Ask a Hutchinson, MN Auto Accident Lawyer: How Much Money Do You Get from a Car Accident Settlement?

Many car crashes cause extremely serious injuries. The medical bills alone in a severe injury case, such as a head injury, regularly exceed $100,000.

Despite what television commercials imply, insurance company representatives do not have a victim’s best interests in mind. Instead, the insurance company is primarily concerned with its own profits. That means collecting as many premiums as possible and paying as little compensation as possible.

A Hutchinson, MN auto accident lawyer, on the other hand, is committed to maximum compensation for victims. Generally, the settlement includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. The actual amount of a settlement varies significantly, usually depending on the factors listed below.

Legal Theory

In general, the legal basis of a car wreck case is a lack of ordinary care. This point is rather straightforward. However, the standard of care, as well as the tortfeasor’s (negligent driver’s) neglect, or lack thereof, is very subjective. Some common theories in car crash cases include:

  • Duty of Care: This idea is based on the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you) which Minnesota schoolchildren once memorized. In this context, this duty includes things like driving while sober and well-rested, as well as driving defensively.
  • Contributory Negligence: Many car crashes do not have singular causes. For example, the victim might have been speeding when the tortfeasor (negligent driver) made an illegal turn. In these situations, McLeod County jurors must divide fault between the two parties on a percentage basis.
  • Negligence Per Se: Sometimes, Minnesota law sets the standard of care. Examples include things like driving on the right side of the road and traveling under the speed limit. So, if tortfeasors violate such laws, they might be responsible for damages as a matter of law.

Vicarious liability often comes into play as well. Minnesota’s dram shop law is a good illustration. If commercial providers, like bars or grocery stores, sell alcohol illegally and that patron causes a car crash, the provider might be financially responsible for damages. Examples of an illegal sale include sales to underage patrons, after-hours transactions, and sales to obviously intoxicated persons.

Hutchinson, MN Auto Accident Lawyers and Evidence in Car Wreck Claims

The victim/plaintiff must establish negligence by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). Since this rule is the lowest standard of proof in Minnesota, a little evidence goes a long way. However, there is often a direct relationship between the amount of evidence a Hutchinson, MN auto accident lawyer presents and the amount of damages a McLeod County jury awards.

The Iron Triangle of medical bills, the victim/plaintiff’s own testimony, and the police accident report are often the only evidence in a car crash claim. But that’s not always true. For example, if the victim was killed, the victim/plaintiff’s testimony is obviously unavailable. Furthermore, since it contains only one side of the story, the police accident report might be incomplete and inaccurate.

Therefore, evidence might be a problem. Many times, a vehicle’s Event Data Recorder is the solution. Capability varies by make and model, but most of these gadgets measure and record things like:

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

Items like these could be crucial to a Hutchinson, MN auto accident lawyer. As a bonus, if the gadget was working properly, it’s almost impossible for insurance company lawyers to successfully challenge this evidence. Unlike eyewitnesses, computers are never biased and never mistaken.

To effectively use EDR evidence, a Hutchinson, MN auto accident lawyer must overcome some obstacles. For example, Minnesota has very strict vehicle data privacy laws. Therefore, attorneys usually must obtain court orders before they can access and download EDR information.

Resolving the Case

The amount of a settlement, as well as the timing of a settlement, also depends on a Hutchinson, MN auto accident lawyer’s ability to resolve the case. There are several qualities to look for in an attorney, such as:

  • Experience: Like other professionals, attorneys learn many things not from law school, but from the school of hard knocks. There is a close relationship between years of experience and overall ability. Your injury claim is much too important to trust to someone who requires on-the-job training.
  • Track Record: Experience only tells part of the story. Many Hutchinson, MN auto accident lawyers spend years in the business and only try a handful of cases. Insurance companies are only scared of attorneys with substantial trial experience and successful track records.
  • Bedside Manner: Some lawyers are not bilingual. They speak Legalese fluently, but are not very proficient in English. Your Hutchinson, MN auto accident lawyer should relate complex legal problems in simple terms, so you can make the best possible decisions.

The bottom line is that if the legal theory is sound, the evidence is compelling, and the Hutchinson, MN auto accident lawyer is well qualified, the settlement should be on the best terms available under the circumstances.

Contact an Assertive Attorney

Car crash victims need and deserve substantial compensation for their serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN auto accident lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in McLeod County and nearby jurisdictions.

How Do Hutchinson, MN Lawyers Handle Car Crash Defenses?

Every year, vehicle collisions injure about three million Americans. A few of these accidents are “fender benders” which do not cause serious injury. Minnesota’s no-fault insurance law applies to such incidents. As a rule of thumb, if your car was drivable after the collision, you probably did not sustain a serious injury under the law.

In most cases, however, the victim sustains a “serious” injury. That means a Hutchinson, MN lawyer may be able to obtain substantial compensation. That compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

While Hutchinson, MN lawyers are committed to maximum compensation for victims, insurance company lawyers do whatever they can to minimize compensation for victims. Frequently, these efforts involve one of the legal defenses discussed below.

Contributory Negligence

Comparative fault is probably the most common car crash defense, mostly because serious injury accidents rarely have only one cause. In a nutshell, contributory negligence shifts blame for the wreck from the tortfeasor (negligent driver) to the victim. The possibilities are almost endless. Perhaps the victim was speeding and the tortfeasor made an illegal lane change, or perhaps the victim was using a cell phone and the tortfeasor was drunk.

