Six Property Division Factors in a McLeod County Divorce

Minnesota is an equitable division state. During marriage dissolution proceedings, the judge must divide property and debt equitably, which is not necessarily the same thing as equally.

Nevertheless, there is a very strong presumption in favor of a 50-50 division. To overcome this presumption, Hutchinson lawyers may use one of the following factors. Since the presumption is so strong, the evidence on these points must be substantial. Even then, great disparities are not very common.

Technically, the burden of proof in these matters is a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). However, given the strong 50-50 presumption, spouses seeking unequal divisions may need to present clear and convincing evidence that an equal split is not an equitable division. This evidence usually involves one of the factors discussed below.

Length of the Marriage

In spousal support matters, length of the marriage is one of the leading factors, especially when it comes to determining duration of payments. In fact, nearby Illinois uses the length of the marriage to set presumptive alimony lengths. This factor is important in property distribution matters as well. The longer the relationship lasted, the greater the expectation in terms of an equal division.

But for Hutchinson lawyers who seek to divide marital property, this factor is just one of many.

Any Prior Marriages

This factor could go one of several ways. Prior marriages could mean prior property loss. For example, if Wife’s retirement account has already been divided in half once, Hutchinson lawyers may work extra hard to make sure it is not divided in half once again. It could also mean prior property awards. If Husband has a share of an income-producing rent house, that could factor into the current property division.

Prior marriages could also mean other financial obligations, like alimony or child support payments. These obligations could also affect the current divorce case.

Relative Health and Age of Each Spouse

Typically, husbands and wives are roughly the same age. So, this factor may not come into play very often.

But in some cases, there may be significant differences. May-December romances are certainly not unheard of. Moreover, illness or disability can strike any person at any time. These issues can affect a person’s ability to earn money. And, by law, a Minnesota divorce must not be an unfair financial burden for either spouse.

Health issues may also be a basis for future modification. The change could involve the sudden onset, or the sudden removal, of an illness or disability.

Vocational Skills and Economic Opportunity

This factor is closely related to the previous one. Following divorce, women’s standard of living declines quite rapidly. Furthermore, this gap usually remains for a number of years.

This argument seems convincing. However, it is only statistical and speculative. Nevertheless, if properly used or refuted, it could tip the scales one way or the other.

If the court grants an unequal distribution due to this factor, the division is usually a means to an end. Some spouses need to further their education or accept low-paying internships before they fully re-enter the workforce. The additional property gives them the additional income they need.

Agreements Between the Spouses

Hutchinson lawyers try to engineer spousal agreements whenever possible. Especially in the property distribution area, these agreements carry great weight. In fact, most Minnesota courts even uphold one-sided agreements as long as each spouse had separate counsel, neither spouse hid critical data, and the agreement was not unconscionable (e.g. one spouse gets all the property and the other one gets all the debts).

Marital agreements may be made or modified by mutual consent at any time. They are very good tools when it comes to property division issues.

Economic and Noneconomic Contributions

Although financial contributions are usually rather easy to measure, there are often complexities. Returning to the previous rent house example, Wife may have a landscaping company which services the house for free or for a reduced price.

Noneconomic contributions could be very significant or could be almost nothing. Sometimes, there is a very clear division between breadwinner spouses and caretaker spouses. Furthermore, in many cases, the caretaker spouse forgoes career opportunities to care for the home.

Other times, the “homemaker factor” is negligible at best. Many spouses share the breadwinner/caretaker roles, at least to a considerable extent. Other couples have no children or were not married long enough for this effect to truly kick in.

Call Today To Speak With A Hutchinson Lawyer From Carlson & Jones

At Carlson & Jones, P.A., our experienced Hutchinson lawyers protect your legal and financial rights throughout the divorce process. Contact us today for a free consultation. We routinely handle matters in McLeod County and nearby jurisdictions.

HUTCHINSON LAWYERS

114 Main Street North
Hutchinson, MN 55350
Toll Free: (855) 663-7423
Phone: (320) 289-4761
Fax: 763-682-3330

Office Details
Map and Directions

The Five Types of Impaired Driving In Minnesota

Human error is in some way responsible for over 90 percent of the car crashes in Minnesota. Legally, any type of human error could denote a lack of care or a safety law violation. However, jurors are much more likely to award compensation if the wreck involved one of the five types of impairment, as outlined below.

If the victim sustained a serious injury, MN personal injury lawyers may obtain compensation for both economic damages, such as medical bills, and noneconomic damages, including pain and suffering. Minnesota law defines a “serious injury” as any wound that triggers medical bills exceeding $4,000.

Alcohol

Beginning in the early 1990s, courts and law enforcement began an extended crackdown against drunk drivers. Yet despite all these efforts, alcohol still account for more than a quarter of the fatal car crashes in the United States.

Alcohol is a depressant which impairs motor skills and reaction times. Alcohol is also a powerful mood-altering substance which impairs judgment.

