According to the Centers for Disease Control, various kinds of injuries kill about 214,000 Americans per year. There is a big difference between an “accident” and an “injury.”
Accidents are inevitable actions that would have happened no matter what anyone did or did not do. When lightning strikes a house, that’s usually an accident. In terms of personal injury, people accidentally leave the coffee maker on. They do not accidentally drive drunk and kill people.
If a death is truly accidental, there is not much a lawyer can do. But in most cases, a Brainerd, MN injury lawyer may be able to obtain substantial compensation. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Distracted driving is a good example of legal responsibility, and how it affects financial responsibility. If a driver turns to yell at kids in the back seat and crashes into another vehicle, most Crow Wing County jurors would say that the crash was accidental. But if a driver continually used a cell phone in the moments before a crash, most jurors would say the driver is legally responsible for the wreck.
The duty of care comes into play here. Generally, Brainerd, MN injury lawyers apply a duty of reasonable care to a given situation. This idea comes from the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you) which children once had to memorize in school.
In some instances, however, there is a higher duty of care. The doctor-patient relationship is a good example. Doctors owe their patients an exceptionally high duty of care. What may pass for an “accident” in some contexts is an actionable injury in this context.
Liability usually attaches if the tortfeasor (negligent actor) violates the applicable duty of care. Liability also attaches if the tortfeasor violates a safety law or an industry standard. This rule is often called negligence per se. If this doctrine applies, it does not matter how careful, or how careless, the tortfeasor was.
How It Works
Even experienced Brainerd, MN injury attorneys probably got lost in that theoretical discussion. So, let’s see how these principles work regarding the leading causes of injury-related death:
- Vehicle Collisions: Car crashes are the leading cause of accidental death in the country, and about 95 percent of these incidents involve driver error. That error is usually the violation of a safety law, like speeding or making an illegal lane change, or driver impairment, such as distraction or fatigue.
- Drug Overdose: The opioid overdose crisis has a number of causes. Obviously, the patients took the pills themselves. But there is more. Frequently, doctors over-prescribed these pain relievers. Almost as frequently, shipping companies transported huge quantities of controlled substances and did not ask any questions. Given the high doctor-patient duty discussed above, both these things are negligent.
- Falls: Both slip-and-fall injuries and falls from high places cost thousands of lives each year. Many times, the victim had a pre-existing condition that contributed to the death. The landowner is usually 100 percent financially responsible, because of the eggshell skull rule.
In addition to the compensatory damages mentioned above, many wrongful death claims include substantial punitive damages. There is no way to put a price on a human life. But money is the only relief available. And, these damages assuage the grief these families feel and give them the resources to move on. That’s what the deceased person would have wanted.
Brainerd, MN Injury Lawyers and Third Party Liability
Frequently, the tortfeasor is not the only party responsible for damages. An owner or employer may be responsible as well. Let’s look back at the three wrongful death causes discussed above and see how third party liability may apply:
- Car Crashes: If the tortfeasor was an Uber driver, truck driver, or another commercial operator, the employer may be responsible for damages. Similarly, if alcohol impairment caused the wreck, the bar, restaurant, or another commercial provider may be on the hook for damages.
- Unintentional Poisoning: Clinics that employ negligent doctors may be responsible for damages in these situations. The same thing is true regarding medical misdiagnosis issues, such as cancer or heart disease misdiagnosis.
- Serious Falls: If the landowner knew or should have known about the hazardous condition which caused the fall, the landowner may be responsible for damages. The duty of care may be slightly different as well, but that’s the subject of another blog.
These third-party liability theories give victims an added source of recovery in wrongful death claims. Many times, individual tortfeasors do not have enough insurance coverage to provide complete compensation.
Team Up with Diligent Attorneys
Wrongful dearth survivors have legal options. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Crow Wing County and nearby jurisdictions.