Car Crash Evidence and Buffalo, MN Personal Injury Lawyers

To obtain compensation for their injuries, victims must establish key facts by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). Imagine there are two stacks of typing paper side by side. Both stacks have the same number of sheets. If someone moves one sheet from the right to the left, the stack on the left is bigger than the one on the right. That’s what a preponderance of the evidence means.

Generally, the key facts involve negligence. That negligence could be a lack of ordinary care or a violation of a safety statute. In defective product car crash cases, like a tire blow-out or defective Takata airbag, the victim/plaintiff must only prove cause by a preponderance of the proof.

So, a good Buffalo, MN personal injury lawyer must be more than a good litigator. An attorney must also be a good investigator. Since the evidence collection process is so critical, many lawyers partner with accident reconstructionists, private investigators, or other such professionals during this phase of a car crash claim.

Traditional Evidence Sources

Frequently, Buffalo, MN personal injury lawyers use a combination of medical bills, the police accident report, and the victim/plaintiff’s own testimony to build successful damage claims.

Medical bills are critical because, in many injury cases, medical expenses are the largest damage category. IN a serious injury claim, the medical bills often exceed $100,000. Additionally, these records often contain treatment notes which indicate things like the victim’s pain level. These notations are relevant to the noneconomic damages in the case.

All these physician records are usually admissible in a Wright County civil court. That’s assuming a Buffalo, MN personal injury attorney lays the proper foundation.

A police accident report usually contains an accident narrative. The officer pieces together the physical evidence to create a detailed picture of the accident. Generally, police accident reports carry a great deal of weight with jurors.

Moreover, the police accident report usually includes a list of witnesses. That list serves as a starting point for additional evidence-gathering, if it is necessary.

Most jurors want to hear from the victim in a personal injury case, even though the victim’s testimony is technically not necessary in most cases. It’s important for a Buffalo, MN personal injury attorney to properly prepare the victim to be a witness. The testimony must not sound rehearsed. But, the victim must know what to say, and what not to say, during cross-examination.

Buffalo, MN Personal Injury Lawyers and Nontraditional Evidence

These sources of evidence are normally reliable, but that’s not always true. The police accident report is a good example. In terms of evidence collection, even the most experienced emergency responder is not an accident reconstructionist. Additionally, if the victim was killed or seriously injured, the police report narrative might only contain one side of the story.

Electronic evidence, such as the Event Data Recorder, often fills in the gap. Much like a black box flight data recorder inside a commercial airplane, a vehicle’s EDR measures and records things like:

  • Vehicle speed,
  • Steering angle,
  • Brake application, and
  • Engine acceleration or deceleration.

Tech-savvy Wright County jurors often respond very well to electronic evidence. And, from a legal standpoint, it is more reliable than eyewitness testimony or other kinds of proof. Assuming the gadget was working properly, a computer is never biased or inaccurate.

However, this critical evidence might not be available, unless a Buffalo, MN personal injury attorney is very proactive. Minnesota has strict vehicle information privacy laws, and a lawyer must know how to overcome them. Moreover, unless a lawyer sends a spoliation letter, the insurance company might “accidentally” destroy the EDR.

Other kinds of electronic evidence, such as a commercial vehicle’s Electronic Logging Device, might be important as well. ELDs are often critical in drowsy driving claims. These gadgets track HOS (Hours of Service) compliance. If a tortfeasor (negligent driver) did not follow rules regarding driving caps and mandatory rest periods, the tortfeasor might be legally responsible for a crash as a matter of law.

Damages in a car crash claim normally include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Normally, there is a direct connection between the strength of the evidence in a case and the amount of damages the jury awards.

Contact a Tenacious Lawyer

All successful car wreck claims are built on foundations of solid evidence. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN personal injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. You have a limited amount of time to act.

How does a Hutchinson, MN Lawyer Win Money in Truck Crash Claims?

Evidence is usually the key to a successful outcome in any civil case. Accident victims have the burden of proof. They must establish negligence by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). Imagine two equally-full cups of coffee are on the same table. If the waitress adds one drop of coffee to one cup, it’s fuller than the other one. That’s what a preponderance of the evidence looks like.

