Can a Car Accident Lawyer in Buffalo, MN Get Around the Graves Amendment?

You’ve probably never asked this question, but it’s a very important one this time of year. The period between October and May is usually the busiest time of year for moving. Summer is extreme in many parts of the country, and summer moving is always more expensive than fall or spring moves.

That interesting fact does not explain why this question is important, but we’re getting there. Many U-Haul, Ryder, and other rented moving trucks are large vehicles that normally require commercial licenses. Yet most business owners rent these monsters to anyone with a valid credit card. These vehicles are difficult enough to drive if the operator concentrates on driving. But many of these individuals have one eye on the road and one eye on their GPS navigation devices.

For years and years, if these drivers caused car crashes, the vehicle owner may have been vicariously liable for damages. These damages could be substantial, as large truck crashes usually cause wrongful death and other catastrophic injuries. The 2005 Graves Amendment purported to change all that. But is it possible for a car accident lawyer in Buffalo, MN to get around the Graves Amendment?

What Is the Graves Amendment?

Before the Graves Amendment, injured persons could file for damages against car rental companies and moving truck rental companies after an accident with a negligent renter. This was known as vicarious liability.

In 2005, the Graves Amendment made it illegal to bring vicarious liability charges in the US. Under this law, any person or company that owns vehicles and leases them out to other parties cannot be held liable for car accidents caused by renters. The Graves Amendment also stipulates that an injured person can’t hold these lessors responsible for accidents that cause property damage while a renter is driving a leased vehicle.

The Graves Amendment is a Federal law, meaning it applies to people in all US states. This includes Minnesotans.

The only time injured persons’ car accident lawyers can bring charges against one of these companies is if the company is negligent. And that negligence has to have had something to do with the accident that caused the injury.

For example, if faulty brakes cause a car renter to crash, the car rental company may also be liable for your injuries. In this case, you can bring charges against the company without violating the Graves Amendment.


Per the Graves Amendment, the owner includes the person who is in the trade or business of renting vehicles. The owner could also be an affiliate of the vehicle renting company, including the company’s employees.

There is one exception to the above rule. If the car lease has an initial term of six or more months, the Graves Amendment considers the lessee the owner of the vehicle. But this designation is only for insurance and liability purposes.

Keep in mind that the Graves Amendment doesn’t only apply to owners of rented or leased vehicles. Graves Amendment-related lawsuits have also come up against owners of tractor leasing companies and ridesharing companies.

What About Interstate Accidents?

Often, people rent cars and moving trucks to travel across state lines. The Graves Amendment still applies in these situations. 

In fact, the Graves Amendment has precedence over any contradicting laws in the state where an accident occurs.


Why Does All This Matter?

This post has a lot of questions, doesn’t it? Hopefully, it will provide a few answers as well.

A fully-loaded 26’ moving truck weighs at least 22,000 pounds. That’s not much lighter than a semi-truck. SO, when these trucks are involved in collisions, they usually cause extremely serious injuries, like:

  • Serious Burns: That same truck carries sixty gallons of diesel fuel. Diesel burns at a different temperature from gasoline. So, diesel fuel explosions nearly always cause third or fourth-degree burns. These injuries are often fatal.
  • Crushed Bones: A mid-sized moving truck can basically crush most cars. So, the victims’ bones are usually crushed as well. That injury usually means extensive corrective surgery as well as painful physical rehabilitation.
  • Internal Injuries: These same forces cause internal organs to grind against one another. With no protective layers, these organs usually bleed profusely. And, it may be quite some time before doctors find and stop this bleeding.

These injuries often trigger medical bills that are in the tens of thousands of dollars. These wounds usually mean significant pain and suffering as well. A Buffalo, MN car accident lawyer can obtain compensation for all these damages.

Which Party Is Responsible for Damages After a Buffalo, MN Car Wreck?

Minnesota is a no-fault state, requiring all drivers to obtain a minimum personal injury protection (PiP) plan. Your PiP policy will cover up to $20,000 in personal medical care and up to $20,000 in lost wages due to auto accident-related injuries. Once you exhaust those amounts, your only option is to recover damages from the negligent driver’s insurance plan.

Typically, the tortfeasor’s (negligent driver’s) private auto insurance companies will not cover these losses. Such policies only cover losses in a specific vehicle. Furthermore, during the rental transaction, many moving truck renters decline insurance altogether or opt for the cheapest and lowest coverage.

Under Minnesota law, these limited policies must provide $30,000 of liability coverage. If two people are injured in an accident, that coverage increases to $60,000. But what happens if your medical bills, wage losses, and pain and suffering go beyond these amounts?

Under the traditional negligent entrustment theory mentioned above, the company that owned the vehicle would probably be responsible for damages. If that option is unavailable, it could mean that the victim has no recovery source.

Why Did Lawmakers Pass the Graves Amendment?

Tariffs and trade protectionism have been in the news some lately. Additional taxes on imported goods make domestically-produced goods cheaper and therefore more in demand. Basically the same principle applies to the Graves Amendment. But instead of using money to protect the vehicle rental industry, the people who wrote the Graves Amendment used the law.

Shortly before lawmakers passed 49 U.S. Code § 30106, a major vehicle rental company threatened to pull out of several states with victim-friendly vicarious liability laws, like a broad negligent entrustment rule. The Graves Amendment was designed to appease these corporate suits.

Also, more and more states were enforcing vicarious liability. And some of these state laws had no statute of limitations. That means injured parties could bring personal injury cases at any time, no matter how many years had passed since the wreck. 