Specific laws vary by state. Minnesota, like most other jurisdictions, is a modified comparative fault state with a 51 percent threshold. So, if the victim is no more than 49 percent responsible for the crash, a Hutchinson, MN lawyer can still win a proportionate share of damages. Nearby Missouri, however, is a pure comparative fault state. Theoretically, a victim could be 99 percent responsible for the crash, and the tortfeasor would still be liable for a proportionate share of damages.

Hutchinson, MN lawyers have essentially two chances to blunt the contributory negligence defense. First, the insurance company must convince the judge that the victim’s negligence contributed to the crash. If the victim was only traveling three or four mph over the limit, that excessive speed probably did not contribute to the crash in any meaningful way.

Second, the insurance company must convince jurors of the same thing. At this point, the percentage division comes into play. Based on the evidence, the jury must divide fault for the crash 50-50, 60-40, or whatever. The lower the victim’s share of fault, the more compensation the victim receives.

Lack of Evidence

At the other end of the frequency spectrum, this defense is quite rare. The burden of proof in civil court is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). That’s the lowest standard of proof in Minnesota law.

So, as long as a Hutchinson, MN lawyer is prepared, there should be sufficient evidence on all points. Authentication is sometimes an issue. For example, if a victim’s evidence includes medical bills, these statements must include affidavits and other authenticating evidence. If this evidence is not present or in the wrong form, a McLeod County judge might exclude it.

Hutchinson, MN Lawyers and the Sudden Emergency Defense

The first two defenses are generally available in most vehicle collision cases. These last two defenses, however, are niche defenses which are only available in certain situations.

Insurance company lawyers often roll out the sudden emergency defense in pedestrian accident claims. Court documents in these cases often say something like since the victim “darted out into traffic” the tortfeasor could not avoid the wreck. This line of thought sets up the sudden emergency defense, which has two elements:

  • Reasonable reaction to
  • A sudden emergency.

This clip from 1995’s Tommy Boy illustrates both elements of the sudden emergency defense. The hood fly-up is a sudden emergency, because it is a completely unexpected development. The same thing goes for a lightning strike. But jaywalking pedestrians are more like stalled cars or large potholes. Drivers should anticipate these everyday hazards, so they are not “sudden emergencies” in this context.

Although he faced a sudden emergency, Tommy would not be able to use the defense in court. He did not react reasonably, by pulling over to the right. Instead, he drove recklessly and even crossed the centerline. But hey, that’s why they call it a comedy.

Last Clear Chance

Hutchinson, MN lawyers often deal with this defense in head-on and rear-end wrecks. To examine this defense, let’s stay with the Tommy Boy clip. Assume Tommy collided with that semi-truck after he crossed the centerline. If first responders arrived, they would almost certainly give Tommy a ticket.

But Tommy might not be legally responsible for damages, because of the last clear chance defense. If the truck driver had a reasonable chance to avoid the crash, perhaps by changing lanes, the truck driver might be legally responsible. Basically, even though Tommy drove recklessly, the truck driver still had a duty of care. S/he could not simply sit back, let the wreck happen, and blame Tommy.

The lesson here is that, even if first responders said you were at fault, always have a Hutchinson, MN lawyer evaluate your case. You may still be entitled to the compensation you need and deserve.

Contact a Diligent Attorney

If an attorney is not ready to handle car crash defenses, a promising claim could end in disappointment. 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 money or insurance.

A Brainerd, MN Personal Injury Lawyer Answers FAQ About Talcum Powder

The link between Johnson & Johnson talcum powder and mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer, has never been stronger. In October 2019, the company voluntarily recalled over 30,000 bottles of product which, according to the Food and Drug Administration, were laced with asbestos. The company later denied that the talcum powder contained asbestos fibers.

Largely because of the new evidence of the link between talcum powder and asbestos, as well as the recent recall, our Brainerd, MN personal injury lawyers field lots of calls about talcum powder. We have tried to condense a few of the more common questions and answers into this blog.

How Are Talcum Powder and Asbestos Connected?

Talc and asbestos are both highly-prized minerals. Talc is one of the softest known minerals. It’s commonly used as a stand-alone cosmetic and also as filler in other products, like eye makeup. Talc, by itself, is usually safe.

Asbestos, however, is a different story. When it was first discovered, builders used it as a fireproofing and insulating agent. Back then, asbestos was plentiful and cheap. But scientists soon discovered that it was also highly toxic. In fact, just one microscopic fiber may cause serious conditions like mesothelioma.

As for the link between the two, asbestos and talc are often together in the gound. So, during the mining and extraction process, cross-contamination is very common. J&J claimed it was keeping an eye on this problem, but that is obviously not the case.

How Does Asbestos Affect the Body?

In this respect, asbestos is a lot like lead and other heavy metals. A very small tiny amount of lead may cause metallosis, or metal poisoning. Likewise, as mentioned, one tiny asbestos fiber may cause a serious illness. Just how tiny are these fibers? 20,000 of them can fit in the space between Abraham Lincoln’s mouth and nose on a penny.

