Vehicle Collision Defenses and Brainerd, MN Accident Lawyers

The average car wreck causes about $20,000 in economic losses, such as property damage, medical bills, and lost wages. Depending on the facts of the case, compensation for noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering, might be two or three times the amount of economic losses. Therefore, in any given vehicle collision case, there is a substantial amount of money at stake.

Despite what TV commercials might imply, the insurance company is not “on your side” if you are a car crash victim. Instead, many companies look for legal loopholes that might reduce or deny compensation. Keep reading to find out more about some of these loopholes.

A Brainerd, MN accident lawyer, on the other hand, is definitely on your side. Lawyers collect evidence which supports compensation claims and then effectively present that evidence in court or at the bargaining table. As a result, victims obtain the financial resources they need to put their shattered lives back together.

The Seatbelt Defense

Like every other state except New Hampshire, Minnesota has a mandatory seatbelt law. In fact, the Gopher State’s seatbelt law is broader than most. All occupants, whether they are in the front or back seat and whether they are adults or children, must wear seatbelts. And, small children must be in age-appropriate car seats.

In many states, if victims do not wear seatbelts, insurance companies can at least reduce the amount of compensation they receive. Furthermore, many jurors refuse to award damages in these cases. Many jurors feel that, if unrestrained people are injured in car crashes, it’s their own fault.

However, in Minnesota, the so-called seatbelt defense is nonexistent. Evidence of seatbelt non-use is flatly inadmissible in civil court. Brainerd, MN accident lawyers must be vigilant in this area. Insurance defense lawyers often try to suggest that maybe the victim was not wearing a seatbelt. Such implications are illegal in Minnesota.

Brainerd, MN Accident Lawyers and Contributory Negligence

Thanks to Section 169.685, many insurance company lawyers do not even try to talk about seatbelt non-use. The penalties for violating this law are too great.

Contributory negligence is on the other end of the spectrum. Comparative fault is perhaps the most common insurance company defense in Minnesota car wreck claims. This doctrine shifts blame for the accident from the tortfeasor (negligent driver) onto the victim.

Assume Driver made a rolling right turn at a red light. Since she was looking to the left watching for oncoming traffic, she did not see Pedestrian, who was crossing the street outside the crosswalk. Technically, both parties are partially at fault. Driver failed to obey a traffic signal, and Pedestrian was jaywalking.

In these situations, the Crow Wing County jury must listen to the evidence and divide fault between the victim and tortfeasor on a percentage basis.

The percentage division is important, because contributory negligence laws differ slightly in different states. Minnesota is a modified comparative fault state with a 51 percent bar. So, even if Driver was at least 51 percent responsible for the wreck, Driver is liable for a proportionate share of damages.

Insurance companies bear the burden of proof and the burden of persuasion in comparative fault cases. First, lawyers must convince the judge that the victim’s fault substantially contributed to the accident. Then, they must convince jurors of the same thing. Each time, a Brainerd, MN accident lawyer can challenge the insurance company’s evidence.

Sudden Emergency/Last Clear Chance

At worst, contributory negligence usually reduces the amount of compensation the victim receives. Sudden emergency and its legal cousin eliminate compensation altogether.

The sudden emergency defense often comes up in pedestrian claims. Frequently, insurance company lawyers argue the victim “darted out into traffic” and so a collision was inevitable. Legally, this defense applies if the tortfeasor reasonably reacted to a sudden emergency.

“Sudden emergency” has a limited meaning in this context. The label only applies to unexpected situations, like a lightning strike. Everyday events, such as careless pedestrians, are not sudden emergencies.

Last clear chance often arises in rear-end or head-on crash claims. Assume Sam crossed the center line and Brenda did not swerve or do anything else to avoid the crash. Brenda could be legally responsible for the wreck, even though Sam drove recklessly.

There’s a big difference between the last clear chance and any possible chance. Frequently, because of traffic or other conditions, sudden emergency maneuvers might cause a more serious wreck than the one they avoid.

Contact a Dedicated Attorney

Insurance companies often cite legal loopholes to avoid paying fair compensation to accident victims. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN accident lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in injury claims.

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.

If you were recently involved in a car accident due to one of the following offenses, you need to call a Buffalo car accident lawyer ASAP.

Consequences of Speeding in Buffalo and Minnesota

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 in Minnesota

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.

Failure to Yield to Pedestrians in Buffalo, MN

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 in MN

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.

What’s At Risk With These Common Traffic Tickets?

We’ve already mentioned how Minnesota courts often determine car accident fault based on traffic citations issued on the scene. But being at fault for the accident, injuries to the other driver, and property damage aren’t the only consequences the other driver has to worry about.

When someone receives a traffic ticket in Buffalo, MN, they’ll also have to pay a fine. The exact fines for traffic tickets vary by county and by violation.

Speeding Ticket Fines in Buffalo, MN

The fines for Minnesota speeding tickets vary based on how many miles per hour the driver was going over the speed limit. Fines break down as the following:

  • 1–10 mph over the speed limit: $125 fine
  • 11–14 mph over the speed limit: $135 fine
  • 15–19 mph over the speed limit: $145 fine
  • 20–25 mph over the speed limit: $225 fine
  • 26–30 mph over the speed limit: $285 fine

If a law enforcement officer catches a driver going 31 mph or more over the speed limit, the fine increases to $385.

