injuries. The 2005 Graves Amendment purported to change all that. But is it possible for a car accident lawyer in Buffalo, MN to get around the Graves Amendment?

What Is the Graves Amendment?

Before the Graves Amendment, injured persons could file for damages against car rental companies and moving truck rental companies after an accident with a negligent renter. This was known as vicarious liability.

In 2005, the Graves Amendment made it illegal to bring vicarious liability charges in the US. Under this law, any person or company that owns vehicles and leases them out to other parties cannot be held liable for car accidents caused by renters. The Graves Amendment also stipulates that an injured person can’t hold these lessors responsible for accidents that cause property damage while a renter is driving a leased vehicle.

The Graves Amendment is a Federal law, meaning it applies to people in all US states. This includes Minnesotans.

The only time injured persons’ car accident lawyers can bring charges against one of these companies is if the company is negligent. And that negligence has to have had something to do with the accident that caused the injury.

For example, if faulty brakes cause a car renter to crash, the car rental company may also be liable for your injuries. In this case, you can bring charges against the company without violating the Graves Amendment.

Definitions

Per the Graves Amendment, the owner includes the person who is in the trade or business of renting vehicles. The owner could also be an affiliate of the vehicle renting company, including the company’s employees.

There is one exception to the above rule. If the car lease has an initial term of six or more months, the Graves Amendment considers the lessee the owner of the vehicle. But this designation is only for insurance and liability purposes.

Keep in mind that the Graves Amendment doesn’t only apply to owners of rented or leased vehicles. Graves Amendment-related lawsuits have also come up against owners of tractor leasing companies and ridesharing companies.

What About Interstate Accidents?

Often, people rent cars and moving trucks to travel across state lines. The Graves Amendment still applies in these situations. 

In fact, the Graves Amendment has precedence over any contradicting laws in the state where an accident occurs.

 

Why Does All This Matter?

This post has a lot of questions, doesn’t it? Hopefully, it will provide a few answers as well.

A fully-loaded 26’ moving truck weighs at least 22,000 pounds. That’s not much lighter than a semi-truck. SO, when these trucks are involved in collisions, they usually cause extremely serious injuries, like:

  • Serious Burns: That same truck carries sixty gallons of diesel fuel. Diesel burns at a different temperature from gasoline. So, diesel fuel explosions nearly always cause third or fourth-degree burns. These injuries are often fatal.
  • Crushed Bones: A mid-sized moving truck can basically crush most cars. So, the victims’ bones are usually crushed as well. That injury usually means extensive corrective surgery as well as painful physical rehabilitation.
  • Internal Injuries: These same forces cause internal organs to grind against one another. With no protective layers, these organs usually bleed profusely. And, it may be quite some time before doctors find and stop this bleeding.

These injuries often trigger medical bills that are in the tens of thousands of dollars. These wounds usually mean significant pain and suffering as well. A Buffalo, MN car accident lawyer can obtain compensation for all these damages.

Which Party Is Responsible for Damages After a Buffalo, MN Car Wreck?

Minnesota is a no-fault state, requiring all drivers to obtain a minimum personal injury protection (PiP) plan. Your PiP policy will cover up to $20,000 in personal medical care and up to $20,000 in lost wages due to auto accident-related injuries. Once you exhaust those amounts, your only option is to recover damages from the negligent driver’s insurance plan.

Typically, the tortfeasor’s (negligent driver’s) private auto insurance companies will not cover these losses. Such policies only cover losses in a specific vehicle. Furthermore, during the rental transaction, many moving truck renters decline insurance altogether or opt for the cheapest and lowest coverage.

Under Minnesota law, these limited policies must provide $30,000 of liability coverage. If two people are injured in an accident, that coverage increases to $60,000. But what happens if your medical bills, wage losses, and pain and suffering go beyond these amounts?

Under the traditional negligent entrustment theory mentioned above, the company that owned the vehicle would probably be responsible for damages. If that option is unavailable, it could mean that the victim has no recovery source.

Why Did Lawmakers Pass the Graves Amendment?

Tariffs and trade protectionism have been in the news some lately. Additional taxes on imported goods make domestically-produced goods cheaper and therefore more in demand. Basically the same principle applies to the Graves Amendment. But instead of using money to protect the vehicle rental industry, the people who wrote the Graves Amendment used the law.

Shortly before lawmakers passed 49 U.S. Code § 30106, a major vehicle rental company threatened to pull out of several states with victim-friendly vicarious liability laws, like a broad negligent entrustment rule. The Graves Amendment was designed to appease these corporate suits.

Also, more and more states were enforcing vicarious liability. And some of these state laws had no statute of limitations. That means injured parties could bring personal injury cases at any time, no matter how many years had passed since the wreck. 

Similarly, many states used to forego caps on personal injury settlements against vehicle lessors. In one such case, a car rental company had to pay out $21 million to a New Yorker injured by one of its vehicles.

The Graves Amendment doesn’t just protect rental companies, though. Since its passing, the law has also decreased car rental costs for consumers. Some sources say that vicarious liability laws used to tack on $100 million annually to rental costs.

But the provision itself is very short. Furthermore, there are no hearings or other legislative history in support of the Graves Amendment. So, the provision is full of holes that a Buffalo, MN car accident lawyer can exploit.

Can a Car Accident Lawyer in Buffalo, MN Bypass the Graves Amendment?

