Brainerd Injury Lawyers and Third Party Liability

In a serious injury car crash, the medical bills often exceed $100,000. Unfortunately, Minnesota has one of the lowest auto insurance minimum requirements in the country. So, many individual tortfeasors (negligent drivers) in Crow Wing County do not have enough coverage to pay fair compensation in these situations.

Fortunately, the Gopher State also has very broad vicarious liability (third party liability) rules. These rules give victims in serious injury crashes an additional source of compensation. That’s good news, because although it is legally possible to file additional claims against individuals, these claims are complex. It’s much easier to obtain compensation in a single legal matter.

Depending on the facts, Brainerd injury lawyers have several legal options. Basically, if a third party was in a position to stop a crash and did not do so, that third party may be legally responsible for damages.

Owner Liability

Vehicle owners are in a very good position to prevent car crashes. They simply must hold onto their car keys. So, the negligent entrustment rule applies in both non-commercial matters (e.g. a teenager using a parent’s vehicle) and commercial matters (U-Haul trucks, Enterprise rental cars, and so on).

Generally, owners are legally responsible for car crash damages if they allow incompetent drivers to use their vehicles and these drivers cause car accidents. Evidence of incompetence includes:

  • No drivers’ license,
  • Safety-suspended drivers’ license,
  • A poor driving record, and
  • Violation of drivers’ license restriction, such as no nighttime driving.

Victim/plaintiffs must also establish knowledge. So, assume Father allows his teenage Daughter to use his car one weekend. Daughter has a valid license, but she has a very poor driving record which includes an at-fault collision. Over the weekend, she strikes another vehicle in an intersection.

If Father knew about Daughter’s poor driving record, he may be liable for damages. Moreover, a Brainerd injury lawyer must establish that Daughter’s poor driving record rendered her incompetent.

The same analysis may apply with regard to a safety-suspended license or a restriction violation. Father must know about the issue and Daughter must be incompetent. However, if Daughter had no drivers’ license, she was probably incompetent as a matter of law.

In commercial negligent entrustment claims, Brainerd injury lawyers must establish additional facts, because of the Graves Amendment. In 2005, lawmakers added this policy rider to a large transportation bill. It protects companies like U-Haul from negligent entrustment actions if the owner or agent was:

  • In the “Trade or Business” of Renting Vehicles: The Graves Amendment does not define “trade or business.” But in contract law, this phrase usually means the business is specialized. Most truck rental outlets are basically moving supply retailers which rent a few trucks on the side. Therefore, Graves Amendment immunity arguably does not apply.
  • Not Otherwise Negligent: It is the vehicle rental industry standard to verify the validity of a drivers’ license. If a retailer fails to do so, it is arguably negligent.

Brainerd injury lawyers must establish knowledge and all other essential facts by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).

Dram Shop Liability and Brainerd Injury Lawyers

Alcohol causes almost a third of the fatal car crashes in Crow Wing County. Under Minnesota law, bars, restaurants, grocery stores, and other commercial alcohol providers may be vicariously liable for damages. Liability attaches if the provider illegally sold alcohol to the tortfeasor, and that alcohol substantially caused the crash. Minnesota’s dram shop law is one of the broadest ones in the country.

Sales to intoxicated persons constitute most of these illegal sales. Evidence of intoxication at the time of sale includes bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and unsteady balance. Other illegal transactions include underage sales, unlicensed transactions, and after-hours sales. Private providers, like party hosts, might be similarly liable for damages as well.

Employer Liability

Bus crashes, truck crashes, and other such wrecks usually involve the respondeat superior doctrine. Employers are legally responsible for the damages their negligent employees cause if:

  • Employee: Independent contractors, regular employees, owner-operators, and even unpaid volunteer drivers are all employees in this context. The employer controls all these individuals with regard to hours worked, route traveled, and passengers or cargo carried.
  • Scope of Employment: According to one recent court ruling, a man’s heart attack, which he suffered after an amorous encounter with a woman, was within the scope of employment because it occurred on a business trip. Minnesota law is not quite that broad, but it is close.

Other employer liability theories, which often apply in assault and other intentional tort claims, include negligent hiring and negligent supervision.

Contact Assertive Attorneys

The tortfeasor may not be the only person who may be liable for damages. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. You have a limited amount of time to act.

Can Accident Lawyers in Brainerd, MN Hold Third Parties Responsible for Car Crash Damages?

Third-party liability, which is also called vicarious liability, is very important in Minnesota. The Gopher State has one of the lowest auto insurance minimum requirements in the country. Many drivers have less than $50,000 in medical expense coverage. In catastrophic injury situations, like serious burns and spine injuries, the medical bills alone could be twenty times that high.

Furthermore, insurance companies often look for legal loopholes to deny coverage. For example, if an Uber or Lyft driver causes a crash, the insurance company will almost certainly deny coverage, unless the driver had a commercial use policy or rider.

So, in many cases, third-party liability could be the difference between fair compensation and settling for less. Therefore, accident lawyers in Brainerd, MN often count on vicarious liability to provide victim/plaintiffs with an additional source of recovery.

Alcohol Provider Liability

Alcohol causes about a third of the fatal crashes in Crow Wing County. So, the injuries in these claims often well exceed the aforementioned insurance minimums. Fortunately for victims, Section 340A.801 of the Minnesota Statutes is one of the broadest dram shop laws in the country.

