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.

Here’s How Personal Injury Lawyers in Brainerd, MN Obtain Maximum Compensation for Dog Bites

Mostly due to the nature of the injuries, compensation in dog bite cases is generally rather high. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a good example.

PTSD is a physical brain injury and not a processing disorder. Traumatic events, such as combat stress or violent animal attacks, shrink the brain matter in the cerebral cortex. This part of the brain controls logical responses. As a result, the amygdala, which is the part of the brain that controls emotional responses, gets bigger. This biological imbalance explains symptoms like nightmares, heightened awareness, and flashbacks.

Doctors often misdiagnose brain injuries, especially among children. They ascribe the aforementioned symptoms to shock from the bite. So, treatment often starts late. By that time, the brain injury is worse and more difficult to address.

New developments with regard to PTSD is just one reason that the average dog bite settlement has increased significantly in recent years, so personal injury lawyers in Brainerd, MN have many options in these situations.

Legal Theories in Animal Attack Cases

When it comes to animal attacks, Minnesota has some of the most victim-friendly rules and laws in the country. So, the proper legal approach usually depends on the facts of the case.

Minnesota has a very broad strict liability law. Owners are liable if “a dog, without provocation, attacks or injures any person who is acting peaceably in any place where the person may lawfully be.”

The statute defines an “owner” as both the legal owner of a dog or the temporary custodian, like a veterinarian, doggie daycare worker, or dog walker. Moreover, liability is absolute. Comparative negligence, which is outlined below, is usually not a defense in strict liability claims.

So, the strict liability law makes it easy to establish liability for damages. Generally, personal injury lawyers in Brainerd, MN have no problem recovering economic damages in strict liability claims. These damages include things like medical bills and lost wages. However, additional noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering, are more sometimes difficult to obtain.

Many Crow Wing County jurors hesitate to award large noneconomic damages in strict liability cases, because they do not feel the owner was at fault. That’s not true in scienter (knowledge) claims. Owners are liable for damages if they knew the animal was potentially vicious. Evidence of knowledge includes:

  • Previous attacks,
  • Vicious growling,
  • Aggressive barking, and
  • Sudden lunging.

In court, personal injury lawyers in Brainerd, MN must establish knowledge by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). So, scienter claims are harder to prove than strict liability claims, but the damages in scienter claims are often higher.

Finally, negligence may be an option. Negligence is either a lack of ordinary care or a lack of statutory compliance. For example, an owner may be negligent if she does not keep a pit bull far away from a small, playful child. Additionally, owners are negligent if they disobey animal restraint laws, like leash laws or fence laws, and that disobedience substantially causes injury.

However, in both kinds of negligence cases, personal injury lawyers in Brainerd, MN must also establish scienter. So, the lack of ordinary care claims are rather difficult to win. In the above example, the owner is not negligent unless she knew the pit bull was dangerous. As odd as it sounds, the sheer recklessness of letting a baby play with a pit bull is not sufficient.

How Personal Injury Lawyers in Brainerd, MN Collect Evidence

As mentioned, victim/plaintiffs must establish liability by a preponderance of the proof. So, personal injury lawyers in Brainerd, MN need evidence.

Medical records provide much of this proof. Generally, medical records establish more than just clinical facts about the victim’s injuries and the cost of treatment. As a bonus, doctors and nurses often add treatment notes to medical records which indicate how the victim felt at a certain time.

Witness statements are very important as well. In court, something almost mystical happens when disinterested people take the witness stand and tell the jury what they saw.

Possible Insurance Company Defenses

Provocation is the only defense to all three kinds of claims, so insurance company lawyers play this card a lot in these cases.

To many dog owners, “provocation” has a very broad meaning. For example, sudden moves could provoke an animal. Aggressive teasing could do the same thing.

But to personal injury lawyers in Brainerd, MN, provocation has a much different meaning. Provocation is always intentional. Victims cannot accidentally provoke dogs. Additionally, provocation is always physical. Teasing is not enough. In fact, the victim must almost torture the dog to provoke it, in this legal context.

Assumption of the risk, which usually involves a “Beware of Dog” or other such sign, sometimes applies in negligence and scienter cases. Even if there was such a sign on the property, there is a good chance the victim can still recover at least partial damages.

Contact an Assertive Attorney

Dog bites cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Brainerd, MN, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We have several office locations in the area.