The Graves Amendment is tough to beat. Yet, research shows that courts in states where vicarious liability used to be the law are more likely to go around this law. Minnesota is one of those states, meaning the best Buffalo car accident attorney can help you beat the Graves Amendment.

Section (a) is the meat of this law. Ironically, the provisions designed to give it teeth are also the provisions that may cripple this law.

(a)(1) contains the trade or business requirement. The Graves Amendment does not define this phrase, so attorneys must look for a definition elsewhere. The Uniform Commercial Code, which is used in legal cases, defines a “merchant” as “a person who deals in goods of the kind or otherwise by his occupation holds himself out as having knowledge or skill.”

Many businesses that rent moving trucks are not vehicle rental companies. They are moving companies which happen to rent a few trucks as well. Arguably, the lessor in a car crash case may not meet this key requirement.

Further, consider the case of a company loaning a rental vehicle to someone whose personal vehicle is in repair. Because money does not exchange hands in these circumstances, the car company isn’t technically in the business of renting. So, the Graves Amendment may not apply here, depending on the terms of the vehicle loan agreement.

(a)(2) contains the not otherwise negligent requirement. In 2005, no vehicle lessors conducted electronic drivers’ license checks. The technological tools were unavailable. Now, some thirteen years later, that’s no longer the case. Indeed, according to many, verifying drivers’ licenses is now the industry standard.

Some states have a set method here. Generally, a suspended drivers’ license makes the operator incompetent as a matter of law. If the operator has a poor driving record, and the vehicle lessor knows about the poor record, there is a presumption of incompetence.

The negligent entrustment rule applies if an owner knowingly entrusts a vehicle to an incompetent driver. So, if the lessor verifies the license, learns about the bad driving record, completes the transaction, and the lessee causes a car crash, the lessor is negligent. If the lessor did not verify the license, the lessor is also negligent.

The state of Minnesota might also consider a car rental company owner negligent for failing to register its vehicles with the state. Failing to maintain minimum requirements for preparation security plans is another potentially negligent act.

A final way Buffalo car accident attorneys get around the Graves Amendment is if you’re injured in a truck wreck. Sometimes, the truck driver may be an independent contractor. That means the contractor rents equipment from another truck driver. 

The layers of ownership in these cases are complex. Still, a Buffalo personal injury lawyer could help you bring a lawsuit against the original truck owner.

Team Up with a Hard-Working Attorney

The protectionist Graves Amendment may not protect the companies it was supposed to protect. For a free consultation with an experienced car accident lawyer in Buffalo, MN, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle cases in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.

 

Originally published October 20, 2018 and updated September 21, 2021.

Do I Need a Lawyer for an Accident in Buffalo, MN?

Minnesota police issued over 100 speeding citations in the first quarter of 2021. And speeding is the leading cause of car accidents in the North Star State, bringing about over 40% of car wrecks each year. While unfortunate, it wouldn’t be surprising if you were asking, Do I need a lawyer for an accident in Buffalo?

Were you or a loved one recently involved in a wreck? Then you might be wondering: do I need a Buffalo, MN accident attorney?

It’s almost always a good idea to call a lawyer after an accident, whether you think you were at fault or not. Still, some other situations may not require an attorney’s assistance.

Keep reading to find out exactly when you should hire a lawyer for a car accident in Buffalo.

When You Don’t Need a Lawyer for a Car Accident in Buffalo

The first thing to understand about car accidents is that Minnesota is a no-fault state. What does that mean? If you get into a wreck with another driver, your insurance company will cover your property loss and injuries. And the other driver’s insurer will cover his or her property loss and injuries.

Contrast that with fault states. Fault states require the at-fault driver’s insurance policy to pay for the other party’s injuries and auto damages.

In no-fault states like Minnesota, insurance companies handle the majority of car wreck claims. However, you have legal grounds for a personal injury case if you or the other driver’s claim meets one or both of the following criteria:

  • Accident-related medical expenses are $4,000 or more
  • One or more drivers suffered a permanent injury, scarring, or disfigurement

With that said, here are three situations that may not warrant a call to your local attorney after a car accident.

No Injuries Occurred

If no injuries occurred, do I need a lawyer? There would be no need for a personal injury attorney if no one got injured in the accident. Instead, you can simply file a claim with your insurance company to recover damages to your property.

An attorney may not even be necessary for accidents leading to minor injuries. After all, the potential recovery you’ll get from your lawsuit likely won’t be worth the cost of obtaining a legal expert.

Keep in mind that you should always get a doctor’s clearance before deciding against a personal injury expert. This is because some injuries like whiplash take longer to manifest after the accident.

The Insurance Company Plays Nice

You’ve probably read horror stories about drivers getting shorted by their insurance company after an accident. Instead of paying a reasonable sum on the claim, they short the policyholder.

But these cases are the exception and not necessarily the rule. Most insurance companies do their jobs right the first time, paying out a fair amount for your auto damages.

Unless your car experienced significant damage and your insurer is offering an amount you feel is unreasonable, you likely won’t need an attorney. Just remember to never admit to the insurance company that you were at fault for the accident, even if you think you were.

You Were at Fault

If you think you were at fault for the accident and the other driver got injured, you may not need to call an attorney. Why? Car insurance companies usually provide a defense attorney for you if the other driver files a personal injury lawsuit. This is known as the insurer’s “duty to defend.”

