How Does a Buffalo, MN Lawyer Uphold the Presumption of Innocence in All Three Phases of a Criminal Case?

The presumption of innocence is usually associated with the seventh century Roman Emperor Justinian. But the concept of ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat (the burden of proof lies upon him who affirms, not he who denies) might go back even further than that in Roman law. Jewish and Islamic religious scholars talked about this idea as well.

Today, this concept is a cornerstone of common law systems in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and a few other places. But in most parts of the world, it is almost unheard of.

Wright County prosecutors have almost unlimited resources, and they bring these resources to bear in the most serious felony and the least serious misdemeanor. The presumption of innocence is the only way a Buffalo, MN lawyer can level the playing field. So, as soon as the attorney/client partnership begins, the fight to uphold this critical concept begins as well.

Jail Release

Upholding the presumption of innocence begins at this point. If the defendant remains in jail, the presumption of innocence essentially becomes a presumption of guilt. Incarcerated defendants cannot participate in their own defense in any meaningful way. Additionally, defendants who are behind bars often accept help from a public defender instead of a top Buffalo, MN lawyer.

Typically, the Wright County sheriff sets presumptive bail amounts according to the severity of the offense and the defendant’s criminal record. People charged with felonies must pay more than people charged with misdemeanors. And, even if the prior conviction was completely unrelated, it usually drives up the bail amount.

Research suggests the opposite is true. People charged with serious offenses are more likely to face the music than people charged with petty offenses. Furthermore, if the defendant has been through the system before, the defendant is not as scared.

A Buffalo, MN lawyer can bring up these points during a bail reduction hearing. This hearing usually occurs within seventy-two hours of an arrest. When the case comes up, the judge considers a wide range of factors, including:

  • Amount of evidence the state has,
  • Defendant’s contacts with the community,
  • Risk of flight, if any, and
  • Defendant’s ability to pay.

Frequently, Buffalo, MN lawyers make deals with prosecutors to secure the defendant’s release. These deals usually involve some give-and-take. For example, the state might agree to reduce the bail amount if the defendant wears an ankle bracelet.

Attorneys often work out these same kinds of arrangements to resolve criminal cases. More on that below.

Lawyers in Buffalo, MN and Pretrial Matters

The police might gather evidence against the defendant, but that does not mean prosecutors can use this proof in court. If a Buffalo, MN lawyer reduces the amount of available evidence, it’s much easier to successfully resolve the charges.

Pretrial proceedings often focus on procedural matters. A police error early in the process has a significant impact on the trial. Some examples include:

  • Failure to Mirandize: When custodial interrogation begins, officers must give defendants their Miranda rights (you have the right to remain silent, etc.). Otherwise, any statements the defendant makes are inadmissible. Custodial interrogation starts when officers ask any questions and the defendant does not feel free to leave.
  • Search Warrant Issues: Possession cases always involve either search warrants or search warrant exceptions. Unless officers had a valid warrant or a narrow search warrant exception applied, any guns, drugs, or other contraband officers seized is probably inadmissible.
  • Lineup Issues: Criminology professionals recommend double-blind lineups. Neither the witness nor the administering officer should know the suspect’s identity. But Minnesota only requires blind lineups. Arguably, these identifications are inherently unreliable.

Buffalo, MN lawyers also do their own evidence collection. Technically, prosecutors are legally required to turn over exculpatory evidence. But they short-circuit this requirement whenever possible.

Resolving a Criminal Case

As discussed above, plea bargains resolve about 95 percent of the criminal cases in Wright County. Mostly because of the presumption of innocence, these plea bargains usually involve reduced charges and/or a reduced sentence.

Aggravated assault, which is one of the most common felonies in Minnesota, is a good example. If the evidence is weak, prosecutors often agree to reduce these charges to ordinary assault, which is a misdemeanor. Additionally, instead of lengthy incarceration, many defendants are sentenced to a brief period of probation.

If the case goes to trial, prosecutors must prove every element beyond a reasonable doubt, which brings us back to the presumption of innocence. So, in the aggravated assault example, unless there is overwhelming evidence that the defendant assaulted the victim and also caused a serious injury, the jury must acquit the defendant.

Connect with an Assertive Attorney

The presumption of innocence alone is enough to acquit a defendant in Minnesota. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Home and jail visits are available.

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.