In alcohol-related collisions, MN personal injury lawyers may pursue claims against the tortfeasors (negligent drivers) who caused the crash. They may also seek compensation from the grocery store, bar, restaurant or other commercial alcohol provider if the sale:

  • Substantially caused the tortfeasor’s impairment, and
  • Was illegal (i.e. the tortfeasor was under 21 or was obviously intoxicated at the time).

Direct evidence is sufficient to establish an illegal sale to a minor. The person was either over or under 21. The old “s/he looked older” defense usually does not work. If the tortfeasor was an adult, the victim/plaintiff may use circumstantial evidence to prove obvious intoxication. This evidence may include bloodshot eyes, unsteady balance, or odor of alcohol.

This same evidence is usually sufficient to prove impairment, since alcohol impairment begins with the first drink.

Sleepiness

Many people would never think of drinking and driving as they are aware of the dangers. Yet many of these same people routinely drive when they are dangerously fatigued. Most people admit as such; some even admit to having fallen asleep at the wheel.

Drowsy driving is no small matter. Alcohol and fatigue affect the brain in about the same way. Driving after eighteen hours without sleep is like driving with a .08 BAC.

Lack of sleep only tells part of the story. Most people are naturally sleepy early in the morning and late at night. It does not matter how much rest they did or did not get the night before. Time-of-day sleepiness is particularly acute if the tortfeasor recently changes work schedules.

So, MN personal injury lawyers may use either the time of the accident or the amount of sleep the tortfeasor had to establish liability in these cases.

Drugs

Alcohol is by no means the only substance that impairs drivers. Many drugs have roughly the same effect. Some are entirely legal, some are legal under certain circumstances, and some are entirely illegal.

In some jurisdictions, drugged driving incidents outnumber drunk driving incidents. Many of these crashes involve opioid prescription drugs, like:

  • Oxycontin,
  • Fentanyl,
  • Vicodin, and
  • Codeine.

Even if the tortfeasor had a valid prescription and was not abusing the drug, it is still negligence to drive while under its influence. Many opioid pain relievers, especially Fentanyl, are hundreds of times stronger than morphine.

MN personal injury lawyers also deal with crashes which involve street drugs, like LSD and heroin. Most of these substances are even stronger than opioids.

Many over-the-counter drugs also impair drivers. These drugs include items like Benadryl, Unisom, and Sudafed. Certain food additives, such as caffeine, may also be impairing.

Medical Episode

Diabetes, epilepsy, heart disease, and a number of other conditions can all cause sudden loss of consciousness. These kinds of crashes are among the most dangerous ones. There is simply no telling where the car will go and what it will hit.

People who continue to drive with serious medical conditions clearly display a lack of care. Moreover, they show disregard for the safety and property of others, because they are well aware of the risk. That attitude is the essence of punitive damages. These damages are available if there is clear and convincing evidence that the tortfeasor intentionally disregarded a known danger.

Many people who drive with medical conditions also violate the law. Minnesota usually suspends drivers’ licenses in these cases. Driving with a suspended license constitutes negligence per se, or negligence as a matter of law. In these cases, it does not matter how careful, or how careless, the tortfeasor was.

Distraction

Sometimes, the impairment is external rather than internal. That’s the case with distracted driving, which is the latest addition to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s list of impairments. There are three kinds of distraction:

  • Visual (eyes off the road),
  • Cognitive (mind off driving), and
  • Manual (hand off the wheel).

Hand-held cell phones involve all three types of distraction. Hands-free cell phones, though manufacturers tout them as safe, still involve two types of distraction. Other sources include eating while driving and looking out the window instead of at the road.

In Minnesota, it is generally illegal to use a hand-held cell phone while driving. So, the aforementioned negligence per se rule may apply in these cases. With regard to other types of distraction MN personal injury lawyers must establish a lack of care by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).

Call Today To Speak With A MN Personal Injury Lawyer From Carlson & Jones

Impaired drivers often cause the most serious injuries in car wreck cases. For a free consultation with an experienced MN personal injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Attorneys can arrange for medical care at no upfront cost, even if the victim has no money or insurance.

How MN Personal Injury Lawyers Get Around the Graves Amendment

Negligent entrustment is one of the most common vicarious liability theories in Minnesota. According to this rule, vehicle owners may be responsible for damages if they allow incompetent drivers to use their vehicles.

Third party liability theories like negligent entrustment are especially important in wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases. The damages in cases like these can easily be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Minnesota has one of the lowest auto insurance minimum requirements in the country. So, many times, the tortfeasor (negligent driver) does not have enough coverage to provide full compensation.

Commercial negligent entrustment cases are quite common. Rented cars and trucks dot Minnesota highways. To obtain fair compensation in these cases, MN personal injury lawyers must work a little harder, because of the Graves Amendment. This law purports to exempt vehicle rental companies from the negligent entrustment rule.

“Trade or Business”

Lawmakers added 49 U.S.C. 30106 to a large omnibus transportation bill in 2002. Like many other obscure policy riders, many legislators probably did not know exactly what they were voting on. There is no legislative history backing up the Graves Amendment. Furthermore, lawmakers only debated it for a few minutes on the floor.