Restaurants, bars, grocery stores, convenience stores, and other commercial alcohol providers are liable for car crash damages if they sell alcohol illegally to a customer who later causes a car crash. Some examples of illegal sales include:

  • After or Before Hours: If a customer wants to buy alcohol a few minutes early or a few minutes late, many establishments allow the transaction. But one minute could be the difference between a legal and illegal sale.
  • Liquor License Issues: Many establishments continue selling alcohol even if their license is suspended or expired. Additionally, many establishments jump the gun, and they sell alcohol before their licenses take effect.
  • Underage: Even if customers present fake IDs, like about their age, or “look older,” the sale is illegal if the customer is under 21.
  • Intoxicated: Evidence of intoxication at the time of sale includes bloodshot eyes, purchase history (e.g. the customer has already had three rounds), slurred speech, and unsteady balance.

Additionally, accident lawyers in Brainerd, MN must establish foreseeability. Generally, if the customer drove a vehicle to the establishment, a subsequent wreck was foreseeable.

Accident Lawyers in Brainerd, MN and Employer Liability

Respondeat superior (“let the master answer”) usually applies in truck driver, taxi driver, bus driver, Uber driver, and other commercial operator accidents. This legal rule has two basic prongs:

  • Employee: Although they do not receive regular paychecks, independent contractors, owner-operators, and even many unpaid volunteers are usually “employees” in this context. Employers control all these people in terms of things like hours worked, and that control is sufficient to establish an employer-employee relationship.
  • Scope of Employment: In a similar vein, any act which benefits the employer in any way is typically within the scope of employment. For example, in workers’ compensation cases, an injury at an employee softball game is within the scope of employment. The free advertising benefits the employer.

The foreseeability rule also applies in respondeat superior matters. Generally, a car crash is always a foreseeable consequence, unless the employee broke into the parking garage and took a vehicle without permission.

Other employer liability theories, which often apply in sexual assault and other intentional tort claims, include negligent supervision and negligent hiring. Negligent supervision is the failure to properly watch employees, and negligent hiring is hiring legally incompetent workers.

Owner Liability

According to the negligent entrustment rule, owners are liable for damages if they allow incompetent drivers to use their vehicles, and these drivers cause car crashes. Negligent entrustment comes up a lot in teen driver cases. It arises in other circumstances as well, such as one roommate borrowing another roommate’s car to make a beer run. Evidence of incompetency includes:

  • No drivers’ license,
  • Safety suspended license,
  • Driving in violation of a license restriction (e.g. without required eyeglasses), and
  • A poor driving record.

Enterprise Rent-a-Car and other commercial negligent entrustment claims work a bit differently. The Graves Amendment requires accident lawyers in Brainerd, MN to prove some additional facts.

Rely on a Dedicated Lawyer

Third-party liability theories give victim/plaintiffs an additional source of recovery. For a free consultation with an experienced accident lawyer in Brainerd, MN, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Home and hospital visits are available.

How Do Buffalo, MN Injury Lawyers Respond to Car Crash Defenses?

Every year, car crashes kill or seriously injure millions of Americans. Driver impairment, such as alcohol use or excessive fatigue, causes about half these wrecks. Operational errors, like speeding or making an illegal lane change, cause most of the rest. Lightning strikes and other true “accidents” only cause a handful of these incidents.

All vehicle collisions usually trigger significant medical bills and missed work. Additionally, victims must deal with pain and suffering from their injuries, in addition to emotional distress and other intangible losses.

To obtain compensation for these injuries, a Buffalo, MN injury lawyer must establish negligence by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). That negligence could be a lack of ordinary care, like driving while drowsy, or a violation of a statute, like driving while intoxicated.

On the other side, insurance companies make money by collecting premiums, and they lose money by paying claims. So, their lawyers often use legal loopholes to reduce or deny compensation. Some of the more common ones are discussed below.

Buffalo, MN Injury Lawyers and Contributory Negligence

Comparative fault is probably the most common insurance company defense in Wright County vehicle collision claims. Many times, the foundation is already in place. For example, Ted Tortfeasor may change lanes without signaling and collide with Vince Victim, who is speeding. Even if emergency responders only give a ticket to Ted, liability is still uncertain. The insurance company could claim that Vince’s excessive speed, as opposed to Ted’s dangerous lane change, substantially caused the crash.

A Buffalo, MN injury lawyer basically has two opportunities to respond to this defense. First, a lawyer can argue that the defense is not legally available. Truthfully, however, most Wright County judges side with insurance company lawyers in these situations. Judges generally do not like to take an issue out of the jury’s hands.

So, a Buffalo, MN injury lawyer must convince jurors that the wreck was substantially Ted’s fault. Perhaps Vince was only traveling a few miles per hour over the speed limit, or perhaps Ted was zipping between lanes. The jury must consider all these facts and arguments, then assign blame on a percentage basis between Ted and Vince.

Minnesota is a modified comparative fault state with a 51 percent bar. So, even if Vince was 49 percent responsible for the crash, a Buffalo, MN injury lawyer could secure a proportional share of damages for Vince.

Sudden Emergency

So, contributory negligence generally only reduces the amount of damages the victim receives. Sudden emergency, if it applies, completely eliminates damages.