Similarly, many states used to forego caps on personal injury settlements against vehicle lessors. In one such case, a car rental company had to pay out $21 million to a New Yorker injured by one of its vehicles.

The Graves Amendment doesn’t just protect rental companies, though. Since its passing, the law has also decreased car rental costs for consumers. Some sources say that vicarious liability laws used to tack on $100 million annually to rental costs.

But the provision itself is very short. Furthermore, there are no hearings or other legislative history in support of the Graves Amendment. So, the provision is full of holes that a Buffalo, MN car accident lawyer can exploit.

Can a Car Accident Lawyer in Buffalo, MN Bypass the Graves Amendment?

The Graves Amendment is tough to beat. Yet, research shows that courts in states where vicarious liability used to be the law are more likely to go around this law. Minnesota is one of those states, meaning the best Buffalo car accident attorney can help you beat the Graves Amendment.

Section (a) is the meat of this law. Ironically, the provisions designed to give it teeth are also the provisions that may cripple this law.

(a)(1) contains the trade or business requirement. The Graves Amendment does not define this phrase, so attorneys must look for a definition elsewhere. The Uniform Commercial Code, which is used in legal cases, defines a “merchant” as “a person who deals in goods of the kind or otherwise by his occupation holds himself out as having knowledge or skill.”

Many businesses that rent moving trucks are not vehicle rental companies. They are moving companies which happen to rent a few trucks as well. Arguably, the lessor in a car crash case may not meet this key requirement.

Further, consider the case of a company loaning a rental vehicle to someone whose personal vehicle is in repair. Because money does not exchange hands in these circumstances, the car company isn’t technically in the business of renting. So, the Graves Amendment may not apply here, depending on the terms of the vehicle loan agreement.

(a)(2) contains the not otherwise negligent requirement. In 2005, no vehicle lessors conducted electronic drivers’ license checks. The technological tools were unavailable. Now, some thirteen years later, that’s no longer the case. Indeed, according to many, verifying drivers’ licenses is now the industry standard.

Some states have a set method here. Generally, a suspended drivers’ license makes the operator incompetent as a matter of law. If the operator has a poor driving record, and the vehicle lessor knows about the poor record, there is a presumption of incompetence.

The negligent entrustment rule applies if an owner knowingly entrusts a vehicle to an incompetent driver. So, if the lessor verifies the license, learns about the bad driving record, completes the transaction, and the lessee causes a car crash, the lessor is negligent. If the lessor did not verify the license, the lessor is also negligent.

The state of Minnesota might also consider a car rental company owner negligent for failing to register its vehicles with the state. Failing to maintain minimum requirements for preparation security plans is another potentially negligent act.

A final way Buffalo car accident attorneys get around the Graves Amendment is if you’re injured in a truck wreck. Sometimes, the truck driver may be an independent contractor. That means the contractor rents equipment from another truck driver. 

The layers of ownership in these cases are complex. Still, a Buffalo personal injury lawyer could help you bring a lawsuit against the original truck owner.

Team Up with a Hard-Working Attorney

The protectionist Graves Amendment may not protect the companies it was supposed to protect. For a free consultation with an experienced car accident lawyer in Buffalo, MN, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle cases in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.


Originally published October 20, 2018 and updated September 21, 2021.

What to Look For in a Hutchinson, MN Felony Lawyer

There is an old lawyer joke that “a criminal defense attorney is someone who helps you get what’s coming to you.” In other words, a Hutchinson, MN felony lawyer cannot alter the outcome of a criminal case.

Alas, many attorneys fit this description. Largely due to a lack of experience, lack of accessibility, or lack of dedication, they take the first settlement offer the prosecutor makes, and that’s that.

So, it’s very important to find an attorney with the right mixture of all three of these qualities. Your felony case is much too important to trust to someone who must learn on the job, does not really have time to handle your case, or is not well-suited to practice criminal defense law. Looking at a few different people may help us understand these qualities better.


Many people may have heard of, or remember, Robert Kennedy. This U.S. Senator from New York, and brother to President John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in California fifty-one years ago this month. Bobby Kennedy, as he was known, had won every Presidential primary he ran in except one, so he had the inside track for the Democrat nomination.

After he was shot in a Los Angeles hotel kitchen, police arrested Sirhan Sirhan and charged him with the crime. Sirhan’s lawyer was Grant Cooper, who died in the 1990s. In 1968, Cooper was already a highly-experienced attorney. But he was not a litigator. He was a celebrity lawyer. For example, Cooper was Shirley Temple’s divorce lawyer when she split from B-movie stalwart John Agar.

There were some inconsistencies in the state’s evidence. But at Sirhan’s trial, Cooper did not aggressively press these points. Perhaps as a result, the jury sentenced Sirhan to death. The governor commuted his sentence to life in prison when California outlawed the death penalty.

The most experienced litigator in the world could probably have not changed the outcome in that case. But if Cooper had more experience, he might have been able to reduce Sirhan’s sentence, and he might be a free man today.

So, a lawyer’s years of experience only tells part of the story. Unless the Hutchinson, MN felony lawyer has substantial criminal law experience, and substantial trial experience, it may be best to keep looking.


Most people would agree that Warren Buffett has one of the best business and investment minds in the country. But he is completely inaccessible. Someone recently paid over $4.5 million to have lunch with Buffett. People like Buffett make very good advocates, but very poor advisers. If you have a question about investment or finance, asking Buffett would probably be a waste of time. He would not answer.