Failure to Signal/Illegal Lane Change Fines

Failure to signal and illegal lane change (i.e., “improper lane use” in Minnesota) are separate crimes. As such, they can incur two different fines.

Failing to signal while driving can incur a $125 fine. Meanwhile, improper lane use, which might include failure to signal, incurs a higher penalty. Offenders have to pay $135 for this type of traffic violation.

Crossing the Median Fines

The Minnesota Statutes don’t have a specific traffic fine for crossing the median. This violation is typically charged under another type of driving offense. The discretion is largely left up to the charging officer.

For example, an officer could charge someone with inattentive driving, which caused that driver to cross into the median. This type of traffic violation comes with a $125 fine.

Another way to charge drivers with crossing the median is with a “failure to obey traffic control devices” citation. After all, median lines are tools for traffic control. Receiving a charge for this violation typically incurs a $135 fine.

Failure to Yield to Pedestrians Fines in Minnesota

The fines for failure to yield right of way and failure to yield to pedestrians are a world apart. The former incurs a mere $135 fine. But failing to yield to pedestrians is a much more severe crime in Minnesota.

The first time someone fails to yield to pedestrians in Minnesota, he or she will receive a misdemeanor. Conviction penalties include up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $700.

A second or more violation becomes a gross misdemeanor. Traffic violators convicted of subsequent failure to yield to pedestrian citations must pay up to $3000 in fines, spend up to one year in prison, or both.

School Bus Stop Arm Violation Fines

The House Transportation Finance and Policy Committee recently approved HF2172, which intends to change how law enforcement charges school bus stop arm violations in Minnesota.

Currently, drivers who fail to stop behind school busses can incur a misdemeanor. If convicted, the driver faces a $500 fine.

Unfortunately, officers can’t always identify the driver in these situations. When that happens, they will cite the violation to the owner of the vehicle. Today, the fine for vehicle owners is $100.

HF2172 seeks to increase the fine to the vehicle owner. The auto owner would be faced with a misdemeanor and an increased $300 fine.

Minnesota intends to apply the majority of funds received through these fines to equip school busses with cameras. That way, officers can more easily catch and charge the actual school bus stop arm violation offenders.

Do You Need a Buffalo Car Accident Lawyer in Minnesota?

If you were injured in a car accident caused by one of the above traffic violations, you need to call a Buffalo personal injury lawyer ASAP.

Your attorney can help you understand how much to expect from a car accident settlement, whether you want to file suit against your insurance company or the other driver.

Insurance companies love to low-ball their settlement offers. But a seasoned Buffalo car accident attorney knows how to fight for the damages you deserve. Your lawyer can help you negotiate a better settlement or, when that doesn’t work, fight for your rights in court.

In Minnesota, insurance companies are only required to pay up to $20,000 of medical care for a car wreck injury. This is called personal injury protection (PIP). But, if that doesn’t suffice to cover your medical expenses, your attorney can file a lawsuit against the negligent driver and recover damages.

Reaching Out to Personal Injury Lawyers in Buffalo, Minnesota

Some of the top reasons for Minnesota traffic citations include speeding, failing to signal, crossing the median, failure to yield to pedestrians, and school bus stop arm violations. Receiving one of these tickets incurs fines and, sometimes, jail time, especially if the offense caused a wreck.

Were you recently injured in a car accident caused by another driver’s negligence? Then you need to hire a Buffalo car accident lawyer. 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.

 

Ask a Personal Injury Lawyer in Hutchinson, MN: How Much Can Someone Sue for a Car Accident?

The average injury-related hospital bill often exceeds $100,000. This figure does not include indirect medical expenses, such as medical devices and prescription drugs. It also does not include noneconomic losses. Depending on the facts of a case, fair compensation for things like pain and suffering could be two or three times the economic losses.

A car crash claim is about more than money. The claim is also about justice. We all make mistakes while driving. And, we are all accountable for the mistakes that we make. That accountability includes liability for damages, if any.

Personal injury lawyers in Hutchinson, MN are committed to maximum compensation for victims, in terms of both money and justice. On the other hand, insurance company lawyers are committed to minimum compensation for victims, in both these areas. In most cases, the amount someone can sue for a car accident depends on several basic variables.

Evidence in Vehicle Collision Claims

The victim/plaintiff must establish liability by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). Although that’s the lowest burden of proof in Minnesota law, evidence collection is still the foundation of all successful car crash claims.

Basic vehicle collision evidence usually includes the police accident report and medical bills. Knowledgable personal injury lawyers in Hutchinson, MN can easily overcome privacy and other restrictions to obtain this evidence. These same privacy laws also apply to electronic evidence, as outlined below.

If liability is clear and the insurance company has no legal defenses, this basic evidence is usually sufficient. However, such cases are few and far between. Additionally, the more evidence a victim/plaintiff assembles, the more settlement value increases.