Motorcycle Crash Settlements and Brainerd Attorneys

Most motorcycle injury claims do not go to trial. In fact, about 95 percent of these matters settle out of court. If the crash involved wrongful death and the issues are crystal clear, settlement usually occurs within a few weeks. But in most situations, the victim is hospitalized with severe injuries and/or there is some question as to liability. So, in most cases, settlement may take several months.

This window of time gives Brainerd attorneys a chance to build a solid claim, based on the laws and the facts. Such claims greatly increase the odds of fair compensation. That compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Injuries in Motorcycle Accidents

Sadly, many motorcycle crash victims do not survive. Since riders are almost completely exposed to danger, the fatality rate among motorcyclists is about thirty times greater than the fatality rate for enclosed vehicle occupants. Some serious, life-threatening injuries include:

  • Neck and Spine Wounds: The force of the impact almost always throws riders off their bikes. The sudden, jarring motion alone is enough to cause a serious injury. If victims land on their backs, these injuries are even worse. These kinds of injuries often generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in emergency treatment and physical therapy costs.
  • Exsanguination: Excessive blood loss is usually the official cause of death in these cases. That same jarring motion causes internal organs to bump against one another in a violent manner. As a result, many victims lose so much blood that they are already on the edge of hypovolemic shock by the time emergency responders arrive.
  • Biker’s Arm: When riders fall, they naturally extend their arms to break their falls, This reaction often causes permanent nerve injuries to the brachial plexus. While not immediately life-threatening, this degenerative condition often causes significant complications.

Because of all these serious injuries, immediate medical care is very important. But many health insurance companies do not cover accident-related expenses.

So, Brainerd attorneys send letters of protection to medical providers. Since these letters guarantee payment when the case is resolved, medical providers charge nothing upfront for their services. Additionally, these letters give Brainerd attorneys negotiating leverage to lower the amount due.

Immediate medical attention also helps the victim’s damage claim. If the victim does not see a doctor straightaway, the insurance company usually claims the victim’s injuries must not have been very bad, or at least not very painful. This claim, if proved, may reduce the compensation in the case.

Brainerd Attorneys and Your Claim for Damages

This compensation is available if the other driver was negligent. This legal concept is more than carelessness or thoughtlessness. Negligence means a lack of ordinary care. In many cases, negligence is closely linked to one of the five types of driving impairment:

  • Alcohol: This substance causes about a third of the fatal crashes in Crow Wing County. Alcohol impairs both judgment ability and motor skills.
  • Fatigue: Drowsiness has a similar effect on the brain and body. In fact, driving after eighteen consecutive awake hours is like driving with a .05 BAC level.
  • Drugs: Both illegal substances, like cocaine or marijuana, and legal substances, like Sominex or prescription painkillers, may cause drug impairment. In many jurisdictions, “drugged” drivers cause more fatal crashes than “drunk” drivers.
  • Medical Condition: Epilepsy, heart disease, and other such chronic conditions may cause sudden loss of consciousness when drivers are behind the wheel.
  • Distraction: Legally, drivers are distracted when they take their hands off the wheel, take their eyes off the road, and/or take their minds off driving. So, distracted driving includes many activities that most people do on every trip, such as using a hands-free cellphone or eating while driving.

In other instances, operational negligence is an issue. Failure to maintain a proper lookout is a very good example. A significant number of vehicle-motorcycle crashes are left turn crashes. The tortfeasor (negligent driver) does not see an oncoming motorcycle, so when the tortfeasor makes a left turn against traffic, the tortfeasor crosses directly into the rider’s path.

The Settlement Process

Based on the victim’s injuries and the claim for damages, Brainerd attorneys calculate a case’s settlement value. This monetary amount serves as a starting point for pretrial negotiations with the insurance company.

As mentioned above, complex cases never settle right away. Typically, these matters go to mediation. Both sides work with a mediator, who is usually an unaffiliated Brainerd attorney. After hearing from both sides, the mediator uses shuttle diplomacy to transmit offers and counter-offers back and forth. If both parties negotiate in good faith, mediation is usually successful.

Work with Diligent Lawyers

Motorcycle crash claims usually settle on favorable terms, but they may not settle immediately. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We have four area office locations.