Mesothelioma is a very rare form of lung cancer. Because it is so rare, many doctors misdiagnose mesothelioma as non-small-cell lung carcinoma. NSCLC is much more common, and also much less aggressive. As a result, the prescribed treatment regimen is often ineffective, and the cancer spreads.

Mesothelioma survival rates have increased substantially since the 1990s, so treatment is often available. However, due to the nature of this disease, treatment is also very expensive.

Asbestos exposure may also cause asbestosis, which is basically scar tissue buildup in the lungs. Like mesothelioma, asbestosis is quite rare. Doctors often misdiagnose this condition as COPD or bronchitis. So, by the time doctors give a correct diagnosis, the only available treatment may be a radical lung transplant. Even this risky procedure is not always effective.

Both mesothelioma and asbestosis have very long latency periods. Most people are sick for several decades before symptoms appear. This issue carries over to the next questions, which is. . .

I Used Talcum Powder Many Years Ago. Is It Too Late to Call a Brainerd, MN Personal Injury Lawyer?

Definitely not. True, the statute of limitations in these cases is normally only two years. But with injuries of this kind, Brainerd, MN personal injury lawyers often turn to the discovery rule. According to this doctrine, the statute of limitations clock does not begin ticking until victims:

  • Know or should know the full extent of their illness or injury, and
  • Connect their condition with the defendant’s wrongful conduct.

In this case, the defendant’s wrongful conduct is twofold. First, J&J allowed asbestos fibers to leak into its talcum powder. Second, company executives knew that there was a problem, yet they did nothing to correct it. Because of this twofold misconduct, Brainerd, MN personal injury lawyers are often able to obtain substantial compensation in these cases.

On a related note, even if you have a pre-existing condition, like a family history of cancer, full compensation is usually available.

Why is Johnson & Johnson Fighting This So Hard? Wouldn’t It Be Cheaper to Settle Quickly and Quietly?

Many dangerous drug claims do settle quickly and quietly. Normally, the manufacturer wants to keep this news out of the headlines. Additionally, from a pure numbers standpoint, talcum powder sales only make up a small percentage of Johnson & Johnson’s business. So, from that perspective, it makes little sense to contest these cases.

But for J&J, there is more at stake than dollars and cents. Talcum powder is essential to J&J’s brand. So, its lawyers are not really fighting for money. They are fighting to protect J&J’s name.

Many plaintiffs are the same way. Bringing attention to this issue is more important than money damages. So, our Brainerd, MN personal injury lawyers fight for both compensation and justice.

Contact an Assertive Attorney

The link between talcum powder and mesothelioma is becoming clearer and clearer. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN personal injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in injury cases.

 

How Do Brainerd, MN Injury Lawyers Resolve Truck Crash Claims?

Back in the day, most truck wreck claims went to trial. But that proportion decreased by over 50 percent during the 1990s. Now, out-of-court settlements far outnumber trials. These settlements are usually best for everyone. They give the parties more control over the outcome and reduce litigation time.

More importantly for Brainerd, MN injury lawyers and their clients, truck crash claims often settle on very favorable terms. Every case is unique, but most follow the same process.

Evidence Collection

In negligence matters, the victim/plaintiff has the burden of proof. So, these claims must include enough solid evidence to establish the basic elements. Additionally, there is often a direct relationship between the amount of evidence a Brainerd, MN injury lawyer presents and the amount of damages a Crow Wing County jury awards.

Sometimes, evidence is easy to acquire. In many cases, the victim’s testimony, the police accident report, and medical bills might be the only necessary items. But that’s not always true.

Obviously, in wrongful death claims, the victim’s testimony is completely unavailable. In other situations, such as brain injury cases, the victim’s testimony might be shaky. For these same reasons, the police accident report might be incomplete or inaccurate. And, medical bills often convey hard data, like diagnosis, treatment, and cost. But the human element is missing.

Therefore, Brainerd, MN injury lawyers must often dig deeper to find compelling evidence. That’s especially true in truck wreck claims. These collisions often involve wrongful death or other catastrophic injuries. Some additional sources include some often-overlooked electronic gadgets, such as:

  • ELDs: Electronic Logging Devices are very important in HOS (Hours of Service)-related claims. Drowsy driving is a serious problem among truck drivers. Because profit margins are so thin, these drivers often stay on the road longer than the maximum periods set in Minnesota or federal law. ELDs, which are connected to the truck’s drivetrain, often contain important data regarding HOS compliance.
  • EDRs: Event Data Recorders are much like the black box flight data recorders in commercial airplanes. Capacity varies by make and model, but most EDRs contain information about vehicle speed, steering angle, brake application, and other data critical to crash analysis.

Electronic evidence is quite valuable. Such evidence often resonates very well with tech-savvy Crow Wing County jurors. Additionally, assuming the devices were working properly, it’s hard for insurance company lawyers to block their use in court.

But there are issues. These devices are quite sophisticated. A Brainerd, MN injury lawyer must have the proper resources and know-how to access the information. That’s assuming the information is available at all. Since many insurance companies “accidentally” destroy the EDR and ELD, Brainerd, MN injury lawyers must quickly send spoliation letters to preserve this evidence.

How Brainerd, MN Injury Lawyers Establish the Settlement Value

The medical evidence in the case, like medical bills and examination results, play a big part in determining the case’s economic value. Liability evidence, from things like the ELD and EDR, is important as well. If the truck driver was clearly at fault, a Brainerd, MN injury lawyer typically demands more money.

