Do Accident Lawyers in Brainerd, MN Settle Most Slip-and-Fall Cases Out of Court?

In a word, yes. Fewer than 3 percent of all slip-and-fall claims settle out of court. Unfortunately, that statistic does not mean the case will settle quickly. There is also a good chance that the claim will go through the system and settle almost literally at the eleventh hour.

Generally, a slip-and-fall settlement includes compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Actual settlement amounts vary significantly, mostly depending on the strength of the victim/plaintiff’s evidence and the legal theories involved, as outlined below.

Although this money is available, stingy insurance companies do not simply give it away. To obtain maximum compensation, an accident lawyer in Brainerd, MN must have excellent negotiating skills as well as excellent advocacy skills. A deficiency in either area could mean that the victim/plaintiff must settle for less.

The Nuts and Bolts of a Slip and Fall Claim

First and foremost, an accident lawyer in Brainerd, MN must establish a legal duty. In other words, a landowner must be theoretically responsible for the victim/plaintiff’s injury. Minnesota law assigns the applicable duty based mostly on the relationship between the victim and landowner:

  • Duty of Reasonable Care: Invitees are people who have permission to be on the land and whose presence benefits the owner. The invitation could be direct or indirect; the benefit could be tangible or intangible. Most slip-and-fall victims are invitees. In this context, the duty of reasonable care includes a one-time responsibility to make the premises safe and an ongoing responsibility to perform safety inspections.
  • Duty to Warn: Licensees are people like guests of hotel guests. These individuals have indirect permission to be on the land, but their presence does not benefit the owner. Because of the more distant relationship, the applicable duty is more limited. The duty to warn involves only latent (hidden) defects, such as a burned-out security light.
  • No Legal Responsibility: Trespassers are people with no permission and no benefit. So, there is generally no duty, except a duty to refrain from intentional harm. Some exceptions, such as the attractive nuisance rule, protect child trespassers in some cases.

On the defense side, some legal theories include res ipsa loquitur and the open and obvious doctrine.

If it applies, RIL (the thing speaks for itself) makes it easier for an accident lawyer in Brainerd, MN to establish negligence. However, Minnesota law sharply limits this doctrine, a fact which insurance company lawyers are eager to try and take advantage of.

In slip-and-fall claims, the open and obvious doctrine immunizes landowners in situations like a colored liquid on the floor. This rule is subjective. For example, a colored liquid might not be an open and obvious hazard to someone with poor eyesight or to anyone in a dark room.

Moreover, an accident lawyer in Brainerd, MN must establish practical responsibility. That means knowledge of the fall hazard. Such evidence might be:

  • Direct: Restroom cleaning reports, “cleanup on aisle nine” announcements, and other smoking guns usually emerge during a lawsuit’s discovery process. Direct evidence often improves the bargaining position for an accident lawyer in Brainerd, MN.
  • Circumstantial: According to the time-notice rule, constructive knowledge (should have known) is linked to the amount of time the hazard existed. If the victim slipped on a wilted piece of lettuce, the hazard had probably existed for quite a while, so an employee should have picked up the lettuce.

On the defense side, direct evidence is only admissible in certain situations. And, as for circumstantial evidence, Crow Wing County jurors can draw their own conclusions regarding the time-notice rule’s applicability.

Accident Lawyers in Brainerd, MN and the Settlement Process

If there is no question as to the landowner’s liability, insurance companies have a legal duty to settle slip-and-fall claims within a few weeks. However, there is almost always at least some debate as to the owner’s responsibility. Moreover, as mentioned above, if the action moves forward through the discovery process, better evidence might be available. That usually means higher compensation.

Discovery normally includes both written and oral discovery. Written discovery is typically document production, such as repair invoices and medical bills. Oral discovery usually means depositions, which are like courtroom witness examinations without a judge or jury.

As for the amount of a settlement, it is usually rather easy for an accident lawyer in Brainerd, MN to calculate things like lost wages and medical expenses. Pain and suffering, however, is more subjective. Many accident lawyers in Brainerd, MN multiply the economic losses by two or three based on the strength of the plaintiff’s evidence.

Contact a Savvy Attorney

Most slip-and-fall cases settle out of court, but the process might be protracted. For a free consultation with an experienced accident lawyer in Brainerd, MN, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Home and hospital visits are available.