Frequently, personal injury lawyers in Hutchinson, MN use electronic evidence to bolster the proof in car wreck claims. Some forms of electronic evidence include:

  • Event Data Recorder: Much like black box flight data recorders, EDRs measure and store operational information such as vehicle speed, steering angle, and brake application. Data such as this is often critical in car crash claims, especially when it comes to refuting insurance company defenses.
  • Cell Phone Data: Text message history, call logs, browsing history, and other such information could be critical in distracted driving claims. Cell phone location history could be important as well. For example, such data could establish that the tortfeasor (negligent driver) had been drinking recently.
  • Electronic Logging Device: Many commercial vehicles have ELDs. Since these gadgets keep track of service hours, they are often critical in drowsy driving cases.

As mentioned, Minnesota has very strong privacy laws, especially with regard to vehicle information. So, personal injury lawyers in Hutchinson, MN must normally obtain court orders to access EDRs, cell phone data, and other such information.

Obtaining electronic evidence is only part of the picture. Attorneys must also know how to effectively present this information in court. On a related note, special evidentiary rules often apply to electronic evidence, in terms of things like authentication and verification.

Personal Injury Lawyers in Hutchinson, MN and Legal Theories

Car crash evidence is like the pieces of a large jigsaw puzzle. Attorneys must put the pieces together. Personal injury lawyers in Hutchinson, MN often partner with accident reconstruction professionals to help ensure maximum compensation.

Some claims, such as the aforementioned drowsy driving and distracted driving claims, rely on the ordinary negligence theory. Minnesota law forbids device distraction and fatigued driving, but these laws only apply in limited situations.

Ordinary negligence is basically a lack of care. Generally, drivers have a duty of reasonable care. They must avoid accidents when possible and obey the rules of the road. Commercial drivers, such as Uber drivers, might have a higher duty of care.

Roughly half of all the fatal car crashes in McLeod County involve drug use, excessive speed, and/or alcohol use. These driving behaviors are illegal under almost any circumstances. So, the negligence per se shortcut usually applies. Tortfeasors are usually liable for damages as a matter of law if:

  • They violate a safety law, and
  • That infraction substantially causes injury.

Frequently, the tortfeasor is not the only party who is responsible for damages. For example, Minnesota has one of the broadest dram shop laws in the country. Bars, grocery stores, restaurants, and other commercial providers might be vicariously liable for car crash damages.

The Contributory Negligence Defense

Comparative fault is probably the most common insurance company defense in car wreck claims. This legal loophole shifts blame for the accident from the tortfeasor to the victim.

Assume Vicky Victim was traveling 50mph in a 45mph zone when Timmy Tortfeasor illegally moved into her lane. A McLeod County jury must consider the evidence and divide responsibility on a percentage basis. Since Minnesota is a modified comparative fault state with a 51 percent bar, Timmy must be at least 51 percent responsible for Vicky to recover a proportionate share of damages.

To blunt the contributory negligence defense, Vicky’s personal injury lawyer in Hutchinson, MN could argue that although she was technically speeding, Vicky was not traveling fast enough to cause the crash.

Contact Aggressive Attorneys

Substantial compensation might be available in car crash claims. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Hutchinson, MN, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We have several offices throughout the Gopher State.

How do Buffalo, MN Personal Injury Lawyers Get the Most Money from a Car Accident?

Every year, car crashes kill or seriously injure millions of Americans. Even seemingly simple matters, like intersection or freeway collisions, are often complex. For example, the driver who got the ticket is not always the driver that is responsible for damages. Legal doctrines like contributory negligence and sudden emergency often come into play here.

Furthermore, the tortfeasor (negligent driver) is often not the only party that is responsible for damages. If the tortfeasor was a commercial operator, like an Uber driver, the company might be liable for damages, even if there was no paying passenger in the car at the time. Additionally, Minnesota has a broader-than-normal dram shop law. Commercial providers, like bars and restaurants, are often vicariously liable for alcohol-related crash damages.

Because of all these complexities, the process is key for Buffalo, MN personal injury lawyers. Attorneys who pay attention to details, as well as the big picture, usually get the most money from a car accident.

Collect Evidence

There is usually a direct relationship between the amount of evidence a victim/plaintiff presents and the amount of damages a jury awards. Insurance companies know this, so the same rule applies in pretrial settlement negotiations. Therefore, evidence is critical for Buffalo, MN personal injury lawyers.

Often, the trifecta of medical bills, the police accident report, and the victim/plaintiff’s own testimony is sufficient. But in many cases, that’s not true.

The victim/plaintiff’s testimony is a good example. Something almost mystical happens when victims take the stand and tell their own stories in their own words. But such testimony is not always available. That’s obviously the case in most wrongful death claims. Additionally, many Buffalo, MN personal injury lawyers do not want to expose victims to withering cross-examinations from insurance company lawyers.

So, additional evidence is often necessary. Such evidence can come from many sources, such as a vehicle’s Event Data Recorder. These gadgets are basically like the black box flight data recorders on commercial jets. Exact capacity varies by make and model, but generally, EDRs measure and record information like:

  • Brake application,
  • Vehicle speed,
  • Engine RPM, and
  • Steering angle.

