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.

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.

Speeding

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

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.

Buffalo, MN Auto Accident Lawyers and Failure to Yield to Pedestrians

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

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.

Reach Out to a Diligent Attorney

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.

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.

Vehicle Collision Evidence and Brainerd, MN Accident Lawyers

Driver error causes about 95 percent of the car crashes in Minnesota. establishing the nature of that driver error is often key to maximum compensation in a vehicle collision claim. Tortfeasors (negligent drivers) who violate safety laws, like speeding or making an illegal lane change, could be liable for damages as a matter of law.

Additionally, in driver impairment cases, such as alcohol or fatigue, many Crow Wing County jurors award higher damages. These drivers arguably intentionally disregard the safety of other people.

A good Brainerd, MN accident lawyer does more than obtain compensation for victims. Attorneys obtain justice for victims. Additionally, lawyers connect victims with doctors, often at no upfront coast. In other words, a Brainerd, MN accident lawyer is committed to your total physical, emotional, and financial recovery.

Pros and Cons of Traditional Evidence

Solid compensation claims begin with evidence. The victim/plaintiff has the burden of proof in a car wreck claim. Many times, this evidence comes from one of three sources. However, such evidence is not appropriate in all cases.

Frequently, a Brainerd, MN accident lawyer starts with the police accident report. This official document, which is normally admissible in court, contains valuable information about the crash itself, along with the names of some key witnesses.

Police departments generally put up privacy red tape to prevent people from obtaining these reports. But an experienced attorney knows how to overcome this hurdle and quickly obtain a police report.

The accident report is usually, but not always, a valuable piece of evidence. Even the most experienced first responder is not an accident reconstructionist. These individuals do the best they can with the evidence available, but sometimes this evidence is not enough. Frequently, a Brainerd, MN accident lawyer must dig deeper.

Additionally, if the victim was seriously injured or killed, the police accident report is probably oincomplete. Generally, such reports contain only one side of the story.

Medical bills are also difficult to obtain, due to privacy laws. So, Brainerd, MN accident lawyers usually obtain blanket waivers from victims during initial consultations. These waivers are sufficient to pry this valuable information away from hospital bureaucrats.

Like police accident reports, medical bills are generally admissible in court, provided that a Brainerd, MN accident lawyer lays the proper groundwork. These documents provide solid information about medical diagnosis, treatment, and cost.

Unfortunately, medical bills often miss the human element. Sometimes, nurses or doctors make notes about the victim’s level of pain and suffering. But these notes are not always present, and even if they are, they might not be admissible in court.

Finally, many car crash claims rely on witness statements. When unaffiliated people come forward and tell jurors what they saw, something almost mystical happens in the courtroom.

This evidence is often compelling, but it is not always accurate. Eyewitnesses could be incompetent to testify for some reason. Perhaps they know the victim, have an ax to grind with the tortfeasor, or were not wearing prescription eyewear at the time.

Brainerd, MN Accident Lawyers and Electronic Evidence

So, in many cases, more evidence is necessary. That’s not just because the victim/plaintiff has the burden of proof. Generally, there is a direct relationship between the amount of evidence the victim/plaintiff presents and the amount of damages the jury awards.

The Event Data Recorder is often effective in car crash claims. Almost all vehicles have one of these gadgets, which is much like a commercial jet’s black box flight recorder. EDRs measure and store data like:

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

Assuming the EDR was working properly, the device is never wrong. So, it’s almost impossible for insurance company lawyers to block EDR evidence.

That’s assuming this device is available. Frequently, insurance companies destroy totaled vehicles within a few days of the accident. If that occurs, any physical evidence the vehicle contained, including the EDR, is gone.

So, Brainerd, MN accident lawyers quickly send spoliation letters to insurance companies. These letters create a legal duty to preserve all potential physical evidence, including the EDR, for trial.

Surveillance video is often useful as well. Gone are the days of grainy, black-and-white security videotapes. Most cameras digitally record HD video. Such evidence usually impresses Crow Wing County jurors.

As mentioned, first responders usually only conduct cursory investigations. Even if the video footage only captured part of the wreck, it can be very compelling in court. Like EDRs, cameras are never inaccurate, if they were working properly.

Contact an Assertive Attorney

Evidence is usually the key to a successful car wreck claim. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN accident lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.

Ask a Personal Injury Lawyer in Hutchinson, MN: How Much Can Someone Sue for a Car Accident?

The average injury-related hospital bill often exceeds $100,000. This figure does not include indirect medical expenses, such as medical devices and prescription drugs. It also does not include noneconomic losses. Depending on the facts of a case, fair compensation for things like pain and suffering could be two or three times the economic losses.