Brainerd, MN Accident Lawyers and Liability Issues in Truck Crash Claims

Large trucks move over 70 percent of the goods sold in the United States. So, most of the items at local stores, from the croutons in fast-food salads to the SUVs at local car dealerships, arrive in Brainerd by truck.

Many times, due to the ongoing truck driver shortage, these operators have little experience behind the wheel. Additionally, truck drivers often drive long miles at odd hours to reach places like the Dollar Tree. That combination often produces devastating truck crashes. These victims may be entitled to substantial compensation. However, the insurance company does not simply give this money away. In fact, most companies have large posses of lawyers whose only mission is to reduce or deny victim compensation.

Therefore, you need a tough Brainerd, MN accident lawyer on your side to level the playing field.

Injuries in Truck Wreck Claims

Truck crashes often cause serious burns. These vehicles carry hundreds of gallons of diesel fuel. This liquid burns at a different temperature than ordinary gasoline. And, many victims are pinned underneath burning vehicles. Very serious, and very expensive, injuries often result. Most burn patients spend at least two months in the hospital and leave with a medical bill approaching $1 million. In more serious cases, or if there are any complications, the stay and cost are exponentially higher.

Many of these wrecks also cause head and spine injuries. A fully-loaded large truck weighs over 80,000 pounds. Vehicle restraint systems cannot manage these massive forces. In many cases, spine and brain injuries are even more expensive than burn injuries, especially when considering the collateral costs, like lost wages.

A Brainerd, MN accident lawyer immediately connects victims with doctors. These physicians are injury doctors who know how to diagnose and treat massive truck crash injuries. Additionally, this medical assistance usually costs nothing upfront. Providers, including doctors and rental car agencies, typically agree to defer payment until the negligence case is resolved.

Brainerd, MN Accident Lawyers and Truck Crash Liability

Minnesota has one of the lowest insurance minimum requirements in the country. So, an individual tortfeasor (negligent driver) may not have enough coverage to provide fair compensation for catastrophic injuries. Fortunately, Minnesota also has extremely broad third party liability rules.

There is a two-step process. First, victim/plaintiffs must establish that the truck driver was negligent. That negligence could be a lack of ordinary care or a violation of a safety law. There are basically three types of negligence in these situations:

  • Behavioral: Drowsy driving is a serious problem among truck drivers, largely because of the aforementioned off hours and long trips. Drowsiness and alcohol have the same effect on the brain. Driving after eighteen sleepless hours is like driving with a .05 BAC level.
  • Operational: Speed is one of the leading contributing factors in car crashes. Excessive velocity increases the risk of a collision and the forces in a collision. Because large trucks are so big, these operators have a legal duty to drive in an appropriate manner, but many operators ignore this responsibility.
  • Environmental: It is very difficult for novice drivers to control large trucks when the weather is bad, and the weather is frequently bad in Minnesota, especially in the winter.

Large truck operators are common carriers under Minnesota law. Such drivers have a higher duty of care than noncommercial drivers. So, it is easier for a Brainerd, MN accident lawyer to establish negligence.

Next, the victim/plaintiff must establish third-party liability, which is a separate concept. The respondeat superior doctrine often applies in truck crash claims. This rule has two basic elements:

  • Employee: Owner-operators and independent contractors are “employees” for negligence purposes. In fact, unpaid volunteer drivers are probably employees as well. Employers control all these people, in terms of things like hours worked and routes traveled.
  • Scope of Employment: Similarly, any act which benefits the employer in any way is within the scope of employment. Simply driving the truck from POint A to Point B is sufficient. LOading or unloading cargo is not a requirement.

Other employer liability theories include negligent hiring, negligent supervision, and negligent entrustment. These doctrines often apply in assault and other intentional tort cases.

Possible Insurance Company Defenses

Contributory negligence is one of the leading defenses in truck crash cases. This doctrine shifts blame for the crash from the tortfeasor to the victim. For example, the insurance company might admit that the truck driver was speeding, but argue that the victim’s illegal lane change really caused the crash.

Brainerd, MN accident lawyers can defeat contributory negligence, and other insurance company defenses, by disproving the elements or minimizing their effect.

Other insurance company defenses include sudden emergency and last clear chance. These theories often come up in head-on and rear-end crash claims. Like contributory negligence, these doctrines shift the blame for the accident to the innocent party.