Left Turn Motorcycle Wrecks and Buffalo Car Crash Lawyers

These kinds of motorcycle crashes, which are also known as SMIDSY wrecks (for sorry, mate, I didn’t see you), are quite common in Wright County. Generally, the tortfeasor (negligent driver) is waiting to make an unprotected left turn against traffic, either at an intersection or to enter/exit a private driveway. The tortfeasor does not see the motorcyclist and turns directly into the bike’s path.

Frequently, tortfeasors do not take the time to look around large vehicles, like SUVs and pickups. So, their vision is limited and they do not see small motorcycles. Other drivers do not look for motorcycles at all. Either way, the tortfeasor is clearly at fault. However, there is often a difference between fault and liability. More on that below.

Riders normally suffer serious injuries in these cases. Therefore, a Buffalo car crash lawyer can usually obtain substantial compensation for victims and their families. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Building Succesful Left-Turn Crash Claims

Theoretical fault is not enough. A Buffalo car crash lawyer must also prove actual fault. That usually means negligence per se or ordinary negligence.

If emergency responders cited the tortfeasor for making an illegal left turn, the tortfeasor might be liable for damages as a matter of law. This doctrine applies if:

  • The tortfeasor broke a safety law, such as failure to yield the right-of-way, and
  • That violation substantially caused injury.

Unfortunately, first responders rarely issue citations after SMIDSY crashes, even if the motorcyclist died. As a result, Buffalo car crash lawyers often use the ordinary negligence doctrine.

Essentially, negligence is a lack of care. Most drivers have a duty of reasonable care. They must drive defensively and obey the rules of the road. If they fail to maintain a proper lookout and cause a crash, they could be liable for damages. Driver impairment, such as alcohol use, fatigue, or distraction, contributes significantly to a negligence claim.

Evidence like driver impairment is not just important for liability purposes. It’s also important for damages purposes. Typically, there is a direct relationship between the amount of evidence the victim/plaintiff presents and the amount of damages Wright County jurors award.

Buffalo Car Crash Lawyers and Motorcycle Wreck Defenses

Evidence is not the only determining factor in terms of liability. Insurance company defenses often come into play here as well.

Contributory negligence is one of the most common insurance company defenses in motorcycle wreck claims. This rule shifts responsibility for the accident from the tortfeasor to the victim. A few riders do things like lane-split (drive between cars stacked up in traffic) or speed. In these situations, jurors must divide fault between the victim and tortfeasor on a percentage basis.

Minnesota is a modified comparative fault state with a 51 percent bar. Even if the victim was 49 percent responsible for the crash, the tortfeasor is still responsible for a proportionate share of damages. Additionally, insurance companies have the burden of proof, and the burden of persuasion, in these situations. A Buffalo car crash lawyer must only play defense and keep the insurance company out of the endzone.

Another legal loophole, the last clear chance rule, often comes up in left-turn motorcycle wreck claims. If the rider had a reasonable chance to avoid the crash, perhaps by changing speeds or lanes, yet did not do so, the rider is legally responsible for the crash.

But the last clear chance rule often does not apply in motorcycle crash claims. If riders change speeds or lanes quickly, they often lose control of their bikes. That’s especially true if environmental, traffic, and other conditions are less than ideal. So, if they try to avoid one crash, they might cause another one.

Resolving Your Claim for Damages

Diligent evidence collection and thoughtful legal analysis are essential in these cases. Assuming a Buffalo car crash lawyer does these things well, the claim usually settles out of court.

Sometimes, the insurance company settles after an attorney sends a demand letter. Legally, if liability is clear, the insurance company has a duty to quickly resolve the claim. However, largely because of the aforementioned defenses, there is usually at least some liability dispute.

Therefore, many personal injury claims settle during mediation. Assuming both parties negotiate in good faith, mediation is about 90 percent successful. Mediation is good for both sides because it reduces litigation costs, saves time, and gives the parties more control over the outcome.

Contact Experienced Attorneys

Left-turn motorcycle crash claims might seem straightforward, but they are often complex. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN car crash lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.

Evidence in Drugged Driving Cases and Buffalo, MN DUI Lawyers

One day soon, marijuana Breathalyzers might revolutionize drugged driving prosecutions in Wright County. Under current law, if the defendant’s THC level was above five nanograms per milliliter of blood, the defendant was intoxicated as a matter of law. Marijuana, whether it was legally acquired or not, is the leading source of drugged driving prosecutions in Minnesota, followed by prescription medications like Xanax and Oxycontin.

For the foreseeable future, prosecutors must normally rely on rather thin circumstantial evidence to convict defendants in these situations. The burden of proof is very high. So, in order to overcome the presumption of innocence, the amount of evidence must be almost overwhelming.