Numbers like these are critical in many collision claims. Additionally, unlike eyewitnesses, computers are never biased and never wrong, assuming the devices are working properly.

Apply the Proper Theory

Diligent evidence collection usually produces very good results. In fact, some Buffalo, MN personal injury lawyers collect so much evidence that there is an embarrassment of riches. There is so much proof that jurors cannot sort it out.

Car crash evidence is basically like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. A Buffalo, MN personal injury lawyer must put the pieces together and form a picture for the jury. In extremely complex cases, such as truck wrecks, many attorneys partner with accident reconstructionists during this phase.

The proper legal theory is a bit like the picture on a jigsaw puzzle box. The theory guides the assembly process. Some common theories in car crash cases include:

  • Ordinary Negligence: Basically, negligence is a lack of care. Drowsy driving and distracted driving are both good examples of negligence. If the tortfeasor’s conduct fell below the standard of care, the tortfeasor is liable for damages.
  • Negligence Per Se: In many cases, Minnesota law establishes the standard of care. Tortfeasors who violate a safety law, even something like speeding or making an unsafe lane change, might be responsible for damages as a matter of law.
  • Defective Product: These claims do not involve negligence at all. Manufacturers are strictly liable if their defective products, such as tires, airbags, or ignition switches, cause injury. Substantial damages are often available in these situations. Frequently, manufacturers intentionally put people at risk to increase their own profits.

Damages in a car crash claim usually 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 some extreme cases.

Buffalo, MN Personal Injury Lawyers and Diligent Advocacy

Collecting evidence collection and applying theory is like doing homework. If students do their homework, they usually do well on their tests. However, they still need to concentrate on the tests and bring all their skills to bear if they want good grades. Buffalo, MN personal injury lawyers must do the same thing.

In this context, the test usually comes at the negotiating table. Almost all personal injury claims settle out of court. So, an attorney must be a good negotiator. That means having a thorough knowledge of your own case, your client’s needs and preferences, and any insurance company defenses. Keeping these three things in mind ensures that an attorney negotiates from a position of strength.

A few cases go all the way to trial, where a Buffalo, MN personal injury lawyer must establish liability by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).

Rely on Experienced Attorneys

Getting the most money from a car accident is usually a matter of planning your work and working your plan. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN personal injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.

Ask a Hutchinson, MN Auto Accident Lawyer: How Much Money Do You Get from a Car Accident Settlement?

Many car crashes cause extremely serious injuries. The medical bills alone in a severe injury case, such as a head injury, regularly exceed $100,000.

Despite what television commercials imply, insurance company representatives do not have a victim’s best interests in mind. Instead, the insurance company is primarily concerned with its own profits. That means collecting as many premiums as possible and paying as little compensation as possible.

A Hutchinson, MN auto accident lawyer, on the other hand, is committed to maximum compensation for victims. Generally, the settlement includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. The actual amount of a settlement varies significantly, usually depending on the factors listed below.

Legal Theory

In general, the legal basis of a car wreck case is a lack of ordinary care. This point is rather straightforward. However, the standard of care, as well as the tortfeasor’s (negligent driver’s) neglect, or lack thereof, is very subjective. Some common theories in car crash cases include:

  • Duty of Care: This idea is based on the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you) which Minnesota schoolchildren once memorized. In this context, this duty includes things like driving while sober and well-rested, as well as driving defensively.
  • Contributory Negligence: Many car crashes do not have singular causes. For example, the victim might have been speeding when the tortfeasor (negligent driver) made an illegal turn. In these situations, McLeod County jurors must divide fault between the two parties on a percentage basis.
  • Negligence Per Se: Sometimes, Minnesota law sets the standard of care. Examples include things like driving on the right side of the road and traveling under the speed limit. So, if tortfeasors violate such laws, they might be responsible for damages as a matter of law.

Vicarious liability often comes into play as well. Minnesota’s dram shop law is a good illustration. If commercial providers, like bars or grocery stores, sell alcohol illegally and that patron causes a car crash, the provider might be financially responsible for damages. Examples of an illegal sale include sales to underage patrons, after-hours transactions, and sales to obviously intoxicated persons.

Hutchinson, MN Auto Accident Lawyers and Evidence in Car Wreck Claims

The victim/plaintiff must establish negligence by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). Since this rule is the lowest standard of proof in Minnesota, a little evidence goes a long way. However, there is often a direct relationship between the amount of evidence a Hutchinson, MN auto accident lawyer presents and the amount of damages a McLeod County jury awards.

The Iron Triangle of medical bills, the victim/plaintiff’s own testimony, and the police accident report are often the only evidence in a car crash claim. But that’s not always true. For example, if the victim was killed, the victim/plaintiff’s testimony is obviously unavailable. Furthermore, since it contains only one side of the story, the police accident report might be incomplete and inaccurate.

Therefore, evidence might be a problem. Many times, a vehicle’s Event Data Recorder is the solution. Capability varies by make and model, but most of these gadgets measure and record things like:

  • Vehicle speed,
  • Steering angle,
  • Engine RPM, and
  • Brake application.