The good news is that a preponderance of proof is the lowest standard of evidence in Minnesota. The bad news is that truck crashes are often so catastrophic that little or no physical evidence remains at the scene.

To make up for this lack of evidence, a Hutchinson, MN lawyer must work extra hard to amass the proof necessary to establish negligence. If jurors hear a sufficient amount of compelling evidence, they often award significant damages in these cases. These damages usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Event Data Recorder

After large airplanes crash, investigators often rely on black box flight data recorders to determine what caused the crash. Large truck Event Data Recorders are much the same. Generally, EDRs measure and record key operational information like:

  • Vehicle speed,
  • Steering angle,
  • Engine acceleration or deceleration, and
  • Brake application.

A Hutchinson, MN lawyer, often working with an accident reconstructionist, can use this information like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Once an attorney puts the pieces together for jurors, they see a compelling picture of operator negligence.

EDRs are valuable, and Hutchinson, MN lawyers must act quickly to preserve this evidence. As mentioned, truck crashes are often devastating. Following such wrecks, insurance companies usually destroy totaled vehicles, rather than paying to store them. If that happens, the EDR, and all other physical evidence on the truck, is gone forever.

Spoliation letters usually help. These letters create a legal duty to preserve all potential physical evidence, including the EDR.

There is more. Minnesota has very strict vehicle information privacy laws. So, to access and download EDR information, a Hutchinson, MN lawyer typically must obtain a court order.

Hutchinson, MN Lawyers and Electronic Logging Devices

EDRs are usually important in all truck wreck claims. ELDs are often critical in drowsy driving claims. Biologically, driving while fatigued is like driving while intoxicated. Driving after eighteen consecutive awake hours, which is basically a long day on the road, is like driving with a .05 BAC level. That’s above the legal limit for commercial drivers in Minnesota.

Trucking industry executives know how important this issue is. Their lawyers fought the ELD mandate all the way to the Supreme Court. But it finally took full effect in December 2019.

ELDs are basically electronic work logs which are connected to the ignition. If the truck is running, the HOS (hours of service) clock is ticking. Minnesota and the federal government both have strict laws in this area. If a driver does not get enough rest and causes a crash, the driver could be liable for damages as a matter of law.

Furthermore, ELDs are often circumstantial evidence of fatigue. Drivers can technically be in compliance with the HOS rules and still be dangerously fatigued. Research shows that even an hour or two of less sleep makes a difference.

To use this critical data in court, Hutchinson, MN lawyers must overcome the aforementioned vehicle information privacy laws as well as some other privacy laws, mostly regarding medical data.

Safety Maintenance System

Lack of physical evidence is not the only issue in truck crash claims. Generally, these operators have drivers’ licenses in several different states. As a result, it’s difficult or impossible to obtain all relevant driving records.

Several years ago, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration began keeping multistate driving records on all American truck drivers. The SMS database focuses on:

  • HOS compliance,
  • Vehicle maintenance history,
  • Prior collisions,
  • Substance abuse history, and
  • Previous traffic citations.

The SMS relies on law enforcement records as opposed to judicial records. So, it is more accurate. For example, if a tortfeasor (negligent driver) received a speeding ticket and took defensive driving, that citation would probably not appear in a judicial database. But it would pop up in the SMS database.

Connect with a Diligent Attorney

Industrious evidence collection lays the groundwork for fair compensation in a truck wreck case. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in McLeod County and nearby jurisdictions.

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.

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

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

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

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

What To Do About Hospital Bills

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

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

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

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

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

Where to File a Claim

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Win Your Claim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What Is Personal Injury Protection?

PIP auto insurance coverage is mandatory in Minnesota and twelve other states. All these jurisdictions have some kind of “no-fault law.” The law applies to non-serious car accidents. Every state defines serious injury in a different way, and we’ll look at Minnesota’s definition below.

No matter who was at fault for the car crash, PIP pays the policyholder’s medical bills. Some policies also replace lost wages. PIP may also pay for lawn care and other such items.