Given the current environment, a skilled Buffalo, MN DUI lawyer is often able to successfully resolve these cases. That resolution could be a complete dismissal of charges, a not-guilty verdict at trial, or a favorable plea bargain arrangement.

Unapproved Drug Impairment Tests

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has approved three field sobriety tests for use in DUI-drug arrests. These tests arguably have some scientific basis, although that basis is rather shaky, as outlined below.

Nevertheless, many Wright County law enforcement officers have defendants perform unapproved tests as well. These tests fatigue defendants mentally and physically, so they do not do as well on the tests that count. Additionally, unless a Buffalo, MN DUI lawyer objects to their use, these test results are usually admissible in court.

Romberg’s balance test is probably the most common unapproved test. A German scientist developed this test about two hundred years ago. Subjects must stand perfectly straight while their eyes are closed and their heads are tilted back. This position robs subjects of the three things needed to maintain balance, which are:

  • Knowing the position of one’s body (proprioception),
  • Knowing one’s head position (vestibular function), and
  • Vision.

Sometimes, officers add additional bells and whistles, like having subjects touch the tips of their noses with their index fingers.

A Buffalo, MN DUI lawyer can normally get this test, and other tests, excluded. However, it’s sometimes best to let an officer try to explain things like “vestibular function” and “proprioception” to jurors. If the officer does not know the underlying principles of this test, which is likely, it looks like the state is trying to railroad the defendant.

Buffalo, MN DUI Lawyers and Approved Drug Impairment Field Tests

The Horizontal Dage Nystagmus test is usually the first approved test in the three-test battery. Subjects must follow moving objects, like ink pens, using only their eyes. If a pupil moves involuntarily at certain angles, the subject probably has nystagmus.

Drug impairment is one cause of nystagmus. But it’s not the only cause. It’s not even the leading cause. Genetic abnormalities and mild childhood brain injuries cause most nystagmus cases. This condition is also known as lazy eye. Many people have a lazy eye, but the symptoms are so mild they do not know it.

The bottom line is that many people “fail” this test even if they are not high or stoned. As a result, many Wright County judges only admit HGN test results for limited purposes.

The Walk and Turn usually comes next. Walking a straight line is probably the signature drug impairment field test. During this exam, officers look for a number of clues, such as swaying or not walking heel to toe, which indicate drug impairment.

Environmental factors often affect this test. It’s very difficult to walk an imaginary line unless the surface is perfectly level and flat. Additionally, it’s hard to maintain concentration when cars whiz by at high speeds and flashing strobe light dance on the top of the squad car.

By the time defendants get to the One Leg Stand, they are usually fatigued mentally and physically, especially if they had to do unapproved tests. Under these conditions, anyone with any mobility impairment will be unable to pass this test. Additionally, officers often issue failing grades on this test because of technicalities, like holding the elevated leg at slightly the wrong angle.

Drug Recognition “Experts”

DREs are police officers who have additional training in this area. That additional training usually comes exclusively from a brief, police-sponsored seminar, so its educational value might be limited.

If the DRE comes to the scene of the arrest early and administers the field sobriety tests, these individuals have some credibility. They are better able to grade tests than officers on the street.

But frequently, DREs arrive after the FSTs are in progress or completed. If they testify in court, a Buffalo, MN DUI lawyer can usually challenge the testimony. Their conclusion is based on hearsay, and under Minnesota law, these police officers normally do not qualify as “experts.”

Contact an Assertive Attorney

It is not easy for the state to prove DUI-drug cases beyond a reasonable doubt. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN DUI lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

Why is Paternity Such an Important Part of Buffalo Family Law?

A generation ago, out-of-wedlock births were quite rare. But things have changed a lot since the 1960s. Now, such births are the norm, at least among some population groups. These families must overcome some unique emotional, financial, and other obstacles. Paternity orders are a great help. Some of the key benefits are outlined below.

As far as Buffalo family lawyers are concerned, these matters are usually rather straightforward. A man’s signature on a birth certificate is not conclusive proof of paternity, but it does create a nearly-irrebuttable presumption. In other cases, most men agree to paternity. In other cases, the judge usually orders a DNA test. These tests are incredibly accurate and completely non-invasive. And, if the alleged father refuses to provide a sample, the judge normally assumes the results would have been positive.

Financial Support

Regular child support payments might be the biggest financial advantage of a paternity order. Additionally, a court order gives mothers access to a number of enforcement tools, such as wage garnishment and payment intercept, if they become necessary.