Yet, sometimes, an insurance company can get out of its duty to defend, including if:

  • The policyholder fails to notify the insurance company about the accident
  • The policyholder intentionally caused the accident
  • The accident damages cost more than the policy’s maximum liability coverage

If this happens to you, you should be asking, Do I need a lawyer? You should call a car accident defense attorney in Buffalo, MN.

Reasons Why You Would Need an Accident Attorney

A Minnesota attorney can do three main things for you after a car accident.

The first thing is to deal with your insurance company, ensuring you get the highest compensation possible. Secondly, a legal expert can help you pursue compensation from the other driver’s insurer if your insurance pays out less than your auto damages are worth.

When you aren’t at fault for the accident, an experienced personal injury attorney can also help you file suit against the other driver. That way, you can win a settlement to reimburse you for your injury-related medical bills, pain and suffering, and auto damages.

Keeping these two functions in mind, here are the top reasons why you should call a lawyer after an accident.

It’s Unclear Who Was at Fault

Were you severely injured in an accident that you think was your fault? Due to Minnesota’s comparative negligence laws, you may still have a claim against the other driver. In this case, you’re correct if you’re asking, Do I need a lawyer in Buffalo?

Comparative negligence laws mean you can file a personal injury lawsuit and recover damages if you were partially to blame for the accident but less at fault than the other driver.

The Wreck Caused Significant Property Loss

What happens if your insurance company pays out the maximum for damages, but the amount still isn’t enough to cover your vehicular damage?

You may be able to sue the other driver’s insurance company to pay the remainder. However, due to Minnesota’s no-fault rule, your property loss claim must be part of a larger personal injury case to bring it up against the other driver.

A lawyer for personal injury can help you recover compensation for damages to your vehicle. And it’s especially important to consider legal advice if the damage to your car totals $1000 or more.

The Wreck Caused Significant Personal Injuries

We’ve already mentioned that there are only two scenarios that allow a plaintiff to bring a case against the at-fault driver after a wreck. You must’ve acquired an injury with $4,000 or more worth of related medical expenses, suffered a permanent injury, scar, or disfigurement, or both.

If these scenarios apply to you, an experienced personal injury lawyer in Buffalo, MN can help you win a settlement. And a personal injury settlement can reimburse your medical expenses and non-economic losses (e.g., pain and suffering). So if you’re asking do I need a lawyer after a wreck that caused significant personal injuries, the answer is probably yes.

The Wreck Resulted in Wrongful Death

The families of drivers killed in auto accidents due to another driver’s negligence have the right to file a wrongful death claim. Hiring a Minnesota personal injury lawyer to make your case can repay you and your family for:

  • Funeral expenses
  • Accident-related medical costs
  • Loss of income

A wrongful death settlement can also cover non-economic losses like pain and suffering or loss of companionship. These losses can be difficult to prove in court without an experienced personal injury lawyer.

Insurance Won’t Pay Out in Minnesota

If you aren’t insurance law savvy, it may be a good idea to seek legal advice. This is true even if you don’t plan to file a lawsuit against your insurer. A lawyer can help you understand your insurance benefits, file property damage claims, and negotiate your settlement.

But what happens if your insurance company offers you a less-than-fair settlement? Or, worse, what if your insurer won’t pay out at all? You should be asking yourself, Do I need a lawyer?

US law mandates that insurance companies act in good faith when it comes to negotiating your claim. Do you think your insurance company failed to meet this good faith requirement? Then you should absolutely call the best personal injury attorney in Buffalo, MN.

How Long Should You Wait Before Calling an Accident Attorney?

If you were injured in a car crash, you should call an attorney as soon as possible. But how soon is soon?

Minnesota requires you to file an accident report within 10 days of your car crash if the accident resulted in $1,000+ of property damage, injury, or death. Yet, police reports are often incomplete. An attorney can help collect evidence in case you need to file or respond to a suit.

But you may need to call a lawyer before those 10 days are up. Why? Insurance companies require policyholders to notify them about accidents “promptly,” usually within 5–10 days.

Seeking legal assistance before you file your insurance claim can help you avoid accidentally indicating yourself as being at fault for the crash. And this is critical. Because if you admit you were at fault, you won’t be able to recover losses.

Never wait too long to call a lawyer after an accident if you were injured. Minnesota’s statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim expires two years from the date of the accident. For a wrongful death claim, the statute of limitations is three years from the date of death.

Got In an Accident? Call a Personal Injury Lawyer in Buffalo, MN

Accidents happen, but now you’re asking yourself, do I need a lawyer in Buffalo?  If you were injured in a car wreck that wasn’t your fault, you may be entitled to a settlement. Use this guide to determine whether you need a lawyer for an accident in Buffalo.

Still not sure if you have a personal injury case after your accident? Call for a free consultation with the best personal injury lawyer in Minnesota today, and we’ll help you decide if a lawsuit is worth it.

 

 

 

I Got Hit By a Car in Buffalo, MN. What Now?

Medical bills are usually the largest component of a personal injury settlement. In a serious injury case, like a head injury, the total medical bills, from the first day of emergency care to the last day of physical therapy, usually exceed $50,000. In a catastrophic injury claim, like a spine injury, the lifetime medical bills could be over $5 million. Not that many people can say, “I was it by a car,” but if you were, you have rights.

Accident or Negligence in Buffalo, MN?