Nevertheless, insurance companies often try to use the Graves Amendment to limit compensation in U-Haul, Ryder, Enterprise, Avis, and other vehicle rental cases. However, the law’s vagueness and ambiguity plays into the hands of MN personal injury lawyers.

Under subsection (a)(1), vehicle owners are not liable for car crash damages if they are in the “trade or business” of renting vehicles. Rep Sam Graves (D-MO) had small businesses in mind when he authored this provision. He wanted these businesses to be immune from liability if they rented vehicles to incompetent drivers who caused car crashes.

But the brief Graves Amendment does not define this key phrase. So, MN personal injury lawyers must look elsewhere. The Uniform Commercial Code defines “merchant,” a similar term, as someone who has a special knowledge about a good or service.

Most companies that rent vehicles have no special knowledge about them. They may not be able to even give customers basic information, like the engine’s horsepower or the total weight-bearing capability.

If the vehicle owner is not in the “trade or business” of renting cars, the Graves Amendment does not apply.

“Not Otherwise Negligent”

For immunity to apply, the owner or agent must also not be negligent in the rental transaction.

Back in 2002, there was no technology to verify drivers’ licenses outside the DMV. So, a visual inspection was always sufficient. But technology has advanced quite a bit. Now, it is arguably the industry standard to electronically verify drivers’ licenses prior to completing vehicle rental transactions.

Violation of the industry standard is nearly always clear evidence of negligence, or a lack of ordinary care.

Sometimes, MN personal injury lawyers use the following approach to determine negligence. If the customer’s license was invalid or suspended, there is a strong presumption of negligence. If the customer’s driving record showed an accident or two, there probably is no negligence. If the customer had prior safety suspensions, MN personal injury lawyers may introduce additional evidence to show negligence.

In almost all civil cases, the victim/plaintiff must prove negligence by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). Such evidence usually entitled the victim/plaintiff to damages. These damages normally include compensation for both economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages may be available as well, in some cases.

Call Today To Speak To A MN Personal Injury Lawyer From Carlson & Jones

It is difficult, but not impossible, to obtain fair compensation in commercial negligent entrustment cases. For a free consultation with an experienced MN personal injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Home and hospital visits are available.

Should Couples Consult Hutchinson Lawyers About Premarital Agreements?

Homeowners do not expect their houses to burn down, and they certainly do not hope that they burn down. Nevertheless, responsible owners always get fire insurance.

The same idea applies with regard to premarital agreements. No one expects to get a divorce, and we’re quite certain that no one goes into a marriage hoping that it ends in divorce. But responsible spouses, like responsible homeowners, should be prepared for the unexpected and unfortunate. So, especially if one or both spouses have been married before, most couples should talk to a Hutchinson lawyer about a premarital agreement.

Minnesota is one of the few states that has not adopted the Uniform Premarital and Marital Agreements Act. However, the law in the Gopher State is very similar to the UPMAA. So, results are quite predictable, both inside Minnesota and across state lines. That’s important, because most married couples move frequently.

Making a Premarital Agreement

Money is one of the leading causes of marital strife. Financial problems come in many forms. Some couples have problems paying the bills, and that situation causes stress. However, in many cases, such issues are also rather easy to address, as long as each partner is willing to make sacrifices.

But excess money is another matter. Some people are savers, and some people are spenders. Absent guidance, they will always be at odds. A Hutchinson lawyer could use a premarital agreement to provide that guidance. These pacts remove money from the equation before it has a chance to poison your relationship.

Many couples include language in their premarital agreements which limits spousal support in some situations. Pre-arranged property clarification and division provisions are very popular as well.

Premarital agreements can do more than address money. Assume Ben divorces Sue but he remains very close to Ben Jr. Under the laws of Minnesota and most states, if Ben marries Jane, Ben Jr. would not receive a share of Ben’s inheritance and would be unable to take over Ben’s Barber Shop. A premarital agreement can cover complex inheritance and succession matters like these.

The Bens of the world might also consider drafting wills, trusts, and other executory documents to go along with their premarital agreements.

How Hutchinson Lawyers Can Break Premarital Agreements

Minnesota law has a strong presumption in favor of spousal agreements. Judges usually uphold such agreements if at all possible. However, almost no contracts are ironclad, and premarital agreements are no exception. So, there are basically four ways to challenge a premarital agreement in Minnesota:

  • Full Disclosure: Each spouse must provide all important financial information about all their nonmarital property holdings. To win on this point, challenging spouses must also normally prove that they could not get the missing information from any other source.
  • Separate Counsel: This is one of the major provisions which did not make it into the UPMAA. If each party did not have a different Hutchinson lawyer, the agreement is invalid. This rule is also related to the next one.
  • Involuntary: There is almost always some pressure to sign a premarital agreement. That pressure may even include an ultimatum, like “sign this deal or the wedding is off.” At some point, the pressure is too much. So, this point is specific to the facts of each case. If both spouses had lawyers and plenty of time to consult with them, involuntariness is hard to prove.
  • Unconscionable: A premarital agreement cannot be egregiously unfair, e.g. one spouse gets all the assets and one gets all the debts. Normally, the agreement must be unconscionable at the time it was made.