This scene from 1995’s Tommy Boy illustrates both prongs of the sudden emergency defense, which are:

  • Sudden emergency, and
  • Reasonable reaction.

The hood fly-up is almost certainly a sudden emergency, because it is a completely unexpected situation. For the same reason, a tire blowout probably a sudden emergency as well. In contrast, events like stalled cars and construction zones are not sudden emergencies. These things are not completely unexpected situations, so drivers should be ready to avoid them.

Nevertheless, in Tommy’s case, the defense would probably not apply, even though the hood fly-up is a sudden emergency. Instead of reasonably reacting by pulling over to the right, Tommy drove recklessly. He even crossed the centerline. Due to this reaction, if he struck another vehicle after the hood fly-up, he would probably be liable for damages.

Insurance companies often use the sudden emergency defense in pedestrian injury claims. However, a jaywalking pedestrian is typically not a “sudden emergency.” Most drivers see jaywalking pedestrians almost every time they leave the house.

Last Clear Chance

Did you notice how the other vehicles in the Tommy Boy clip steered out of the way when Tommy drove recklessly? That reaction introduces the third common insurance company defense in car wreck cases.

Buffalo, MN injury lawyers often deal with the last clear chance defense in head-on and rear-end collisions. If the victim had a reasonable chance to avoid the crash, but did not do so, the victim is legally responsible for the wreck.

In other words, those other vehicles had a legal duty to get out of Tommy’s way if they could. Drivers simply cannot sit back and let collisions happen.

Significantly, the victim must have the last clear chance and not any possible chance. Sometimes, environmental or traffic conditions make it impossible to safely make emergency maneuvers, like steering out of the way of a crazy driver. That’s especially true if the victim was riding a two-wheel motorcycle, as these vehicles are hard to control.

Contact an Aggressive Attorney

Despite what commercial jingles imply, insurance companies are never “on your side” in vehicle collision cases. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.

A Buffalo, MN Car Accident Lawyer Examines the Five Types of Driving Impairment

Typically, vehicle collisions are not “accidents.” Certainly, there are times when a victim is in the wrong place at the wrong time. In a few other instances, drivers let down their guard for a moment, and tragedy ensues. But for the most part, people accidentally forget to adjust the thermostat. They do not accidentally drive drunk and smash into other vehicles. Indeed, according to the National Institutes of Health, impaired drivers cause about half the vehicle collisions in Wright County.

Few things turn lives upside-down faster than serious car crashes. Medical and other bills immediately begin mounting when the victim is not working. Meanwhile, the physical and emotional pain and suffering seem endless and ever worsening. Making matters worse, insurance company adjusters call constantly with settlement terms.

Buffalo, MN car accident lawyers take care of all these issues. They make sure victims get the medical attention they need. Lawyers also handle all negotiations with the insurance company.

Perhaps most importantly, a Buffalo, MN car accident lawyer can obtain substantial compensation in these cases. This compensation is usually higher if one of the five types of driving impairment caused the wreck.

Distraction

Inattentive driving is the newest addition to the NIH’s impairment list. Distracted driving is not just a physical matter. Like drugs, alcohol, and fatigue, distracted driving affects a tortfeasor’s (negligent driver’s) mind. Most people multitask their way through the day. But safe driving requires focus. Anything that affects that focus is dangerous.

Hands-free cellphones are a good example. Many people think these devices are not distracting at all. True, they are not physically distracting, because drivers keep both hands on the wheel. But hands-free devices are mentally distracting. Drivers think about their conversations, so they are not 100 percent focused on the road. Moreover, hands-free gadgets usually give people a false sense of security. As a result, they take more chances than they should.

In Minnesota, distracted driving could be negligence per se, which is a violation of a safety law, or ordinary negligence, which is a lack of care.

The Gopher State has a narrow cellphone ban. It applies to talking and texting. Therefore, if tortfeasors use their phones for such purposes and cause crashes, they may be responsible for damages as a matter of law.

But for the most part, Buffalo, MN car accident lawyers pursue ordinary negligence claims in this area. Using a hand-held cellphone for web surfing, game playing, picture taking, and any other activities probably constitute a lack of ordinary care. The same thing applies to hands-free cellphone use. If a lack of care substantially caused injury, the tortfeasor may be responsible for damages.

Medical Condition

Almost every driver in Wright County has a cellphone, and many drivers also suffer from serious chronic illnesses. These conditions include things like:

  • Diabetes,
  • Epilepsy,
  • Heart disease, and
  • Neurocardiogenic or vasovagal syncope (sudden fainting syndrome).

People with these conditions, and others like them, should not drive. However, many chose to do so anyway. In so doing, they intentionally put other people at risk.

Alcohol

Since this substance clouds judgment ability and impairs motor skills, alcohol causes about a third of the fatal traffic collisions in Buffalo. Additionally, this impairment begins with the first drink. So, many people feel like they can drive, yet they are dangerously unfit to safely operate heavy machinery.

In court, there are basically two ways victim/plaintiffs can establish alcohol impairment by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). These approaches are:

  • Direct Evidence: If the tortfeasor was arrested for DUI, the aforementioned negligence per se doctrine applies. The tortfeasor may be liable for damages as a matter of law, even if a Buffalo, MN car accident lawyer beats the DUI in criminal court.
  • Circumstantial Evidence: People are intoxicated after three or four drinks, but impaired after the first drink. So, in non-DUI claims, circumstantial evidence of impairment includes bloodshot eyes, odor of alcohol, and erratic driving.

