The Mn Criminal Defense, Personal Injury & Family Law Blog
Motorcycle Crash Claims and Hutchinson, MN Auto Accident Lawyers
June 10, 2020
The vehicle occupant fatality rate has declined since the 1990s, mostly because today’s cars are much safer than they were before. But the motorcycle crash fatality rate has remained largely unchanged. Unlike their vehicle occupant counterparts, motorcyclists are almost completely exposed to danger in a crash. As a result, the death rate for motorcycle riders is almost thirty times higher than the death rate for four-wheel vehicle occupants.
Because of this high death rate and the severity of the victim’s injuries, a Hutchinson, MN auto accident lawyer might be able to obtain substantial compensation in these cases. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages might be available as well, in some extreme situations.
What Causes Motorcycle Crashes?
Driver error causes most of the motorcycle crashes in McLeod County. Generally, that error falls into one of three categories. The nature of the driver error usually affects the amount of damages available.
Behavioral negligence includes things like alcohol or drug use and driver fatigue. Compensation is usually highest in these cases. Arguably, these impaired drivers know that they should not get behind the wheel. Nevertheless, they do so anyway, so they intentionally disregard the safety of other people on the road.
These claims are also very difficult for insurance companies to defend in court. People do not “accidentally” drive drunk. Additionally, even if a legal loophole is available, like contributory negligence, many jurors hesitate to cut drunk or fatigued drivers very much slack.
Especially during certain times of year, environmental negligence is a serious problem in Minnesota. The weather often changes quickly, and many drivers do not adjust to the new conditions, even though the duty of reasonable care requires them to be flexible.
Rain is a good example. When visibility is limited and streets are wet, drivers should slow down. But many drivers fail to do so.
Rain also brings up a point about motorcycle visibility. Many people are not looking out for motorcycles, especially during semi-inclement weather. Most riders who have gone down probably heard the tortfeasor (negligent driver) say something like “You came out of nowhere and I didn’t see you.” These drivers probably were not maintaining a proper lookout, which is part of the duty of reasonable care.
Minimal damages are usually available in operational negligence claims. These instances include things like speeding and changing lanes without signaling. Some jurors think these things are accidents (wrong place at the wrong time) as opposed to negligence (a lack of care). The good news is that these claims are rather easy for Hutchinson, MN auto accident lawyers to prove in court. That’s especially true if the negligence per se rule applies. More on that below.
Hutchinson, MN Auto Accident Lawyers and Ordinary Negligence
A theory of responsibility helps jurors better understand the nature of the claim and makes the claim easier to prove. That being said, a Hutchinson, MN auto accident lawyer must still establish negligence by a preponderance of the evidence. The elements of a negligence case in Minnesota are:
Duty: Most noncommercial drivers have a duty of reasonable care. They must drive defensively at all times. Most commercial drivers, such as Uber drivers, have a higher duty of care, especially in motorcycle crash claims.
Breach: Duty is a question of law for the judge. Breach is a question of fact for the jury. Some of the common breaches of duty were outlined above.
Cause: “But-for” causation means the crash would not have happened but for the tortfeasor’s negligence. Proximate cause means foreseeability. A Hutchinson, MN auto accident lawyer must prove both kinds of cause.
Damages: The victim/plaintiff must suffer physical injury. A near miss is not actionable in court. If the damages are related to a physical injury, the monetary award is tax-free.
Victim/plaintiffs must prove all these elements by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).
Negligence Per Se
Sometimes, Minnesota law establishes the standard of care. So, tortfeasors are liable for damages as a matter of law if they violate a safety law and that violation substantially causes injury. There’s no need to prove duty or breach. These are usually the most time-consuming elements of a negligence case. Instead, victim/plaintiffs must only prove cause and damages.
The negligence per se shortcut usually only applies if emergency responders gave the tortfeasor a ticket. Frequently, that’s not the case, even if the tortfeasor clearly broke a traffic law. The motorcycle prejudice often comes into play at this point. In their heart of hearts, many people, including many first responders, believe that motorcycle riders are reckless thugs who do not deserve protection.
Hutchinson, MN auto accident lawyers must overcome this prejudice, and other obstacles as well, to obtain fair compensation in motorcycle wreck claims.
Contact a Tenacious Lawyer
Substantial compensation is available in motorcycle wreck cases, but insurance companies do not simply give this money away. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN auto accident lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. You have a limited amount of time to act.