Items like these could be crucial to a Hutchinson, MN auto accident lawyer. As a bonus, if the gadget was working properly, it’s almost impossible for insurance company lawyers to successfully challenge this evidence. Unlike eyewitnesses, computers are never biased and never mistaken.

To effectively use EDR evidence, a Hutchinson, MN auto accident lawyer must overcome some obstacles. For example, Minnesota has very strict vehicle data privacy laws. Therefore, attorneys usually must obtain court orders before they can access and download EDR information.

Resolving the Case

The amount of a settlement, as well as the timing of a settlement, also depends on a Hutchinson, MN auto accident lawyer’s ability to resolve the case. There are several qualities to look for in an attorney, such as:

  • Experience: Like other professionals, attorneys learn many things not from law school, but from the school of hard knocks. There is a close relationship between years of experience and overall ability. Your injury claim is much too important to trust to someone who requires on-the-job training.
  • Track Record: Experience only tells part of the story. Many Hutchinson, MN auto accident lawyers spend years in the business and only try a handful of cases. Insurance companies are only scared of attorneys with substantial trial experience and successful track records.
  • Bedside Manner: Some lawyers are not bilingual. They speak Legalese fluently, but are not very proficient in English. Your Hutchinson, MN auto accident lawyer should relate complex legal problems in simple terms, so you can make the best possible decisions.

The bottom line is that if the legal theory is sound, the evidence is compelling, and the Hutchinson, MN auto accident lawyer is well qualified, the settlement should be on the best terms available under the circumstances.

Contact an Assertive Attorney

Car crash victims need and deserve substantial compensation for their serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN auto accident lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in McLeod County and nearby jurisdictions.

How Do Hutchinson, MN Lawyers Handle Car Crash Defenses?

Every year, vehicle collisions injure about three million Americans. A few of these accidents are “fender benders” which do not cause serious injury. Minnesota’s no-fault insurance law applies to such incidents. As a rule of thumb, if your car was drivable after the collision, you probably did not sustain a serious injury under the law.

In most cases, however, the victim sustains a “serious” injury. That means a Hutchinson, MN lawyer may be able to obtain substantial compensation. That compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

While Hutchinson, MN lawyers are committed to maximum compensation for victims, insurance company lawyers do whatever they can to minimize compensation for victims. Frequently, these efforts involve one of the legal defenses discussed below.

Contributory Negligence

Comparative fault is probably the most common car crash defense, mostly because serious injury accidents rarely have only one cause. In a nutshell, contributory negligence shifts blame for the wreck from the tortfeasor (negligent driver) to the victim. The possibilities are almost endless. Perhaps the victim was speeding and the tortfeasor made an illegal lane change, or perhaps the victim was using a cell phone and the tortfeasor was drunk.

Specific laws vary by state. Minnesota, like most other jurisdictions, is a modified comparative fault state with a 51 percent threshold. So, if the victim is no more than 49 percent responsible for the crash, a Hutchinson, MN lawyer can still win a proportionate share of damages. Nearby Missouri, however, is a pure comparative fault state. Theoretically, a victim could be 99 percent responsible for the crash, and the tortfeasor would still be liable for a proportionate share of damages.

Hutchinson, MN lawyers have essentially two chances to blunt the contributory negligence defense. First, the insurance company must convince the judge that the victim’s negligence contributed to the crash. If the victim was only traveling three or four mph over the limit, that excessive speed probably did not contribute to the crash in any meaningful way.

Second, the insurance company must convince jurors of the same thing. At this point, the percentage division comes into play. Based on the evidence, the jury must divide fault for the crash 50-50, 60-40, or whatever. The lower the victim’s share of fault, the more compensation the victim receives.

Lack of Evidence

At the other end of the frequency spectrum, this defense is quite rare. The burden of proof in civil court is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). That’s the lowest standard of proof in Minnesota law.

So, as long as a Hutchinson, MN lawyer is prepared, there should be sufficient evidence on all points. Authentication is sometimes an issue. For example, if a victim’s evidence includes medical bills, these statements must include affidavits and other authenticating evidence. If this evidence is not present or in the wrong form, a McLeod County judge might exclude it.

Hutchinson, MN Lawyers and the Sudden Emergency Defense

The first two defenses are generally available in most vehicle collision cases. These last two defenses, however, are niche defenses which are only available in certain situations.

Insurance company lawyers often roll out the sudden emergency defense in pedestrian accident claims. Court documents in these cases often say something like since the victim “darted out into traffic” the tortfeasor could not avoid the wreck. This line of thought sets up the sudden emergency defense, which has two elements:

  • Reasonable reaction to
  • A sudden emergency.

This clip from 1995’s Tommy Boy illustrates both elements of the sudden emergency defense. The hood fly-up is a sudden emergency, because it is a completely unexpected development. The same thing goes for a lightning strike. But jaywalking pedestrians are more like stalled cars or large potholes. Drivers should anticipate these everyday hazards, so they are not “sudden emergencies” in this context.