Connect with a Tenacious Attorney

Truck wreck victims may be entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN accident lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. You have a limited amount of time to act.

Vicarious Liability, Truck Crashes, and Brainerd, MN Injury Lawyers

After gradually declining for many years, the number of fatal truck crashes in the United States has increased 42 percent since the early 2000s.  Semi-trucks weight more than 80,000 pounds when they are fully loaded. Additionally, these massive vehicles carry hundreds of gallons of diesel fuel. As a result, these collisions often cause catastrophic injuries.

Typically, commercial driver insurance policies only cover a fraction of these costs. To recover fair compensation, victims can file separate legal claims against the individual tortfeasors (negligent drivers). But many people are effectively judgment-proof. So, large truck crash victims usually need to find an alternative source of compensation.

To bring about this result, Brainerd, MN injury lawyers often rely on third-party liability theories, as outlined below. Generally, these rules are very victim-friendly in Minnesota. Therefore, Crow Wing County victims usually do not need to pursue separate claims to obtain 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 extreme cases.

What Causes Large Truck Crashes?

The news media usually classifies these collisions as “accidents.” The a-word implies that the incident was unavoidable and inevitable. But that’s normally not the case. In fact, human error causes over 90 percent of the large truck crashes in Minnesota. That error usually involves one of the following three kinds of negligence:

  • Environmental: Longtime Minnesota residents are used to driving in bad weather. But out-of-state truck drivers do not have this experience. All drivers should slow down and use extra caution when the weather is bad, especially if they are operating large vehicles. But many drivers ignore adverse environmental conditions.
  • Operational: Excessive speed and illegal turns are two of the most common kinds of operational negligence. Distracted driving, an umbrella terms which applies in many different situations, probably falls into this category as well. Mechanical negligence is a serious problem as well. On a large vehicle, a minor mechanical flaw could cause a catastrophic wreck.
  • Behavioral: Many truck drivers should not be behind the wheel at all. Truck driver fatigue is a good illustration. Most shipping companies pay drivers by the load, so they try to stay on the road as long as possible. Additionally, many truck drivers are behind the wheel late at night and early in the morning. People are naturally drowsy at these times, no matter how well-rested they are.

Truck driver negligence often leads to head and spinal injuries. These injuries are incredibly costly, and many health insurance companies refuse to cover these expenses. Luckily, a Brainerd, MN injury lawyer can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no money or insurance.

Prompt treatment is important for medical reasons. Doctors often misdiagnose collision-related head injuries. Delayed diagnosis and treatment typically makes these injuries much worse. Immediate help is also important for legal reasons. If the victim does not go to the doctor straightaway, the insurance company may later claim that the victim’s injuries must not have been very bad, so it refuses to pay fair compensation.

Brainerd, MN Injury Lawyers and Your Claim for Damages

All three types of negligence mentioned above usually involve a lack of ordinary care. If the tortfeasor fails to fulfil that duty, and that failure substantially caused the crash, the tortfeasor may be liable for damages.

A lack of ordinary care is easier for Brainerd, MN injury lawyers to establish in court than it is in some other states. Under Minnesota law, truck drivers are common carriers. These individuals have a higher duty of care than non-commercial drivers.

This higher duty is especially relevant in mechanical and environmental negligence claims. If a Toyota’s breaks are not working properly, that’s usually not a big deal. But if a huge semi-truck’s brakes are not working properly, the result could be disastrous.

The common carrier designation also applies to other commercial operators, such as bus drivers, taxi drivers, and Uber drivers.

Third Party Liability

Most large truck crashes involve a legal doctrine called respondeat superior (“let the master answer”). Under this rule, employers are legally responsible for the negligent acts of their employees if:

  • Employer-Employee Relationship: If the employer controlled the tortfeasor in any meaningful way, such as hours worked, that individual as an employee in this context. So, this label could apply to regular workers, independent contractors, owner-operators, and unpaid volunteers.
  • Scope of Employment: Somewhat similarly, any act that benefits the employer in any way is within the scope of employment. Driving an empty truck which bears the company’s logo is within the scope of employment, because the free advertising benefits the employer.
  • Foreseeability: Generally, a vehicle collision is always a foreseeable result, though not necessarily an inevitable result, of operating a motor vehicle.

Other employer liability theories, which often apply in assault and other intentional tort claims, include negligent hiring and negligent supervision.