Vehicle collisions usually involve monetary settlements, because driver error causes over 90 percent of these incidents. In a few cases, this driver error is truly accidental. Sarah might turn her head at exactly the wrong moment or Tom might not see a patch of black ice in the shadows. But in most cases, these errors are negligent.

Some people think that a negligence claim “blames” the other party for a crash. But we all make mistakes. And, we must all accept responsibility for the mistakes we make. In this context, that responsibility includes paying compensation for damages. Victims need this compensation to pay medical bills, replace lost property, and otherwise put their lives back together. THis money should not have to come from their own pockets.

If negligence was involved, a Buffalo, MN accident lawyer can usually obtain substantial compensation. The amount usually depends on how well an attorney adheres to the proper plan, as outlined below. Compensation might be available in other cases as well, such as crashes that involve bad tires or other defective products.

Evaluating a Claim

Just like a house is built on a solid foundation, a car accident settlement is built on a solid investigation. That investigation includes both the facts and the law.

Factual Investigation

For Buffalo, MN accident lawyers, the factual investigation normally begins with the police accident report, witness statements, and medical bills. These three types of evidence are very insightful and often sufficient, by themselves, to ensure fair compensation. 

Frequently, this evidence is sufficient to obtain maximum compensation. Medical records are a good illustration. All medical bills contain diagnosis and cost information. Many of these records also contain treatment notes which show the victim’s physical pain level and state of mind. Such information humanizes these medical bills and is very useful in terms of noneconomic damages.

Sometimes, however, this evidence is not enough. For example, if the victim was killed, the police accident report probably does not reflect both sides of the story.

Additional Evidence

Additional evidence includes things like a car’s Event Data Recorder. A commercial jet’s black box flight recorder measures and records mechanical and operational data. Likewise, a vehicle’s EDR tracks things like:

  • Vehicle speed,
  • Steering angle,
  • Engine RPM, and
  • Brake application.

THis electronic evidence often resonates well with tech-savvy Wright County jurors. Furthermore, assuming the gadget was working properly, EDR information is essentially bulletproof in court.

This critical evidence is unavailable unless a Buffalo, MN accident lawyer acts quickly and has the right tools.

Don’t Lose Physical Evidence of Being Hit by a Car

Most insurance companies destroy wrecked vehicles within a few days. If that happens, any physical evidence the vehicle contains, including the EDR, is lost. Early in the process, attorneys usually send spoliation letters to insurance companies. These letters create a legal duty to preserve evidence and prevent its “accidental” destruction.

Additionally, EDRs are sophisticated and sensitive devices. That’s especially true of large truck EDRs. Attorneys need the right tools and training to access and download this information. A lawyer needs a lot more than a screwdriver, a laptop, and a plunky attitude.

Legal Analysis

The legal investigation is important as well. There are several basic theories in negligence cases, and both of them have pros and cons. For example, if the tortfeasor (negligent driver) violated a safety law and caused a crash, the tortfeasor might be liable for damages as a matter of law. Negligence per se claims are relatively easy to prove. However, monetary damages are often lower in negligence per se matters, because some jurors are more likely to say that the victim was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Sometimes, however, the opposite is true. Many jurors believe that drivers who get behind the wheel if they are drunk, stoned, or otherwise impaired are intentionally disregarding a known risk. As a result, they often award higher compensation in such claims. That fact could drive up a claim’s settlement value, as outlined below.

Possible insurance company defenses come into play as well. To see how they might affect the settlement value, a Buffalo, MN accident lawyer must think like an insurance company lawyer.

Motorcycle wrecks are a good example. Frequently, the tortfeasor (negligent driver) tells the reporting officer something like “She came out of nowhere” or “I never saw her coming.” Sometimes, these statements are just excuses, They could also indicate that the motorcyclist was operating recklessly. The aforementioned investigation usually reveals the truth.

Situations like this one usually involve the comparative fault defense. If both operators were partially responsible for the crash, jurors must apportion fault between them. Minnesota is a modified comparative fault state with a 51 percent bar. So, if the victim was no more than 49 percent responsible for the wreck, the victim is entitled to a proportionate amount of damages.

In both investigatory phases, experience matters more than anything. Buffalo, MN accident lawyer must know how to collect compelling evidence. And, they must use the right legal theory to put this evidence together.

Determining the Settlement Value

When you buy a car from a dealer, the sticker price serves as a starting point for price negotiations. But what if the vehicle had no sticker price? A buyer would have to make an initial offer based on the cost of the vehicle and some other factors, mosty supply and demand. This determination requires research, which we discussed above. It also requires accounting for intangible factors, which we’ll discuss below.

Economic Losses

Economic losses are the total of lost wages, medical bills, and other tangible losses. Minnesota has a very complex collateral source rule. Sometimes, expenses paid by Medicaid or a private insurance company are included in this total, and sometimes they are not. 

On a related note, attorneys usually negotiate with medical providers and convince them to lower their fees. If Paul’s medical bills are $50,000, his lawyer might be able to reduce them to $30,000.

Once again, Minnesota’s collateral source rule is rather complex. Sometimes, Paul might be able to keep an extra $20,000, because the court awards him 50k and he only pays 30k. Sometimes, however, that’s not the case, and the court would only award him 30k.

To ascertain noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering, most Buffalo, MN accident lawyers multiply the economic losses by two, three, or four. The multiplier largely depends on the facts of the case, the applicable law, and some intangible factors, such as the legal venue.