Additionally, Minnesota has a very broad dram shop law. Victim/plaintiffs can use this circumstantial evidence to pin liability on the bar, restaurant, or other commercial provider which sold alcohol to the tortfeasor. It’s illegal in Minnesota to sell alcohol to individuals who are obviously intoxicated.

Fatigue

Drowsiness and alcohol affect the brain the same way. In fact, driving after eighteen hours without sleep is like driving with a .05 BAC level.

Fatigue and alcohol impairment have something else in common. There is no quick fix for either condition. Only time cures alcohol impairment, and only sleep cures fatigue. Quick fixes for both these conditions, like drinking coffee, usually either do not work at all or only work for a few minutes.

Drowsy driving is not illegal, so Buffalo, MN car accident lawyers always pursue ordinary negligence claims in this area.

Drugs

Pretty much any adult can purchase alcohol or stay up too late watching Netflix. Similarly, pretty much any adult has access to impairing drugs. These substances are not limited to street drugs, like heroin and cocaine. Many prescription painkillers are just as powerful, or even more powerful, than heroin. Some over-the-counter medicines, like Sominex, are not as strong, but still impairing.

The DUI law prevents “drugged” driving along with drunk driving, so the negligence per se doctrine may apply. In other cases, the aforementioned circumstantial evidence of impairment may be relevant. Other circumstantial evidence of drug impairment includes current prescriptions, open pill bottles in the vehicle, and the tortfeasor’s voluntary statements about drug use.

Reach Out to Assertive Attorneys

Impaired motorists often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN car accident lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Home and hospital visits are available.

Fleeing Motorist Kills Bystander

A local man faces murder charges after he fled from police and struck another vehicle. Can a Brainerd, MN accident lawyer help the victim’s family deal with this tragedy?

Shortly after 6 p.m., officers responded to a disturbance call in North Minneapolis. They came upon two drivers who may have been engaged in drug activity. Officers spoke with both motorists, but suddenly, 27-year-old Trevon Xavier Miguel McMorris, of Brooklyn Park, ran to his vehicle and fled the scene. Officers immediately gave chase. The pursuit ended not far away, when Mr. McMorris collided with 50-year-old Jose Angel Madrid Salcido’s vehicle. First responders rushed Mr. Salcido to a nearby hospital with serious injuries. He did not survive.

Officers booked Mr. McMorris into jail as they work up a murder case against him.

High-Speed Police Chase Statistics

Twenty-five years ago, the Department of Justice warned local law enforcement agencies to curtail the use of high-speed chases, particularly in non-violent cases. But it is still very common for police officers to recklessly pursue individuals, even if they are accused of very minor crimes.

On the record, officers will point out that most violent felons are apprehended after routine traffic stops for unrelated crimes. They will also point out that they cannot pick and choose which laws to enforce.

Off the record, the explanation is different. Many officers like the thrill of the high-speed chase. They simply cannot pass on the adrenaline rush. As a result, high-speed chases are at least tolerated, if not outright encouraged.

High-speed police chases kill hundreds of people each year. That figure far eclipses the number of fatal officer-involved shootings and also exceeds the number of tornado, hurricane, and other natural disaster victims. About a third of the high-speed chase victims are innocent bystanders, like the one in the above story.

Brainerd, MN Accident Lawyers and Your Claim for Damages

During these pursuits, police officers obviously have quite a bit of latitude. They need not obey the rules of the road when their emergency lights are flashing and their sirens are wailing. However, this immunity is not unlimited. Victims may have claims against the police department in the following situations:

  • Extreme Recklessness: Police officers have a very difficult job. Before they chase a suspect, they must consider things like the time of day and the area of town. It might be reasonable to chase a vehicle at high speeds if traffic is light and there are few people around. But a crowd may change this dynamic. Even though it’s hard to do so, police officers still have a duty to perform such an analysis.
  • Policy Violation: Many departments have permanent, written policies which prohibit high-speed chases. Unfortunately, even the most sternly-worded policy still gives officers considerable discretion. Alternatively, there might be an ad hoc policy, like a dispatcher’s “do not pursue” order.

Many police departments are already experimenting with James Bond-type devices, such as shootable GPS trackers, which may eliminate the need for high-speed chases.

Even if individual officers caused the wreck, the police department which employs them is legally responsible for damages. According to the respondeat superior rule, employers are liable for the negligent acts their employees commit during the course and scope of employment. Other employer liability theories include negligent hiring and negligent supervision.

Compensation Available

These third-party liability theories are especially important in wrongful death and other catastrophic injury claims. Many times, the individual tortfeasor (negligent driver) does not have enough insurance coverage to provide fair compensation to the victim/plaintiff.

Brainerd, MN accident lawyers can usually obtain compensation for tangible economic losses, such as medical bills and lost wages. In car crash claims, medical providers generally do not charge any upfront fees. They agree to wait until the case is resolved to get paid. Additionally, lost wages must consider not only time away from work, but also lost productivity while at work.

Additional compensation is usually available for noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment in life, and emotional distress. Generally, to calculate these damages, a Brainerd, MN accident lawyer multiplies the economic damages by two, three, or four. That value is a good starting point for pretrial settlement negotiations. These talks resolve most Crow Wing County car wreck claims.