Similarly, your Hutchinson, MN felony lawyer must be more than an aggressive advocate in court. Many defendants, especially if it is their first time through the system, have lots of questions about their situation and the overall process. You should not expect your attorney to be an on-demand answer person. But it is reasonable to expect your Hutchinson, MN felony lawyer to respond to your calls and emails in a timely fashion. If that does not happen, it may be a good idea to find someone else.


Perhaps moreso than other types of attorneys, Hutchinson, MN felony lawyers must be dedicated to their craft. But one can have too much of a good thing.

In 1941, Ted Williams was the last baseball player to hit over .400 in a single season. In fact, no one has even been close since George Brett hit .390 way back in 1980. Willaims was probably the greatest pure hitter of his or any other generation. Supposedly, plate umpires basically let Williams call his own game. If he didn’t swing at a pitch, the boys in blue reasoned the pitch must have been a ball.

Williams was a once-in-a-lifetime hitter, but he could not do anything else very well. He was only a slightly above average power hitter. He was not a fast runner, did not have very good defensive skills, and had basically no instincts for the game beyond hitting. In fact, many baseball commentators, including George Will, claim that Williams should have never been on an All-Star team and definitely does not belong in the Hall of Fame.

Roughly the same thing applies to your Hutchinson, MN felony lawyer. Dedication to criminal law is important. Without it, your lawyer may not be very effective. But your attorney should not be a one-trick pony. In the law, these individuals often lack critical thinking skills. If your Hutchinson, MN felony lawyer practices criminal defense and nothing else, that’s probably a bad sign.

Reach Out to Savvy Attorneys

The stiff possible penalties in felony cases means that, when you pick a lawyer, you should leave nothing to chance. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN felony lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

Minnesota Inches Closer to Marijuana Legalization

Now that the dust has settled after the midterm elections, it’s clear that marijuana legalization proponents won big in the Gopher State. How does that development affect your family, as well as Hutchinson criminal defense attorneys?

In November 2018, the Legalize Marijuana Now Party’s Mike Ford ran for state auditor. He won 5.2 percent of the vote. That showing gives the LMNP major party status in Minnesota. That designation means easier ballot access and more state subsidy funds. Currently, the Gopher State has one of the most limited medical marijuana laws in the country. That status could change soon, and not just because of Mr. Ford’s “win.”

During the campaign, Governor-elect Tim Walz seemed to endorse at least partial recreational legalization. The Democrat said, if he had the power, he would “Regulate, tax Minnesota grown, and then I would go back and expunge those records of the folks we are overcrowding our prisons with for marijuana infractions.” He’s not alone. Earlier in 2018, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey endorsed legal marijuana as a way to reduce opioid overdose deaths. The leader of Minnesota’s largest city said he would like to expand a city ordinance which decriminalized minor marijuana possession matters. Mr. Frey said he would like “to see full legalization. . .at the state level.”

Marijuana Laws in Minnesota

In 2014, Minnesota lawmakers somewhat relaxed the state’s marijuana laws. Possession of under 42.5 grams is punishable by fine only. As a rule of thumb, a gram of marijuana can make about three joints. Possession over 42.5 grams is a serious felony (up to five years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine). A few patients can use marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Changing any laws, including marijuana laws, is a cumbersome process in Minnesota. Generally, there is no provision for popular referendums. Instead, a majority in each legislative house must propose a constitutional amendment. With a pro-legalization governor in the state house, that amendment is now closer than ever.

But significant obstacles remain. Law enforcement groups always oppose legalization initiatives. That opposition might be less intense in Minnesota since lawmakers decriminalized many possession cases in 2014. Republicans generally oppose legalization as well.

Defending McLeod County Marijuana Cases

For the foreseeable future, possessing marijuana will still be a crime in Minnesota. Even though small possession carries no possible jail time, it still means a drug conviction on your record. That conviction can make it hard to find a job or even find a place to live. So, Hutchinson criminal defense attorneys fight these cases very aggressively.

Drug possession cases usually begin with traffic stops. Typically, an officer pulls over a vehicle for a minor traffic violation. During the subsequent investigation, the officer either sees drugs in plain view or someone admits that there are drugs in the car. In these situations, officers usually arrest everyone in the car.

But legal possession is more than just proximity to the contraband. In fact, a person could literally be sitting on drugs and not possess them in a legal sense. In addition to proximity, a prosecutor must also establish:

  • Accessibility: The difference between the back seat and the front seat is a good example. In small cars, there may just be a few inches between the back and front seats. But a person in the back usually cannot get to items in the front without getting out of the car or crawling over the seat. In other words, the drugs are not readily accessible.
  • Knowledge: The defendant must also know that there are drugs under the seat, in the glove compartment, or whatever. Without such knowledge, there is no legal possession.

At trial, prosecutors must establish every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. So, Hutchinson criminal defense attorneys can use simple lack of evidence to secure not-guilty verdicts.

McLeod County prosecutors always file the most aggressive charges possible. So, they often look to upgrade possession to trafficking. They look for additional evidence like:

  • Baggies,
  • Scales,
  • Weapons, and
  • Money.

However, to use this evidence, prosecutors must show a connection between the alleged trafficking evidence and the drugs themselves. A handgun in the bedroom may have little or nothing to do with drugs in the living room. Moreover, if officers have a warrant, that warrant usually allows them to search for drugs and not for other things. Officers cannot seize these additional items unless they are in plain view or another exception applies.

How Hutchinson Criminal Defense Attorneys Resolve Marijuana Cases

So, there are a number of effective defenses to drug cases. However, a trial may not be in the defendant’s best interest. Even if a Hutchinson criminal defense attorney has a winning strategy and the prosecutor’s evidence is weak, there is no way to tell for certain what a jury will decide.