The Car Injury Settlement Process in Buffalo, MN

Most car wreck claims settle out of court. These resolutions almost always benefit victims. They end the case sooner and give the parties more control over the outcome. The settlement process might take only a few weeks, but more often it could take several months.

Demand Letter in Buffalo, MN

Once medical treatment is at least substantially complete, attorneys usually send demand letters to insurance companies. The initial demand amount often greatly affects the amount of money in the final car accident settlement. 

It’s important to wait until this point before beginning settlement negotiations in earnest. Otherwise, the settlement amount might not account for all future medical expenses. The aforementioned spine injuries are a good example. These permanent injuries require continual surgical care. Furthermore, when physically disabled victims move into new living spaces, these spaces require expensive structural modifications. These costs could easily be tens of thousands of dollars, or even more.

Many of us are not very good financial planners. We overestimate or underestimate future needs. But a Buffalo, MN accident layer has your back in these situations. When necessary, attorneys partner with accountants, financial advisors, and other monetary professionals.

The figure in a demand letter is the starting point for settlement talks. At that point, a Buffalo, MN accident lawyer’s negotiating skills take center stage. An attorney must know when to give ground and when to stand firm. Otherwise, the settlement amount might be too low, or there might not be a settlement at all. Fortunately, most attorneys are better negotiators than Patrick

The Question of Liability in Buffalo, MN

If liability is not an issue, most insurance companies have a legal duty to settle the case in a few weeks. However, there is almost always at least some question as to liability. The aforementioned contributory negligence defense is a good example. These defenses can delay settlement and affect the amount of money the victim receives.

So, a Buffalo, MN accident lawyer must often file legal paperwork to preserve the victim’s rights. The statute of limitations in most negligence cases is two years from the date of the accident. Additionally, undue delay usually hurts victim/plaintiffs, because they have the burden of proof.

Legal advocacy skills are important. Most legal actions have basically two parts. First, there are pretrial motions which focus on the applicable law. Then, there is the trial itself, which focuses on the facts. If a Buffalo, MN accident lawyer is highly skilled in both these areas, the final settlement amount could be significantly higher.

Endgame When Negotiating a Settlement in Buffalo, MN

Frequently, after initial procedural moves are finished, insurance companies get down to business, and they negotiate a settlement.

These procedural moves usually involve a motion to dismiss the action and/or a motion for summary judgement. Essentially, these motions claim that there is no way the victim/plaintiff could possibly win, so the judge should put a stop to the lawsuit. 

So, as long as Buffalo, MN accident lawyers do their homework during the investigative phase, these motions usually fail. If an attorney takes shortcuts to try and settle the case early, the victim/plaintiff could be in real trouble. That’s especially true since, by this time, the statute of limitations has probably expired.

Attorney Fee Arrangements in Buffalo

Attorney fee arrangements come into play here as well. Accident lawyers work on a contingency basis, and insurance company lawyers work on an hourly basis. Frequently, these fees are over $1,500 an hour. So, the insurance company has a financial incentive to resolve the case quickly.

Nevertheless, for various reasons, insurance companies often dig in their heels. Most don’t want to set what they see as a bad precedent. A handful of companies genuinely care about their policyholders and vigorously defend them in court. But to almost all insurance companies, people who pay premiums are just line items on spreadsheets.

If You Are Referred to Mediation by a Judge in Buffalo

So, if the case remains unresolved as the trial date nears, a judge usually refers it to mediation. This alternative dispute resolution process usually lasts a full day. The parties meet in an office building or other somewhat informal setting.

The day begins with brief opening statements. But instead of a judge or jury, the audience is a third-party mediator, who is usually an unaffiliated Buffalo, MN accident lawyer. Afterwards, the parties retire to separate areas, or more commonly separate rooms. Then, the mediator conveys settlement offers back and forth, along with legal arguments and counterarguments.

If both sides negotiate in good faith, mediation is usually successful. In this context, “good faith” usually means two things. First, each side must be genuinely committed to resolving the case. Mediation is not just a showpiece. Second, each side must be willing to make some compromises. That’s the way financial negotiations work. There’s always some give and take.

Connect with an Experienced Wright County Attorney

Most negligence claims settle out of court, and due to the nature of this process, it’s hard to tell how much your case is worth at the outset. If you can say, “I was hit by a car”, then you should contact a Buffalo, MN accident lawyer. Contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Home, virtual, and hospital visits are available.

What to Do After a Car Crash in Buffalo, MN

Although today’s cars are much safer than the ones which prowled Wright County roads two decades ago, vehicle collisions still kill or seriously injure millions of Americans every year. Car crash survivors would attest that few things turn life upside-down more quickly than a car accident. Unfortunately, victims may not know what to do after a car crash in Buffalo. In the heat of the moment, victims may do things that might hurt their claims later. They may also fail to do some important things to protect their rights.

No attorney can obtain fair compensation without a partner, and that partner is the victim. In the minutes and hours immediately following a car crash, victims can do a lot to help, or hurt, their causes. Regardless of how the items on this list play out, fair compensation is still a possibility. But unless you observe these tips, your Buffalo, MN auto accident lawyer must play from behind.

DO Go to the Doctor in Buffalo, MN

If there’s one important thing to impart about what to do after a car crash, it is to go to the doctor. Many car crash victims do not “feel” injured. Adrenaline is a natural and fast-acting painkiller. Furthermore, the brain often conceals its own injuries. But there is trouble brewing.