Minnesota is an income share state. So, child support payments help children have the same lifestyle they would have had if their parents were married.

Other financial support might be available as well. For example, a Buffalo family lawyer can insert language ordering the father to provide partial reimbursement of hospital and other birth expenses. And, child support orders usually require obligors (people paying support) to include the children on group health insurance plans.

Personal Protection

Some mothers are reluctant to file paternity actions because they do not want the fathers to know where they live. That’s quite unfortunate, because in many cases, a paternity order is the best way to protect mothers and their children.

Many paternity orders include either temporary or permanent protective orders. These orders routinely prohibit fathers from coming to certain places, like the mother’s place of business, or doing certain things, like interfering with utility services. Other provisions might order fathers to surrender firearms or attend anger management classes.

These protective orders are more than pieces of paper. Law enforcement might not quickly respond to things like stalking reports. But if the stalking involves the violation of a court order, the outcome is usually different. Additionally, court orders allow mothers to give third parties, like daycares and schools, formal notice about the situation.

Enforceable Visitation Limits and Buffalo Family Lawyers

Many parents have informal visitation arrangements which work very well. In other cases, however, establishing a consistent schedule is quite difficult. These arrangements are especially hard on young children who need stability and predictability.

Paternity orders include parenting time schedules. Everyone falls into a visitation routine. And, if circumstances change, a Buffalo family lawyer can modify these provisions later.

Access to Medical Records

Family history is a significant part of many medical diagnoses, especially serious chronic conditions like diabetes or heart problems. If the child has no legal father, the doctor only has access to half the family history. A paternity order gives doctors the legal authority to obtain the information they need.

On a related note, paternity orders give mothers the right to control access to things like educational and counseling records.

Additional Paternal Responsibility

A Buffalo family lawyer almost always obtains the relief outlined in the above sections. This final benefit does not happen in all cases, but it does happen in most of them.

Frequently, court orders encourage fathers to step up to the plate, both financially and emotionally. Before a paternity order, child support payments might occasionally trickle in. But once court supervision begins, these payments are normally much more consistent. Emotionally, the same thing often happens. Fathers who dropped by once or twice a month are usually at the appointed exchange place at the appropriate time. Children benefit, especially in terms of these emotional changes.

Connect with a Compassionate Attorney

Paternity orders make family life easier. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo family lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.

A Family Law Attorney in Buffalo, MN Looks at Millennial Prenups

Since many Millenials are children of divorce, when they get married themselves, they are willing to think outside the box if it means keeping their unions intact. So, it’s little wonder that these couples are increasingly entering into premarital agreements before they tie the knot.

Prenuptial agreements are much more than divorce insurance. Frequently, they make marriages stronger. Money is one of the leading sources of marital friction. And, prenups remove financial matters from the equation before these issues have a chance to create tension.

Most agreements between spouses, including premarital agreements, are enforceable. However, Minnesota lawmakers have not adopted the Uniform Marital and Premarital Agreements Act. So, prenups are only enforceable in rather limited circumstances. Therefore, only an experienced family law attorney in Buffalo, MN should handle these matters, whether you are trying to make or break a premarital agreement.

Making Premarital Agreements

Money is not just one of the most problematic issues during a marriage. It’s also one of the most problematic areas during a divorce. And, if the unthinkable happens, most Millennials do not want to pay the steep emotional and financial costs associated with divorce.

Prenuptial agreements clearly distinguish marital property from nonmarital property. So, if the parties divorce, family law attorneys in Buffalo, MN need not spend vast amounts of time classifying property. That’s assuming the prenuptial agreement is enforceable, as set forth below.

Premarital contracts usually also include spousal support limitations. These provisions give people additional peace of mind. If Wife has substantially more money than Husband, Wife and her family both know that Husband is not marrying Wife for her money.

Emotional issues might be a consideration as well, especially if either spouse has been married before and the union involves a small business. Frequently, Minnesota’s antiquated intestacy laws do not keep up with modern families. Prenuptial agreements clarify inheritance and succession matters. To make these decisions even clearer and easier to enforce, mand family law attorneys in Buffalo, MN also draw up executory documents, such as wills and estate plans.

Only a few matters are off-limits in this area, such as child custody and child support. These matters must be in the best interests of the children, as opposed to the best interests of the parents.