Some Problems with PIP Insurance

As is the case in other states, Minnesota lawmakers hope that PIP reduces the number of car crash lawsuits. There is little evidence to support this point. Overall, car wreck lawsuits are among the few kinds of negligence actions which have increased instead of decreased in recent years. But, the rate of increase has been slight, in many jurisdictions. So that’s basically a toss-up.

What is certain is that PIP fraud is a significant problem. In Florida, which is another no-fault state, authorities recently uncovered a $23 million fraud scheme.  Between 2010 and 2017, according to prosecutors, a Boca Raton lawyer presided over an intricate scheme involving fake medical invoices, kickbacks, unnecessary medial treatments, and other insurance fraud-type stuff.

The “swoop and squat” fraud is also quite common in no-fault states. First, an unscrupulous motorist pulls out in front of another driver. Then, that motorist suddenly applies his/her brakes to induce a rear-end collision.

Given these problems, and others like them, it is fairly easy to see why only a handful of states have no-fault laws.

Serious Injuries in Minnesota

PIP fraud is not quite as bad in Minnesota as it is in some other states. Florida defines a “serious injury” only in subjective terms, so it is pretty easy for these cases to go under the radar. But in Minnesota, there are not as many PIP claims. The Gopher State’s law defines a “serious injury” as any wound that leads to more than $4,000 in medical bills. In practical terms, if you go to the hospital in Minnesota, you were in a serious accident under the law.

Minnesota statutes also contain a subjective definition. A “serious injury” could also be one that causes disability of at least 60 days. Those days do not need to be consecutive. Motorcycle crashes are a good example of this rule in action. These victims often sustain road burns. These large abrasions are not very serious. But they take a long time to heal and seriously impair mobility until they get better.

What Causes Serious Car Crashes in Minnesota?

Non-serious wrecks usually involve momentary lapses. For example, a driver might turn his head to speak with a passenger and not see a turning car. Most Brainerd jurors would not consider that to be negligence. But if that driver had been talking on a cell phone for several blocks or reviewing a text message, that’s probably negligence.

Vehicle wrecks kill or seriously injure millions of Americans every year. Most of these wrecks are not “accidents.” Typically, they are not unavoidable instances that the drivers had no power to avoid. Instead, most Minnesota car wrecks involve driver negligence. Some of the most common forms of negligence include:

  • Speed: Excessive velocity increases the risk of a collision. Fast-moving vehicles are more difficult to control than slow-moving ones. As a result, speeding drivers often lose control of their vehicles when they try to pass or negotiate curves. Speed also increases the force in a collision between two objects. So, a low-speed fender bender is a high-speed serious injury wreck.
  • Alcohol: Largely because impairment starts with the first drink, alcohol is a factor in about a third of the fatal collisions in Crow Wing County. Drunk drivers are among the most dangerous tortfeasors (negligent drivers). These individuals make a conscious decision to put other people at risk.
  • Fatigue: Drowsy driving is especially a problem in large vehicle collisions. Many shipping companies pay their truck drivers by the load and not by the mile, so they often drive long distances with little rest. Somewhat similarly, tour bus drivers are usually behind the wheel early in the morning and/or late at night. Most people are naturally drowsy at these times.

If the speed, fatigue, or other negligence was so bad that the driver’s behavior fell below the standard of care, the tortfeasor may be liable for damages. In some cases, the negligence per se shortcut may be available. If the tortfeasor broke a safety law, such as the DWI law or speeding law, liability is a little easier to establish.

Do I Need a Lawyer for My Car Crash Case?

Because of the no-fault law, you may not need an attorney for a fender bender. Limited damages are available. So, hiring a lawyer may not be a cost-effective move. That being said an attorney could take care of all the details, so you can focus on life. Sometimes, that’s a big advantage.

However, if your wreck falls under one of the above categories and is a serious injury, you definitely need a Minnesota Lawyer. Substantial additional compensation is available, for things like pain and suffering, loss of consortium (companionship), emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment in life. If you do not have an experienced attorney, you have no idea what your case is worth and little chance to obtain the compensation you deserve.