Fortunately, most drug prosecutions usually involve a pretrial diversion program. If the defendant pays a fee and completes a few program requirements, like community service or drug education, the prosecutor usually dismisses the charges.

Diversion programs are usually available in possession cases. They may also be available in other types of cases, such as drug-related burglaries, if the defendant had a drug problem and that problem contributed to the offense.

Team Up with Tenacious Lawyers

Minnesota’s marijuana laws are strict, but defendants do have options in these cases. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson criminal defense attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Home and jail visits are available.

A Hit-and-Run Driver Injured Me. . .Should I Call a Brainerd Car Accident Lawyer?

More people are asking this question because the number of these incidents is on the rise. Statistics vary by jurisdiction, but somewhere around 50 percent of hit-and-run drivers are caught and successfully prosecuted. But in a way, as far as Brainerd car accident lawyers are concerned, these statistics matter little. Whether the tortfeasor (negligent driver) is caught or not, substantial compensation may be available.

No one is sure why the number of hit-and-runs is increasing. Some drivers are so distracted that they may not know they hit someone. That’s especially true of nighttime pedestrian crashes that involve child victims. Other drivers have no insurance or no drivers’ licenses and they fear the consequences. They figure it is better to flee the scene and take their chances.

Victims have basically two legal options in these vehicle collision claims. Which pathway is best usually depends on the facts of the case.

The Burden of Proof: The Decisive Factor?

Assume an unknown tortfeasor (negligent driver) hits a pedestrian. A witness at the scene said the vehicle was a dark color, late model SUV. However, the witness did not see the driver’s face and did not see any part of the license plate number. A few minutes later and a few miles away, a dark color, late model SUV ran a stoplight, and the red-light camera recorded the vehicle’s driver and license plate number.

In criminal court, where the burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt, it would be impossible to convict any defendant with this evidence. If you want to play a fun game with your kids, drive by a shopping mall parking lot and count the number of late model, dark color SUVs that you see. Furthermore, identifying the car is probably not good enough. Unless the witness got a good look at the driver, the jury may not be convinced that the defendant was driving the vehicle at the time.

The subsequent video evidence is probably no help. Even if a criminal judge admits it, which is a big “if,” it’s not very compelling evidence.

But in civil court, things are a lot different. The burden of proof is only a preponderance of the evidence, a legal term which means more likely than not. Since the witness’ description matches the vehicle in the video footage, it is more likely than not that the two vehicles were one and the same.

Let’s make things more difficult. Assume that the second witness was not a video surveillance camera but an eyewitness that got a partial plate number and no look at the driver. A Brainerd car accident lawyer can patiently go through motor vehicle records and find a matching vehicle based on description, location, and partial plate. Unless the owner has a good alibi for the time of the accident, it’s more likely than not that this owner was also the tortfeasor.

Locating the Tortfeasor

To find the evidence necessary to locate the tortfeasor, Brainerd car accident lawyers have several options. Some of them include:

  • Reviewing Nearby Surveillance Video: In the previous example, Brainerd law enforcement officers probably would not have looked at the camera evidence. Such an inquiry is too much of a long shot. But diligent Brainerd car accident lawyers look under every rock, including cameras that may be several blocks or miles away from the accident scene.
  • Finding Additional Witnesses: There are many reasons why witnesses do not voluntarily come forward and speak to first responders. Perhaps they do not like police officers, or perhaps they do not want to avoid the attention of law enforcement. But these people are often willing to speak with a Brainerd car accident lawyer and share what they know about the crash.

Sometimes, attorneys partner with private investigators in these situations.

Damages in a Brainerd hit-and-run case usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, as well as noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additionally, many Crow Wing County jurors despise hit-and-run drivers. So, they are often willing to award additional punitive damages.

Brainerd Car Accident Lawyers and No-Defendant Claims

Some people believe that if there is no tortfeasor, there is no point in filing a claim for damages. But that’s simply not true.

In these situations, victims may normally file claims against their own insurance companies. Friendly insurance claims have a much different dynamic than adversarial insurance claims. The victim’s own insurance company understandably wants to keep its customer happy. So, friendly insurance claims often settle quickly and on victim-friendly terms. Conversely, many adversarial insurance claims are more difficult to successfully resolve. Many insurance companies fight adversarial claims tooth and nail.

Procedurally, the two types of claims are quite similar. However, if a Brainerd car accident lawyer cannot settle the case on favorable terms, it will probably go to arbitration instead of trial.

Reach Out to Dedicated Attorneys

Hit-and-run victims have several legal options. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd car accident lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. After-hours visits are available.

Brainerd Accident Lawyers and Motorcycle Crashes

Vehicle collisions kill or seriously injure millions of people each year. Yet for the most part, today’s cars are much safer than they were at the turn of the 21st century. In fact, car crashes are no longer far and away the leading cause of injury-related death in the United States. Many years, that dubious distinction belongs to unintentional poisonings (mostly drug overdoses).

But the technological advances that have made cars safer have not extended to motorcycles. As a result, motorcycle riders are thirty times more likely to die in car crashes. These victims simply have little or no protection from an oncoming car. That exposure usually means serious injury and even wrongful death.

Due to the serious nature of their injuries, motorcycle crash victims, and their families, are usually entitled to substantial compensation.

What Causes Motorcycle Crashes?

Illegal turns cause about a third of the motorcycle crashes in Brainerd. When most people make left turns against traffic, they wait for a brief traffic gap and then shoot through that gap. Many times, they simply do not look for motorcycles before turning.