A brief side note here. No amount of money in the world can fully compensate victims and their families in serious personal injury cases. But no one can turn back the clock and stop the accident from happening. So, money is the next best thing.

Other factors may affect the settlement demand. For example, some victims want to move on with their lives as quickly as possible. So, a Brainerd, MN injury lawyer may demand less money.

When it comes to actually setting the settlement value, there is no single method. Truthfully, this part of the process is often more art than science. Often, Brainerd, MN injury lawyers multiply the economic damages (medical bills, lost wages, and property damage) by two, three, or four, depending on the aforementioned other factors.

Final Resolution

If liability is reasonably clear, Minnesota insurance companies have a duty to quickly settle the claims. But, there is usually at least some question as to liability. So, a lightning-fast settlement usually does not happen.

Generally, a Brainerd, MN injury lawyers must file court paperwork to protect the victim/plaintiff’s rights. Insurance companies routinely file pretrial motions seeking to have the case thrown out of court. If a lawyer has diligently collected evidence, these motions almost always fail.

Quite often, truck crash claims settle after mediation. Briefly, a mediator hears from both sides and then conveys settlement offers back and forth between the two sides. If both parties negotiate in good faith, mediation is usually successful.

Reach Out to Aggressive Attorneys

Truck crash victims may be entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in injury cases.

Brainerd, MN Accident Lawyers and Third Party Liability

In catastrophic injury situations, such as spine injuries, the medical bills alone may exceed $1 million. Most families do not have the financial resources to cope with expenses like these. Furthermore, many health insurance companies refuse to pay injury-related costs, for liability reasons. Finally, many tortfeasors (negligent drivers) have less than $50,000 in personal injury coverage.

Attorneys can connect these victims with doctors, so they get the medical help they need when they need it. Additionally, a Brainerd, MN accident lawyer can usually arrange for this treatment at no upfront cost. So, the aforementioned money worries temporarily fade into the background.

Legal help in catastrophic injury situations extended beyond temporarily free doctor visits. Brainerd, MN accident lawyers use vicarious liability theories to help ensure that these costs, and other expenses, do not come from the victim’s own pocket.

Establishing First Party Liability

Vicarious liability is irrelevant unless the driver was negligent. So, establishing first party liability is an essential component of a vicarious liability claim. There are basically three kinds of negligence in vehicle collision matters:

  • Behavioral, usually alcohol or drug impairment,
  • Operational, such as making an illegal turn, and
  • Environmental, such as traveling too fast under adverse conditions.

We all make mistakes like these from time to time, and we must all accept the consequences of the mistakes we make. Compensation for injuries is one of these consequences.

Alcohol Provider Liability

In recent years, some states have limited their dram shop laws, or done away with them entirely. According to some, holding commercial providers liable for alcohol-related crash damages diminishes personal responsibility.

But Minnesota lawmakers see the big picture. They understand that responsible alcohol sales can prevent many collisions. So, Brainerd, MN accident lawyers may still turn to a dram shop law. Minnesota Statute Section 340A.801 states that bars, grocery stores, restaurants, and other commercial providers are liable for subsequent car crash damages if they illegally sold alcohol to the tortfeasor. Illegal sales include:

  • Minor: Generally, strict liability applies in these situations. The old “s/he looked older” defense hardly ever holds up in court. Even if the tortfeasor presented a false ID, dram shop liability may attach.
  • Obviously Intoxicated: Regardless of the tortfeasor’s age, dram shop liability may attach if the tortfeasor was obviously intoxicated at the time of sale. Evidence on this point includes bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and unsteady balance.
  • Before/After Hours Sale: A few minutes on the clock may mean little to a store that is anxious to make a sale. But those few minutes may make a tremendous difference in terms of dram shop liability.
  • Unlicensed Sale: Authorities routinely suspend alcoholic beverage licenses for a wide range of misconduct. Yet many providers ignore these suspensions and continue doing business as usual. In other situations, a provider starts selling alcohol before the licensure paperwork is fully processed.

Dram shop liability may also extend to social hosts. These same laws apply to social hosts who serve minors. If these impaired minors cause car crashes, the host may be legally responsible for damages. If the tortfeasor was an adult, another theory, such as negligent undertaking, may apply.

Brainerd, MN Accident Lawyers and Owner Liability

These same principles apply when owners loan their vehicles to children, roommates, friends, spouses, or anyone else. If the owner knew the driver was incompetent, and that driver causes a car crash, the owner may be liable for damages. Evidence of incompetency includes:

  • No drivers’ license,
  • Violating a restriction, such as no freeway driving,
  • Safety-suspended drivers’ license,
  • A poor driving record, and
  • Inexperience behind the wheel.

These bullets are in roughly descending order. Unlicensed drivers may be incompetent as a matter of law. On the other end of the spectrum, driver inexperience, by itself, rarely makes someone incompetent.

Commercial negligent entrustment cases, such as U-Haul moving trucks, work differently, because of the Graves Amendment. In these situations, Brainerd, MN accident lawyers typically must introduce additional evidence of negligence or other misconduct.