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

You can sometimes count on PIP insurance for fair compensation after a wreck, and you can always count on the experienced Minnesota Personal Injury Attorneys at Carlson & Jones, P.A. for that kind of compensation. You can also count on us for first-class service from one of our many area offices.

How Does Personal Injury Civil Litigation Work in Minnesota?

To best see how personal injury civil ligation works in Minnesota, let’s consider the misadventures of Tim Tortfeasor (negligent driver) and Vince Victim.

One fine day, Vince is eastbound on Highway 55 heading to Walmart; Tim is westbound heading towards Maple Lake for some reason. Their paths cross right around the intersection of Highway 55 and 40th Street, near the feed store. Tim is either surfing or texting on his cell phone, so he is weaving slightly. Vince sees that Tim is distracted but does not really react in any way. Tim crosses the center line and hits Vince, seriously injuring him. There were no witnesses to the crash itself.

Vince sustained a head injury, so his medical bills are extremely high. He wants to file suit not to punish Tim, but just to get the money he needs to get better.

This seemingly straightforward car crash case has a lot of legal complexities. The insurance company has lawyers to represent Tim. Therefore, Vince definitely needs a Buffalo Lawyer of his own.

Collecting Evidence in a Minnesota Personal Injury Civil Litigation Case

Since the victim/plaintiff has the burden of proof, collecting evidence is one of the first priorities for Vince’s lawyer.

The police report is always a good place to start. However, it is just a starting point. The police officer who wrote this report was highly experienced, so Vince is lucky in that regard. However, this particular Minnesota State Trooper is definitely not an accident reconstructionist.

There is a bigger problem with the report. Vince was unconscious when the ambulance took him to the hospital, and Tim was treated at the scene. Therefore, the police report only contains Tim’s side of the story.

In a case with no leads, you have to start somewhere, and that somewhere is often the Event Data Recorder. The EDR captures and records a number of vehicle metrics. Most importantly for Vince, most EDRs record steering angle. So, if Tim was weaving for a while, the EDR will record that activity. Such erratic driving increases the possibility that Tim was legally negligent, as outlined below.

As mentioned, there were no witnesses to the crash. But Vince’s attorney is no dummy. She knows that the feed store was pretty crowded that day. Hence, there is a pretty good chance that someone saw something. Even if the witness did not see the crash itself, that testimony can still be valuable.

A Theory of Recovery

Once Vince’s Buffalo lawyer has some facts, she can plug those facts into a compelling theory of recovery. In distracted driving cases, this phase of the process is a little tricky. Minnesota basically has three distracted driving laws:

  • Web Access and Texting: M.S. 169.475 makes it illegal for any driver to send or view any electronic message while the vehicle is in motion or stuck in traffic. That includes texts, e-mails, instant messages, status updates, and so on. If the driver uses a built-in hands-free device, this law does not apply.
  • Under 18: Minors cannot use any cell phone, hand-held or hands-free, for any purpose other than calling 911. This same prohibition applies to school bus drivers.
  • Reckless Driving: M.S. 169.13 applies to any driver whose actions “demonstrate a disregard for the safety or rights of others.” Such activity could be texting while driving, eating while driving, or doing just about anything else other than driving.

Do any of these laws apply to Tim? We’ll assume he is over 18, so that takes out the broad cell phone prohibition. In the police report, Tim said he was surfing the web. But if he was texting, he violated 169.475. Vince’s attorney might be able to look at his cell phone records during discovery. There’s also the blanket reckless driving law. If Vince had been driving erratically for several minutes, this law might apply.

Why does that matter? If Tim broke a safety law, it is easier to establish negligence, or a lack of care. Otherwise, Tim’s lawyers could argue that he was careless but not negligent. Those are two different things.

Legal Defenses

In head-on collisions like this one, the last clear chance defense comes up a lot. If Driver A has a chance to avoid a collision, maybe by changing lanes, yet fails to do so, Driver A is legally responsible for the crash even if Driver B was negligent.

In this case, Tim’s lawyers could argue that Vince had the last clear chance. Vince saw Tim coming, but Vince did not try to avoid the crash.

