How Much Should I Ask For in a Personal Injury Settlement in Brainerd, MN?

The average personal injury settlement varies significantly, so it is difficult to know what to ask for. The average dog bite settlement in Minnesota is $38, 302. But a nip which barely breaks the skin is most likely not worth $38,000. On the other end of the scale, if the dog bite was fatal, $38,000 is probably insufficient.

Most people have some experience in this area. As a buyer or seller or both, they have negotiated the price of a used house or guitar or laptop. These haggles usually account for the item’s economic value and the prevailing market conditions (i.e. how much are people willing to pay for that item in that area).

When a Brainerd injury attorney ascertains the value of a personal injury case, the process is a bit different. Yes, economic and market factors come into play. But there are some other things to consider as well. Additionally, in most cases, the other side also has an attorney who is a very good negotiator. So, these talks often take some time.

Calculating Economic Losses

Accident victims are usually entitled to compensation for economic and noneconomic losses. Economic loss calculation is generally straightforward. Most Brainerd injury attorneys look at the police accident report and the medical records.

The incident report usually details the severity of the accident. As mentioned, there is a big difference between a nip and a bite which causes permanent injuries. There is also a big difference between a fender-bender car crash which only causes property damages and a fatal, high-speed collision.

To prepare incident reports, most emergency responders examine the scene and interview witnesses. So, this report is often quite accurate.

But that’s not always true, especially in incidents like vehicle-on-pedestrian accidents. Typically, the victim either does not survive this accident or is too seriously injured to give a statement. As a result, the police accident report only contains one side of the story. And, the tortfeasor (negligent driver) usually sugarcoats the incident.

Therefore, in these cases, a Brainerd injury attorney often must dig deeper. Frequently, attorneys partner with accident reconstruction engineers or other such professionals in these situations.

Medical records are occasionally incomplete as well. But for the most part, these records accurately track things like the patient’s medical condition, treatment, prognosis, and cost.

Health care is one of the most heavily-regulated industries in the country. As a result, there is a lot of bureaucratic red tape, especially from various privacy laws. So, these records are not always available to the general public. A good Brainerd injury attorney knows how to cut through this red tape and quickly obtain these records. The faster these documents reach a lawyer’s office, the more time an attorney has to evaluate them.

Brainerd Injury Attorneys and Calculating Non Economic Losses

Economic loss calculation is basically a science, and noneconomic loss calculation is basically an art. Non Economic losses include intangible damages, such as pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment in life, emotional distress, and loss of consortium (companionship).

Most lawyers use a multiplier to calculate noneconomic losses. They multiply the economic losses by two, three, or four, depending on the facts of the case, as outlined above, and some intangible factors, which are discussed below.

These preliminary calculations are a starting point for settlement negotiations. If an attorney demands $100,000, the insurance company usually counters with a much lower offer. If these two figures are not too far apart, an early negotiated settlement is usually possible. But frequently, the insurance company responds with a low-ball offer or denies liability altogether. So, most cases do not settle quickly.

Fine-Tuning the Amount

Before they negotiate a price for something like a guitar, most people do some research and determine what amount a used guitar will probably fetch at that time. Brainerd injury attorneys do basically the same thing.

Venue is a good example. Some counties have rather conservative residents who often gravitate toward insurance companies. Other countries have rather liberal residents who often side with accident victims. In some cases, these differences are almost inconsequential, In other cases, these differences could mean thousands of extra dollars.

Punitive damages sometimes come into play as well. Juries can award these additional damages if there is clear and convincing evidence that the tortfeasor intentionally disregarded a known risk. Punitive damages are especially common in medical malpractice and defective product claims. In other words, this final element goes back to the facts of the case, which were examined above.

Conclusion

Personal injury settlements vary from case to case. Depending on the case facts and circumstances surrounding your injury, a Brainerd personal injury attorney will be able to help you determine how much your case is worth. A good attorney will take into consideration the economic, the non-economic, and other damages you have incurred as a result of the injury when arriving at a fair amount. They will also protect your rights through the course of the case proceedings, and fight to ensure that you receive the compensation you rightfully deserve.