How Does a Lawyer in Buffalo, MN Obtain a Workers’ Comp Slip and Fall Settlement?

Nationwide, slip and fall injuries are the leading cause of workers’ compensation benefits claims. Most of these incidents occur in office settings, a fact which surprises many people. Common causes include open desk drawers, floor debris, improper lighting, and slightly uneven floors.

These injuries are especially severe for workers over 55 and for those with pre-existing conditions. Many older people suffer from Gae-related Macular Degeneration. This condition gradually blurs straight-ahead vision. AMD is especially severe in low-light conditions. Additionally, pre-existing conditions, like a bad knee, transform embarrassing slip and falls into serious injuries.

Even if you have such a pre-existing medical condition, a lawyer in Buffalo, MN might be able to obtain substantial benefits in these cases. Frequently, these claims settle quickly and on victim-friendly terms. Many other times, however, a lawyer in Buffalo, MN must help victims navigate the often-frustrating workers’ compensation system in Minnesota.

Available Benefits

A little over a hundred years ago, the first state-sponsored workers’ compensation systems appeared in the United States. Back then, there were few workplace safety or labor laws. So, many factories were dangerous places. As a result, a stunning number of liability lawsuits clogged the court system.

Therefore, labor and management reached a compromise known as the Grand Bargain. Workers gave up their right to sue in court for their work-related injuries. In return, management agreed to fund a no-fault insurance system. Workers need not establish negligence or anything else to obtain compensation for:

  • Lost Wages: Typically, Minnesota workers’ comp insurance pays two-thirds of a victim’s average weekly wage for the duration of a temporary disability. If the victim is able to work but must accept a lower-paying light duty assignment, workers’ comp pays two-thirds of the difference between the old and new salaries. Permanent disability claims, such as loss of motion in a shoulder, usually involve a lump sum payment.
  • Medical Expenses: A serious fall injury could mean tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills. Workers’ comp pays these costs, along with other reasonable medical expenses, such as physical therapy costs. Generally, the insurance company pays these expenses directly.

Some employer fraud schemes offer injured workers tempting shortcuts in these situations. For example, Joe’s employer might offer to pay his medical costs and take care of a few of his monthly bills if he does not file a workers’ comp claim.

Given the procedural complexities outlined below, Joe could be tempted to take this offer. However, if the employer later reneges, which will probably happen, Joe’s workers’ compensation claim deadline will have passed, and he will have no options. Additionally, Joe’s employer illegally pays lower insurance premiums. So, there is less money in the system for other injured victims.

What to Expect

In the early days, workers’ comp was a victim-friendly system which expidited the aforementioned benefits to the people who needed them. Over the years, the system has become a bloated bureaucracy which features many insurance company pawns. Making matters worse, financial payouts have declined 20 percent since 2013.

Generally, a Claims Examiner reviews each case within a few weeks. These people nearly always deny workers’ compensation claims, at least in part. Typically, they hope that victims do not partner with a lawyer in Buffalo, MN and abandon their claims.

So, if your workers’ comp claim is denied, that denial usually has nothing to do with the merits of your case. It’s just an economic thing.

After such denials, a lawyer in Buffalo, MN can demand an appeal hearing. Unfortunately, because of the bureaucracy’s size, the average wait for a hearing could be up to fifteen months. At the trial-like administrative law hearing, a lawyer in Buffalo, MN can make legal arguments, introduce evidence, and challenge the insurance company’s evidence. So, victims have a much better chance to obtain the benefits they deserve.

Lawyers in Buffalo, MN and Workers’ Comp Settlements

Out-of-court settlements resolve almost all of these claims, and these resolutions could occur at any time. Typically, the closer the administrative law hearing draws, the more likely a settlement becomes.

It’s very important that a lawyer in Buffalo, MN not settle the claim too early. Workers’ comp settlements usually include waivers. So, if the victim needs more money for additional medical costs, it’s very difficult to reopen a closed case.

As mentioned, the settlement usually includes money for lost wages. The strength of the medical evidence often influences the amount of the settlement.

Contact a Tenacious Attorney

Most workers’ comp claims settle out of court. For a free consultation with an experienced lawyer in Buffalo, MN, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these cases.