Hutchinson lawyers insert severability clauses into most premarital agreements. So, if a judge invalidates one part, the remainder survives.

How It Works

One of the more famous premarital agreement disputes involved Frank and Jamie McCourt, the erstwhile owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Unlike Minnesota, California is a UPMAA state, so the results may be a little different here.

Frank and Jamie owned the team through most of the early and mid-2000s. After several years of subpar play, the team had fallen on hard times financially. The club eventually declared bankruptcy in 2011.

While the team was in bankruptcy court, its owners were in divorce court. Since the team was basically worthless, Jamie signed away her half for about $200 million in cash and property. Shortly thereafter, Frank sold the revitalized team for $2 billion.

Jamie tried to overturn the property agreement. She argued that Frank withheld financial documents and that the agreement was unconscionable. It left her about $900 million shy of a 50-50 split.

But the court disagreed. The judges observed that Jamie was a team co-owner at the time, so she could have easily dug deeper into the team’s value. Furthermore, the agreement was not unconscionable when it was made.

Jamie may have lost her appeal, but President Donald Trump recently made her ambassador to Monaco and France. That’s not a bad consolation prize.

Call Today To Speak With A Hutchinson Lawyer From Carlson & Jones

A solid premarital agreement puts your marriage on a firmer foundation and gives you peace of mind. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We have offices in Hutchinson, Brainerd, Buffalo, and Minnetonka.

HUTCHINSON LAWYERS

114 Main Street North
Hutchinson, MN 55350
Toll Free: (855) 663-7423
Phone: (320) 289-4761
Fax: 763-682-3330

Office Details
Map and Directions

Parenting-Related Modifications in Minnesota

Because we live in such a mobile society, Minnesota divorce orders were never intended to be permanent. That’s especially true with regard to child support and parenting timeshare arrangements. Unlike alimony, Minnesota child support is almost entirely income based. So, even a rather slight change could support a modification. Furthermore, many parenting time schedules involve a very delicate balance of activities, locations, pickup times, and drop-off locations. Again, even the slightest change could have major repercussions.

When these life changes occur, it’s very important to work with an attorney. Informal “side agreements,” even if they are written, are unenforceable in Buffalo family courts. If one parent unilaterally reneges on the pact, the other parent has no recourse, no matter how long it’s been or what the change was.

Child Support Modifications in Minnesota

Most people change jobs between ten and fifteen times in their working lives. Almost all such changes usually involve more (or less) money. Furthermore, even if a person stays at the same job, compensation usually goes up (or down) periodically.

Legally, income-related changes must be so significant that they render the existing order unfair or unreasonable. That’s quite a mouthful. To make things a bit easier, the Legislature embedded a presumption in the law that a 20 percent change, either up or down, has that effect. The change must be permanent and must also be made in good faith. A temporary influx of overtime does not justify an increase, and obligors cannot leave high-paying jobs, so their child support payments will decrease.

Other changes might also affect the child support obligation. Since Minnesota is an income shares state, part of the initial calculation usually includes the number of overnights for both residential and non-residential parents. If the ratio changes by more than 20 percent, a Wright County judge will presume that there has been a substantial change in circumstances. A lesser change might qualify as well, but the moving party would need to produce additional evidence.

Expenses sometimes play a part in initial determinations as well. For example, children grow up, at least from a biological standpoint, so they no loner need daycare. If that’s the case, a Minnesota judge might re-evaluate the child support obligation. Sometimes child-rearing expenses vanish altogether, at least as far as the law is concerned. Children turn 18 and grow up altogether. Or they may get married, die, join the armed forces, or obtain legal emancipation.

In general, none of these modifications are automatic, even age-related adjustments. The judge must rewrite the existing paperwork.

Parenting Time Modifications in Minnesota

Most people move about eleven times. Many times, these relocations are job-related. So, moves may involve both child support and parenting time modifications. Child support is usually based on the income of the parents, and parenting time arrangements are usually based on the best interests of the children. Both these things almost always change regularly.

Minnesota law contains a presumption that it is in the best interests of the children for them to have consistent and meaningful contact with both of their parents. Items like domestic abuse obviously rebut this presumption, but other evidence may suffice as well. There is also a list of factors to consider. Lawmakers recently refined the list. Some of the more prominent items include:

  • Child’s Special Needs: This factor is a recent addition. Some children have educational, health, or other needs that one parent can meet very well, and the other parent may struggle to deal with.
  • Parents’ Physical and Mental Health: Some parents have physical health issues, perhaps a chronic condition or an injury, that limit their mobility. Others struggle with depression or substance abuse. These limitations could affect the parenting time distribution. Likewise, if there was an issue and that issue goes away, the split might need to be reconsidered.
  • Child’s Preference: Unlike some other states, Minnesota does not place an age label here. Instead, Minnesota judges may consider the preference of any children mature enough to indicate such a preference without being influence by one parent or the other.
  • Status Quo: Family law judges like stability. Therefore, if the current arrangement is working, even if there are problems, many judges hesitate to change it. “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know,” as the old saying goes.
  • Ability to Co-Parent: Some parents are extremely aggressive in child custody matters. Usually on the advice of counsel, they fight every detail and refuse to compromise. Most Minnesota judges assume that if the parent is confrontational before court, that person will also be confrontational after court. Poor co-parents often make poor residential parents.