Although he faced a sudden emergency, Tommy would not be able to use the defense in court. He did not react reasonably, by pulling over to the right. Instead, he drove recklessly and even crossed the centerline. But hey, that’s why they call it a comedy.

Last Clear Chance

Hutchinson, MN lawyers often deal with this defense in head-on and rear-end wrecks. To examine this defense, let’s stay with the Tommy Boy clip. Assume Tommy collided with that semi-truck after he crossed the centerline. If first responders arrived, they would almost certainly give Tommy a ticket.

But Tommy might not be legally responsible for damages, because of the last clear chance defense. If the truck driver had a reasonable chance to avoid the crash, perhaps by changing lanes, the truck driver might be legally responsible. Basically, even though Tommy drove recklessly, the truck driver still had a duty of care. S/he could not simply sit back, let the wreck happen, and blame Tommy.

The lesson here is that, even if first responders said you were at fault, always have a Hutchinson, MN lawyer evaluate your case. You may still be entitled to the compensation you need and deserve.

Contact a Diligent Attorney

If an attorney is not ready to handle car crash defenses, a promising claim could end in disappointment. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson, MN lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no money or insurance.

Brainerd, MN Accident Lawyers and Third Party Liability

In catastrophic injury situations, such as spine injuries, the medical bills alone may exceed $1 million. Most families do not have the financial resources to cope with expenses like these. Furthermore, many health insurance companies refuse to pay injury-related costs, for liability reasons. Finally, many tortfeasors (negligent drivers) have less than $50,000 in personal injury coverage.

Attorneys can connect these victims with doctors, so they get the medical help they need when they need it. Additionally, a Brainerd, MN accident lawyer can usually arrange for this treatment at no upfront cost. So, the aforementioned money worries temporarily fade into the background.

Legal help in catastrophic injury situations extended beyond temporarily free doctor visits. Brainerd, MN accident lawyers use vicarious liability theories to help ensure that these costs, and other expenses, do not come from the victim’s own pocket.

Establishing First Party Liability

Vicarious liability is irrelevant unless the driver was negligent. So, establishing first party liability is an essential component of a vicarious liability claim. There are basically three kinds of negligence in vehicle collision matters:

  • Behavioral, usually alcohol or drug impairment,
  • Operational, such as making an illegal turn, and
  • Environmental, such as traveling too fast under adverse conditions.

We all make mistakes like these from time to time, and we must all accept the consequences of the mistakes we make. Compensation for injuries is one of these consequences.

Alcohol Provider Liability

In recent years, some states have limited their dram shop laws, or done away with them entirely. According to some, holding commercial providers liable for alcohol-related crash damages diminishes personal responsibility.

But Minnesota lawmakers see the big picture. They understand that responsible alcohol sales can prevent many collisions. So, Brainerd, MN accident lawyers may still turn to a dram shop law. Minnesota Statute Section 340A.801 states that bars, grocery stores, restaurants, and other commercial providers are liable for subsequent car crash damages if they illegally sold alcohol to the tortfeasor. Illegal sales include:

  • Minor: Generally, strict liability applies in these situations. The old “s/he looked older” defense hardly ever holds up in court. Even if the tortfeasor presented a false ID, dram shop liability may attach.
  • Obviously Intoxicated: Regardless of the tortfeasor’s age, dram shop liability may attach if the tortfeasor was obviously intoxicated at the time of sale. Evidence on this point includes bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and unsteady balance.
  • Before/After Hours Sale: A few minutes on the clock may mean little to a store that is anxious to make a sale. But those few minutes may make a tremendous difference in terms of dram shop liability.
  • Unlicensed Sale: Authorities routinely suspend alcoholic beverage licenses for a wide range of misconduct. Yet many providers ignore these suspensions and continue doing business as usual. In other situations, a provider starts selling alcohol before the licensure paperwork is fully processed.

Dram shop liability may also extend to social hosts. These same laws apply to social hosts who serve minors. If these impaired minors cause car crashes, the host may be legally responsible for damages. If the tortfeasor was an adult, another theory, such as negligent undertaking, may apply.

Brainerd, MN Accident Lawyers and Owner Liability

These same principles apply when owners loan their vehicles to children, roommates, friends, spouses, or anyone else. If the owner knew the driver was incompetent, and that driver causes a car crash, the owner may be liable for damages. Evidence of incompetency includes:

  • No drivers’ license,
  • Violating a restriction, such as no freeway driving,
  • Safety-suspended drivers’ license,
  • A poor driving record, and
  • Inexperience behind the wheel.

These bullets are in roughly descending order. Unlicensed drivers may be incompetent as a matter of law. On the other end of the spectrum, driver inexperience, by itself, rarely makes someone incompetent.

Commercial negligent entrustment cases, such as U-Haul moving trucks, work differently, because of the Graves Amendment. In these situations, Brainerd, MN accident lawyers typically must introduce additional evidence of negligence or other misconduct.

