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.

How Much Money Can a Passenger Get in a Car Accident? A Good Hutchinson, MN Lawyer Knows.

In 2019, car crashes permanently injured millions of Americans. A tortfeasor (negligent driver) is usually responsible for these wrecks. That responsibility could be a lack of ordinary care, such as driving with a serious medical condition or while fatigued. Alternatively, that fault could be the violation of a safety law, like making an illegal turn or driving while intoxicated.

As outlined below, the legal rules are a bit different for passengers than for drivers. Nevertheless, substantial damages are usually available. 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 some extreme cases.

Since these claims are complex, a Hutchinson, MN lawyer should always evaluate your case. It does not matter which driver got a ticket, or if any driver got a ticket.

Physical Injuries

In car crashes, passengers are vulnerable to the same serious physical injuries as drivers. In fact, passengers might be even more vulnerable. Most drivers are at least somewhat paying attention to the road. So, when collisions are imminent, their bodies brace for impact. That’s often not true with regard to passengers.

Even if the victim was wearing a seat belt, which is normally the case, the extreme forces in vehicle collisions often cause injuries like:

  • Head Injuries: Passengers sustain head injuries in several different ways. Their heads often slam into dashboards or other solid objects. Moreover, in many wrecks, cell phones and other small objects become high-speed missiles. Most frequently, car crashes cause whiplash, which is a motion-related head injury.
  • Broken Bones: Fall-related fractures are sometimes not too serious. But crash-related fractures are usually extreme;y serious. The crushed bones usually require extensive surgery and physical therapy. Even then, permanent loss of full function is not unusual.
  • Internal Bleeding: Internal organs have no protective skin layer. So, when they grind and bump against each other, they often bleed profusely. In fact, it’s common for victims to be on the edge of hypovolemic shock before first responders even arrive.

Full compensation is usually available even if the victim had a pre-existing condition, like a bad knee. A Hutchinson, MN lawyer must only establish that the new injury aggravated the old injury, and not the other way around. This showing must only be by a preponderance of the proof (more likely than not). So, a little evidence goes a long way.

Hutchinson, MN Lawyers and Insurance Company Defenses

Many negligence defenses involve driver conduct. This is where things get really complicated. So, an illustration might be useful.

Assume Don and Melanie are on their way to a party when Nancy crosses the center line and hits Don head-on. All three people are seriously injured.

Legally, the wreck could be Don’s fault or Nancy’s fault. That determination depends on the facts. If Nancy suddenly swerved into Don’s lane, she was probably liable. If Don saw Nancy coming and did nothing to avoid the wreck, he might be responsible.

As far as Melanie is concerned, this issue is irrelevant. A Hutchinson, MN lawyer could file a claim against either Don or Nancy. They could argue between themselves about responsibility, but one of them has to compensate Melanie for her injuries.

We are just getting started. A number of non-driving defenses, especially assumption of the risk, might apply to passenger injuries. This doctrine comes into play if the victim:

  • Voluntarily assumed
  • A known risk.

This defense often applies in dog bite and other premises liability claims. Many owners have yard signs that say things like “Beware of Dog.”

Does assumption of the risk apply to injured passengers? Maybe. Getting into a car is almost always a voluntary act. However, the risk of a car crash is usually not a known risk. It’s only a possible risk. There is a big difference.

Non-Physical Injuries

In some cases, these defenses do not apply, or at least they apply differently. Even if passengers are not physically injured, they might still be entitled to compensation. Hutchinson, MN lawyers can expand the zone of danger rule and possibly increase passenger compensation significantly.

This rule comes from the 1928 case Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad. In Palsgraf, negligent railroad workers began a chain of tragic events which ended with Ms. Palsgraf’s serious injury. The court eventually ruled that her injuries were not foreseeable, so the railroad was not legally responsible.

Normally, dissenting opinions in court cases are forgotten. Almost no one remembers who lost last year’s Super Bowl. But William Andrews’ dissent in Palsgraf is different. Judge Andrews embraced the zone of danger rule. If you were negligently injured, you deserve compensation for that injury. End of story.

Today, the expanded zone of danger rule normally applies if there was a close relationship between the victim and the passenger. So, in the above example, assume Don was physically hurt but Melanie was not. If they were closely related by blood or marriage, Melanie might still be entitled to compensation.

Connect with Tenacious Attorneys

Injured passengers might be entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no insurance or money.

I Was Hit by a Car. How Much Money Will I Get from a Buffalo, MN Accident Lawyer?

Vehicle collisions usually involve monetary settlements, because driver error causes about 96 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.

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.

Car Wreck Investigations

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

For Buffalo, MN accident lawyers, the factual investigation normally begins with the police accident report and medical bills. These two types of evidence are very insightful. The police report talks about the crash itself and the medical bills describe the aftermath of the crash. Additionally, this evidence is easily accessible. Buffalo, MN accident lawyers know how to get around privacy law red tape.