Buffalo, MN Family Law Attorneys and Breaking Premarital Agreements

No contract is absolutely ironclad. There is usually a way to undo almost any kind of contract, and premarital agreements are no exception. Prenups are only enforceable in Minnesota if:

  • Recorded in Deed Records: Since they often affect real property, prenuptial agreements must be recorded in the deed records of Wright County, or wherever the prenup was signed. If the spouses move, the prenuptial agreement must move with them.
  • Voluntary: There is almost always some pressure to sign a premarital agreement. Sometimes, there is excessive pressure, such as a “sign or else” ultimatum. These things are usually not enough to invalidate a premarital contract. But sometimes, the pressure gets too great, and the pact is involuntary.
  • Full Disclosure: This bullet is related to the previous one. Agreements are involuntary if a spouse did not know what s/he was signing. The omission must be material to the issues in the contract. And, most judges also require challenging spouses to prove they could not have obtained the information elsewhere.
  • Unconscionable: A 60-40 division is uneven but probably not unconscionable. A division like “I get all the assets and you get all the debts” is clearly unconscionable. Additionally, the agreement must have been unconscionable when it was made. Stock is a good example. These certificates could be incredibly valuable one day and worthless pieces of paper the next day.
  • Separate Counsel Throughout: Each spouse must have an independent Buffalo, MN family law attorney throughout the entire process, and each spouse must have an equal opportunity to consult with counsel. Wife cannot spring the agreement on Husband at the least minute, even if Husband has a Buffalo, MN family law attorney.

Generally, the challenging party must prove the agreement was invalid by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). That’s the lowest standard of evidence in Minnesota.

Furthermore, most premarital agreements have severability provisions. If a judge invalidates one part, the remainder is still in force.

Contact a Diligent Lawyer

Premarital agreements are not just divorce insurance. In many cases, they are anti-divorce insurance. For a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Buffalo, MN, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

A Buffalo, MN Auto Accident Lawyer Looks at Some Common Traffic Tickets

Frequently, emergency responders issue traffic tickets at accident scenes to help insurance companies determine fault. But in many cases, these citations affect liability for damages as well. In fact, because of the negligence per se doctrine, they may conclusively determine liability.

The negligence per se doctrine applies if the tortfeasor (negligent driver) violated a safety law and that violation substantially caused injury. This doctrine saves time during the evidence collection process. As a result, it’s easier for Buffalo, MN auto accident lawyers to obtain fair compensation for accident victims.

Speeding

Excessive velocity is a factor in about a third of the fatal car crashes in Minnesota. That’s because speed affects the risk of a collision and the force in a collision.

Speed multiples stopping distance. At 30mph, most cars travel about six car lengths between the moment a driver sees a hazard and the moment the car safely stops. At 60mph, stopping distance multiplies to about eighteen car lengths. Other factors, such as vehicle weight and environmental conditions, often increase stopping distance.

Velocity also multiplies the force in a collision between two objects. In this context, speed transforms property damage fender-bender crashes into serious injury or fatal collisions.

In Minnesota, the posted speed limits are presumptively reasonable speeds. So, officers could issue speeding tickets even if the driver was not exceeding the posted limit, if the officer felt the driver was going too fast for the conditions. But officers rarely hand out such tickets. So, in these cases, Buffalo, MN auto accident lawyers normally rely on the ordinary negligence doctrine. Essentially, negligence is a lack of reasonable care.

Failure to Signal/Illegal Lane Change

These citations are especially common in serious motorcycle crash claims. Today’s cars are so solid that sideswipe collisions don’t often cause serious collisions, unless victims lose control of their vehicles. But motorcycle riders have no seatbelts, airbags, steel cocoons, or other things to protect them in these cases. They are completely exposed to danger.

Visibility is also a factor in these situations. Frequently, tortfeasors simply do not see motorcycle riders. But that’s no excuse for negligence, and certainly no defense to a negligence per se claim.

Crossing the Median

These citations illustrate the difference between fault at the scene and liability for damages. If a driver is ticketed for crossing the median, that driver is almost always faulted for the crash. But legal responsibility might be different, because of the last clear chance rule.

All drivers have a duty of reasonable care, regardless of what another driver does. This duty includes a responsibility to avoid accidents when possible. So, if Driver A saw Driver B cross the center line and Driver A did nothing to stop the wreck, Driver A might be legally responsible for the crash.

There’s a big difference between the last clear chance and any possible chance. Frequently, collisions happen so fast that there is no way to avoid them. Also, if the tortfeasor was driving erratically at the time, it’s very difficult to get out of the way.