Other factors include any agreements between the parties that are also in the child’s best interest, along with the needs of each child.

CALL TODAY TO SPEAK WITH A MINNESOTA FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY AT CARLSON & JONES

As a general rule, most people need to modify their divorce orders at least once every two or three years. For a free consultation with an Minnesota Family Law Attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle cases in Minnesota.

Who Pays Medical Bills In A Buffalo Minnesota Car Accident Case?

In a serious car accident case in Buffalo, emergency care alone often exceeds $100,000. Followup care, such as subsequent correction surgeries, adds even more to the cost. Finally, many serious injuries require extensive (and expensive) physical therapy.

Health insurance companies rarely, if ever, pay for such costs. They usually deny coverage, citing liability questions. That outcome leaves Wright County victims with enormous bills to pay and no way to pay them. Insurance companies know about this pressure, so they lean on victims to settle these cases very early before the victims even know how much their case is worth.

In times like these, you need a Minnesota Personal Injury Attorney to provide real solutions to problems like these. You also need your lawyer to fight for the compensation you deserve, because no one else will assume that responsibility.

First Party Liability in a Buffalo Minnesota Car Accident Case

The first thing to understand about car crash liability is that these incidents are usually unintentional. But they are almost never “accidental.” Drunk drivers used to use the “It was an accident” line when they caused fatal wrecks. Still, responsibility varies by degrees. As an example, let’s look at Miguel, Pablo, and distracted driving laws in Minnesota.

Each year, distracted drivers seriously injure more than 350,000 people in car accidents. But what exactly is “distracted driving”? According to experts, it could be:

  • Cognitive (taking one’s mind off driving),
  • Physical (taking one’s hand off the wheel), or
  • Visual (taking one’s eyes off the road).

Assume Miguel was having an animated conversation with his teenage son, who was in the back seat. As a result, he did not see the car in front of him stop short, and he rear-ends that vehicle. Miguel was clearly at fault for the wreck. Moreover, he was distracted both cognitively and visually. But most Wright County jurors would not consider talking to a passenger to be negligent.

Assume Pablo used a voice-to-text converter to text as he drove. The phone record shows that he sent and received several texts in the minutes before the crash. Even though he kept both hands on the wheel, he was distracted in the same way as Miguel. However, most jurors would say that Pablo wasn’t just careless. He was negligent.

Negligence is basically a lack of ordinary care. If such a lapse causes damages, that party must usually provide financial compensation for these damages.

There’s a little more to this question. Like many other states, Minnesota courts recognize the negligence per se shortcut. The tortfeasor (negligent driver) is liable for damages as a matter of law if that driver:

  • Violates a safety law, and
  • That violation substantially causes damages.

In negligence per se cases, it does not matter how careful or careless the person was. So, if Miguel received a citation for unsafe driving, which is probably the case, he may be legally responsible for damages. The same thing applies to Pablo. Under Minnesota law, it’s illegal to text and drive. Therefore, even if Pablo still had one eye on the road while he was texting, he’s still liable for damages.

Third Party Liability

Sometimes, the tortfeasor is not the only person who is legally responsible for damages. Assume that Miguel was an Uber driver or Pablo was a truck driver. If so, their employers might be responsible for the victim’s damages, according to the respondeat superior (let the master answer) rule. This doctrine applies if the tortfeasor was an employee who was acting within the scope of employment at the time of the Buffalo car crash.

Minnesota courts define both these elements in broad, victim-friendly terms. An “employee” is usually anyone that the employer controls, including independent contractors or even unpaid volunteers. Moreover, even if the tortfeasor is driving an empty vehicle to the garage, such an act still falls within the scope of employment.

Vicarious liability theories are especially important in cases that involve catastrophic injuries, like head injuries, severe burns, or wrongful death. Minnesota has one of the lowest insurance minimum requirements in the country. Therefore, many tortfeasors do not have enough insurance coverage to provide fair compensation.

In a serious injury Buffalo Minnesota Car Accident, fair compensation usually includes money for both economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages may be available in some cases as well.

CALL TODAY TO SPEAK WITH A BUFFALO MINNESOTA CAR ACCIDENT LAWYER AT CARLSON & JONES

Substantial compensation may be available to Wright County car crash victims. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo Minnesota Car Accident Lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. An attorney can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no money or insurance.

BUFFALO OFFICE

215 East Highway 55
Suite 201
Buffalo, MN 55313
Toll Free: 877-344-1555
Phone: 763-682-2220
Fax: 763-682-3330

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What To Do After A Serious Car Accident Injury In Buffalo, Minnesota

Because the closest trauma center may be rather far away, car crash injuries in places like Buffalo tend to be very serious and very expensive. It’s not unusual for the hospital bill alone to exceed $100,000 in these cases. That’s not including other costs, such as physical therapy and lost wages. These expenses could easily double this figure. That’s also not including the intangible damages, like pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment in life, and emotional distress.

