Motorcycle Crash Claims and Hutchinson, MN Auto Accident Lawyers

The vehicle occupant fatality rate has declined since the 1990s, mostly because today’s cars are much safer than they were before. But the motorcycle crash fatality rate has remained largely unchanged. Unlike their vehicle occupant counterparts, motorcyclists are almost completely exposed to danger in a crash. As a result, the death rate for motorcycle riders is almost thirty times higher than the death rate for four-wheel vehicle occupants.

Because of this high death rate and the severity of the victim’s injuries, a Hutchinson, MN auto accident lawyer might be able to obtain substantial compensation in these cases. This compensation usually includes money 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 situations.

What Causes Motorcycle Crashes?

Driver error causes most of the motorcycle crashes in McLeod County. Generally, that error falls into one of three categories. The nature of the driver error usually affects the amount of damages available.

Behavioral negligence includes things like alcohol or drug use and driver fatigue. Compensation is usually highest in these cases. Arguably, these impaired drivers know that they should not get behind the wheel. Nevertheless, they do so anyway, so they intentionally disregard the safety of other people on the road.

These claims are also very difficult for insurance companies to defend in court. People do not “accidentally” drive drunk. Additionally, even if a legal loophole is available, like contributory negligence, many jurors hesitate to cut drunk or fatigued drivers very much slack.

Especially during certain times of year, environmental negligence is a serious problem in Minnesota. The weather often changes quickly, and many drivers do not adjust to the new conditions, even though the duty of reasonable care requires them to be flexible.

Rain is a good example. When visibility is limited and streets are wet, drivers should slow down. But many drivers fail to do so.

Rain also brings up a point about motorcycle visibility. Many people are not looking out for motorcycles, especially during semi-inclement weather. Most riders who have gone down probably heard the tortfeasor (negligent driver) say something like “You came out of nowhere and I didn’t see you.” These drivers probably were not maintaining a proper lookout, which is part of the duty of reasonable care.

Minimal damages are usually available in operational negligence claims. These instances include things like speeding and changing lanes without signaling. Some jurors think these things are accidents (wrong place at the wrong time) as opposed to negligence (a lack of care). The good news is that these claims are rather easy for Hutchinson, MN auto accident lawyers to prove in court. That’s especially true if the negligence per se rule applies. More on that below.

Hutchinson, MN Auto Accident Lawyers and Ordinary Negligence

A theory of responsibility helps jurors better understand the nature of the claim and makes the claim easier to prove. That being said, a Hutchinson, MN auto accident lawyer must still establish negligence by a preponderance of the evidence. The elements of a negligence case in Minnesota are:

  • Duty: Most noncommercial drivers have a duty of reasonable care. They must drive defensively at all times. Most commercial drivers, such as Uber drivers, have a higher duty of care, especially in motorcycle crash claims.
  • Breach: Duty is a question of law for the judge. Breach is a question of fact for the jury. Some of the common breaches of duty were outlined above.
  • Cause: “But-for” causation means the crash would not have happened but for the tortfeasor’s negligence. Proximate cause means foreseeability. A Hutchinson, MN auto accident lawyer must prove both kinds of cause.
  • Damages: The victim/plaintiff must suffer physical injury. A near miss is not actionable in court. If the damages are related to a physical injury, the monetary award is tax-free.

Victim/plaintiffs must prove all these elements by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).

Negligence Per Se

Sometimes, Minnesota law establishes the standard of care. So, tortfeasors are liable for damages as a matter of law if they violate a safety law and that violation substantially causes injury. There’s no need to prove duty or breach. These are usually the most time-consuming elements of a negligence case. Instead, victim/plaintiffs must only prove cause and damages.

The negligence per se shortcut usually only applies if emergency responders gave the tortfeasor a ticket. Frequently, that’s not the case, even if the tortfeasor clearly broke a traffic law. The motorcycle prejudice often comes into play at this point. In their heart of hearts, many people, including many first responders, believe that motorcycle riders are reckless thugs who do not deserve protection.

Hutchinson, MN auto accident lawyers must overcome this prejudice, and other obstacles as well, to obtain fair compensation in motorcycle wreck claims.

Contact a Tenacious Lawyer

Substantial compensation is available in motorcycle wreck cases, but insurance companies do not simply give this money away. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN auto accident lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. You have a limited amount of time to act.