However, there is a difference between the last clear chance and any possible chance. If Tim was all over the road, it would have been difficult or impossible for Vince to evade him. Furthermore, if there was a decent amount of traffic that day, a sudden lane change would have been just as dangerous.

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

These three items pretty well detail how personal injury civil litigation works. For a free consultation with an experienced Minnesota Personal Injury Attorney in Buffalo, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.

How Do Minnesota Personal Injury Lawsuits Work?

Some of the first American-style trials took place in twelfth-century England. King Henry usually offered defendants the choice between a trial by jury or a trial by combat. By the time English colonists arrived in America some five hundred years later, the civil trial system was fairly well-developed. For example, a jury was no longer a body of witnesses, but rather a group of disinterested people. Some commoners could also serve on juries, although it would be many more years before all commoners could do so.

Today, most negligence cases settle out of court. Trials are rare. But almost all cases go through the pre-trial process. Some of the highlights (or lowlights) of how Minnesota personal injury lawsuits work are outlined below.

The Demand Letter

As noted, “almost all” cases go through the pre-trial process. But a few settle very early on, usually after the plaintiff’s attorney sends a demand letter to the defendant or insurance company.

The reason so few cases settle at this point is that there are very few facts available. Usually, there is only the police accident report and the parties’ statements. In some cases, particularly slip-and-fall claims, there is usually no police report. With so few facts, it’s almost impossible for either side to tell if the victim/plaintiff has enough evidence to satisfy the burden of proof. More on that in a minute. So, both sides usually wait to see what happens next.

In a demand letter, the plaintiff’s attorney usually sets out the facts and then demands a sum of money to settle the case. That figure is primarily based on economic losses, such as medical bills and lost wages. Assuming the victim sustained a serious injury, the attorney can also demand compensation for noneconomic damages, like pain and suffering, loss of consortium (companionship), and loss of enjoyment in life.

Filing a Minnesota Personal Injury Lawsuit

If the victim/plaintiff must file a petition, and that’s usually the case, Minnesota is a notice pleading state. So, the complaint need only set out a possible claim for relief, as opposed to a plausible claim for relief. Likewise, the defendant need only sketch out any available defenses in the responsive pleadings.

If there appears to be no evidence in support of the claim, or there is a procedural question, the defendant usually files a motion to dismiss. If the plaintiff’s suit seems frivolous (e.g. the medical records come from Dr. Nick Riviera a judge may dismiss it. Or, the judge may order the victim/plaintiff to go back and start over.

Discovery

In the next phase of how do Minnesota personal injury lawsuits work, the focus is more on what the victim/plaintiff can prove in court.

Negligence plaintiffs must prove facts by a preponderance of the evidence, which means “more likely than not.” Some people may remember the O.J. Simpson murder trial from the 1990s. A criminal jury acquitted him. Then, a civil jury heard basically the same evidence and reached the opposite conclusion. The main reason? The burden of proof is a lot lower in civil court. Basically, there was some evidence that he committed the killings, but not much. In civil court, “some evidence” is all you need.

There are a number of tools plaintiffs use to obtain such evidence. Some of the more common ones include:

  • Document Request: Sometimes, the custodian of records voluntarily hands over documents. Other times, the attorney must get a subpoena and compel the person to turn over the documents.
  • Depositions: Usually, key witnesses in the case are all deposed. These depositions always occur outside of a courtroom. Lawyers ask questions and make objections, and the judge rules on the objections at a later date.
  • Inspections: In a car crash case, the plaintiff’s lawyer usually inspects the vehicle’s Event Data Recorder, which is a lot like a commercial jet’s black box. These cases, and other negligence matters, often involve surveillance video as well.

Once discovery is complete, one or both sides often move for summary judgement. Much like a motion to dismiss, a motion for summary judgement basically states that the evidence is so one-sided that the plaintiff or defendant could not possibly lose.

Resolution

As mentioned, most cases settle out of court. Often, such settlements occur after mediation. Under the direction of a mediator, the two sides try to agree on a settlement amount. If mediation works, and it usually does, the case ends then and there.

If there is no mediated settlement, then the case goes to trial. The trial could be before a judge or a jury. There are pros and cons to both formats. Your attorney can advise you as to which one is best in your case. For better or worse, the old “trial by combat” option is unavailable in Minnesota.