In certain parts of the world, people call these incidents SMIDSY crashes, for “sorry, mate, I didn’t see you.” Another common acronym, TBFTL for turned but failed to look, does not have the same panache. Additionally, it does not capture the cavalier attitude that many tortfeasors (negligent drivers) exhibit in these situations. Many tortfeasors blame riders for these crashes. The other driver often says something like “you came out of nowhere.”

Brainerd accident lawyers also handle a significant number of alcohol impairment motorcycle crashes. Alcohol impairs judgment. So, impaired tortfeasors often miscalculate the amount of space between their vehicles and oncoming motorcycles. This misjudgment often has tragic consequences.

Distracted driving is often an issue as well. Small motorcycles are almost invisible to many motorists. Making matters worse, many people drive large pickup trucks and SUVs. These vehicles are difficult to see around, especially if the tortfeasor was not really maintaining a proper lookout in the first place. When the driver says the motorcycle rider “came out of nowhere,” Brainers accident lawyers know that it’s because the tortfeasor was not really looking.

Excessive speed also causes many motorcycle crashes. Velocity increases the risk of a collision and also the force in a collision. Since motorcycle riders have no steel cages or restraint systems to protect them, a slight increase in force usually has devastating consequences.

The Damages that Brainerd Accident Lawyers can Obtain

Compensation is available if the victim/plaintiff can connect the inattention, impairment, or other negligence to the injuries sustained in the crash. These injuries often include:

  • Head Injuries: Crash helmets reduce, but do not eliminate, trauma head injuries. Given the massive forces in these crashes, such injuries are still quite likely. Moreover, much like whiplash in an auto accident, the motion alone can cause a serious head or neck injury.
  • Internal Injuries: These same forces cause internal organs to rub against each other. This friction usually causes significant blood loss. Sometimes, this blood loss continues unabated for quite some time. Emergency responders are understandably more concerned with head injuries and other external trauma injuries.
  • Exsanguination: Blood loss is the technical cause of death in many Brainerd motorcycle crash cases, largely because of the aforementioned internal injuries. In fact, many motorcycle crash victims lose so much blood that they are already on the edge of hypovolemic shock by the time help arrives.

The victim/plaintiff has the burden of proof in these cases. So, Brainerd accident lawyers must have evidence of negligence. Sometimes, that evidence involves the police accident report. But in most motorcycle crash cases, such reports only contain one side of the story. The victim is usually unavailable to make a statement due to serious injury or death.

Therefore, Brainerd accident lawyers must look for other evidence as well. Nearby surveillance video is often compelling. The Crow Wing County jury sees the crash unfold. Furthermore, most cars have Event Data Recorders. EDR data usually clearly shows that the tortfeasor made no effort to avoid the crash. These gadgets are also useful in speeding cases. They offer definitive proof of vehicle velocity.

Possible Insurance Company Defenses

If the victim was not wearing a helmet, the insurance company often jumps on this fact. In fact, many victims think helmetless victims are ineligible for compensation. But that’s not true.

Minnesota law specifically outlaws the so-called seat belt defense. Lack of a seat belt is inadmissible in a negligence case. A seat belt has nothing to do with the cause of the crash. Arguably, the same is true of a helmet. Helmetlessness has nothing to do with crash causation.

At worst, lack of a helmet usually only reduces the amount of compensation that the victim/plaintiff receives. Even then, insurance company lawyers have a hard time proving that such a reduction is warranted.

Another common insurance company defense is not rooted in the law. Instead, the motorcycle prejudice is an attitude that many jurors exhibit. During jury selection, it’s usually easy to see which jurors, if any, believe that motorcycle riders are reckless thugs. It’s important for Brainerd accident lawyers to keep these individuals off the jury, if at all possible. These individuals are more likely to embrace other insurance company defenses, like contributory negligence.

The contributory negligence defense basically shifts blame onto the victim. For example, the insurance company might admit that the tortfeasor was speeding, but insist that the victim’s alcohol intoxication really caused the crash.

Contact a Relentless Attorney

Motorcycle crashes usually involve intricate legal and factual issues. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd accident lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.

3rd Party Liability Claims Buffalo Car Accident Attorneys Use Frequently

Minnesota has the highest proportion of serious multi-vehicle car accidents in the country. At the same time, the Gopher State also has one of the lowest auto insurance minimum requirements in the country. So, if the collision involves catastrophic injuries, there is a good chance the tortfeasor (negligent driver) may not have enough insurance coverage to make good on all losses.

That’s especially true regarding pedestrian accidents, motorcycle crashes, and large vehicle collisions. These wrecks often involve wrongful death claims.

In some cases, the tortfeasor has additional umbrella insurance coverage. But in most cases, a car accident attorney in Buffalo, MN looks for a vicarious liability theory. Fortunately, Minnesota laws are very broad in this area. So, there is usually an alternative source of compensation available. That source is usually a well-established company with deep pockets.

Some Employer Liability Theories in Minnesota

Events like truck wrecks, bus wrecks, Uber wrecks, and taxi wrecks often involve the respondeat superior rule. Under this legal doctrine, employers are legally responsible for the negligent acts of their employees. This rule makes sense. Employers are usually in the best position to prevent wrecks from happening. If they fail to do so, more accidents will probably follow the case at bar. So, a car accident attorney in Buffalo, MN needs to step in.