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 includes things like a car’s Event Data Recorder. EDRs often contain vital information, such as vehicle speed and steering angle at the time of the wreck.

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.

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.

Demand Letter

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. In Minnesota, this process is not easy.

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.

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 figure in a demand letter is the starting point for settlement talks. From there, 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.

Buffalo, MN Accident Lawyers and Legal Action

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. Possible insurance company defenses in car wreck cases include contributory negligence and last clear chance. 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.

Contact a Diligent Attorney

The amount of money you get from a car accident settlement largely depends on the skill of your Buffalo, MN accident lawyer. If you were hurt, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A., for a free consultation. You have a limited amount of time to act.

Ask a Brainerd, MN Accident Lawyer: How Much Money Will I Get from My Auto Accident Settlement?

In catastrophic injury wrecks, such as spinal injury, the medical bills alone could exceed $4 million over a lifetime. This figure does not include other economic losses, such as lost wages. This figure also does not include pain and suffering. Depending on the facts, noneconomic damages could be three times the economic losses.

But do not cash your check for $16 million just yet. This figure represents the worst possible wrecks, such as 18-wheeler fireball collisions. Additionally, this figure is just a starting point for settlement negotiations. Largely depending on the facts of the case, the final amount could be significantly less.

To obtain the most money from an auto accident, Brainerd, MN accident lawyers focus on the nuts and bolts. The Great Wall of China wasn’t built in a day. However, if attorneys concentrate on the details and build walls one brick at a time, good things usually happen.

Evidence Collection

This part of a personal injury case might be the most important phase. Victim/plaintiffs have the burden of proof in injury cases. Furthermore, there is often a direct relationship between the amount of evidence the victim/plaintiff presents and the amount of damages a Crow Wing County jury awards.

Moreover, this part of the process is often the most time-consuming for Brainerd, MN accident lawyers. There are many obstacles to overcome. The critical Event Data Recorder is a good example. Much like a commercial airliner’s black box flight recorder, the EDR captures and records operational information such as:

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

These devices are technically sophisticated. That’s especially true of large truck and tour bus EDRs. A Brainerd, MN accident lawyer must have more than a screwdriver and a laptop.

That’s assuming the EDR is available at all. Unless an attorney acts quickly, this availability is usually a problem. Typically, insurance companies destroy totaled vehicles a few days after the accident. If that happens, any physical evidence in the vehicle, such as the EDR, is gone forever.

So, Brainerd, MN accident lawyers send spoliation letters to insurance companies. This letter creates a legal duty to preserve all potential physical evidence, including the EDR. If insurance companies ignore spoliation letters, judges often impose harsh penalties.

There’s more. Minnesota has very strict vehicle data privacy laws. Generally, only the owner or an authorized representative, like a mechanic, can access the information. Therefore, an attorney must either secure a waiver from the owner or a court order from a judge.

Somewhat different privacy laws apply to other types of evidence, such as video surveillance footage, medical bills, and police accident reports.

We still aren’t finished. EDR information is compelling, but only if a Brainerd, MN accident lawyer knows how to present it. Fortunately, most Crow Wing County courtrooms have large video screens and other such platforms.

On a related note, EDR data is almost bulletproof in court. Eyewitnesses, no matter how well-meaning they are, can be biased or mistaken. However, assuming the gadget is working properly, computers are always impartial and always correct. Additionally, computers never break down under cross-examination from insurance company lawyers or change their stories after their depositions.

Brainerd, MN Accident Lawyers and Legal Theories

Ordinary negligence is essentially a lack of care. Most drivers have a duty of reasonable care. They must obey the rules of the road, both the written and unwritten ones. Plus, they must drive defensively and avoid accidents whenever possible.

If drivers breach the duty of care, and that breach causes injury, they might be responsible for damages. Examples of a breach of duty include driving while fatigued and driving with a chronic medical condition which could cause a loss of consciousness.

Uber drivers, truck drivers, and other commercial operators usually have a higher duty of care in these cases. So, it is easier to establish ordinary negligence and settlement amounts are often higher.

Negligence per se is the violation of a safety law, such as speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol, or making an illegal turn. This theory often applies in car wreck claims. Most drivers cannot travel more than a few blocks without breaking at least one safety law. Tortfeasors might be liable for damages as a matter of law if:

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

Sometimes, monetary settlements are not quite as high in negligence per se claims. It all depends on the facts of the case, a Brainerd, MN accident lawyer’s skill level, and some other factors.

Defective products, like bad tires, also cause some car crashes. Legally, defective product claims are similar to negligence per se. Manufacturers are strictly liable for the injuries their dangerous products cause.

Contact an Experienced Attorney

Largely depending on the facts and law, car crash settlements could be substantial. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN accident lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no money or insurance.

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 lawyers work 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.

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

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.

Reach Out to an Aggressive 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.

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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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