Reach Out to a Thorough Personal Injury Lawyer in Brainerd

It can be incredibly frustrating when you or a loved one has to suffer personal injuries due to the fault or negligence of another. Your physical and mental health as well as finances can take a turn for the worse. You can be sure that the insurance companies will do whatever they can to keep you from getting the financial compensation you deserve. As you can see, the personal injury claims settlement process is multifaceted and complex. We’re here to help. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd injury attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. at (855) 976-2444. We routinely handle matters in Crow Wing County and nearby jurisdictions.

U-Haul Truck Crash Liability Issues and Brainerd, MN Injury Lawyers

Statistically, most people move between May and September. So, we are now well into the biggest moving time of the year. Many people try to save money by renting U-Haul or other moving trucks and handling most everything themselves. As a result, it’s not too unusual to see several of these trucks on area roads at any given time. These operators have little experience driving large trucks and often over-rely on GPS navigation devices. So, in short, they are dangerous.

Since these operators do not own these vehicles, the traditional negligent entrustment rule would seem to apply. This doctrine holds vehicle owners, like U-Haul, responsible for car crash damages if the loan their property to incompetent drivers who cause accidents. But the Graves Amendment, an obscure piece of federal legislation, changes things significantly, as outlined below.

Many vehicle renters have little or no insurance. So, if you were hurt in a U-Haul truck crash, it’s important to obtain compensation from the company. Fortunately, a good Brainerd, MN injury lawyer has some was to get around the Graves Amendment and get victims the compensation they need and deserve. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

The Negligent Entrustment Rule

Negligent entrustment is one of the most common vicarious liability theories in Minnesota. Most of these cases involve teen drivers, and Minnesota has a very broad family purpose doctrine. If a family member was using a car fro a family purpose, even if the tortfeasor (negligent driver) took a side trip and the vehicle owner did not know about the trip, family-sanctioned use is presumed. So, a Brainerd, MN injury lawyer must only prove incompetence. Evidence of incompetence, in roughly descending order, includes:

  • No drivers’ license,
  • Safety-suspended drivers’ license,
  • Poor driving record with recent at-fault collisions,
  • Driving in violation of a license restriction, like no night driving, and
  • Poor driving record with older collisions which were the other driver’s fault.

Note that a drivers’ license record check can uncover evidence of incompetency. This area is rather significant in terms of the first Graves Amendment loophole.

Brainerd, MN Injury Lawyers and the “Not Otherwise Negligent” Requirement

Lawmakers approved the Graves Amendment in the early 2000s. Rep. Sam Graves (D-MO) wanted to protect Enterprise, U-Haul, and other such companies from liability judgments by making the negligent entrustment rule inapplicable in these cases.

Back then, it was almost impossible to run a drivers’ license check outside the DMV, except for very limited purposes. Now, technology and privacy laws have changed. Arguably, it is now the industry standard at places like U-Haul outlets to independently verify drivers’ licenses. Failure to adhere to an industry standard is typically negligence.

Section (a)(2) of the Graves Amendment states immunity only applies if the owner or agent was not negligent during the U-Haul rental transaction. Given the drivers’ license developments mentioned above, agents or owners who only perform visual license inspections are probably negligent.

The “Trade or Business” Requirement

Furthermore, under Section (a)(1), immunity only applies if the store was “engaged in the trade or business of renting or leasing motor vehicles.” The brief Graves Amendment was an add-on to a large federal transportation bill. Curiously, the law defines some key terms, like “owner” and “agent,” but it does not define “trade or business.” So, Brainerd, MN injury lawyers must look elsewhere to determine its meaning.

The Uniform Commercial Code, which is frequently cited in legal claims, defines a “merchant,” which is similar, as a person with special knowledge about a particular product who deals in that particular kind of product. This definition does not apply to most U-Haul retailers.