The respondeat superior rule has two basic prongs, and both of them are defined in broad, victim-friendly terms:

  • Employee: We normally think of employees as they are defined in tax law. In that realm, an employee is someone who receives a regular paycheck and has that legal designation. But negligence law is different. In this context, any person the employer controls is an employee. That control could be dictating the driver’s work schedule or beginning and ending points.
  • Scope of Employment: Once upon a time, only regular workers performing their regular duties acted within the scope of employment. If a delivery driver made a side trip to the store and caused a wreck, respondeat superior usually did not apply. But today, the scope of employment prong is much broader. Any act that benefits the employer in any way is within the scope of employment. That could include driving a vehicle which bears the company logo.

Additionally, the crash must be foreseeable. If a worker breaks into the parking lot after hours, steal a car, and causes a crash, these events are not foreseeable.

In the unlikely event that respondeat superior does not apply, there are other employer liability theories. These doctrines include negligent hiring and negligent supervision. These theories also apply in intentional tort cases, such as assault and theft.

Car Accident Attorneys in Buffalo, MN and Dram Shop Liability

Many people are extremely concerned about the number of drunk driving crashes. The law enforcement crackdown on DUIs has lasted more than twenty years now. Yet alcohol still causes almost a third of the fatal crashes in Wright County. The solution may lie in taking a step back and looking at the big picture.

Instead of exclusively focusing on individual “drunk drivers,” Minnesota law rightly looks at the source of these crashes. Minnesota has one of the broadest dram shop laws in the country. Commercial alcohol providers are liable for damages if they illegally sell alcohol, and the customer later causes a car crash. Illegal sales include:

  • After-hours transactions,
  • Minors, and
  • Obviously intoxicated persons.

In the first two areas, victim/plaintiffs typically use direct evidence. After all, a person is either older or younger than 21. As for obviously intoxicated persons, victim/plaintiffs may use circumstantial evidence. Such evidence includes slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, and unsteady balance.

In some cases, Minnesota’s dram shop law might also apply to party hosts who illegally provide alcohol to their guests. In other cases, an alternative theory, like negligent undertaking, may be available.

Owner Liability in Buffalo

The idea behind this theory is a little like respondeat superior. By doing something like withholding the keys, a vehicle owner is in the best position to prevent a car crash. Negligent entrustment applies if the owner knowingly allows an incompetent driver to borrow a motor vehicle. Evidence of incompetence includes:

  • A poor driving record, such as multiple at-fault accidents or a prior safety suspension,
  • Invalid or no drivers’ license,
  • Allowing an intoxicated, fatigued, or other impaired person to drive the vehicle, and
  • Driving in violation of license restrictions (e.g. with glasses or only during the day).

Because of the Graves Amendment, commercial negligent entrustment cases work a bit differently. Vehicle rental companies are immune from negligent entrustment actions if they are in the vehicle rental business and the owner or agent was not otherwise negligent.

Minnesota is a modified joint and several liability state. So, if there are multiple responsible parties, the judge usually apportions damages among them base don their percentage of fault. These damages usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Work With a Tough Lawyer

The tortfeasor may not be the only responsible party in a negligence case. For a free consultation with an experienced car accident attorney in Buffalo, MN, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Home and hospital visits are available.

How Do Buffalo MN Car Accident Attorneys Resolve Claims?

Nationwide, most car crash fatalities occur in single-vehicle collisions. But the opposite is true in Minnesota. The Gopher State has the highest proportion of multi-vehicle collision deaths in the country. Not all these cases involve negligence or negligence per se. But, the vast majority do involve either a lack of ordinary care or a statutory violation.

If you were injured because of someone else’s negligence, an experienced attorney is invaluable. Only Buffalo, MN car accident attorneys can accurately evaluate your case and determine if you have a claim for damages. As the case moves forward, the insurance company has a posse of lawyers protecting its interests. You need similar representation in your corner.

If the victim sustained a serious injury, damages in a car crash case include money for economic losses, such as medical bills, as well as noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Minnesota law defines a “serious injury” as one that triggers more than $4,000 in doctor bills.

Seeing a Doctor

The most important part of a personal injury case is not the compensation or justice that a settlement brings. Instead, your health is the top priority.

Many car crash injuries are difficult to diagnose and treat. Whiplash is a good example. In a typical car accident, the victim’s head violently snaps forward and then violently snaps back. It’s just like the cracking of a whip. As a result, the victim sustains a serious head and neck injury. But whiplash normally does not show up on X-rays, MRIs, and other common diagnostic tests.

There are other issues as well. Most health insurance companies do not pay for car crash injuries, due to liability questions. So, even seeing the doctor in the first place may be a problem.

Buffalo, MN car accident attorneys offer solutions here. Most attorneys have relationships with injury physicians. These doctors know how to diagnose and treat soft tissue injuries, like whiplash. Moreover, thanks to the letter of protection, this treatment costs no money upfront. The medical provider agrees to defer billing until the claim is resolved.

Prompt medical treatment also increases the case’s value. If the victim waits even a few days to see a doctor, the insurance company may later claim that the victim’s injuries must not have been very bad.

Buffalo, MN Car Accident Attorneys and Claim Evaluation

Ascertaining what the case is worth is perhaps the most critical step in the process. Evaluating a claim is partly science and partly art.

The aforementioned economic losses are usually fairly easy to calculate. Typically, Minnesota law limits recovery to dollar value only. For example, if the family pet dies in the accident, the family is usually only entitled to the pet’s economic value, regardless of the emotional bond. But that’s not true in other cases. A family car may have a value that far exceeds its Blue Book value.

In terms of medical bills, the victim receives compensation based on the value of the services and not the amount actually paid. Assume Vincent Victim has a $10,000 medical bill and his team of Buffalo, MN car accident attorneys reduces the bill to $6,000. If the insurance company pays $10,000, Vincent keeps the other $4,000.