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

The complete lawsuit process is rather lengthy, but the case can settle at any time. For a free consultation with an experienced Minnesota Personal Injury Attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.

How Do Minnesota Personal Injury Settlements Work?

In a personal injury settlement, the plaintiff agrees to give up all legal injury claims and the defendant agrees to pay a sum of money. Each side gives up something and each side gets something, which is the essence of a contract.

Usually, an agreed settlement is good for everybody. As a result, over 80 percent of negligence cases settle out of court. These resolutions save time. Out-of-court settlements also give the litigants control over the outcome. Trials are very risky, because even veteran attorneys can seldom predict how a jury will rule.

But not all settlements are created equally. At Carlson & Jones, our lawyers only settle cases on the best terms possible. We never do a deal just to get things over with or because we are afraid of what a jury might decide.

In terms of how Minnesota personal injury settlements work, there are three main steps.

The Legal Theory

Evidence is very important in this process. Without evidence, the plaintiff has no case. But a good legal theory is almost as important. Without it, the evidence is just a pile of bricks instead of a well-put-together house.

Negligence is one of the most common theories. In a car crash case, negligence is basically a lack of ordinary care. If there is a link between the lack of care and the victim/plaintiff’s damages, the victim/plaintiff is entitled to compensation.

That idea seems simple enough, but it can be rather complex. For example, everyone agrees that distracted driving is dangerous and causes injuries. Most everyone agrees that texting while driving is dangerous. But what about other activity, such as talking to passengers or adjusting the air conditioner? Technically, these actions constitute distracted driving. However, most jurors would not consider them a lack of ordinary care.

The negligence per se shortcut is often available as well. This doctrine is much more straightforward. Under this rule, the tortfeasor (negligent actor) is responsible for damages if:

  • The tortfeasor broke a safety law, and
  • That violation substantially caused the victim/plaintiff’s injury.

There is no need to establish a lack of ordinary care. Indeed, in negligence per se cases, the tortfeasor’s carelessness is completely irrelevant. Statutory violation and causation are all that matters.

Premises liability cases, such as slip-and-fall injuries, work a little differently. The victim/plaintiff must establish that a property defect caused the injury and the owner knew about said defect. There are some important nuances here. Dog bite cases are different as well, since Minnesota has a strict liability law.

Determine a Settlement Value

Based largely on the strength of the legal claim, an attorney must determine a settlement value. If the claim is strong, an attorney usually demands a considerable amount of money. In these cases, the defendant is much less willing to risk a trial, so the defendant will pay a little more to resolve the claim.

Other factors come into consideration as well. As a result, determining a settlement value is part science and part art. Some of these factors include:

  • Defendant’s Attitude: Does the defendant have a reputation for fighting tooth and nail or a reputation for giving in early? The answer may affect the amount of money the plaintiff is willing to take.
  • Jury Composition: People in rural areas like Crow Wing County are usually more conservative than people in urban areas like Hennepin County: Conservative jurors are usually more sympathetic to victims. But this is only a very broad rule of thumb.
  • Plaintiff’s Attitude: Is the plaintiff a “motivated seller” who wants to resolve the case quickly, or is the plaintiff willing to be patient and wait for a better offer? Once again, the answer to this question may affect the attorney’s bargaining posture.

In the American justice system, attorneys are only interested in what is best for their clients. So, at Carlson & Jones, clients always come first in the settlement process.

Remember Some Old Sayings

Obviously, we do not pin our settlement strategy on catchphrases. But we do try to keep some things in mind as we go through this process.

One such saying is stick to your guns. This phrase means that once you determine a course of action, you should not waiver from it. If the plaintiff shows any sign of weakness or lack of confidence during settlement negotiations, the defendant will exploit these things.

Another one is a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Or, if you prefer a quote from Ecclesiastes, “a living dog is better than a dead lion.” If the settlement offer is reasonable, it’s usually best to take it and not hold out for more money. Some plaintiffs that hold out do get more. Others are left with nothing.