Count on Hard-Hitting Attorneys

Officer-caused car crashes often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN accident lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. You have a limited amount of time to act.

Alcohol-Related Head-On Wreck Injures Two

A March 2019 Rockford crash illustrates the factual and legal issues that Buffalo auto accident lawyers deal with in vehicle collision claims.

According to police and witnesses, 46-year-old Thomas Wagner, of Hillman, was northbound on Highway 25 when he drifted into oncoming traffic. At that moment, he collided with 52-year-old Kent Bogren, of Hutchinson, who was southbound on the southbound side. First responders arrived on scene and airlifted Mr. Borgen to a nearby hospital with serious injuries.

Mr. Wagner, whom police say was intoxicated, was also transported to a nearby hospital with serious injuries, but he is expected to survive.

Fault v. Liability in Head-On Wrecks

Typically, insurance companies use the police accident report to determine fault. As far as the insurance company is concerned, the person at fault caused the crash. But this determination is only preliminary.

The police accident report is often inaccurate. Even experienced first responders are not accident reconstructionists, and they usually write these reports at least several hours after the crash. Furthermore, the police accident report is often incomplete. If the victim was killed or seriously injured, as is often the case, the police report probably only contains one side of the story.

So, if you were in an accident, always reach out to a Buffalo auto accident lawyer, even if both the emergency responder and insurance company claim you were at fault. A subsequent investigation may change things dramatically.

As mentioned, many first responders overlook evidence. For example, they usually only speak to witnesses who voluntarily come forward at the scene. There are usually other witnesses who, for whatever reason, did not give statements to police officers. These additional witness statements could affect the fault determination.

Furthermore, a legal doctrine, such as last clear chance, may apply. According to this rule, if one driver has a chance to avoid a crash but does not do so, that driver is legally responsible for the wreck. That opportunity might be slowing down or changing lanes.

Insurance company lawyers often try to use the last clear chance rule in head-on wrecks. But the doctrine usually does not apply. Typically, the wreck happened so fast that the victim did not have a reasonable chance to avoid it. That’s especially true if the tortfeasor (negligent driver) was impaired. There is no telling what these drivers might do, so it’s almost impossible to avoid them.

First Party Liability

Alcohol causes about a third of the fatal car crashes in Minnesota. In court, victims may use direct or circumstantial evidence to establish liability (legal responsibility) for damages.

If the tortfeasor was arrested for DUI, as is normally the case, the negligence per se doctrine may apply. This legal rule states that tortfeasors are liable for damages as a matter of law if:

  • They violate a safety law, like the DUI law, and
  • That violation substantially caused the victim/plaintiff’s damages.

Even if the tortfeasor was not convicted of DUI, the negligence per se shortcut may still apply. The Wright County civil jury determines all the facts in a civil case, including guilt or innocence in a DUI.

Most people are not legally intoxicated until they consume at least three drinks. But alcohol impairment begins with the first drink. So, even if there was not enough evidence to charge the tortfeasor with DUI, the negligent driver may have been dangerously impaired. Evidence of alcohol impairment includes:

  • Erratic driving,
  • Bloodshot eyes, and
  • Odor of alcohol.

If the tortfeasor’s alcohol impairment demonstrated a lack of ordinary care, and it almost always does, the tortfeasor may be liable for damages if the impairment substantially caused the car crash.

Buffalo Auto Accident Lawyers and Third Party Liability

Circumstantial evidence of impairment might also implicate the bar, grocery store, or other commercial provider which sold alcohol to the tortfeasor. Under Minnesota law, such providers may be liable for car crash damages if they illegally sold alcohol to a customer and that customer later caused a car crash. Examples of illegal sales include:

  • Underage,
  • After hours,
  • Suspended liquor license sales, and
  • Sales to persons who are intoxicated at the time of purchase.

Third party liability is often important in catastrophic injury claims. Minnesota has one of the lowest auto insurance minimum requirements in the country, so many tortfeasors do not have enough coverage to provide fair compensation. Vicarious liability gives these victims an additional source of recovery.

Connect with Tenacious Attorneys

Complex alcohol-involved crashes often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo auto accident lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these cases.

Who Can a Brainerd Injury Lawyer Hold Responsible for Truck Crash Damages?

In Minnesota, bus drivers, truck drivers, and other commercial operators are common carriers. Since they are professional drivers, these individuals have a very high duty of care. That higher duty is reflected in things like the different highway speed limits for large trucks and passenger vehicles.

Because of this higher duty of care, it is easier for a Brainerd truck accident lawyer to establish negligence, which is a lack of care. Certain technological and legal tools make this process even simpler. It is also easier for Brainerd injury lawyers to establish negligence per se, which is a violation of a traffic or other law.

The higher duty of care affects more than first party liability theories, like negligence and negligence per se. It also concerns some third party liability theories, which are discussed below.

Injuries in Large Vehicle Collision Claims

Third party liability is especially important in catastrophic injury cases. Many times, the injuries which truck accident victims sustain fall into this category. Minnesota has one of the lowest vehicle insurance minimums in the state. So, in many cases, the individual tortfeasor (negligent driver) may not have sufficient insurance coverage to pay fair compensation.