Pain and suffering, loss of consortium (companionship), emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment in life are a bit more complex. To calculate these noneconomic losses, most Buffalo, MN car accident attorneys use a multiplier based on factors like:

  • Severity of the accident,
  • Strength of the victim/plaintiff’s evidence,
  • Any insurance company defenses, and
  • Attitudes (pro-victim or pro-insurance company) of potential jurors.

The multiplier is based on the economic losses. Typically, the calculation starts at three times the economic damages and then moves up or down.

Finalizing the Matter

Around 95 percent of personal injury cases settle out of court. Some do not even make it to court, as a  large number of these cases settle quickly.

Once Buffalo, MN car accident attorneys evaluate the case, they usually send demand letters to the insurance company. If there is no reasonable dispute as to liability, insurance companies have a duty to settle the claim straightaway. Sometimes, like in drunk driving cases, liability is quite clear. But typically, the case moves forward to the next phase.

The settlement negotiations which begin with the damnd letter do not end just because an attorney files court papers. These negotiations continue. Many settlements occur due to this back-and-forth exchange of settlement offers. As discovery proceeds and each side learns more about the other side’s claims and defenses, the likelihood of settlement increases.

A professional mediator is a great help here. Indeed, most Wright County judges refer contested personal injury cases to mediation. The mediator works to bring the parties together on the issues. In most cases, mediation is at least partially successful. The parties either completely resolve the claim or at least narrow the issues for trial.

Negligence trials are extremely rare, but they do happen. The trial may be before a judge or a jury. At trial, the victim/plaintiff must prove negligence or negligence per se by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).

Contact an Aggressive Lawyer

Injury cases usually settle out of court and on victim-friendly terms. For a free consultation with experienced Buffalo, MN car accident lawyers, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.

How Do Buffalo, MN Car Accident Lawyers Win Cases?

Each year, car crashes kill or seriously injure over two million Americans. These victims deserve both justice and compensation. A solid negligence case accomplishes both these objectives.

When many people think of justice, they think about the criminal courts. But most of these cases do not go to a Wright County criminal court. The burden of proof is high, so unless there is a mountain of evidence against the defendant, these cases are difficult to win. Furthermore, many law enforcement agencies assume the parties will file a civil action, so they only conduct cursory investigations.

Fortunately, car accident lawyers in Buffalo, MN can take up the slack. The burden of proof is much lower in civil court. The victim’s testimony, all by itself, may be sufficient to establish liability. If any other evidence backs up the victim’s story, so much the better. Furthermore, a private attorney works for you and not the county. So, your Buffalo, MN car accident lawyer is a true fighter.

A public pronouncement that the other driver was at fault is only part of the equation. Car crash victims are also entitled to substantial compensation. Available damages include money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

The Theory of The Case

Most car crashes in Minnesota are not “accidents.” That word implies that the collision was inevitable and no one could stop it. Instead, human error causes over 90 percent of vehicle collisions. Typically, that error involves one of the following:

  • Negligence: Most drivers have a duty of reasonable care. That legal responsibility means they are physically fit to drive (i.e. not fatigued or intoxicated), obey the rules of the road, and drive defensively. If drivers fall short of this standard (breach that duty) and the violation causes injury, the tortfeasor (negligent driver) may be liable for damages.
  • Negligence Per Se: In some other cases, Minnesota law establishes the duty of care. For example, it’s illegal to turn without signaling or run a red light. If the tortfeasor violates these or other safety laws, and that violation substantially causes injury, the tortfeasor may be responsible for damages as a matter of law.

For the most part, the other 10 percent of car crashes are not accidental either. Defective products cause many car crash injuries. Tire blow-outs, exploding airbags, and ignition switch cutoff are just a few examples. Manufacturers are strictly liable for damages in these situations. Negligence, or lack of negligence, is irrelevant. In defective product claims, victim/plaintiffs need only establish cause.

Lightning strikes, wind gusts, earthquakes, and other truly “accidental” things only cause a tiny portion of the car accidents that Buffalo, MN lawyers handle.

How Do Buffalo, MN Car Accident Lawyers Collect Evidence?

As indicated earlier, victim/plaintiffs have the burden of proof in all civil claims. That burden of proof is a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). Picture two equally-sized stacks of paper. If a person adds one sheet to the stack on the left, it has more paper than the stack on the right. That’s a picture of a preponderance of the evidence.

The more evidence in the case, the stronger the victim/plaintiff’s negligence, negligence per se, or strict liability claim will be. This additional evidence could come from:

  • Witness Statements: Buffalo, MN car accident lawyers must work quickly to preserve this evidence. Memories fade almost to nothing almost literally overnight. So, an attorney must get a statement straightaway. These written statements are usually admissible later to refresh the witness’ recollection.
  • Event Data Recorder: Most passenger cars have EDRs. These gadgets usually capture and record vehicle speed, engine RPM, and other metrics that are important in car crash cases. Again, Buffalo, MN car accident lawyers must act within a few days to preserve this evidence. Otherwise, the insurance company may “accidentally” destroy it.

To obtain such evidence, an attorney often partners with a private investigator.