Employer Liability

Owners and alcohol providers are in a good position to prevent crashes, and so are employers. So, the respondeat superior doctrine is very broad. It typically applies if both these prongs are present:

  • Employee: Minnesota negligence law defines this key word very broadly. Anyone an employer controls is usually an employee in this context. That could include not only regular nine-to-five employees, but also independent contractors, owner-operators, and even unpaid church volunteers.
  • Scope of Employment: Similarly, any act which benefits the employer in any way is typically within the scope of employment. For example, in workers’ compensation cases, injuries sustained at company softball games are within the scope of employment. Healthy and happy workers benefit the employer.

In all vicarious liability claims, the injury must be foreseeable. Typically, a car crash is always a foreseeable result in employer liability situations, unless the employee did something like steal a car from the parking garage.

Contact an Experienced Attorney

The tortfeasor is often not the only party responsible for damages. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN accident lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Crow Wing County and nearby jurisdictions.

A Buffalo, MN Criminal Lawyer Examines Wright County CVO Charges

In most states, criminal authorities consider car wrecks to be civil matters between insurance companies. Peace officers rarely file criminal charges in these situations, even if the collision is fatal.

But most states do not have a law like Section 609.2113 of the Minnesota Statutes. The Criminal Vehicular Operation law is a felony. These penalties apply if the defendant causes substantial bodily harm while driving in a particular way.

This statute is quite complex, and there are lots of moving parts. So, if you face CVO charges in Wright County, only a highly experienced Buffalo, MN criminal lawyer should represent you in court. Otherwise, you may be looking at extended prison time for something that was essentially a mistake.

CVO’s Basic Elements

Much like the DUI law, the CVO law contains no mental state. It is a crime to drive under the influence of a substance. It does not matter if the defendant unintentionally, or even unknowingly, drove in this condition. The different kinds of CVO may involve a mental state, as outlined below. But in general, Wright County prosecutors must simply prove the basic elements.

Criminal Vehicular Operation is always a felony. But the exact range of punishment depends on the amount of harm the defendant caused, as follows:

  • Great Bodily Harm: GBH CVO is a five-year felony. Typically, great bodily harm means that the car crash victim received injury treatment at a hospital and stayed at least one night. Additionally, there must be no evidence of intent to harm the alleged victim. Different statutes cover vehicular assault and vehicular manslaughter.
  • Serious Bodily Harm: SBH CVO, which is a three-year felony, is usually a treated-and-released offense. SBH, which may be the most common type of Criminal Vehicular Operation, usually includes things like broken bones.
  • Bodily Harm: If the vehicle collision victim received some treatment at the scene, such as a bandage or perhaps some field stitches, the maximum punishment is one year in prison.

The different levels often create proof problems. Assume Frank hits Jesse in an intersection and Jesse goes to a nearby emergency room. After waiting for about an hour, he leaves without receiving treatment. If prosecutors file GBH or even SBH charges, a Buffalo, MN criminal lawyer may be able to get the case thrown out due to lack of evidence. There may be no medical bills to support the charges.

How Buffalo, MN Criminal Lawyers Approach the Major Kinds of CVO

Negligent operation while under the influence of a substance may be the most common type of CVO charge. These key terms deserve some close attention.

Negligence is a civil law term that denotes a lack of care or, more likely, a violation of a safety statute, like speeding or making an illegal lane change. But negligence alone is not enough. The defendant must also cause a crash while negligent. And, that crash must cause at least bodily harm.

Since negligence is a civil term, civil car crash defenses, such as contributory negligence, may be available. In criminal court, a Buffalo, MN criminal lawyer need not “prove” the defense. Creating a reasonable doubt as to the defendant’s guilt is enough.

The illicit substance could be alcohol and/or a controlled substance. 609.2113 states that the defendant is guilty if s/he was “under the influence” of a substance. That’s a lower standard than intoxicated. Essentially, if the defendant had one drink or one pill, the defendant was probably under the influence of the substance.

This subdivision has some variations. It is a felony to negligently cause a serious crash if the defendant’s BAC alcohol level was at least .08 within two hours of the collision. This provision gives law enforcement some added leeway. And, it is also a felony to negligently cause a serious crash while under the influence of any Schedule I or Schedule II drug. If the defendant had a valid prescription, the defendant may be not guilty as a matter of law.

Section 609.2113 also applies to gross negligence serious crashes. The statute does not define gross negligence, but generally, this term is synonymous with reckless driving. If the defendant committed two or more traffic violations and caused a crash (e.g. speeding while traveling on the wrong side of the road), the defendant was probably grossly negligent.

Leaving the scene of a serious crash is probably the third major type of CVO. This subdivision is not like some other hit-and-run laws. This prohibition only applies if the defendant caused the crash and left the scene. Additionally, “cause” is a civil law term which may be subject to contributory negligence and some other car crash defenses.

Reach Out to a Dedicated Attorney

Criminal Vehicular Operation is a serious felony which may be difficult to prove in court. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN criminal lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.

Motorcycle Crashes, Maximum Compensation, Motorcycle History, and Brainerd Attorneys

One of the most infamous wrecks in motorcycle history still has some important lessons in terms of obtaining maximum compensation.