Legal issues make these financial issues even more complicated. Things are more complex still if the victim was visiting from out of town.

Fortunately, a Buffalo car wreck lawyer is both an attorney and a counselor. An aggressive advocate can get you the compensation and justice you deserve. Furthermore, a counselor can give you solid legal advice at the time when you and your family need it the most.

What To Do About Hospital Bills

Most people would not think to call a plumber to help pay for a roofing repair bill or a lawyer to help with a doctor bill. The plumber can do nothing but offer moral support, but a lawyer can do much more than that.

At Carlson & Jones, we direct our clients to qualified medical help. Family and ER physicians usually know little about whiplash and other car wreck-related injuries. So, we make sure that our clients receive proper diagnosis and treatment plans.

There is more good news. Our lawyers send letters of protection to these medical providers. These letters guarantee payment once the case is resolved. So, our clients usually pay nothing upfront to receive top-quality medical care. They do not even need health insurance.

We’re not finished. The letter of protection also authorizes us to negotiate the fee on your behalf. During these negotiations, we can usually arrange for a lower fee. So, our clients keep more of their settlement money.

The letter of protection does not make medical bills go away. But it does remove the immediate pressure to pay them in the short term, as well as make them more affordable in the long term.

Where to File a Claim

During holidays like the Fourth of July, many people in Wright County are in the area just to visit friends or relatives. The underlying law in negligence cases does not vary too much among different counties in Minnesota or even among different states. Under Wright County’s venue rules, out-of-towners can file legal damage claims:

  • In the county where the wreck occurred, or
  • In the county where they normally reside.

Many people file claims where the crash occurred. The evidence is close at hand. Moreover, Wright County jurors are fairly conservative on the whole. So, they are usually more sympathetic towards victims than jurors in big cities.

Filing a claim in the county of residence has its advantages as well. For example, if the victim/plaintiff is from far outside Buffalo, coming back and forth for hearings and other events may be a significant hardship.

There may also be some major differences in the law. When it comes to multiple fault in a car crash, Minnesota and most other states are modified comparative fault jurisdictions. Here in the Gopher State, the tortfeasor (negligent driver) must be at least 51 percent responsible for a crash for the victim/plaintiff to receive proportional damages.

In contrast, neighboring South Dakota has a one-of-a-kind slight/gross comparative negligence rule. In some cases, this rule may bar recovery entirely in multiple fault situations.

How to Win Your Claim

The victim/plaintiff always has the burden of proof in negligence cases. So, the victim/plaintiff’s Buffalo attorney must collect evidence. First responders begin this job by preparing a police accident report. Attorneys finish this job by collecting things like:

  • EDR Data: Most vehicles have Event Data Recorders. These devices record items like velocity, steering angle, and brake application. Evidence like this is obviously very important when it comes to establishing legal fault.
  • Additional Witness Statements: For various reasons, many Buffalo residents do not like talking to police officers. However, these individuals often voluntarily come forward when approached in another way.
  • Physical Evidence: Most Wright County courtrooms have high-definition video screens. So, jurors expect to see lots of high-resolution pictures of physical injuries, skid marks, physical damage to the car, and so on.

To collect this evidence, Buffalo car wreck attorneys often partner with private investigators.

Other professional partnerships often include an accident reconstructionist. These professionals are especially important in catastrophic injury cases. A reconstructionist can put the pieces of evidence together sort of like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. The simpler you can make things for the jury, the more likely a good outcome becomes.

Of course, the best evidence in the world is not much good without a top legal advocate. Our attorneys use theories like negligence and negligence per se to obtain fair compensation in these cases.

Call Today To Speak With A Buffalo MN Personal Injury Attorney From Carlson & Jones

Serious car wrecks are bad enough, but out-of-town car wrecks are even more complex. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Buffalo, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Home and hospital visits are available.

BUFFALO MN ATTORNEYS

215 East Highway 55
Suite 201
Buffalo, MN 55313
Toll Free: 877-344-1555
Phone: 763-682-2220
Fax: 763-682-3330

Office Details

How To Fight a DWI in Minnesota And Win

It is not easy to fight a DWI and win in Minnesota. That’s especially true if the driver provided a breath chemical sample. Because of Minnesota’s per se law, the conviction rate in these cases is usually over 80 percent. If the defendant provides a blood sample, the rate is even higher.

However, even in chemical test cases, the evidence is never as overwhelming as it seems. Certain pretrial tactics, like the ALS hearing, improve your odds even further. Moreover, DWI cases have lots of procedural issues. In fact, these procedural questions are often your best bet to fight a DWI and win, especially a holiday DWI.

Reasonable Suspicion for the Stop

Over July 4th and other holidays commonly associated with drinking and driving, like Labor Day and Memorial Day, most police departments are on high alert. Ironically, the tactics which officers use during these periods to convict more drivers often have the opposite result.