Anticipating Insurance Company Defenses

Building a case is not enough. The insurance company usually has a small army of investigators and lawyers working to reduce or deny compensation to the victim. There are a number of available legal loopholes that these companies can use, including:

  • Contributory Negligence: This is perhaps the most common insurance company defense. This legal doctrine shifts blame for the crash to the victim. For example, the insurance company might argue that the victim’s illegal turn, as opposed to the tortfeasor’s intoxication, substantially caused the wreck.
  • Sudden Emergency: Insurance companies usually try to use this defense in pedestrian injury cases. They often argue that the victim “darted out into traffic,” so the tortfeasor could not avoid the crash.
  • Last Clear Chance: This doctrine often comes up in rear-end and intersection crash cases. If one driver had a reasonable opportunity to avoid the crash yet failed to do so, that driver is legally responsible for damages.

Most of these defenses involve a two-step process. First, the insurance company must convince the judge that the defense is legally applicable. Then, the jury must decide that there is enough evidence to trigger the defense.

Connect With an Aggressive Attorney

The insurance company has professionals working hard for it. You need one too. For a free consultation with experienced car accident lawyers in Buffalo, MN, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no money or insurance.

Who is the Best Personal Injury Attorney in Minnesota?

Perhaps moreso than other lawyers, the best Minnesota Personal Injury Attorney must be both compassionate and assertive. Maybe not quite to this extent, but somewhere in that neighborhood.

Because few things are as disruptive as a personal injury, an attorney must be compassionate. The wake of an accident usually brings financial stress in the form of unpaid medical bills. The stress is even worse since, in most cases, the victim is not working at the time due to injury. There’s also the intense pain and suffering that usually gets worse before it gets better. While all this is going on, insurance company executives call constantly seeking to settle the case.

Your attorney must also be assertive. Substantial compensation is usually available to accident victims. But, the insurance company does not simply give it away. So, at Carlson & Jones, we act quickly to collect evidence on your behalf. Then, much like a painter, we take the colors on our palate and paint a picture for the jury. This assertive approach usually ensures maximum compensation for our clients.

Legal Issues in Minnesota Vehicle Collisions

Human error causes over 90 percent of the car crashes in Minnesota. So, negligence is almost always involved in one way or another. Car accidents are a good illustration of what makes Carlson & Jones the best personal injury attorneys in Minnesota.

We start each one of these cases with a comprehensive consultation. Sometimes, the police accident report only records one side of the story. We want to hear both sides. That gives us a good idea of the evidence we need to collect and the legal theories we need to apply.

One of the most important bits of evidence is the Event Data Recorder. Many people do not even know that their vehicle contains an EDR. This gadget is a lot like the “black box” flight recorder in a commercial jet. The EDR captures and records figures like:

  • Vehicle speed,
  • Engine RPM,
  • Steering angle,
  • Airbag deployment, and
  • Certain other mechanical statistics.

In many ways, electronic evidence is better than eyewitness testimony. A witness might say that the car was going “fast,” but the EDR can nail it down to 52.25mph.

Armed with evidence like this, an aggressive attorney can match the evidence with the correct legal theory. In car crash cases, there are basically two legal approaches:

  • Negligence: Some Minnesota car crash cases are based on a lack of ordinary care. That could be driving while dangerously fatigued or paying more attention to passengers than to the road. If that lack of care caused injury, the tortfeasor (negligent driver) may be legally responsible for damages.
  • Negligence Per Se: If the tortfeasor violated a safety law, perhaps by running a stop sign, driving while impaired, or changing lanes illegally, the tortfeasor may be liable for damages as a matter of law. In negligence per se cases, the victim/plaintiff need only prove that the legal violation substantially caused the damages.

In some cases, negligence per se is only a presumption of liability. The victim/plaintiff must offer additional evidence to conclusively prove liability.

The victim must establish each element of negligence or negligence per se by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). If the scales of justice tip ever so slightly in one direction, that party has met its burden of proof on that point.

The Best Personal Injury Attorneys in Minnesota Handle Premises Liability Claims

Negligent drivers are not the only tortfeasors in Minnesota. Landowners can also be liable for damages in some cases. Common instances include swimming pool injuries, slip-and-fall injuries, and dog bites.

Minnesota basically uses a common law classification system that divides victims into three categories and sets legal duty as appropriate. These categories are:

  • Invitee: Most people are invitees. These individuals have express or implied permission to be on the property and their presence confers a benefit on the owner. That benefit could be economic or noneconomic. If the victim is an invitee, the landowner has a duty of reasonable care.
  • Licensee: If there was permission but no benefit, the victim was a licensee. The guest of an apartment tenant is usually a licensee. The owner only owes licensee a duty to warn about latent (hidden) defects.
  • Trespasser: In a nutshell, no permission and no benefit means no duty. There are some limited exceptions, such as the attractive nuisance rule. This doctrine protects child trespassers from property-related injuries.

In addition to duty and damages, the victim/plaintiff must also establish knowledge. Sometimes, there is direct evidence of actual knowledge. But generally, a Minnesota victim/plaintiff must use circumstantial evidence of constructive knowledge (should have known).

The Gopher State and most other jurisdictions use a variation of the time-notice rule. Think about a banana peel on the ground. If the peel is yellow, it probably just fell, so there is no duty. If the peel is black, it has probably been on the ground for a while, so there is probably constructive knowledge.


The best personal injury attorneys in Minnesota handle a wide range of negligence cases. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Minnesota, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence 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

Toll Free: (877) 344-1555
Phone: (218) 736-9429
Fax: 763-682-3330

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Hutchinson Lawyers

114 Main Street North
Hutchinson, MN 55350

Toll Free: (877) 344-1555
Phone: (320) 289-4761
Fax: 763-682-3330

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Minnetonka Lawyers

3911 Ridgedale Dr, Suite 404E
Minnetonka, MN 55305

Toll Free: (877) 344-1555
Phone: (952) 260-9640
Fax: 763-682-3330

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