Most of these retailers are moving supply companies that happen to rent a few trucks. Vehicle rental is not their primary business line. Additionally, almost no U-Haul workers have special knowledge about the trucks on the lot. They know how to drive them, but that’s about it.

In court, the insurance company/U-Haul company usually has the burden of proof on this point. Its lawyers must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Graves Amendment immunity applies. Given this discussion, that showing is unlikely.

Connect with a Hard-Hitting Attorney

The negligent entrustment rule usually applies in U-Haul crashes, despite the Graves Amendment. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. You have a limited amount of time to act.

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.

Do Accident Lawyers in Brainerd, MN Settle Most Slip-and-Fall Cases Out of Court?

In a word, yes. Fewer than 3 percent of all slip-and-fall claims settle out of court. Unfortunately, that statistic does not mean the case will settle quickly. There is also a good chance that the claim will go through the system and settle almost literally at the eleventh hour.

Generally, a slip-and-fall settlement includes compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Actual settlement amounts vary significantly, mostly depending on the strength of the victim/plaintiff’s evidence and the legal theories involved, as outlined below.

Although this money is available, stingy insurance companies do not simply give it away. To obtain maximum compensation, an accident lawyer in Brainerd, MN must have excellent negotiating skills as well as excellent advocacy skills. A deficiency in either area could mean that the victim/plaintiff must settle for less.

The Nuts and Bolts of a Slip and Fall Claim

First and foremost, an accident lawyer in Brainerd, MN must establish a legal duty. In other words, a landowner must be theoretically responsible for the victim/plaintiff’s injury. Minnesota law assigns the applicable duty based mostly on the relationship between the victim and landowner:

  • Duty of Reasonable Care: Invitees are people who have permission to be on the land and whose presence benefits the owner. The invitation could be direct or indirect; the benefit could be tangible or intangible. Most slip-and-fall victims are invitees. In this context, the duty of reasonable care includes a one-time responsibility to make the premises safe and an ongoing responsibility to perform safety inspections.
  • Duty to Warn: Licensees are people like guests of hotel guests. These individuals have indirect permission to be on the land, but their presence does not benefit the owner. Because of the more distant relationship, the applicable duty is more limited. The duty to warn involves only latent (hidden) defects, such as a burned-out security light.
  • No Legal Responsibility: Trespassers are people with no permission and no benefit. So, there is generally no duty, except a duty to refrain from intentional harm. Some exceptions, such as the attractive nuisance rule, protect child trespassers in some cases.

On the defense side, some legal theories include res ipsa loquitur and the open and obvious doctrine.

If it applies, RIL (the thing speaks for itself) makes it easier for an accident lawyer in Brainerd, MN to establish negligence. However, Minnesota law sharply limits this doctrine, a fact which insurance company lawyers are eager to try and take advantage of.

In slip-and-fall claims, the open and obvious doctrine immunizes landowners in situations like a colored liquid on the floor. This rule is subjective. For example, a colored liquid might not be an open and obvious hazard to someone with poor eyesight or to anyone in a dark room.

Moreover, an accident lawyer in Brainerd, MN must establish practical responsibility. That means knowledge of the fall hazard. Such evidence might be:

  • Direct: Restroom cleaning reports, “cleanup on aisle nine” announcements, and other smoking guns usually emerge during a lawsuit’s discovery process. Direct evidence often improves the bargaining position for an accident lawyer in Brainerd, MN.
  • Circumstantial: According to the time-notice rule, constructive knowledge (should have known) is linked to the amount of time the hazard existed. If the victim slipped on a wilted piece of lettuce, the hazard had probably existed for quite a while, so an employee should have picked up the lettuce.

On the defense side, direct evidence is only admissible in certain situations. And, as for circumstantial evidence, Crow Wing County jurors can draw their own conclusions regarding the time-notice rule’s applicability.