Contact a Dedicated Attorney

The tortfeasor may not be the only person who is responsible for damages. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. You have a limited amount of time to act.

Anonymous Dog Mauls Minneapolis Woman

After a vicious animal attacked a woman in a tranquil park, she needs compensation and justice. These are the areas where Brainerd attorneys shine brightest.

Dawn Hunt said she saw the Jack Russell Terrier mix approach her. The animal was wearing a collar and dragging a leash on the ground. Without warning, the dog charged at her and attacked her. “I just kept getting bit and bit and bit, and I was left bleeding,” she recalled. Sometime during the attack, the dog’s owner came on the scene and took the animal away. When Ms. Hunt protested, the owner callously said “my dog doesn’t bite” as she disappeared into the woods.

Park Police and Animal Control officers are investigating the matter.

Hit-and-Run Dog Bites

Here in Minnesota, we normally associate these kinds of accidents with car crashes. The Gopher State has one of the lowest auto insurance minimum requirements in the country, as well as one of the highest percentages of uninsured motorists. So, many drivers are either under-insured or uninsured.

To obtain maximum compensation in hit-and-run car crashes, Brainerd attorneys must generally locate the tortfeasor (negligent driver). A lawyer uses basically the same approach to find absentee dog owners. Canvassing the area for witnesses is usually the best way to find absentee owners.

Animal attacks usually happen very quickly. But most victims at least get a glimpse of the attacking animal. That slight bit of recognition is usually enough for Brainerd attorneys to locate owners. For various reasons, many people do not like talking to police officers about the accidents they witnessed. But these individuals are usually willing to share what they know about a vicious dog in the neighborhood.

The low burden of proof comes into play here. In civil court, victim/plaintiffs need only establish facts by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). So, a general description of the animal is usually enough to connect it with a certain individual, especially if the animal or owner has no alibi for the time of the attack.

Your Claim for Damages

Minnesota has an extremely broad dog bite law. It holds owners strictly liable for all injuries that victims sustain in animal attacks. These injuries include both physical and emotional wounds.

Physically, the serious injuries begin with the knockdown. That’s especially true if the victim is a small child or older person. When dogs lunge at their victims, the impact often causes head injuries and broken bones. Then, when dogs bite, they usually cause both deep puncture wounds and serious lacerations. These injuries usually require extensive surgical treatment and reconstructive operations.

Emotionally, many victims must deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-type symptoms. Once again, that’s especially true if the victim was an older person or young child. Many times, these symptoms include flashbacks, trouble sleeping, and an unnatural fear of all dogs. Although PTSD and other brain injuries are permanent, extensive therapy can reduce the symptoms.

Because of these injuries, and others like them, the average dog bite financial settlement has increased 94 percent since 2003. The escalation may be even higher in Minnesota, due to the aforementioned strict liability law.

In some cases, Brainerd attorneys base claims on the common law one-bite rule. This action, which is also known as scienter (knowledge), holds owners liable for damages if they knew the animal was potentially dangerous. In strict liability claims, such knowledge is probably irrelevant. But it’s at the center of a scienter claim.

These claims increase the potential for punitive damages. Whether they have pets at home or not, pretty much everyone dislikes irresponsible owners. If the victim/plaintiff presents clear and convincing evidence of recklessness, a Crow Wing County jury can award additional damages to punish the owner and deter future misconduct.

Brainerd Attorneys and Insurance Company Defenses

Given the immense amount of damages in these cases, insurance company lawyers usually pull out all the stops in their attempts to deny fair compensation.

The assumption of the risk defense is usually available in all dog bite claims. This defense excuses bad conduct if the victim:

  • Voluntarily assumed
  • A known risk.

This defense usually involves a “Beware of Dog” or other such warning sign. However, posting a sign does not conclusively establish assumption of the risk. It just makes this defense easier to prove. The doctrine does not apply unless the victim/plaintiff saw the sign, read the sign, and understood its meaning.

Sometimes, these efforts involve the provocation defense. This defense may not be available in strict liability claims, but it’s generally always available in scienter claims.

Sudden movements and aggressive teasing are not sufficient to invoke this defense in this context. Instead, provocation is almost synonymous with torture. The victim must inflict so much physical pain on the animal that the animal must respond violently.

Contact a Diligent Attorney

Your claim for dog bite damages involves constructing a case and responding to insurance company defenses. 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.