Employer Liability

Owners and alcohol providers are in a good position to prevent crashes, and so are employers. So, the respondeat superior doctrine is very broad. It typically applies if both these prongs are present:

  • Employee: Minnesota negligence law defines this key word very broadly. Anyone an employer controls is usually an employee in this context. That could include not only regular nine-to-five employees, but also independent contractors, owner-operators, and even unpaid church volunteers.
  • Scope of Employment: Similarly, any act which benefits the employer in any way is typically within the scope of employment. For example, in workers’ compensation cases, injuries sustained at company softball games are within the scope of employment. Healthy and happy workers benefit the employer.

In all vicarious liability claims, the injury must be foreseeable. Typically, a car crash is always a foreseeable result in employer liability situations, unless the employee did something like steal a car from the parking garage.

Contact an Experienced Attorney

The tortfeasor is often not the only party responsible for damages. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN accident lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Crow Wing County and nearby jurisdictions.

How Do Buffalo, MN Car Accident Lawyers Win Cases?

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

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

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

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

The Theory of The Case

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

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

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

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

How Do Buffalo, MN Car Accident Lawyers Collect Evidence?

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

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

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

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

Anticipating Insurance Company Defenses

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

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

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

Connect With an Aggressive Attorney

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

How Hutchinson Lawyers Obtain Maximum Compensation in Hit-and-Run Cases

Statistics vary among different jurisdiction, but around 50 percent of hit-and-run drivers are successfully prosecuted in criminal court. For the reasons outlined below, the proportion may be a little higher in McLeod County civil courts.

Many hit-and-run drivers are either uninsured or underinsured. Others have outstanding warrants or no valid drivers’ license. Still others know they are at fault. They run because they are worried about the consequences of their action. The bottom line is that these individuals are scared of something. However, that’s certainly no excuse for fleeing the scene of a collision.

These claims present complex issues for Hutchinson lawyers. Starting at pretty much square one, attorneys must build successful claims. Much more often than not, the results are quite impressive.

What Causes Hit-and-Run Accidents?

Some form of human error causes about 95 percent of car crashes. Things like defective products and dangerously-designed roadways cause a few crashes here and there. But the vast majority are related to one of the four kinds of driving impairment as identified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

  • Alcohol: A few drinks makes most people great fun at parties. But alcohol is a depressant which slows reaction time. It’s also a mood-altering substance which impairs judgement. This combination makes it very, very dangerous to drink and drive.
  • Drugs: This category includes “street drugs” like heroin, legal prescription drugs like Oxycontin, and even some over-the-counter medicines like Unisom. It could also include caffeine and some other drugs commonly found in food and beverages. The jury is still out as to the relationship between marijuana and driving impairment.
  • Distraction: Hand-held cell phones combine all three types of distracted driving. These users take their eyes off the road, take their minds off driving, and take a hand off the wheel. Hands-free cell phones are not much safer. They involve two types of distraction while giving drivers a false sense of security.
  • Medical Condition: Millions of Americans suffer from conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and epilepsy. These individuals may lose consciousness at any moment, often with little or no warning.

Fatigue causes many car crashes as well. Alcohol and drowsiness affect the brain in about the same way. Driving after eighteen straight awake hours is like driving with a .08 BAC.

Tracking Down the Tortfeasor

In many hit-and-runs, there is little evidence at the scene which points to the tortfeasor (negligent driver). Typically, first responders do not investigate these cases very carefully. They are more concerned with securing the scene and taking care of injured victims. So, it’s often up to Hutchinson lawyers to run down evidence like:

  • Surveillance Video: A witness may have only a vague description of the offending vehicle. But a nearby security or other camera might have recorded the license plate number or some other identifying information.
  • Additional Witness Statements: Hutchinson lawyers can often convince reluctant witnesses to come forward and share what they know. This exercise must take place quickly, because memories fade very quickly.
  • Physical Evidence: At the other end of the scale, collecting physical evidence takes time. Hutchinson attorneys often partner with private investigators. These individuals may stake out the area to see if the tortfeasor returns or check out nearby body shops for damaged vehicles.

In criminal court, prosecutors must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. So, there must be a witness or other evidence that puts the driver behind the wheel at or near the time of the crash.

But in civil court, Hutchinson lawyers need only establish liability by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). In practical terms, that usually means attorneys need only identify the vehicles. If they do that, it is more likely than not that the owner was also the driver.

Hutchinson Lawyers and Unknown Tortfeasor Cases

Some people believe that if there is no tortfeasor, the victim has no way to obtain compensation. But that’s normally not true.

Many victims in these situations may file claims against their own insurance companies. Hutchinson lawyers are available to serve as advocates in these cases. If the two parties cannot agree on a settlement, these cases often go to arbitration instead of trial.

In both litigation and arbitration cases, this settlement often occurs during mediation. A neutral party, who is usually another Hutchinson lawyer, conveys offers and counteroffers between the two sides. This form of mediation is at least partially successful in roughly three out of four cases.

The damages in a hit-and-run case usually include compensation for both economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. If the tortfeasor is identified, many McLeod County jurors are inclined to award additional punitive damages. Most jurors do not like hit-and-run drivers, so they often want to punish these tortfeasors.

Call Today To Speak With A Hutchinson Lawyer From Carlson & Jones

Hit-and-run victims have several legal options. For a free consultation with an experienced Hutchinson lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.