A Brainerd Attorney Looks at the Medical and Legal Aspects of a Traumatic Brain Injury

The number of TBI-induced emergency room visits has increased 54 percent since 2006. This increase does not include the substantial number of Acquired Brain Injuries. Chronic medical conditions, such as cancer, along with prolonged alcohol or drug poisoning, causes most ABIs.

Initially, most TBI victims experience symptoms like unconsciousness and vomiting. Without immediate and effective treatment, these symptoms soon lead to things like chronic severe headaches, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and temporary personality changes. Later, these personality changes become permanent. Other long-term symptoms include dementia and loss of mobility.

Later symptoms like these are one of the main reasons that TBIs are some of the most expensive personal injuries, in terms of medical bills and lost wages. So, a Brainerd attorney works hard to obtain compensation in these cases.

Medical Issues in TBI Cases

As mentioned, the number of ER visits has increased significantly over the past ten years. Yet many of these victims do not get the treatment they need at the hospital. As a result, their injuries get worse instead of better.

Not everyone experiences the same signature symptoms. Many victims are dazed instead of completely unconscious. Other victims experience nausea, but they do not vomit. As a result, many doctors misdiagnose TBIs as shock from the vehicle collision or early-onset dementia symptoms.

Furthermore, despite the large body of research to the contrary, many doctors do not believe that TBIs are physical problems. Instead, they mistakenly believe that rest and hydration will “cure” this injury.

A Brainerd attorney usually cannot help with the direct aspects of medical treatment. However, a lawyer can arrange for victims to receive treatment from brain injury specialists. These professionals know the many signs of a TBI. More importantly, they fully understand the serious nature of this injury.

TBIs are permanent. Once brain cells die, they never regenerate. However, surgery to reduce swelling and extended physical therapy usually all but eliminates the symptoms over time. So, early treatment is essential.

There is more good news. Your Brainerd attorney sends a letter of protection to the medical provider. This letter guarantees payment when the case is resolved. So, victims pay nothing upfront to receive top-notch medical treatment.

Attorneys send letters of protection to other injury-related providers as well, such as vehicle rental companies and body shops.

How a Brainerd Attorney Evaluates Your Legal Claim

Car crashes cause most of the Traumatic Brain Injuries in Minnesota. These incidents combine all three major TBI causes, which are:

  • Trauma: When the skull cracks, jagged fragments often push into brain matter. This trauma injury causes permanent damage.
  • Motion: The brain does not fit snugly against the skull. Instead, the skull is basically a water tank which holds fluid that suspends the brain in space. The violent motion of a car crash causes the brain to slam against the insides of the skull.
  • Noise: Explosive blasts and other sudden loud noises release shock waves which disrupt brain functions, in much the same way as an Electromagnetic Pulse disables electronic devices.

Vehicle collisions are usually not unavoidable accidents. Instead, a lack of statutory or ordinary care causes most of these incidents. Either one of these things could mean compensation in court.

Distracted driving is a good illustration. In Minnesota, it is illegal to talk or text on a cell phone while driving. Drivers who do so may be liable for damages as a matter of law if they cause car crashes. Other cell phone-related behavior, such as watching a video or surfing the web, is not illegal but still clearly distracting. If the behavior constituted a lack of ordinary care, liability may attach.

Falls cause almost as many TBIs as vehicle collisions. Car crash victims have steel cages and multiple restraint layers to protect them, but fall victims have none of these advantages. Legally, when victims slip and fall on wet spots, uneven stair steps, and other property hazards, they are entitled to damages if:

  • Legal Duty: In Minnesota, most fall victims are invitees. These people have an express or implied invitation from the landowner, and they provide a tangible or intangible benefit. In these cases, landowners have a duty of reasonable care, which is one of the highest duties in Minnesota.
  • Knowledge of Defect: Additionally, the victim/plaintiff must establish knowledge. This proof could be direct evidence of actual knowledge, or circumstantial evidence of constructive knowledge (should have known). This circumstantial evidence usually involves the time-notice rule. The degree of knowledge is linked to the amount of time the hazard existed.

These same rules often apply in assault TBIs. If a defective property condition, such as a burned-out safety light or a lack of security, substantially caused the incident, the owner is responsible for damages.

Contact an Assertive Lawyer

Brain injury victims may be entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We have several area office locations.