Large commercial trucks weight over 80,000 pounds. Many other large vehicles, such as tour buses, are almost equally massive. So, Brainerd injury lawyers often must obtain compensation for a number of serious injuries, including:

  • Head Injuries: Trauma, motion, and sudden loud noises cause most head injuries. Truck accidents involve all three. Victims usually sustain very serious trauma injuries in these cases. Additionally, upon impact, their necks often move in a sudden, whip cracking-like motion. That motion alone may be sufficient to cause a head injury. Finally, many victims and witnesses say the noise of a truck crash is like an explosion. Noises like these create shock waves which disrupt brain functions.
  • Blood Loss: Because of external and internal trauma injuries, many victims are practically in hypovolemic shock by the time emergency responders arrive on scene. Typically, if people lose more than about a fifth of their blood, it is very difficult to recover.
  • Serious Burns: Diesel fuel burns at a different temperature from gasoline. That’s why many large truck crashes are fireball collisions. That’s also why many truck accident victims sustain third or fourth-degree burns. These injuries always require specialized, and expensive, treatment at designated burn centers. Furthermore, even if the injuries heal, these victims must often deal with permanent disfiguring scars.

Brainerd injury lawyers can obtain significant compensation for these injuries, depending on the facts of the case and the extent of injury.

If the victim survives, damages usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Under Minnesota law, if the victim receives treatment at a hospital, the victim normally sustained a “serious” injury.

If the victim does not survive, a Brainerd injury lawyer may file a wrongful death claim. These claimants usually receive compensation for pecuniary losses, such as the decedent’s pain and suffering, lost future financial contributions, and lost future emotional contributions.

Employer Liability in Truck Accident Claims

Respondeat superior (let the master answer) is the most common employer liability theory in large vehicle collision claims. This legal doctrine basically has three elements:

  • Employee: In this context, an “employee” is not just someone who receives a regular paycheck. Independent contractors, owner-operators, and even unpaid volunteers may be employees for negligence purposes. The employer controls them to some extent, and that control is all that’s required.
  • Scope of Employment: In a similar vein, any act that benefits the employer in any way is within the scope of employment. That definition goes well beyond situations like delivery drivers. For example, Crow Wing County courts have held that employee softball games are within the scope of employment. Employers benefit from the free advertising.
  • Foreseeability: The victim/plaintiff’s injuries must be a foreseeable result of the tortfeasor’s conduct. For example, if a doctor makes a medical mistake during treatment, that’s not a foreseeable result of a vehicle collision claim.

Other employer liability theories, which often apply in intentional tort cases, include negligent hiring, negligent entrustment, and negligent supervision.

Brainerd Injury Lawyers and Owner Liability

Negligent entrustment normally applies if vehicle owners allow incompetent drivers to operate their vehicles, and these operators negligently injure other people. Commercial negligent entrustment cases, like people who rent a U-Haul moving truck, work a bit differently because of the Graves Amendment.

This federal law imposes legal obstacles to fair compensation. In commercial negligent entrustment cases, in addition to driver incompetence, the victim/plaintiff must also establish that the vehicle owner was:

  • Not in the trade or business of renting motor vehicles, and
  • Independently negligent.

Typically, tortfeasors rent U-Haul trucks from moving companies and not from vehicle rental companies, like Enterprise. Furthermore, if the owner or agent fails to verify that that driver’s license is valid, the owner or agent may have been negligent.

Rely on Experienced Attorneys

Truck crashes often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these cases.

 

 

The Three Types of Negligence in a Brainerd Car Accident Claim

Most car accidents are not “accidents” in the sense that they were unavoidable or inevitable. Human error, mostly driver error, accounts for over 90 percent of these incidents. When that driver error is also a lack of care, which is usually the case, the tortfeasor (negligent driver) may be legally responsible for damages.

These damages usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages may be available as well, in some cases. The amount and type of damages largely depends on the facts of the case and the skill of your Brainerd personal injury lawyer.

Many of the cases these attorneys handle involve one of the three types of negligence discussed below. The categories may sound academic, but understanding them helps a Brainerd personal injury lawyer obtain maximum compensation in a car wreck case.

Behavioral Negligence

Many drivers know they should not get behind the wheel, yet they do so anyway. In the process, they knowingly put other people at risk. Therefore, damages in behavioral negligence cases tend to be rather high.

Alcohol is a good example. Most people are not legally intoxicated until after they consume three or four drinks, but impairment begins with the first drink. So, alcohol is a factor in about a third of the fatal crashes in Minnesota. Alcohol impairs both reflexes and judgment ability. People need both these things to safely operate motor vehicles.

As in many other types of cases, Brainerd personal injury lawyers may use either direct or circumstantial evidence to establish alcohol impairment. If the tortfeasor was arrested for DUI, the tortfeasor may be responsible for damages as a matter of law. Circumstantial evidence of impairment includes things like erratic driving, bloodshot eyes, and an odor of alcohol.

Many other drivers make poor choices and therefore put other drivers at risk, thus failing to live up to the standard of care. Some other types of behavioral negligence include:

  • Fatigue: Drowsiness and alcohol have basically the same effect on the body and mind. Both slow reaction times and make it difficult or impossible to focus on a task.
  • Drugs: In some areas, there are more “drugged” drivers than “drunk” drivers. Most drug-impaired motorists ingested legal substances, such as prescription painkillers or some over-the-counter drugs. Even if it is legal to take these drugs, it’s illegal and dangerous to drive under the influence of certain drugs.
  • Medical Condition: Chronic illnesses like heart disease and epilepsy may cause drivers to lose consciousness suddenly and without warning. The resulting loss-of-control collisions often cause extremely serious injuries.