The holidays often involve Selective Traffic Enforcement Programs. In most STEP campaigns, supervisors redeploy officers to certain areas of town and instruct them to write as many DWI citations as possible. These kinds of police dragnets do not resonate well with  jurors, especially as police officers have recently lost some of the prestige they once enjoyed.

STEP campaigns matter because, even though the Supreme Court has watered down the reasonable suspicion rule lately, it is still in place. This rule requires officers to have specific articulable facts which support a DWI stop. When they feel pressure to make arrests, officers sometimes pull over cars for very miniscule infractions. For example, an officer might pull over a driver for weaving inside a single lane, which is not illegal in Minnesota.

Probable Cause for the Arrest

After the officer pulls over the defendant and asks those four little words (“Have you been drinking?”), the officer must have probable cause to make an arrest. This standard is much higher than reasonable suspicion. The officer needs more evidence, and this evidence almost always comes from the Field Sobriety Tests.

There is very little scientific evidence that these tests are accurate. Even if the results are admissible, and that is a big “if,” the results are also highly questionable:

  • Walk and Turn: In the “walking a straight line” test or “heel to toe walk” test, the defendant must walk a line heel to toe, turn around and walk back the same way. Test conditions are sometimes an issue. For example, it’s very, very difficult for anyone to walk an imaginary line in such a manner without veering at least a little.
  • One Leg Stand: Much like the WAT, the OLS is a divided attention test which measures both physical and mental ability. Also like the WAT, Brainerd officers often testify that the defendant “failed” the test based on minor technicalities, like starting with the incorrect foot.
  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: Much like the WAT, test conditions are normally an issue with the HGN test. It’s hard to follow a point of light with your eyes in the dark and while squad car overhead lights flash nearby. Furthermore, alcohol is not the leading cause of nystagmus.

If there is no probable cause, the judge will throw out the entire case. Prosecutors know this. So, if the evidence on this point is weak and they know the defendant has a good lawyer, they are often willing to make a good deal.

Reasonable Doubt for the Conviction

If the DWI prosecution makes it past the first two hurdles, the third one is even higher. Minnesota courts have no uniform definition for this phrase. However, it generally means that the prosecutor’s evidence must be so overwhelming that the defendant absolutely must be guilty and there is no possible defense.

In refusal cases, prosecutors must use the FSTs to establish this level of guilt. That’s not easy to do. They are only designed to establish reasonable suspicion, and they do not do that very well.

Chemical tests are not perfect either. For example, most Breathalyzers read acetone as ethanol. Many people, including diabetics and smokers, have high acetone levels in their bloodstreams. As for blood tests, a Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney has the right to examine the sample and order another test. Such exams often yield different results from the one that a police crime lab produced.

Despite what some lawyers think, it is possible to fight and win a DUI. For a free consultation with an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Minnesota, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Minnesota jurisdictions.

Recent Modifications In Child Support Laws Coming August 2018

For over a hundred years, parents have told their kids Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales, like the princess and the pea. The trademark handsome prince scoured the world for a “true princess” to marry, but he could not find one. Then, one dark and stormy night, a princess came to the castle seeking shelter. The old queen thought this girl could be the one, but she had to be sure.

So, the queen arranged for the would-be princess to sleep on twenty mattresses on top of a pea. The next morning, the queen asked the princess how she slept. “Oh, very badly!” she moaned. “I have scarcely closed my eyes all night. Heaven only knows what was in the bed, but I was lying on something hard, so that I am black and blue all over my body. It’s horrible!”

The prince and princess were married that very day. The queen knew that only a true princess could be so sensitive.

You’re probably thinking that’s a nice story which has nothing to do with August 2018 child support changes in Minnesota. But not so fast, ye knave. The PEA (Parenting Expense Adjustment) is one of the most litigated issues in Minnesota child support matters. On August 1, it changes significantly. Who will live happily ever after as a result of this change?

Current Child Support Law in Minnesota

In 2007, the Gopher State joined the majority of other states in the Union and switched to an income share model. Proponents of this child support theory say it is better for the children. The income share model takes the income of both parents and divides the support obligation proportionally between them. So, the children do not suffer financially because of the divorce.

Assume Father and Mother make $10,000 per month. He earns 60 percent and she earns 40 percent. He is responsible for 60 percent of the child support obligation, and she’s responsible for 40 percent. That seems easy enough, right? But not so fast. We are just getting started.

The judge can vary the amount based on several factors, including the aforementioned PEA. There are three adjustment categories based on parenting time: less than 10 percent overnights, 11 percent to 45 percent, and 45.1 percent to 50 percent.

To return to the previous example, Father would pay $1,093 a month if he is in the second category but only $310 a month if he’s in the third category. That’s a very big difference.

No More PEAs, Please

So, our hypothetical mother and father might fight bitterly over two or three overnight visits a year. The difference means over $9,000 a year ($783 a month). These disputes are especially protracted since most Minnesota divorce decrees are quite vague in this area.