Buffalo, MN Auto Accident Lawyers and Failure to Yield to Pedestrians

Much like motorcyclists, pedestrians have no protection from onrushing cars. The moment they step into the street, they are completely exposed to danger.

Minnesota law is a bit vague when it comes to pedestrian right-of-way. If the pedestrian was in the crosswalk and crossing with the light, the pedestrian clearly had the right-of-way. Other situations, like crossing against the light in the crosswalk, are more uncertain.

In terms of legal liability, the last clear chance rule applies in pedestrian cases. If a driver sees a pedestrian in the road, the driver has a duty to avoid a crash, even if the driver has the right-of-way.

Sudden emergency, a related doctrine, sometimes comes up in pedestrian crashes as well. Frequently, insurance company lawyers argue that a pedestrian victim “darted out into traffic.” This argument sets up the sudden emergency defense. This doctrine excuses negligent conduct if the driver reasonably reacted to a sudden emergency.

But a jaywalking pedestrian is usually not a “sudden emergency.” This label only applies to lightning strikes, tire blowouts, and other completely unexpected situations.

School Bus Stop Arm Violations

These citations are often perfect storm citations. Drivers who ignore school bus stop arms are frequently speeding. Children disembarking from school busses are vulnerable, and since they often cross in front of the stopped bus, they are hard to see.

Reach Out to a Diligent Attorney

Traffic violations make it easier to obtain compensation in car wreck claims. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN auto accident lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.

When can a Buffalo, MN Family Law Attorney Adjust a Child Support Obligation?

Typically, child support obligations should be adjusted, either up or down, at least once every three years. That’s the only way to keep up with things like employment changes, lifestyle changes, and emotional changes. Child support adjustments usually require parenting plan modifications as well, because these changes frequently overlap. For example, a new job usually means a different commute time or even a relocation.

In both these situations, it’s very important that the judge approve the changes. Informal side agreements regarding parenting time changes, even if these pacts are in writing, are unenforceable in Wright County family court. Additionally, as far as the state is concerned, the child support obligation listed in the decree, and not the one the parties agreed on, is the only one that matters.

So, even if the child support change is agreed, a Buffalo, MN family law attorney should be part of the process. Typically, judges approve agreed changes without holding hearings. Moreover, if the parties do not agree 100 percent on everything, a Buffalo, MN family law attorney can usually bring them together. That way, they can present an agreed order to the judge and streamline the modification process.

Income Changes

Most people change jobs at least twelve times during their careers. Most of these changes involve compensation changes as well. Additionally, even if people stay put, annual salary adjustments are commonplace.

As for proof, sometimes a recent paystub is sufficient, for obligors requesting increases or decreases. But that’s not true in most cases. A significant number of people freelance on the side, or they might be completely self-employed. Additionally, some compensation, such as a company car or provided housing, does not appear on paystubs.

Obligees seeking to increase the child support obligation often face different issues. So, a Buffalo, MN family law attorney requests financial documents during discovery. Obligees can also look for red flags, such as lifestyle changes, which indicate the obligor is making more money.

Income changes, along with any other ground for modification, must be mostly involuntary. Obligors cannot leave high-paying jobs in order to reduce their child support obligations. The same thing holds true for alimony reductions. Circumstantial evidence of intentional underemployment includes social media posts about high support payments.

Buffalo, MN Family Law Attorneys and Expense Changes

In a few states, parental income, and specifically the obligor’s income, is basically the only factor to consider. But Minnesota is an income share state. Child support payments in these states are designed to give the children the same standard of living they would have had if their parents were still married.

So, in Wright County, expense changes could prompt payment changes. Some expenses, such as insurance costs, are factored into the child support guidelines. Others, such as private school tuition costs, are not factored in.

Expense changes will not support a motion to modify child support unless they were unanticipated at the time the decree was entered. Daycare expenses are a good example. These changes are inevitable. Children get older, leave daycare, and attend school. The added money obligees receive through elementary and middle school years helps them cope with the increased expenses which come during the high school years.

Moreover, expense changes must be in the best interests of the children. That’s different from the best interests of the parents. Private afterschool care might be much more convenient than the YMCA, but it may not necessarily be in the best interests of the child.

Emotional Changes

Speaking of children growing older, child support terminates at age 18, in most cases. Most decrees include language to that effect, but sometimes, a Buffalo, MN family law attorney needs to file a motion to modify based on age, marriage, emancipation, or whatever.