Punitive damages are available in behavioral and other types of negligence cases if there is clear and convincing evidence that the tortfeasor intentionally disregarded a known risk and/or behaved extremely recklessly.

Brainerd Personal Injury Lawyers and Operational Negligence

Some people are physically fit and capable of driving when they get on the road. But, they subsequently make poor choices. If these poor choices constitute a lack of ordinary care, the driver may be legally responsible for damages.

Distracted driving is the most common form of operational negligence. Every year, distracted drivers seriously injure over 390,000 people. Hand-held cellphones may be the main culprit. But studies show that hands-free devices may even be more dangerous. These gadgets still distract drivers by pulling their eyes off the road and taking their minds off driving. Additionally, hands-free devices may give people a false sense of security.

Simple deficiencies, such as failing to look both ways before pulling into traffic, are a serious problem as well. These TBFTL (turned but failed to look) crashes are especially a problem in places like Brainerd. Many people in Crow Wing County drive large SUVs or pickup trucks. These big vehicles inhibit driver vision.

Brainerd personal injury lawyers can suggest several legal options in these cases. People who use cellphones while driving may be liable for damages as a matter of law. In other cases, Brainerd personal injury lawyers can introduce circumstantial evidence and obtain compensation for victims.

Environmental Negligence

Some drivers do not technically break any traffic laws but they may still be liable for damages. They may fail to adjust for adverse conditions like:

  • Wet roads,
  • Darkness,
  • Sunrise/sunset glare, and
  • Fog.

In fact, when conditions are less than ideal, drivers arguably have an enhanced duty of care. They must slow down, use appropriate safety equipment, and have a special degree of driving skill.

The type of driver may also affect the type of environmental or other negligence. Uber drivers, taxi drivers, and other commercial operators are common carriers in Minnesota. These individuals have a special legal responsibility, especially with regard to the safety of passengers in their vehicles.

Connect with Tenacious Attorneys

Negligent drivers often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd personal injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Crow Wing County and nearby jurisdictions.

The Five Elements of a MN Distracted Driving Claim

Increased distracted driving is almost directly related to increased smartphone use and capability. It’s amazing how much these gadgets have advanced since the first iPhone came out in 2007. To keep up with these changes, Minnesota has one of the broadest device distraction laws in the county. MS 169.475 prohibits sending or viewing any text-based message, or accessing the internet in any way, while the vehicle is part of traffic. The law even applies if the driver is stopped at a red light.

Nevertheless, there are some significant gaps. As broad as it is, Minnesota’s device distraction law does not apply to some common activities, such as:

  • Using an app,
  • Recording audio,
  • Taking a selfie,
  • Recording video, or
  • Playing a game.

Sometimes, these activities may constitute reckless driving. MS 169.13 applies if the driver’s behavior “constitutes a significant deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe in the situation.” But officers usually only write reckless driving citations if the driver violated several traffic laws at about the same time (e.g. changing lanes illegally while speeding).

So, in most device distraction cases, Brainerd car accident lawyers must rely on a traditional five-point negligence case. The victim/plaintiff must establish each element by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).

Duty

Most drivers have a duty of reasonable care. This legal obligation means drivers must obey the rules of the road and, as my grandfather said, watch out for th’ other fella.

A case from the 1930s, Donoghue v. Stevenson, laid the foundation for this concept. In Donoghue, a woman sued a beer bottler after the found a dead snail in her beer bottle. The court held that a person “must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably foresee would be likely to injure your neighbor.” According to the court, neighbors were “persons who are so closely and directly affected by my act that I ought reasonably to have them in contemplation as being so affected when I am directing my mind to the acts or omissions which are called in question.” The so-called neighbor principle evolved into the duty of care.

Uber drivers, taxi drivers, and other commercial drivers have a higher duty of care. Essentially, these drivers must do whatever it takes to avoid accidents. For example, a non-commercial driver must slow down in the rain. But a Brainerd car accident lawyer can argue that a commercial driver has a duty to pull over in a heavy rainstorm.

Breach

A Crow Wing County judge usually determines duty. It is a legal question. But a jury usually determines breach. The violation of that duty is a fact question.

Let’s return to the list of device distractions which the law does not cover. Most people would consider something like snapping a selfie on the highway to be a breach of the duty of reasonable care. But if the driver’s phone went off and the driver swiped the “ignore call” icon, most people would not consider that action to be a breach of duty, even though the act technically constitutes device distraction.

Brainerd Car Accident Lawyers and Cause

To win a distracted driving negligence case in Minnesota, driver inattention must be the underlying cause of the vehicle collision.

Assume Tim was so into PUBG Mobile that he ran a stop sign and collided with Carlos. Running the stop sign was the direct cause, but device distraction was the underlying cause. And, since it’s technically legal to play PUBG Mobile, or any other game, while driving, Carlos’ Brainerd car accident lawyer would also have to establish all the other prongs of a negligence case.

Proximate Cause

Proximate cause is a legal term which basically means foreseeability. Benjamin Frankin was a smart guy, but he was clearly not an attorney. He had an extremely broad view of foreseeability, as evidenced by this poem which he wrote.