Motorcycle Crashes, the Contrubutory Negligence Defense, and Buffalo, MN Injury Lawyers

In 2016, motorcycle miles traveled hit almost a ten-year low, but the fatality rate was at a ten-year high. So, now more than ever, motorcycle riders risk serious injury every time they pull out of the garage.

A Buffalo, MN injury lawyer knows how to obtain needed compensation for these injury victims. This compensation includes money for medical bills, lost wages, and other economic damages. Accident victims need money to put their lives back together, and this money should not come out of their own bank accounts. Injury compensation usually also includes money for noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering. Generally, all of these settlement funds are tax-free.

Since so much is at stake, insurance company lawyers pull out all the stops in an effort to deny fair compensation. The contributory negligence doctrine is one of the most common defenses in these cases.

The Contributory Negligence Defense: An Overview

Essentially, this doctrine shifts blame for the crash from the tortfeasor (negligent driver) to the victim. Even if emergency responders gave the tortfeasor a ticket, this legal defense may still apply. There is a difference between fault for the crash and liability for damages.

Most people cannot drive more than three or four blocks without violating at least one traffic law. For example, the tortfeasor might have been intoxicated and the victim may have made an illegal lane change. This defense is also common in “who had the light” intersection crashes. In these situations, if the Wright County judge determines that the defense is available, the jury must apportion liability between the two parties. More on that below.

Laws vary by jurisdiction. Minnesota, like most other states, is a modified comparative fault state with a 51 percent bar. So, if the tortfeasor was at least 51 percent responsible for the crash, the victim receives a proportional share of damages. If the responsibility is below 51 percent, a Minnesota motorcycle crash victim receives nothing. In contrast, nearby Missouri is a pure comparative fault jurisdiction. In the Show-Me State, even if the victim is 99 percent responsible for the crash, the tortfeasor must still pay a proportional share of damages.

Comparative Fault and Motorcycle Crashes

Vehicle weight is a consideration here. If a large pickup truck or SUV rolls through a stop sign, that action has a tremendous effect on the outcome of the crash. However, if a lightweight scooter or motorcycle does not completely stop, the crash probably would have happened anyway.

On a related point, degree of violation is also important to Buffalo, MN injury lawyers. Legally, blowing past a stop sign at full speed is the same as a California stop (failure to stop completely). But in a negligence case, these two acts are very different.

Failure to wear a motorcycle helmet may be a form of comparative fault as well. Minnesota’s motorcycle helmet law only applies to riders under 18 or riders with only learners’ permits. Nevertheless, the insurance company could argue that the lack of a helmet contributed to the victim’s injuries, especially if the victim sustained a head injury. Theoretically, the 51 percent bar would apply.

But hold on a minute. Minnesota law bars the seat belt defense, which is a similar concept. Insurance companies cannot blame vehicle occupants for their own injuries if they were not wearing seat belts. By extension, the same prohibition should apply to motorcycle helmet non-use.

Additionally, not wearing a helmet has nothing to do with the cause of the crash, which is the gravamen of a contributory negligence claim.

Two Ways that Buffalo, MN Injury Lawyers Overcome the Contributory Negligence Defense

Insurance company lawyers are not always entitled to bring up the contributory negligence. First, these lawyers must convince the Wright County judge that the defense applies as a matter of law. The aforementioned California stop situation is a good illustration. In these cases, the judge may well find that the victim’s contributory negligence was so slight that it did not affect the crash.

Second, the jury must apportion fault based on the facts. This second step presents a problem for Buffalo, MN injury lawyers. Many Wright County jurors believe that motorcycle riders are reckless thugs, so they are more willing to embrace the contributory negligence defense. Nevertheless, it’s usually possible to emphasize all the good things that the victim did just before the crash and also bring up positive things in the victim’s background.

Count on Effective Attorneys

Motorcycle crash victims may be entitled to substantial compensation, if they can avoid insurance company defenses. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in injury cases.

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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

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Phone: (218) 736-9429
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Hutchinson Lawyers

114 Main Street North
Hutchinson, MN 55350

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Phone: (320) 289-4761
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Minnetonka Lawyers

3911 Ridgedale Dr, Suite 404E
Minnetonka, MN 55305

Toll Free: (877) 344-1555
Phone: (952) 260-9640
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