British Army Officer T.E. Lawrence, who is better known as Lawrence of Arabia, was one of the most famous World War I commanders. In 1935, he was killed in a motorcycle crash which remains controversial. Some say that he swerved to avoid a boy on a bicycle and lost control of his 998cc Brough Superior. Others say that a reckless driver ran him off the road. Unfortunately, before anyone had a chance to look at the physical evidence, authorities loaded the wrecked bike onto a truck and hauled it to the dump.

All these years later, a quick and diligent investigation is still critical for Brainerd attorneys. Without examining the scene, it’s impossible to develop a theory of the case. And without evidence, it’s impossible to prove negligence.

Theory of the Case

Driver error causes almost all vehicle wrecks. Tire blowouts and other manufacturing defects only cause a few wrecks, and acts of nature, like lightning strikes, cause even fewer. That error usually involves either ordinary negligence or negligence per se.

Just before Lawrence’s final motorcycle ride, a court decided Donoghue v. Stevenson. This case is the foundation of modern negligence law. The court famously concluded that people had a responsibility to avoid injury to their “neighbors.” The neighbor principle later became the duty of reasonable care.

Noncommercial drivers have a duty to obey the rules of the road, both the written and unwritten ones, and a duty to drive defensively. Commercial operators, like Uber drivers, taxi drivers, and bus drivers, have a higher duty of care. So, it is usually easier to prove negligence in commercial operator cases.

Negligence per se is the violation of a statute. Tortfeasors (negligent drivers) are liable for damages as a matter of law if:

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

Device distraction illustrates the difference between these two concepts. A new hands-free law just took effect in Minnesota in August 2019. This law prohibits holding and using a phone for any purpose, other than GPS navigation. It’s still illegal to enter an address on such a device or manipulate the screen while driving.

The new law does not prohibit hands-free devices. But these devices may be more dangerous than hand-held devices. Hands-free devices are still distracting. Operators who use them take theie eyes off the road and take their minds off driving. Additionally, hands-free devices give some operators a false sense of security.

Brainerd Attorneys and Proving Negligence

So, the citation issued, if any, goes a long way toward establishing liability for damages. In some cases, that may be the only thing necessary. But in most cases, Brainerd attorneys must collect additional evidence.

Sometimes, this proof is readily available. For example, a Brainerd Attorney can cut through red tape and obtain a copy of a police accident report in only minutes. But this report is sometimes incomplete or inaccurate, especially if the victim was seriously injured or killed. In these situations, the critical report narrative only contains the tortfeasor’s side of the story. Since the fatality rate is so high in motorcycle crashes, these situations are common in this context.

Therefore, additional evidence is often critical. To examine this issue more closely, let’s stay with the device distraction example. Additional evidence in device distraction cases may include:

  • Web browsing logs,
  • Text message records,
  • Call logs, and
  • App usage records.

The tortfeasor can destroy all this evidence with just a few touches. To preserve it, a Brainerd Attorney must quickly send a spoliation letter. This letter directs the tortfeasor to preserve any potential physical evidence in the case, including the aforementioned items.

Insurance Company Defenses

Especially in motorcycle crashes, contributory negligence is probably the most common insurance company defense. This legal doctrine shifts responsibility for the crash from the victim to the tortfeasor.

For example, the insurance company might admit that the tortfeasor was using a hands-free phone and therefore distracted. But lawyers might accuse the victim of darting in and out of traffic while riding, thus making illegal lane changes. Minnesota is a modified comparative fault state with a 50 percent bar. So, as long as the victim was no more than 50 percent responsible for the crash, the victim still receives a proportionate share of damages.

The assumption of the risk defense sometimes comes up in motorcycle crashes, if the victim wasn’t wearing a helmet. This defense basically states that people are responsible for their own injuries if they ignore a known risk.

Damages in a motorcycle wreck claim usually include compensation for 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.

Connect with a Thorough Lawyer

A diligent investigation often improves the end result. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Crow Wing County and nearby jurisdictions.

How Does the Graves Amendment Affect Law Firms in Buffalo, MN?

If you see a U-Haul or other rented moving truck on the streets or highways of Wright County, an incompetent driver is probably behind the wheel. A fully-loaded, 17-foot truck may weigh up to 25,000 pounds. Even experienced drivers have a hard time managing these huge vehicles. Novice drivers who do not know the area and probably do not even have commercial drivers’ licenses are clearly incompetent.

The negligent entrustment rule states that vehicle owners are liable for damages if they allow incompetent driver to use their vehicles, and those drivers cause collisions. But commercial negligent entrustment cases are more complex, because of an obscure federal law called the Graves Amendment.

This complication is significant. Large truck crashes often cause catastrophic injuries, and many U-Haul drivers have little or no insurance. Fortunately, the Graves Amendment has some key loopholes, so law firms in Buffalo, MN can usually still obtain maximum compensation in these matters.

What is the Graves Amendment?

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, juries in several states ordered vehicle rental companies to pay millions of dollars in damages after several horrific crashes. As a result, the companies threatened to pull out of these states.

To prevent this outcome, Congressman Sam Graves (D-MO) attached what later became 49 U.S.C. 30106 to a large transportation bill. Lawmakers often attach policy and special-interests riders to must-pass bills, and the Graves Amendment definitely fit into this category. Its sole purpose is to protect vehicle rental establishments in Missouri and a few other states.