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

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

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

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

The Negligent Entrustment Rule

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The “Trade or Business” Requirement

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

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

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

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

Connect with a Hard-Hitting Attorney

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

Vehicle Collision Defenses and Brainerd, MN Accident Lawyers

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

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

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

The Seatbelt Defense

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

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

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

Brainerd, MN Accident Lawyers and Contributory Negligence

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sudden Emergency/Last Clear Chance

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

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

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

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

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

Contact a Dedicated Attorney

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

How Can a Brainerd, MN Accident Lawyer Overcome Common Motorcycle Crash Defenses?

On average, motorcycle crashes are twenty-seven times deadlier than four-wheel vehicle crashes. So, for survivors and insurance companies, the financial stakes are much higher. Insurance companies that generally settle claims quickly batten down the hatches. And, insurance companies that normally contest car crash claims fight motorcycle wreck claims even harder.

Many times, insurance company strategies hinge upon one of the defenses listed below. Generally, insurance company lawyers have the burden of proof and the burden of persuasion in these situations.

So, to obtain maximum compensation, a Brainerd, MN accident lawyer must do more than prepare a solid damages claim. Good lawyers also anticipate insurance company defenses, so they can refute them in court. This dual approach is usually the best way to obtain compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Helmet Defense

Minnesota has a limited motorcycle helmet law. Additionally, there are multiple studies and statistics which at least purport to show a relationship between helmet use and injury reduction. For these reasons, many Crow Wing County victims believe that, if they were helmetless, they are ineligible for compensation.

Insurance companies count on this attitude. They hope that this belief prevents victims from consulting a Brainerd, MN accident lawyer.

But not so fast. The so-called helmet defense is flatly illegal in Minnesota. Insurance company lawyers cannot bring up helmet non-use in either the liability or damages portion of a negligence trial. So, helmet non-use is also irrelevant during pretrial settlement negotiations.

Brainerd, MN Accident Lawyers and Contributory Negligence

Comparative fault is probably the most common insurance company defense in vehicle collision claims. This legal loophole might apply if both parties were arguably at fault for a crash. For example, a rider might have been speeding when a tortfeasor (negligent driver) illegally pulled into the rider’s lane.

As mentioned, insurance companies have the burden of proof, and the burden of persuasion, in these cases. Here’s how that works in this example. First, the insurance company must convince the judge that the defense is legally available. That’s probably not the case unless the rider was excessively speeding.

Then, the insurance company must convince a jury that the defense applies. Generally, the insurance company must present additional evidence of rider carelessness, like lane-splitting. If the jury applies the defense, the jury must divide fault on a percentage basis between the victim and tortfeasor.

Minnesota is a modified comparative fault state with a 51 percent bar. Even if the victim was 49 percent responsible for the crash, the tortfeasor is still responsible for a proportionate share of damages. Therefore, in most cases, the contributory negligence defense only reduces the victim’s damages

Last Clear Chance

This legal loophole is a bit like contributory negligence. However, if the last clear chance defense applies, the tortfeasor is not liable for damages at all.

Let’s return to the previous example. Insurance company lawyers could argue that the victim had the last clear chance to avoid the wreck. When the rider saw the tortfeasor change lanes illegally, the rider had a duty to change lanes or take other action to avoid the crash. At least, that’s how these defense works in theory.

In practice, it is almost impossible for riders to safely make sudden moves on their bikes. In most cases, they would lose control of their rides and cause a more serious accident than the one they prevented. That’s especially true if weather, traffic, and other conditions are anything less than ideal.

Motorcycle Prejudice

Unlike the first two, the motorcycle prejudice defense is not found in any law book. But it is real, and Brainerd, MN accident lawyers must be prepared to deal with it.

Many jurors believe that motorcycle riders are reckless thugs. Jurors who remember the Hell’s Angel days or the Twin Peaks motorcycle gang shootout in Waco are more likely to hold this belief. Frequently, insurance company lawyers make subtle emotional appeals during jury selection, opening arguments, and closing arguments. The motorcycle prejudice defense is especially common if the contributory negligence defense is also an issue.