Not all emotional changes are this dramatic. As mentioned, Minnesota is an income share state. So, the parenting time division is relevant to the child support obligation. As children get older, visitation time often changes as well. Eight or ten overnights a month might become a dozen or more.

If the emotional change is significant, the judge will probably adjust the child support obligation appropriately. Usually, this adjustment is just a matter of recalculating the guideline amount using the correct number of overnights. Smaller changes, such as children staying with Mom after school, probably do not qualify as significant.

Reach Out to a Compassionate Lawyer

Child support obligation amounts are not set in stone. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN family law attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

Love, Baseball, Premarital Agreements, and Buffalo, MN Divorce Lawyers

Those are four items you probably never thought you’d see in the same sentence. Yet beginning in the spring of 2011, they all came together. Well, all of them except for the Buffalo, MN divorce lawyers component. Nevertheless, the Frank and Jamie McCourt divorce saga has some important lessons for Wright County family law attorneys.

Some baseball fans might remember the McCourts. This billionaire power couple owned the Los Angeles Dodgers in the early 2000s.

Minnesota is one of the few states which has not adopted the Uniform Marital and Premarital Agreements Act. Generally, lawmakers in St. Paul do not follow trends. They either start them or ignore them. Nevertheless, the issues presented in the McCourt prenup matter are very similar to the ones Buffalo, MN divorce lawyers face on an ongoing basis.

Prenups in Minnesota and Buffalo, MN Divorce Lawyers: An Overview

Rich couples who own baseball teams are by no means the only people who should consider prenuptial agreements. For the most part, these pacts are much more than divorce insurance. Since they decide most financial matters in advance, prenups usually make marriages stronger. Money is the leading cause of marital distress. And, premarital agreements remove money from the equation.

In Minnesota, prenuptial agreements can cover more than property division, spousal support, and property management issues. These pacts also often address inheritance and succession matters, especially if the couple owns a family business and stepchildren are involved. Frequently, Minnesota’s antiquated inheritance laws do not jive with a couple’s intentions.

Generally, premarital agreements are valid as long as each couple had an independent Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer, the agreement was properly recorded in the deed records, it was not blatantly one-sided, and it was voluntary. Those first two requirements are largely technicalities. The second two requirements, however, merit closer attention.

Dodgers Bankruptcy

Aided greatly by Kirk Gibson’s impossible home run in Game One, the Dodgers won the World Series in 1988. After that, the club fielded a succession of underachieving teams. Fan interest waned, and so did team revenues. When the McCourts bought the Dodgers in the early 2000s, they probably thought their investment epitomized the old axiom of buying low and selling high. Little did they know that the Dodgers would sink even lower before they rose again.

The team finally bottomed out in June 2011. Reportedly, Frank McCourt, who was the only remaining owner, did not have enough cash to make payroll. So, the club filed bankruptcy.

Then, something else impossible happened. The Dodgers suddenly became contenders again, largely due to the emergence of pitching ace Clayton Kershaw. Notoriously fickle SoCal fans returned and the team’s revenue exploded. As a result, Frank sold the team for a whopping $2.15 billion.

Breaking Down the McCourt Property Agreement

Just before the Dodgers went to bankruptcy court, the team owners were in divorce court. Supposedly, things came to a head for the feuding couple when Jamie had an affair with her bodyguard.

The divorce was contentious to say the least. Lawyers spent most of their time on the property division. Since the team was on the edge of bankruptcy and almost worthless, Jamie agreed to give up her half of the team for about $180 million in cash and property. That seemed like a good deal at the time.

Jamie’s jaw probably fell open when she saw the news of the sale. After all, California is a community property state. So, she argued in court, half that $2.15 billion was hers.

Eventually, a Superior Court judge disagreed. As mentioned above, Buffalo, MN divorce lawyers can use these same arguments in Wright County.

  • Withheld Information: In both California and Minnesota, prenuptial agreements are invalid if a party withholds financial data. Jamie claimed that Frank misled her about the team’s value. However, the judge noted that Frank produced tens of thousands of financial documents during discovery. Additionally, even if Frank did lie to her, Jamie was a co-owner at the time. So, she could have reviewed all the financial data she wanted.
  • Unconscionable Agreement: By almost any definition, the property agreement’s result was unconscionable. It left Jamie $900 million shy of a 50-50 split in a community property state. However, the agreement was not unconscionable when it was made. According to the court: “Jamie simply chose the security of a guaranteed $131 million payment, plus more than $50 million in real and personal property, over the uncertainty and risk presented by the valuation and sale of the Dodger assets.”