There are no hearings or any other legislative history regarding the Graves Amendment. There is only a brief floor debate. Additionally, like many policy riders, the Graves Amendment is rather poorly drafted. So, law firms in Buffalo, MN have a good chance to get around the Graves Amendment in a truck wreck claim. The two most common approaches are outlined below.

Law Firms in Buffalo, MN and the “Not Otherwise Negligent” Requirement

Commercial negligent entrustment immunity only applies if the owner or agent was not negligent during the transaction. So, the agent or owner must follow all applicable industry standards. Violating these standards is evidence of negligence.

Here, the relevant standard involves drivers’ license verification. When the Graves Amendment became law in 2002, most agents and owners visually inspected a renter’s drivers’ license, and that was it. If the license was facially valid, the person could rent the truck.

But more and more companies like U-Haul run drivers’ license checks before they rent vehicles. Customers who have safety-suspended licenses are ineligible, or should be ineligible, to rent trucks. The same thing is arguably true if the customer has a poor driving record which includes a recent safety suspension or an at-fault accident.

Mere failure to verify the license may be negligent, but it may not be enough to invoke the negligent entrustment doctrine. Typically, the victim/plaintiff must prove that the owner knew the driver was incompetent. Constructive knowledge (should have known) is normally insufficient.

The “Trade or Business” Requirement

As mentioned, the Graves Amendment is poorly drafted and lawmakers held no hearings. So, it’s impossible to interpret key phrases like “trade or business of renting or leasing motor vehicles.” Therefore, law firms in Buffalo, MN must look elsewhere.

The Uniform Commerical Code, which lawyers and judges often use in contracts cases, defines “merchant,” which is a similar term, as “a person who deals in goods of the kind or otherwise by his occupation holds himself out as having knowledge or skill peculiar to the practices or goods involved in the transaction.” Most U-Haul dealers in Wright County do not fit this definition.

Typically, these businesses do not exclusively rent trucks. They are usually moving and storage companies which have a few trucks available on the side. By analogy, a convenience store is not a liquor store even if it sells copious amounts of beer and wine.

Furthermore, the employees at these establishments have no specialized knowledge about the vehicles they rent. They know nothing about engine torque, air conditioner BTU capacity, or anything similar.

Damages in a commercial negligent entrustment claim usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Additionally, since these cases usually involve additional negligence as outlined above, many Wright County jurors award additional punitive damages in these cases. These damages are designed to punish the negligent actor and deter future wrongdoing.

Contact an Aggressive Attorney

Despite the Graves Amendment, U-Haul truck owners may be legally responsible for damages. For a free consultation with an attorney at a law firm in Buffalo, MN, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Home and hospital visits are available.

Fast Starts, Spine Injuries, and Lawyers in Brainerd, MN

Teams that succeed in baseball usually start fast. Clubs which consistently do things like get the leadoff batter on base and record the first out of an inning usually win most of their games.

A serious spine injury is definitely no game. In 99 percent of these cases, the victim never recovers any significant mobility in the paralyzed area. However, extensive physical therapy, medical attention, and physical alterations like wheelchair ramps, usually make life livable. All these things cost money, and that is where an attorney comes into play.

Much like baseball teams, lawyers in Brainerd, MN also need fast starts to help ensure success. In a spine injury case, this success means compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills and physical changes, as well as noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering and emotional distress. Baseball teams start fast in the two ways mentioned above, and attorneys start fast in the two areas discussed below.

Theory of the Case

After a client consultation and a brief evidence review, top lawyers in Brainerd, MN usually develop a theory of the case. A sculptor can see a statute in a slab of marble before s/he starts chiseling it. Somewhat similarly, an attorney can see how a case should develop before doing any legal work.

Spine injuries usually involve one of the following kinds of negligence, and a vehicle collision is a good illustration of how this evaluation process works.

Ordinary Negligence

American schoolchildren once had to memorize the Golden Rule, which was “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That moral principle is the basis of a negligence claim. In Minnesota, most drivers have a legal responsibility to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Vehicle operators must drive defensively and, as my grandfather used to say, look out for “th’ other fella.”

If drivers violate that duty, and the violation causes injury, the tortfeasors (negligent drivers) may be responsible for the damages laid out above.

Negligence Per Se

Sometimes, the law sets the standard of care. Speeding, failure to yield, and ignoring a traffic control device are three common traffic violations which sometimes cause vehicle collisions and spine injuries. In these cases, the tortfeasors may be liable for damages as a matter of law.

In serious injury claims, many tortfeasors do not have enough insurance to provide fair compensation. Minnesota has one of the lowest auto insurance minimum coverage requirements in the country. Fortunately, both negligence and negligence per se claims often involve third party liability. Some common theories include:

  • Respondeat Superior: Employers are legally responsible for any employee negligence which occurs during the scope of employment. This theory usually applies in truck crash cases. These large vehicles almost always cause spine injuries, serious burns, and other severe injuries.
  • Dram Shop: In Minnesota, commercial alcohol providers, like restaurants and bars, are responsible for damages if they illegally sell alcohol. These transactions include underage patrons, intoxicated patrons, and after-hours sales.
  • Owner Liability: Vehicle owners are responsible for damages if they allow incompetent drivers to use their vehicles and these drivers cause car crashes. Evidence of incompetency includes a safety-safety suspended drivers’ license, driving in violation of a license restriction, and a bad driving record.