To combat the motorcycle prejudice, many Brainerd, MN accident lawyers try to remove biased jurors. Judges allow these removals, in most cases. Alternatively, a lawyer might accentuate the victim’s positive aspects, so s/he does not fit the motorcycle gang member mold.

Connect with an Experienced Attorney

Insurance companies have several go-to defenses in motorcycle crash claims, but they are all flawed. 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 insurance or money.

A Hutchinson, MN Lawyer Talks About Your Claim for Damages in a Motorcycle Crash Case

The number of fatal motorcycle wrecks has increased significantly since 2015. Even if they wear crash helmets, motorcycle riders risk serious injury every time they go out. The force of a collision usually throws riders off their bikes. As a result, they suffer serious and often fatal injuries like internal wounds and head injuries.

These victims usually require immediate medical attention. After they recover, they must usually endure months of painful and expensive physical therapy. An attorney can make all the necessary arrangements in this area. Lawyers also take care of vehicle replacement and other situations.

Collecting evidence and facilitating medical care are just two jobs for a Hutchinson, MN lawyer. Perhaps more importantly, an attorney must prepare the victim’s legal case for damages. These damages usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Ordinary Negligence

Essentially, a negligence claim holds tortfeasors (negligent drivers) responsible for the mistakes they make. If I accidentally forget my wife’s birthday, I must pay damages. Likewise, if I accidentally strike a motorcyclist, I must pay damages.

Most non-commercial operators have a duty of reasonable care. They must drive defensively and obey the rules of the road. Some commercial drivers have a higher duty of care. They must take additional precautions against accidents, such as not driving in heavy rain.

Drowsy driving is a good example of an ordinary negligence claim. Although fatigued driving is not against the law, it is very dangerous. Driving after eighteen consecutive sleepless hours is like driving with a .05 BAC. That’s a dangerous impairment level. Evidence of drowsy driving includes:

  • Erratic Driving: Many sleepy drivers are unable to maintain a single lane or even stay on their side of the road. Other fatigued operators drive well below the speed limit.
  • Time of Day or Night: Most people are naturally drowsy early in the morning and late at night. It does not matter how much rest they had the night before. For example, teen drowsy driver crashes are significantly higher if classes begin before 7:30.
  • Medical Condition: People with sleep apnea get little, if any, deep sleep. Instead, they basically nap all night. Other medical conditions could affect sleep as well.

In an ordinary negligence claim, a Hutchinson, MN lawyer must prove that the tortfeasor breached the duty of care, and that breach substantially caused injury.

Hutchinson, MN Lawyers and Negligence Per Se

These cases work a bit differently. Sometimes, the law establishes the standard of care. If that’s the case, victim/plaintiffs must only prove causation. Some examples include:

  • Speeding,
  • Making an illegal turn,
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and
  • Device distraction.

Sometimes, ordinary negligence and negligence per se overlap. For example, Minnesota has a hands-free law. Drivers may not hold cell phones or other devices while they are behind the wheel. But the law has a number of exceptions. Additionally, the law does not apply to all forms of device distraction, such as using a hands-free phone while driving. In these situations, a Hutchinson, MN lawyer must pursue an ordinary negligence claim.

Some Insurance Company Defenses

Preparing a case in chief is important, but it is not the only requirement for fair compensation in a motorcycle crash claim. Hutchinson, MN lawyers must also be prepared for some common insurance company defenses, such as:

  • Contributory Negligence: This legal loophole shifts responsibility for the accident from the tortfeasor to the victim. For example, the vehicle operator might have been talking on a cell phone and the motorcyclist might have been speeding. Insurance company lawyers must convince the judge the defense applies, and then they must convince jurors of the same thing.
  • Assumption of the Risk: In this context, this defense usually involves the failure to wear a motorcycle helmet. Minnesota has a universal helmet law. Nevertheless, motorcycle helmet non-use is only admissible in a civil proceeding for limited purposes.
  • Last Clear Chance: This defense often comes up in left-turn motorcycle crash claims. If the tortfeasor turned left in front of the victim, the insurance company argues that the motorcycle rider had the last clear chance to avoid the crash. This defense is very difficult to prove in court.

Sometimes, these defenses completely immunize the tortfeasor. Other times, they only reduce the amount of compensation the victim receives.