HUTCHINSON LAWYERS

114 Main Street North
Hutchinson, MN 55350
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How Do Buffalo Lawyers Handle Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist Cases in MN?

Exact numbers are hard to determine, but most estimates place the number of uninsured drivers at about one in ten. Perhaps twice as many motorists in the Gopher State are dangerously uninsured. Minnesota has one of the lowest auto insurance minimums in the country. In a wrongful death or other catastrophic injury car crash case, damages could be hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even millions of dollars. Many vehicle owners do not have nearly that much coverage.

In these situations, Buffalo lawyers can file collections claims against the individual tortfeasors (negligent drivers). But such procedures are time-consuming to say the least. Additionally, many Minnesotans basically live hand to mouth, so they are effectively judgement-proof.

Fortunately, Minnesota law gives Buffalo lawyers many options in terms of vicarious liability. These theories often give victim/plaintiffs an additional source of recovery.

Employer Liability

The respondeat superior (“Let the master answer”) doctrine usually applies if the tortfeasor was a taxi driver, truck driver, bus driver, or even an Uber driver.

These commercial drivers usually have a higher duty of care than noncommercial drivers. This higher duty is especially applicable in passenger injury cases. Bus drivers, taxi drivers, and other individuals who transport people for money are basically insurers of safe conduct. They must driver very, very carefully and also ensure that the passengers are safe while on board (e.g. no fights or other dangerous conditions).

Employers, in addition to the tortfeasors, are also responsible for damages in these cases. Liability attaches if:

  • Employee: Almost all commercial drivers are “employees” for negligence purposes, even if the employer claims that they are unpaid interns, independent contractors, owner-operators, or even unpaid volunteers. Employers control all these individuals in terms of things like hours worked, compensation paid (or not paid), job duties, and so forth. Such control is all that’s required. Many courts are embracing this broad definition in other contexts as well, due to the rise of the gig economy.
  • Scope of Employment: This phrase is very broadly defined as well. If an act benefits the employer in any way, Buffalo lawyers can argue that the act was within the scope of employment. That even includes activities like driving a vehicle with the company logo on it. In these cases, the employer benefits from the free advertising.
  • Foreseeability: The victim/plaintiff’s injury must be a foreseeable result of the crash. A medical mistake during surgery is not a foreseeable result of a car crash.

Respondeat superior applies in almost all commercial car crash cases. There are other employer liability theories that Buffalo lawyers can use as well, such as negligent supervision or negligent hiring.

Alcohol Provider Liability

Impairment begins with the first drink, so alcohol is tied to many Buffalo car crashes. Of course, it is the individual who choses to drink and drive. However, alcohol providers also have a hand in this problem. Buffalo lawyers fight for both compensation and justice for victims. To get both, many providers need to change the way they do business. So, Minnesota has a very strong dram shop law. Grocery stores, bars, restaurants, and other providers are liable for damages if their impaired patrons cause injury. The dram shop law applies if there was an illegal sale.

  • Under 21: Strict liability usually applies here. It may be a defense if the buyer showed a very convincing fake ID, but the old “s/he looked older” defense almost never works.
  • Obviously Intoxicated: To prove intoxication, the victim/plaintiff may introduce circumstantial evidence, such as bloodshot eyes or an odor of alcohol. The victim/plaintiff must establish this element by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).
  • Foreseeable: Generally, it is foreseeable that a tortfeasor will open a can, bottle, or other package of alcohol and drink it on the way home. However, such arguments may be an uphill climb for Buffalo lawyers.

Social host liability may be available as well, either through the dram shop law or another negligence theory, such as negligent undertaking.

Owner Liability

Noncommercial owner liability is always an issue if the tortfeasor was under 18. Moreover, many tortfeasors borrow someone else’s car. If the owner knew the tortfeasor was incompetent, the owner may be responsible for damages. Evidence of incompetency could be:

  • Direct: People with no drivers’ licenses are incompetent as a matter of law. The same thing applies if the tortfeasor drives in violation of a known restriction (g. no night driving).
  • Circumstantial: If the tortfeasor has a poor driving record, and the owner knows about that fact, liability may also attach. Furthermore, some beginning drivers are perfectly competent during the day, but they should not drive at night or in unfamiliar places.

Commercial negligent entrustment cases work a little differently because of the Graves Amendment.

Call Today To Speak With A Buffalo Minnesota Lawyer From Carlson & Jones

The tortfeasor may not be the only party that is liable for damages. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Buffalo, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Home and hospital visits are available.

BUFFALO MINNESOTA LAWYERS

215 East Highway 55
Suite 201
Buffalo, MN 55313
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Buffalo Lawyers

215 East Highway 55, Suite 201
Buffalo, MN 55313

Toll Free: (877) 344-1555
Phone: (612) 800-8057
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Brainerd Lawyers

17025 Commercial Park Rd, Suite 2
Brainerd, MN 56401

Toll Free: (877) 344-1555
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Hutchinson Lawyers

114 Main Street North
Hutchinson, MN 55350

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Minnetonka Lawyers

3911 Ridgedale Dr, Suite 404E
Minnetonka, MN 55305

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