Whiplash is a good example. In vehicle collisions, victims’ heads move violently forward and backward, like the cracking of a whip. This sudden motion affects the muscles and nerves in the neck. Because of adrenaline and the concealed-injury effect, many whiplash victims feel nothing more than soreness. However, if the neck muscles and nerves are damaged, pain soon intensifies and radiates to the hands. If not properly diagnosed and treated, whiplash can eventually cause paralysis.

So, it’s always important to go to the doctor after a crash, but not just any doctor. A Buffalo, MN auto accident lawyer can connect victims with a car crash injury physician. These professionals know how to diagnose whiplash and other soft tissue injuries which do not show up on X-rays. Moreover, these doctors know how to treat whiplash. Soft tissue injuries heal much differently from other physical injuries, like broken bones.

Prompt medical attention is also important for legal reasons. If victims delay treatment, even if they have a good reason for doing so, insurance company lawyers often later argue that the victim’s injuries must not have been very severe. That argument could significantly reduce the noneconomic damages portion of a car crash settlement.

The bottom line is that seeing a doctor might be the most important thing to do after a car wreck. Victims usually need not worry about medical bills at this point. A Buffalo, MN auto accident lawyer can usually connect victims with top physicians who charge nothing upfront.

DON’T Fake Your Injuries in Buffalo, MN

Many victims do not go to the doctor, so their hidden injuries get worse. A few victims do the opposite. They exaggerate their injuries, erroneously believing that such overstatements help their cases. But that’s simply not true. Faking an injury is never what to do after a car crash.

In social circles, this approach may work for a while, but it eventually backfires. Some people may remember that Ted Kennedy wore a neck brace to Mary Jo Kopechne’s funeral in 1969, even though the Massachusetts senator was clearly not hurt very badly.

In court, this approach could hurt even more. Credibility is a very fragile thing. If insurance company lawyers can find any inconsistencies in the victim’s story, they will exploit it to the max and destroy the victim’s credibility before the jury. That makes it much harder for a Buffalo, MN auto accident lawyer to obtain fair compensation.

However, don’t go to the other extreme. Do not sugar-coat your injuries, especially to your doctor or attorney. The same thing applies if you testify in court. Judges and jurors understand that people feel pain differently.

DON’T Say “I’m Sorry”

This tip is another example of the difference between social circles and legal cases, especially in the car crash context. We often apologize for things that are not our fault. It’s an expression of sympathy. If my wife had a bad day at work, I often say “I’m sorry,” even though I had nothing to do with her job-related misfortune. At least, I generally had nothing to do with her bad day.

But things are different in court. An apology is a statement against interest and could also be construed as an admission of liability. Therefore, the apology is both admissible in court and extremely damaging to the victim/plaintiff’s case.

On a related note, use caution when you speak to emergency responders about the accident. They could interpret your words incorrectly. If those interpretations make it into the official report, they could be admissible evidence in court. Furthermore, if emergency responders believe you are trying to set up a large recovery, perhaps by complaining loudly about being hurt, they could take the other driver’s side.

So, instead of saying “I’m sorry,” say something like “I’m sorry this happened to you” or “What can I do to help you?” Even better, do not say anything at all. The other driver does not want or need your sympathy.

DON’T Talk to the Other Insurance Company

On the subject of not saying anything, do not say anything to the other insurance company either. When we say things in the stress of the moment, we often say things we do not mean. In social circles, we can take these things back and apologize. But the insurance company carefully records every word victims say, and there are no second chances.

Additionally, insurance company adjusters know how to extract damaging information from victims without them knowing it.

In most cases, you have no legal obligation to say anything to the other driver’s insurance company. So, let your Buffalo, MN auto accident lawyer handle this call. The adjusters can wait a couple of days to hear your side of the story. Chances are, they will ignore it anyway.

After an accident, most people have a duty to provide prompt oral notification to their own insurance companies. The other driver’s insurance company normally has access to these conversations. So, be careful what you say. For this reason, most people keep the initial notification very brief. Then, they supplement the report later, after the shock from the accident has worn off and they are thinking more clearly.

DO Collect Evidence from the Scene of Your Collison

Emergency responders usually arrive at crash scenes very quickly. Their immediate priorities include securing the scene and tending to injured victims. Collecting evidence for a future negligence claim is not even on their radar. In fact, many emergency responders view such matters as civil disputes between insurance companies that do not involve law enforcement.

The bottom line is that you cannot rely on police officers or other first responders to gather evidence for you. That’s not their job.

Victim/plaintiffs must establish negligence, or a lack of care, by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not. So, collecting evidence is important. Get the names and contact information of any witnesses and take lots of pictures. That includes pictures of the accident scene and the damaged vehicles. Take note of any security or red-light cameras which may have caught part of the crash.

If you are unable to do these things for any reason, just call a Buffalo, MN auto accident lawyer as soon as possible. Your attorney will assume these duties.

DO File a Voluntary Report in Buffalo, MN

Voluntary accident rules vary in different locations. Some law enforcement agencies require people to file reports in certain claims. Pretty much all agencies at least give people the option to file their own reports. So, most people can file voluntary reports, and all car crash victims should do so if possible.

A voluntary report is a useful tool later in the case. Most victims must give depositions or testify in court several months after the incident. Memories fade over time. Perhaps more importantly, the ability to vividly convey what happened fades as well. Therefore, your testimony might not be nearly as compelling, unless you have a written document to jog your memory.