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

A personal injury settlement is a process. For a free consultation with an experienced Minnesota Personal Injury Attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. An attorney can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no money or insurance.

How Do Brainerd Lawyers Win Money For Car Crash Victims?

Most of the car crashes in Minnesota are not accidents. The a-word implies that the event was unavoidable and personal responsibility was irrelevant. But as one advocacy group observed, “Planes don’t have accidents. They crash. Cranes don’t have accidents. They collapse. And as a society, we expect answers and solutions.” Furthermore, as Transportation Alternatives pointed out, drunk drivers used to say that “It was an accident” when they hit and killed people.

A few cases that Brainerd Lawyers handle are truly “accidents” in the sense that no one was at fault. Perhaps a lightning bolt struck a car, or a gust of wind blew a vehicle off an overpass. But such incidents are few and far between. Personal negligence causes the vast majority of car crashes. Once the jury understands that, these individuals are much more likely to award maximum compensation.

Step One: Brainerd Lawyers Establish Fault

If the victim suffered a serious injury, that compensation usually includes money for both economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. There are basically three types of negligence in Minnesota car crash cases:

  • Behavioral: Drunk driving and drowsy driving are two good examples of behavioral negligence. Sometimes, the “accident” occurs before the tortfeasor (negligent driver) even starts the car. Many tortfeasors know that they are too impaired or sleepy to drive, but they get behind the wheel anyway. As a side not, alcohol and fatigue affect the brain in roughly the same way. Driving after eighteen hours without sleep is like driving with a .08 BAC.
  • Operational: These cases involve violations of the “rules of the road,” such as making an illegal lane change. Even if the act in question was just a one-off aberration, liability may still attach because of the negligence per se doctrine.
  • Environmental: This area is the most subjective of the three. Examples include failure to use lights in a heavy fog or driving a little too fast for the rain. These things are technically not illegal, but they are highly dangerous.

All these theories can support either negligence or negligence per se. Negligence is a lack of ordinary care. Negligence per se is the violation of a safety law, such as DUI.

Step Two: Gather Evidence of Liability

Since the victim/plaintiff has the burden of proof, a good legal theory is only part of the puzzle. There is a difference between fault for the crash and liability for damages. Fault is more of a moral concept; liability is definitely a legal concept. To help the jury bridge the gap, available evidence includes things like:

  • Video Evidence: Most Crow Wing County courtrooms have advanced video playback capabilities. So, jurors can see any footage on a big screen TV. One of the few drawbacks of such displays is that one old lawyer trick (having the jury look at pictures during the other side’s questioning) is no longer available. C’est la vie.
  • Event Data Recorder: The EDR is basically an on-board computer that measures and records vehicle speed, steering angle, and other such information. These devices are technically complex, especially in truck crash cases. But at Carlson & Jones, we have the resources necessary to make the most of these gadgets.
  • Eyewitness Testimony: We also know how to maximize this evidence. There are a number of ways to attack the credibility of witnesses without them even being aware of what is going on.

Much of this evidence comes to light during the discovery phase. The EDR is a major exception. If Brainerd lawyers do not act within the first few days after a crash, this crucial evidence may be lost.

Step Three: Deflect Defenses

Brainerd lawyers are committed to maximum compensation for victims. Insurance company lawyers have the exact opposite mission. They do their best to reduce or deny compensation to victims, regardless of what is “fair.”

In car crash cases, some form of comparative fault is the most common defense. The insurance company tires to shift the fault for the crash onto the victim, and in so doing, reduce the tortfeasor’s liability. Minnesota is a modified comparative fault state with a 51 percent bar. So, if the tortfeasor is at least 51 percent at fault, the victim/plaintiff receives a proportional amount of compensation.

Accentuating the positive is a good way to defeat comparative fault. Brainerd Lawyers stress all the things that the victim did right.

CALL TODAY TO SPEAK WITH A BRAINERD LAWYER AT CARLSON & JONES

An aggressive attorney is your best bet for maximum compensation in a car crash case. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd Lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Home and hospital visits are available.

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Brainerd, MN 56401

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3911 Ridgedale Dr, Suite 404E
Minnetonka, MN 55305

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