A car crash claim is about more than money. The claim is also about justice. We all make mistakes while driving. And, we are all accountable for the mistakes that we make. That accountability includes liability for damages, if any.

Personal injury lawyers in Hutchinson, MN are committed to maximum compensation for victims, in terms of both money and justice. On the other hand, insurance company lawyers are committed to minimum compensation for victims, in both these areas. In most cases, the amount someone can sue for a car accident depends on several basic variables.

Evidence in Vehicle Collision Claims

The victim/plaintiff must establish liability by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). Although that’s the lowest burden of proof in Minnesota law, evidence collection is still the foundation of all successful car crash claims.

Basic vehicle collision evidence usually includes the police accident report and medical bills. Knowledgable personal injury lawyers in Hutchinson, MN can easily overcome privacy and other restrictions to obtain this evidence. These same privacy laws also apply to electronic evidence, as outlined below.

If liability is clear and the insurance company has no legal defenses, this basic evidence is usually sufficient. However, such cases are few and far between. Additionally, the more evidence a victim/plaintiff assembles, the more settlement value increases.

Frequently, personal injury lawyers in Hutchinson, MN use electronic evidence to bolster the proof in car wreck claims. Some forms of electronic evidence include:

  • Event Data Recorder: Much like black box flight data recorders, EDRs measure and store operational information such as vehicle speed, steering angle, and brake application. Data such as this is often critical in car crash claims, especially when it comes to refuting insurance company defenses.
  • Cell Phone Data: Text message history, call logs, browsing history, and other such information could be critical in distracted driving claims. Cell phone location history could be important as well. For example, such data could establish that the tortfeasor (negligent driver) had been drinking recently.
  • Electronic Logging Device: Many commercial vehicles have ELDs. Since these gadgets keep track of service hours, they are often critical in drowsy driving cases.

As mentioned, Minnesota has very strong privacy laws, especially with regard to vehicle information. So, personal injury lawyers in Hutchinson, MN must normally obtain court orders to access EDRs, cell phone data, and other such information.

Obtaining electronic evidence is only part of the picture. Attorneys must also know how to effectively present this information in court. On a related note, special evidentiary rules often apply to electronic evidence, in terms of things like authentication and verification.

Personal Injury Lawyers in Hutchinson, MN and Legal Theories

Car crash evidence is like the pieces of a large jigsaw puzzle. Attorneys must put the pieces together. Personal injury lawyers in Hutchinson, MN often partner with accident reconstruction professionals to help ensure maximum compensation.

Some claims, such as the aforementioned drowsy driving and distracted driving claims, rely on the ordinary negligence theory. Minnesota law forbids device distraction and fatigued driving, but these laws only apply in limited situations.

Ordinary negligence is basically a lack of care. Generally, drivers have a duty of reasonable care. They must avoid accidents when possible and obey the rules of the road. Commercial drivers, such as Uber drivers, might have a higher duty of care.

Roughly half of all the fatal car crashes in McLeod County involve drug use, excessive speed, and/or alcohol use. These driving behaviors are illegal under almost any circumstances. So, the negligence per se shortcut usually applies. Tortfeasors are usually liable for damages as a matter of law if:

  • They violate a safety law, and
  • That infraction substantially causes injury.

Frequently, the tortfeasor is not the only party who is responsible for damages. For example, Minnesota has one of the broadest dram shop laws in the country. Bars, grocery stores, restaurants, and other commercial providers might be vicariously liable for car crash damages.

The Contributory Negligence Defense

Comparative fault is probably the most common insurance company defense in car wreck claims. This legal loophole shifts blame for the accident from the tortfeasor to the victim.

Assume Vicky Victim was traveling 50mph in a 45mph zone when Timmy Tortfeasor illegally moved into her lane. A McLeod County jury must consider the evidence and divide responsibility on a percentage basis. Since Minnesota is a modified comparative fault state with a 51 percent bar, Timmy must be at least 51 percent responsible for Vicky to recover a proportionate share of damages.

To blunt the contributory negligence defense, Vicky’s personal injury lawyer in Hutchinson, MN could argue that although she was technically speeding, Vicky was not traveling fast enough to cause the crash.

Contact Aggressive Attorneys

Substantial compensation might be available in car crash claims. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Hutchinson, MN, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We have several offices throughout the Gopher State.

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Buffalo Lawyers

215 East Highway 55, Suite 201
Buffalo, MN 55313

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

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Brainerd Lawyers

17025 Commercial Park Rd, Suite 2
Brainerd, MN 56401

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

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Hutchinson Lawyers

114 Main Street North
Hutchinson, MN 55350

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

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Minnetonka Lawyers

3911 Ridgedale Dr, Suite 404E
Minnetonka, MN 55305

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

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