As far as Brainerd car accident lawyers are concerned, foreseeability has a rather narrow meaning. Assume that when Carlos went to the hospital after a crash, the doctor made a medical mistake. Even though Carlos would not have gone under the knife if Tim had not hit him, Tim is not legally responsible for that injury. A medical mistake is not a foreseeable consequence of a car crash.

In that situation, Carlos might have a separate negligence claim against the doctor.

Damages

Generally, the victim must suffer a physical injury to have a claim for damages. That physical injury could be either property damage or personal injury. Obviously, the greater the damage, the more compensation a Brainerd car accident lawyer is able to recover.

In some cases, victims may be able to pursue negligent infliction of emotional distress claims if they suffered no physical injury. But these situations are limited.

Rely on Experienced Attorneys

Device distraction crash victims may be entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd car accident lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle cases in Crow Wing County and nearby jurisdictions.

Can Brainerd Personal Injury Lawyers Make Car Crash Defenses Fun?

There is nothing “fun” about a serious car crash. Just a few seconds alter the victim’s life forever, causing tremendous pain and suffering in the process. However, constant hand-wringing and depression over your physical and financial condition helps no one. Sometimes, a little distraction is very good medicine.

Normally, words like “Brainerd personal injury lawyers” and “fun” go together about as well as res ipsa loquitur and Six Flags. Hopefully, this post will be an exception. Along the way, this post may also offer some additional insight into some very complex legal issues.

Assumption of the Risk

This insurance company defense is quite common in premises liability cases, such as slip-and-fall injuries, swimming pool drownings, and dog bites. The doctrine also sometimes comes up in drug overdose cases. These incidents are the leading cause of injury-related death in the United States.

Loyal SpongeBob SquarePants viewers might remember that this scene from Patrick SmartPants came about after a friendly game of tag went off the rails. The scene also illustrates both prongs of the assumption of the risk defense, which are:

  • Voluntary Assumption: No one forced or cajoled Patrick into running off a cliff. It was not a very smart thing to do, but it was entirely a voluntary act.
  • Known Risk: Patrick clearly did not understand the “Danger Cliff” sign. He spent several strides deciphering the two-syllable word “danger,” and he still didn’t get it quite right. Since he did not understand the sign, falling off the cliff was not a known risk.

This same issue arises when landowners post signs like “No Lifeguard on Duty” or “Beware of Dog.” Victims with limited English team up, limited reading skills, or (like Patrick) just plain limited intelligence, may be unable to read and understand such signs.

Written waivers are much the same. Assume Tim pays for a skydiving class, but the company insists that he sign a liability waiver. He jumps out of the plane, his chute does not open, and, well, you can probably figure out the rest.

At first blush, the assumption of the risk defense seems clear-cut. But Tim paid for the lesson before the company forced him to sign the waiver. If anybody pays for anything and the other party refuses to provide the good or service, that’s theft. Additionally, waivers are usually not “voluntary.” Instead, they are generally take-it-or-leave-it contracts of adhesion, and these pacts are involuntary.

Brainerd Personal Injury Lawyers and the Sudden Emergency Defense

The Chris Farley/David Spade team-up is the live action equivalent of Patrick and SpongeBob (a fat guy and a skinny guy). Farley and Spade made several movies together, and many think that Tommy Boy was the best of the bunch.

As Tommy and Richard continue their noble quest to sell brake pads, the car hood suddenly flies up. The incident illustrates both prongs of the sudden emergency defense, which are:

  • Unexpected Situation: A hood fly-up is like a lighning strike or a tire tread separation. No driver could possibly anticipate these things. Other hazards, like jaywalking pedestrians or large potholes, are not “sudden emergencies.” Drivers should be ready for these things.
  • Reasonable Reaction: When a sudden emergency strikes, reasonable drivers pull over to the side of the road. But Tommy drove recklessly and even crossed the centerline. So, even though the hood fly-up was an unexpected situation, sudden emergency would not apply in this case.

BRainerd personal injury lawyers see the sudden emergency defense a lot in vehicle-on-pedestrian and vehicle-on-motorcycle crashes. The tortfeasors (negligent drivers) in these cases usually say things like “the guy darted out into traffic” or “that motorcycle rider came out of nowhere.”

Farley and Spade only made three movies together, because Chris Farley passed away in 1998.

Last Clear Chance

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is another bittersweet comedy. Actor John Candy (Dell Griffith) is dead, as is writer/director John Hughes.

Insurance companies often use the last clear chance defense in head-on and rear-end collision claims. Legally, if a driver has a chance to prevent a crash, perhaps by changing lanes, the driver help do so. Drivers who fail to avoid avoidable crashes are legally responsible for damages.

Wrong-way driver Dell Griffith certainly appears to be at fault. But notice that the road was straight and level. Moreover, the approaching semi-trucks honked, so they clearly saw Dell coming. Therefore, upon further review, the truck drivers may be legally responsible for this crash.

Even though they were not physically injured, Dell and Neal Page (Steve Martin) may have a claim for damages under Minnesota’s watered down negligent infliction of emotional distress doctrine. But that’s the subject of another Brainerd personal injury lawyer blog.

Reach Out to Savvy Attorneys

A good lawyer knows why things work on a starship, and not just how they work. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd personal injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no insurance or money.

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