As mentioned above, the brain is a very complex organ. Most people never forget anything. They just cannot access old memories without some outside assistance. The official report might not be very helpful. Many reports only contain a brief narrative section. Furthermore, especially if the victim did not give a statement at the time, that narrative is often one-sided.

Speaking of the official report, a voluntary report is your chance to challenge the official report’s findings. A Buffalo, MN auto accident lawyer can help you write an effective personal report.

Finally, there are some emotional reasons. Expressing your feelings in writing often helps bring some closure to the incident. Just like some people feel better after a good cry, some people feel better after they put their feelings down on paper. 

DON’T Say Too Much on Social Media

Expressing your feelings, including your frustrations, in an official report is much better than expressing them on Twitter or Facebook. These platforms encourage unfiltered responses. Sometimes, that’s a good thing. But unfiltered responses often cause considerable trouble, especially in a court case.

Many people hit “send” without fully thinking things through and then delete the post. From a legal perspective, that’s even worse than leaving it out there. The post still exists somewhere. Insurance companies have the resources, and the patience, to hire forensic analysts who have no problem pulling up deleted posts. To make matters worse, jurors often believe that people who delete unfavorable posts are tampering with evidence.

However, there is no reason to stay off social media altogether. Faraway friends and family will want to know you were in an accident. They also want to know your general medical status. Such generic posts are okay, as long as they contain no reference to fault or blame. Furthermore, the tone should be detached. Don’t add emojis or anything like that.

The insurance company always pulls up your social media accounts during discovery. Your Buffalo, MN auto accident lawyer does the same thing. These efforts often strike gold. Most insurance companies hire insurance defense lawyers instead of personal injury lawyers. Insurance defense attorneys often focus on the legal aspects of a case and ignore the human element. That failure could be critical in court.

Reach Out to an Experienced Buffalo, MN Auto Accident Lawyer

A professional Buffalo MN auto accident lawyer have the resources and determination to obtain fair compensation in these cases. Additionally, a lawyer gives victims additional peace of mind. Since they know a Buffalo, MN auto accident lawyer is working hard for them, they just concentrate on getting better. If you, or a loved one, were injured in a vehicle collision, contact Carlson & Jones, PA. Home and hospital visits are available.

 

Originally published on June 6, 2019. Updated May 03, 2021.


U-Haul Truck Crash Liability Issues and Brainerd, MN Injury Lawyers

Statistically, most people move between May and September. So, we are now well into the biggest moving time of the year. Many people try to save money by renting U-Haul or other moving trucks and handling most everything themselves. As a result, it’s not too unusual to see several of these trucks on area roads at any given time. These operators have little experience driving large trucks and often over-rely on GPS navigation devices. So, in short, they are dangerous.

Since these operators do not own these vehicles, the traditional negligent entrustment rule would seem to apply. This doctrine holds vehicle owners, like U-Haul, responsible for car crash damages if the loan their property to incompetent drivers who cause accidents. But the Graves Amendment, an obscure piece of federal legislation, changes things significantly, as outlined below.

Many vehicle renters have little or no insurance. So, if you were hurt in a U-Haul truck crash, it’s important to obtain compensation from the company. Fortunately, a good Brainerd, MN injury lawyer has some was to get around the Graves Amendment and get victims the compensation they need and deserve. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

The Negligent Entrustment Rule

Negligent entrustment is one of the most common vicarious liability theories in Minnesota. Most of these cases involve teen drivers, and Minnesota has a very broad family purpose doctrine. If a family member was using a car fro a family purpose, even if the tortfeasor (negligent driver) took a side trip and the vehicle owner did not know about the trip, family-sanctioned use is presumed. So, a Brainerd, MN injury lawyer must only prove incompetence. Evidence of incompetence, in roughly descending order, includes:

  • No drivers’ license,
  • Safety-suspended drivers’ license,
  • Poor driving record with recent at-fault collisions,
  • Driving in violation of a license restriction, like no night driving, and
  • Poor driving record with older collisions which were the other driver’s fault.

Note that a drivers’ license record check can uncover evidence of incompetency. This area is rather significant in terms of the first Graves Amendment loophole.

Brainerd, MN Injury Lawyers and the “Not Otherwise Negligent” Requirement

Lawmakers approved the Graves Amendment in the early 2000s. Rep. Sam Graves (D-MO) wanted to protect Enterprise, U-Haul, and other such companies from liability judgments by making the negligent entrustment rule inapplicable in these cases.

Back then, it was almost impossible to run a drivers’ license check outside the DMV, except for very limited purposes. Now, technology and privacy laws have changed. Arguably, it is now the industry standard at places like U-Haul outlets to independently verify drivers’ licenses. Failure to adhere to an industry standard is typically negligence.

Section (a)(2) of the Graves Amendment states immunity only applies if the owner or agent was not negligent during the U-Haul rental transaction. Given the drivers’ license developments mentioned above, agents or owners who only perform visual license inspections are probably negligent.

The “Trade or Business” Requirement

Furthermore, under Section (a)(1), immunity only applies if the store was “engaged in the trade or business of renting or leasing motor vehicles.” The brief Graves Amendment was an add-on to a large federal transportation bill. Curiously, the law defines some key terms, like “owner” and “agent,” but it does not define “trade or business.” So, Brainerd, MN injury lawyers must look elsewhere to determine its meaning.