Reach Out to a Diligent Attorney

Motorcycle crash victims might be entitled to significant compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We have several area offices.

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.

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.

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.

How do Buffalo, MN Personal Injury Lawyers Get the Most Money from a Car Accident?

Every year, car crashes kill or seriously injure millions of Americans. Even seemingly simple matters, like intersection or freeway collisions, are often complex. For example, the driver who got the ticket is not always the driver that is responsible for damages. Legal doctrines like contributory negligence and sudden emergency often come into play here.

Furthermore, the tortfeasor (negligent driver) is often not the only party that is responsible for damages. If the tortfeasor was a commercial operator, like an Uber driver, the company might be liable for damages, even if there was no paying passenger in the car at the time. Additionally, Minnesota has a broader-than-normal dram shop law. Commercial providers, like bars and restaurants, are often vicariously liable for alcohol-related crash damages.

Because of all these complexities, the process is key for Buffalo, MN personal injury lawyers. Attorneys who pay attention to details, as well as the big picture, usually get the most money from a car accident.

Collect Evidence

There is usually a direct relationship between the amount of evidence a victim/plaintiff presents and the amount of damages a jury awards. Insurance companies know this, so the same rule applies in pretrial settlement negotiations. Therefore, evidence is critical for Buffalo, MN personal injury lawyers.

Often, the trifecta of medical bills, the police accident report, and the victim/plaintiff’s own testimony is sufficient. But in many cases, that’s not true.

The victim/plaintiff’s testimony is a good example. Something almost mystical happens when victims take the stand and tell their own stories in their own words. But such testimony is not always available. That’s obviously the case in most wrongful death claims. Additionally, many Buffalo, MN personal injury lawyers do not want to expose victims to withering cross-examinations from insurance company lawyers.

So, additional evidence is often necessary. Such evidence can come from many sources, such as a vehicle’s Event Data Recorder. These gadgets are basically like the black box flight data recorders on commercial jets. Exact capacity varies by make and model, but generally, EDRs measure and record information like:

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

Numbers like these are critical in many collision claims. Additionally, unlike eyewitnesses, computers are never biased and never wrong, assuming the devices are working properly.

Apply the Proper Theory

Diligent evidence collection usually produces very good results. In fact, some Buffalo, MN personal injury lawyers collect so much evidence that there is an embarrassment of riches. There is so much proof that jurors cannot sort it out.

Car crash evidence is basically like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. A Buffalo, MN personal injury lawyer must put the pieces together and form a picture for the jury. In extremely complex cases, such as truck wrecks, many attorneys partner with accident reconstructionists during this phase.

The proper legal theory is a bit like the picture on a jigsaw puzzle box. The theory guides the assembly process. Some common theories in car crash cases include:

  • Ordinary Negligence: Basically, negligence is a lack of care. Drowsy driving and distracted driving are both good examples of negligence. If the tortfeasor’s conduct fell below the standard of care, the tortfeasor is liable for damages.
  • Negligence Per Se: In many cases, Minnesota law establishes the standard of care. Tortfeasors who violate a safety law, even something like speeding or making an unsafe lane change, might be responsible for damages as a matter of law.
  • Defective Product: These claims do not involve negligence at all. Manufacturers are strictly liable if their defective products, such as tires, airbags, or ignition switches, cause injury. Substantial damages are often available in these situations. Frequently, manufacturers intentionally put people at risk to increase their own profits.

Damages in a car crash claim usually 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.

Buffalo, MN Personal Injury Lawyers and Diligent Advocacy

Collecting evidence collection and applying theory is like doing homework. If students do their homework, they usually do well on their tests. However, they still need to concentrate on the tests and bring all their skills to bear if they want good grades. Buffalo, MN personal injury lawyers must do the same thing.

In this context, the test usually comes at the negotiating table. Almost all personal injury claims settle out of court. So, an attorney must be a good negotiator. That means having a thorough knowledge of your own case, your client’s needs and preferences, and any insurance company defenses. Keeping these three things in mind ensures that an attorney negotiates from a position of strength.

A few cases go all the way to trial, where a Buffalo, MN personal injury lawyer must establish liability by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).

Rely on Experienced Attorneys

Getting the most money from a car accident is usually a matter of planning your work and working your plan. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN personal injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.

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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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