A statewide task force examined this problem for over a year and finally published a decision in February 2018. Their solution? Keep the income shares model, but get rid of the current PEA structure. Instead of the sharp and seemingly arbitrary cutoffs in the current system, there is a much more complex formula which should eliminate heavyweight boxing matches over one or two weekends a year. The state says a revised child support calculator is forthcoming.

There is another change as well. Also effective August 1, 2018, parents with more than 55 percent of the parenting time never have to pay child support. Under the current law, such an outcome is still possible, in some cases.

What Should You Do About the Minnesota 2018 Child Support Changes?

If you have an existing child support order, a new law does not constitute changed circumstances. So, you cannot base a motion to modify simply on the PEA calculations. However, if you alter the number of overnights, the child support obligation could change significantly as well.

People who are going through a divorce right now need to be especially mindful of these changes. If you had one figure in mind when the case began, that figure could be a lot different once the case is finalized.

One pea made a big difference for the prince and princess, and one PEA makes a big difference in a child support obligation. But that ends on August 1. For a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Minnesota, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We have four offices statewide.

How Minnesota Divorce Lawyers Deal With The Recent Alimony Change

Statistically, it is very difficult for divorced women to rebuild wealth. Therefore, spousal maintenance is an important part of most Minnesota divorces. Beginning on January 1, 2019, alimony will be a lot different.

One change went into effect in August 2016. The new alimony reform law actually affected spousal support modifications, which means that the law is just now coming into play. The Cohabitation Alimony Reform Bill makes it easier to modify alimony based on future cohabitation. There was a concern among many Minnesota Divorce Lawyers that ex-spouses lived with their partners but did not get married so as to not affect their alimony.

The new law does not outlaw this practice, but it does give obligor spouses a fighting chance. Instead of simply looking at the exchange of vows, judges may consider several factors, such as the length of cohabitation and the economic benefit which the ex-spouse receives from this arrangement.

The other big change was part of the December 2017 tax reform package. Currently, alimony payments are tax-deductible and alimony receipts are taxable income. Effective January 1, 2019, both these things go away. The obligor can no longer deduct alimony payments, and the obligee does not have to report the payments to the IRS or MDR.

For tax purposes, spousal support payment will be like child support payments. Neither payments nor receipts have any tax consequences. If alimony reformers had their way, the entire system would change along these lines. Many people decry the subjective nature of alimony in places like Minnesota. In the summer of 2017, there were rumblings that the Legislature would soon consider a comprehensive alimony reform bill. But so far, nothing has materialized.

What Types of Alimony Can Minnesota Divorce Lawyers Set Up?

As it stands, Minnesota law contains three different kinds of alimony. A Minnesota judge may order any, all, or none of these types.

  • Temporary Maintenance: While the case is pending, many spouses have immediate and unexpected financial needs. These needs include things like attorneys’ fees, property deposits, and household maintenance expenses such as rent and utilities. Temporary maintenance gives spouses the money they need to meet these expenses. Income is basically the only factor. Courts rarely look at the broader picture.
  • Short-Term Maintenance: These payments are appropriate if a spouse needs some additional help after the divorce to become self-sufficient. That could be money to finish a college degree or an additional income stream because the spouse must accept a lower-paying entry level job. Other ex-spouses need money while they wait for a house to sell.
  • Long-Term Maintenance: Reformers hate this third type of alimony. It is subjective and also clearly designed to redistribute income. Although the rule is not set in stone, most Wright County judges do not award long-term alimony unless the spouse can never become self-sufficient, perhaps due to a disability, or the marriage lasted longer than ten years.

Minnesota Divorce Lawyers may usually modify the alimony terms based on changed circumstances. As discussed above, the 2016 alimony reform bill made these motions easier to prove in some situations.

Factors in Determining Amount of Payments

The above categories roughly coincide with the duration of alimony payments. For example, temporary maintenance automatically ends when the judge signs the decree. As for the amount of payments, the judge basically weighs the obligee spouse’s economic need against the obligor spouse’s ability to pay. Some specific factors include:

  • Each Spouse’s Economic Means: In addition to employment and other income streams, the judge may normally take the property settlement into consideration. That includes any award of separate property.
  • Educational Need: Obligor spouses do not need to help pay for self-improvement classes. But they do have a legal obligation to help pay for courses related to economic self-sufficiency. That status is in everyone’s best interest.
  • Standard of Living During the Marriage: This factor looms large in long-term maintenance awards. According to the law, the divorce should not be an unfair financial burden for either spouse. Some financial pain is inevitable. But, it should be evenly spread between the parties to the greatest extent possible.

Fault in the breakup of the marriage is not relevant with regard to alimony. But Minnesota Divorce Lawyers may be able to introduce such evidence in the property division phase, through a back door called the dissipation (waste) rule. If Wife spent $10,000 on a gift for a boyfriend, Husband may be entitled to reimbursement for the community share.

CALL TODAY TO SPEAK WITH A MINNESOTA DIVORCE LAWYER AT CARLSON & JONES

Parts of the alimony law are changing, but other parts are still the same. For a free consultation with experienced Minnesota Divorce Lawyers, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

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Buffalo Lawyers

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