The Uniform Commercial Code, which is frequently cited in legal claims, defines a “merchant,” which is similar, as a person with special knowledge about a particular product who deals in that particular kind of product. This definition does not apply to most U-Haul retailers.

Most of these retailers are moving supply companies that happen to rent a few trucks. Vehicle rental is not their primary business line. Additionally, almost no U-Haul workers have special knowledge about the trucks on the lot. They know how to drive them, but that’s about it.

In court, the insurance company/U-Haul company usually has the burden of proof on this point. Its lawyers must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Graves Amendment immunity applies. Given this discussion, that showing is unlikely.

Connect with a Hard-Hitting Attorney

The negligent entrustment rule usually applies in U-Haul crashes, despite the Graves Amendment. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. You have a limited amount of time to act.

Vehicle Collision Defenses and Brainerd, MN Accident Lawyers

The average car wreck causes about $20,000 in economic losses, such as property damage, medical bills, and lost wages. Depending on the facts of the case, compensation for noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering, might be two or three times the amount of economic losses. Therefore, in any given vehicle collision case, there is a substantial amount of money at stake.

Despite what TV commercials might imply, the insurance company is not “on your side” if you are a car crash victim. Instead, many companies look for legal loopholes that might reduce or deny compensation. Keep reading to find out more about some of these loopholes.

A Brainerd, MN accident lawyer, on the other hand, is definitely on your side. Lawyers collect evidence which supports compensation claims and then effectively present that evidence in court or at the bargaining table. As a result, victims obtain the financial resources they need to put their shattered lives back together.

The Seatbelt Defense

Like every other state except New Hampshire, Minnesota has a mandatory seatbelt law. In fact, the Gopher State’s seatbelt law is broader than most. All occupants, whether they are in the front or back seat and whether they are adults or children, must wear seatbelts. And, small children must be in age-appropriate car seats.

In many states, if victims do not wear seatbelts, insurance companies can at least reduce the amount of compensation they receive. Furthermore, many jurors refuse to award damages in these cases. Many jurors feel that, if unrestrained people are injured in car crashes, it’s their own fault.

However, in Minnesota, the so-called seatbelt defense is nonexistent. Evidence of seatbelt non-use is flatly inadmissible in civil court. Brainerd, MN accident lawyers must be vigilant in this area. Insurance defense lawyers often try to suggest that maybe the victim was not wearing a seatbelt. Such implications are illegal in Minnesota.

Brainerd, MN Accident Lawyers and Contributory Negligence

Thanks to Section 169.685, many insurance company lawyers do not even try to talk about seatbelt non-use. The penalties for violating this law are too great.

Contributory negligence is on the other end of the spectrum. Comparative fault is perhaps the most common insurance company defense in Minnesota car wreck claims. This doctrine shifts blame for the accident from the tortfeasor (negligent driver) onto the victim.

Assume Driver made a rolling right turn at a red light. Since she was looking to the left watching for oncoming traffic, she did not see Pedestrian, who was crossing the street outside the crosswalk. Technically, both parties are partially at fault. Driver failed to obey a traffic signal, and Pedestrian was jaywalking.

In these situations, the Crow Wing County jury must listen to the evidence and divide fault between the victim and tortfeasor on a percentage basis.

The percentage division is important, because contributory negligence laws differ slightly in different states. Minnesota is a modified comparative fault state with a 51 percent bar. So, even if Driver was at least 51 percent responsible for the wreck, Driver is liable for a proportionate share of damages.

Insurance companies bear the burden of proof and the burden of persuasion in comparative fault cases. First, lawyers must convince the judge that the victim’s fault substantially contributed to the accident. Then, they must convince jurors of the same thing. Each time, a Brainerd, MN accident lawyer can challenge the insurance company’s evidence.

Sudden Emergency/Last Clear Chance

At worst, contributory negligence usually reduces the amount of compensation the victim receives. Sudden emergency and its legal cousin eliminate compensation altogether.

The sudden emergency defense often comes up in pedestrian claims. Frequently, insurance company lawyers argue the victim “darted out into traffic” and so a collision was inevitable. Legally, this defense applies if the tortfeasor reasonably reacted to a sudden emergency.

“Sudden emergency” has a limited meaning in this context. The label only applies to unexpected situations, like a lightning strike. Everyday events, such as careless pedestrians, are not sudden emergencies.

Last clear chance often arises in rear-end or head-on crash claims. Assume Sam crossed the center line and Brenda did not swerve or do anything else to avoid the crash. Brenda could be legally responsible for the wreck, even though Sam drove recklessly.

There’s a big difference between the last clear chance and any possible chance. Frequently, because of traffic or other conditions, sudden emergency maneuvers might cause a more serious wreck than the one they avoid.

Contact a Dedicated Attorney

Insurance companies often cite legal loopholes to avoid paying fair compensation to accident victims. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN accident lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in injury claims.

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.

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Buffalo Lawyers

215 East Highway 55, Suite 201
Buffalo, MN 55313

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Brainerd Lawyers

17025 Commercial Park Rd, Suite 2
Brainerd, MN 56401

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Hutchinson Lawyers

114 Main Street North
Hutchinson, MN 55350

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Phone: (320) 289-4761
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Minnetonka Lawyers

3911 Ridgedale Dr, Suite 404E
Minnetonka, MN 55305

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Phone: (952) 260-9640
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