So, Jamie lost her appeal and even had to pay her ex-husband’s legal fees. But her story has a somewhat happy ending. The longtime GOP fundraiser recently became the U.S. ambassador to France and Monaco.

Contact a Dedicated Attorney

Prenups are not just for billionaires. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.

How Do Buffalo, MN Personal Injury Lawyers Think Outside the Box and Obtain Maximum Compensation in Car Wreck Claims?

In many situations, proving liability is not the most difficult part of a negligence case. Driver error causes almost all car crashes in Minnesota, and the burden of proof is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).

Collecting compensation might be different. The Gopher State has one of the highest percentages of uninsured motorists in the country. Additionally, Minnesota has one of the lowest auto insurance minimum requirements in the United States. So, many tortfeasors (negligent drivers) might not have enough coverage to provide fair compensation, especially in a catastrophic injury case.

Fortunately, Minnesota also has some of the broadest vicarious liability laws in the country. Fundamentally, Buffalo, MN personal injury lawyers pursue these cases to hold people responsible for their mistakes. Vicarious liability, which is also called third party liability or imputed liability, extends this principle to the person, or organization, which mistakenly set the stage for the crash.

Vicarious liability is usually the best way to obtain maximum compensation in a catastrophic injury wreck. It’s possible to pursue a separate claim against the tortfeasor individually. But these claims are complex, and there is no guarantee of success.

Employer Liability

Truck crashes usually cause catastrophic injuries, such as serious burns and wrongful death. The same is true for high-speed Uber, Lyft, and other ridesharing accidents.

Respondeat superior (let the master answer) usually applies in these situations. Back in the day, respondeat superior was available only in limited situations. Now, the doctrine is much broader. Buffalo, MN personal injury lawyers can hold employers responsible for the negligent acts of their employees if:

  • Employee: In the car crash realm, employees are not just workers who work regular hours and take home regular paychecks. If the employer controlled the worker, that worker is an “employee” for negligence purposes. This category includes owner-operators, independent contractors, and many unpaid volunteers.
  • Scope of Employment: This prong was once limited to situations like a regular delivery driver on a regular route. Today, Minnesota courts define the scope of employment as any act which benefits the employer in any way. That could include driving a vehicle which bears the company logo. In that case, the free advertising benefits the employer.

Think about an Amazon driver accident. The individual drivers usually have little or no insurance. But Amazon has almost unlimited resources.

Other employer liability theories, which often come up in nursing home abuse or other intentional tort claims, include negligent hiring and negligent supervision.

Buffalo, MN Personal Injury Lawyers and Alcohol Provider Liability

Along these same lines, Minnesota’s dram shop law is one of the broadest ones in the country. Recently, many states have curtailed their dram shop laws, falsely reasoning that they discount individual responsibility in drunk driving cases. However, in Wright County, commercial alcohol providers are vicariously liable for car crash damages if they illegally sold alcohol to a patron who later caused a car crash. Examples of illegal sales include:

  • Under 21,
  • No valid liquor license,
  • After-hours sale, or
  • Sale to an intoxicated person.

Circumstantial evidence of intoxication at the time of sale includes things like unsteady balance, bloodshot eyes, odor of alcohol, and slurred speech. As mentioned, the standard of evidence is quite low in these cases. So, a Buffalo, MN personal injury lawyer need not produce much evidence to establish this point in court.

Social hosts might be vicariously liable for damages as well, under a theory like negligent undertaking. This legal doctrine applies if a host vaguely promises to do something, like call a taxi for an intoxicated guest, and then fails to follow through on that promise.

Owner Liability

Teen drivers cause a disproportionate number of crashes in Minnesota, mostly because they lack driving experience. People under 18 cannot legally own vehicles or other property. Therefore, the negligent entrustment doctrine usually applies in teen driver crashes. Vehicle owners are vicariously liable for damages if they allow incompetent operators to use their vehicles, and these operators subsequently cause car crashes. Evidence of incompetency includes:

  • No valid drivers’ license,
  • Driving in violation of a license restriction, like driving at night, and
  • A poor driving record.

Minnesota is a family purpose doctrine state. If a minor drove a vehicle for a family purpose, like picking up siblings from soccer practice, it is easier to establish owner responsibility for car crash damages.

These damages normally include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages might be available as well, in extreme cases.

Contact an Aggressive Attorney

The tortfeasor is frequently not the only legally responsible party in a vehicle collision claim. 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.

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