A Brainerd Personal Injury Lawyer Talks About Nursing Home Falls

The long-predicted elderly population explosion is here. Moreover, we are headed for another sea change. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that, for the first time, people over 65 will outnumber people under 18 by 2030. This demographic shift has some implications for society, mostly in terms of a lower birth rate.

The change has even stronger implications for Brainerd personal injury attorneys. A rapidly-climbing elderly population means that many nursing homes are essentially breeding grounds for falls.

To accommodate an expanded population, many long-term care facilities are always under construction. So, there are physical hazards everywhere, especially for people who are prone to falls and serious injury. Additionally, many overcrowded nursing homes are always understaffed. Understaffing is especially a problem during low-census periods. On weekends and holidays, many Crow Wing County nursing homes resemble ghost towns.

What Causes Nursing Home Fall Injuries?

The increased fall and injury risk at nursing homes is not just statistical and theoretical. It’s also real and practical to Brainerd families.

Many older folks suffer from Age-Related Macular Degeneration. As we get older, fat accumulates underneath the retina. This drusen obscures the straight-ahead vision which people need to walk. The effects are so subtle that many people do not know they have AMD until it is too late. Vision conditions like AMD are even worse in low-light conditions and/or unfamiliar environments (e.g. the person just moved to the facility).

Additionally, many older people have pre-existing medical conditions. That could be an old injury, like a bad knee, or a chronic illness, like osteoporosis. If the fall aggravates the injury or illness, and not the other way around, a Brainerd personal injury lawyer can usually obtain full compensation for the injury. That’s a subtle distinction, but it makes a big difference.

Understaffing often plays a part here as well. When staff resources are stretched to the limit, fall prevention is often the last thing on the agenda.

To see how all these things come together, consider the following example. Because his dementia is getting worse, Joe’s family recently moved him to a nursing home. He is still rather disoriented. Late one night, when almost no staff people are around, Joe goes for a walk. Because of his deteriorating vision, and the lingering effects of a broken ankle, he does not get around as well as he used to. He wanders into a construction area, where he slips and falls. As outlined below, the nursing home is probably responsible for his damages.

We Brainerd injury lawyers often use examples like these as teaching tools. Legal concepts are complex, and admittedly, we sometimes stop speaking English and lapse into Legalese.

Brainerd Personal Injury Lawyers and Your Legal Options

Unsafe premises and employee neglect cause most nursing home falls. So, to obtain damages, a Brainerd personal injury attorney can pursue a premises liability or an ordinary negligence claim.

If the victim was an invitee, property owners in Minnesota owe the victim a duty of reasonable care. They must keep the premises reasonably safe and also inspect the property. An “invitee” is someone who had permission to be in the building and whose presence benefitted the owner in some way. Nursing home residents are definitely invitees. They pay money to live there. Guests may be invitees. Arguably, guests make residents happier, and the owner benefits as a result of that happiness.

Employee neglect, possibly due to understaffing, could cause a fall as well. Let’s talk about Joe some more. Assume that Juanita, a patient care technician, was supposed to make sure Joe stayed in his room. But because the nursing home was short-staffed that night, Juanita neglected her Joe-watching duties to help another employee. Even though her intentions were good, Juanita was still negligent.

Respondeat superior (“let the master answer”) is the applicable legal doctrine. Just like a captain is responsible for the conduct of a ship’s crew, an employer is responsible for any negligent acts its employees commit during the scope of their employment.

Breaking Down Some Common Insurance Company Defenses

In premises liability cases, lack of duty and/or lack of knowledge are the most common insurance company defenses.

If the victim was not an invitee, the owner may only owe the victim a limited duty of care, or there may be no legal duty at all. No duty, or no breach of duty, means no claim for compensation. To establish knowledge, victim/plaintiffs can show actual knowledge or constructive knowledge (should have known). If Joe slipped on an hours-old spill that no one had cleaned up, constructive knowledge probably attaches.

The assumption of the risk defense is common in negligent fall cases. This legal loophole excuses liability for damages if the victim:

  • Voluntarily assumed
  • A known risk.

Remember AMD? This condition often comes into play here. A young person may see a hazard and avoid it. But an older person may not be able to see the hazard, and therefore, not be able to avoid it.

Work with a Diligent Attorney

Nursing home falls often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd personal injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. You have a limited amount of time to act.

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Buffalo Lawyers

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