These additional sources of recovery help spine injury victims get the resources they need to put their lives back together.

Lawyers in Brainerd, MN and Medical Attention

A surprising number of spine injury victims do not seek effective medical treatment. Often, the injuries overwhelm the doctor, who delivers a very grim prognosis. Victims then become fatalistic. They assume that nothing can be done, so they do not even try to get better.

But as mentioned above, effective medical treatment can improve the situation. So, lawyers in Brainerd, MN always connect victims with top spine injury doctors. These individuals know how to diagnose and treat these injuries.

This treatment is important, because paralysis comes in many forms. Whiplash is a good example. DUring car crashes, victims’ heads violently snap forward and backward, like cracking whips. This motion usually causes a spine or neck injury. Initially, the injury is so slight that many doctors do not see it. But eventually, untreated whiplash can cause partial paralysis.

Lawyers in Brainerd, MN arrange for victims to receive all this treatment at no upfront costs. Medical providers usually agree to defer billing until the case is resolved. Attorneys make similar arrangements with other vendors, like auto body shops and vehicle rental companies.

Reach Out to Dedicated Attorneys

A fast start is often the key to a successful end in a spine injury case. For a free consultation with experienced lawyers in Brainerd, MN, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.

Brainerd, MN Accident Lawyers and Left Turn Motorcycle Crashes

Assume Doug Defendant is waiting to make a left turn against traffic on a main street, so he can get to a neighborhood street. Traffic is rather heavy and Doug must wait several seconds. But to him, the wait time seems like several hours. So, when he thinks he sees an upcoming break in oncoming traffic, Doug gets ready to turn quickly and speed through the gap.

But Doug does not see Peter Plaintiff, who is approaching on his motorcycle. So, Doug suddenly accelerates and crosses directly into Peter’s path. The force of the sudden impact propels Peter off his bike, and emergency responders rush him to a nearby hospital before he regains consciousness.

This scenario plays out frequently on Crow Wing County streets. According to one estimate, over a third of all motorcycle crashes are left turn collisions.

Motorcycle Crash Injuries

Because of the negligence of drivers like Doug, a Brainerd, MN accident lawyer may be able to obtain substantial compensation in these claims. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Due to the nature of motorcycle crash injuries, compensation is usually substantial in these claims. Some typical injuries include:

  • Head Injuries: Even if the rider was wearing a helmet, these wounds are very common in motorcycle crash cases. Helmets do not protect against motion and noise-related head injuries. So, whether the victim wore a helmet or not, compensation for head injuries is usually available.
  • Internal Bleeding: The same forces that throw riders off their bikes also cause internal organs to smash against one another. As a result, these organs often bleed profusely, and emergency responders usually cannot stop this bleeding. So, many victims are on the brink of hypovolemic shock by the time they get to a hospital.
  • Spine Injuries: When victims hit the ground, even if they do not fall on their backs, they usually knock their spines out of alignment. Even if doctors treat these injuries quickly, permanent paralysis is a distinct possibility in these situations.

Head and spine injuries are among the most costly personal injuries. The medical expenses may be as high as $1 million the first year alone, and $4 million over the course of a lifetime.

Brainerd, MN Accident Lawyers and Legal Issues in Left-Turn Crashes

Legally, Doug’s failure to see Peter and his failure to yield the right-of-way to Peter clearly constitute negligence. In this context, negligence is basically a lack of ordinary care. Most Minnesota drivers must drive defensively and obey the rules of the road. Doug came up short in both these areas.

The insurance company could argue that Doug’s shortcomings were just momentary lapses which did not constitute a breach of care. But a Brainerd, MN accident lawyer could easily convince a jury otherwise, in light of all the facts. However, insurance company lawyers may have another trick or two up their sleeves.

If emergency responders gave Doug a citation, the negligence per se rule makes it easier for Peter to establish negligence. Tortfeasors (negligent drivers) who violate safety laws and cause crashes are usually responsible for damages as a matter of law.

But first responders rarely issue citations in left-turn motorcycle crashes, even if the crash kills the rider. Since Peter was unconscious and unable to give his side of the story, Doug may have been able to talk his way out of a ticket.

In court, the last clear chance defense often comes up in left turn crash claims. Insurance company lawyers argue that riders could have changed speeds or changed lanes to avoid the crash, but they did not do so. Therefore, they are legally responsible for their own injuries.

However, in most instances, including our hypothetical crash, the last clear chance rule does not apply. Since traffic was heavy, Peter probably did not have enough room to swerve or brake quickly. If he did one of those things, he might have caused a more serious wreck than the one he prevented.

Moreover, motorcycles are a lot harder to control than four-wheel vehicles. That’s especially true if environmental or other conditions are less than ideal.

Resolving Motorcycle Crash Claims

Generally, civil claims settle out of court. The settlement process begins when a Brainerd, MN accident lawyer ascertains a fair settlement value. Economic losses are usually straightforward. To calculate noneconomic losses, most Brainerd, MN accident lawyers multiply the economic losses by two or four, depending on the facts of the case and some other factors.

The settlement process usually ends at mediation. If both parties negotiate in good faith, mediation is successful about 75 percent of the time.

Rely on a Dedicated Attorney

Left turn motorcycle crashes are often horrific. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN accident lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We have several area offices to serve you better.

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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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