Accident Lawyers in Brainerd, MN and the Settlement Process

If there is no question as to the landowner’s liability, insurance companies have a legal duty to settle slip-and-fall claims within a few weeks. However, there is almost always at least some debate as to the owner’s responsibility. Moreover, as mentioned above, if the action moves forward through the discovery process, better evidence might be available. That usually means higher compensation.

Discovery normally includes both written and oral discovery. Written discovery is typically document production, such as repair invoices and medical bills. Oral discovery usually means depositions, which are like courtroom witness examinations without a judge or jury.

As for the amount of a settlement, it is usually rather easy for an accident lawyer in Brainerd, MN to calculate things like lost wages and medical expenses. Pain and suffering, however, is more subjective. Many accident lawyers in Brainerd, MN multiply the economic losses by two or three based on the strength of the plaintiff’s evidence.

Contact a Savvy Attorney

Most slip-and-fall cases settle out of court, but the process might be protracted. For a free consultation with an experienced accident lawyer in Brainerd, MN, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Home and hospital visits are available.

If Grandma Really Got Run Over by a Reindeer, Shouldn’t Her Family Call a Personal Injury Lawyer in Brainerd, MN?

Especially since the Yuletide season now begins shortly after Halloween, 1978’s Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer often gets some seasonal air time. This novelty Christmas song tells the tale of Grandma’s unfortunate encounter with Santa Claus one dark and stormy night.

According to the song, even though she did not take her medication and she may have consumed too much eggnog, Grandma “staggered” into the snow. Several hours later, concerned family members found Grandma’s presumably lifeless body in the street with “hoof-prints on her forehead and incriminating Claus marks on her back.” Those are the facts as we know them.

If unexplained holiday-themed injuries beset your family, it’s good to have a personal injury lawyer in Brainerd, MN in your corner. In this situation, an attorney’s job is twofold. First, a lawyer must establish that Santa did indeed run over Grandma. Second, a personal injury lawyer in Brainerd, MN must prove that Santa was negligent.

How can a Personal Injury Lawyer in Brainerd, MN Establish Santa’s Liability?

This incident is a classic no-witness hit-and-run. No one saw Santa’s sleigh hit Grandma, so there is no direct evidence. Additionally, the collision was out-of-place for the Jolly Old Elf. Most people know that the sleigh travels through the air and up on the housetops.

But there is considerable circumstantial evidence. Not very many people drive sleighs on Christmas Eve. Moreover, there was proof at the scene. If people do drive sleighs, they are usually horse-drawn. There would be no deer hoof marks, and certainly no “incriminating Claus marks,” whatever those are.

The burden of proof comes into play here. In civil court, victim/plaintiffs must only establish facts by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). It is by no means conclusive that Santa ran over Grandma. Even if it was his sleigh, there is no evidence that he was behind the wheel, er, holding the reigns. However, all these things are definitely more likely than not.

Personal injury lawyers in Brainerd, MN go through this same process in other hit-and-run claims. Generally, if a video camera or witness saw the vehicle at or near the scene, that’s enough to establish the driver’s liability. It is more likely than not that the owner was driving a vehicle at any particular time.

Grandma’s Contributory Negligence, if Any

Back to the facts of this disturbing case. According to the song, Grandma “staggered” into the snow because she had been drinking too much eggnog and had not taken her medication. These facts suggest that Grandma was impaired.

Alcohol use and medical condition are some of the most common kinds of impairment. Alcohol’s impairing effects begin with the first drink. If Grandma had more than that, she might have been highly impaired, especially since older people are especially sensitive to alcohol. We do not know what her medical condition was, but it’s reasonable to assume it could have been dementia. It’s relatively easy for a personal injury lawyer in Brainerd, MN to obtain additional evidence on this point.

If Grandma was impaired, Minnesota’s modified comparative fault law might come into play. In the Gopher State, tortfeasors like the nefarious Santa Claus are responsible for a proportionate share of damages if they are at least 51 percent responsible for the wreck.

Procedurally, the insurance company could raise the contributory negligence defense, and a personal injury lawyer in Brainerd, MN could then refute the defense. As for Grandma’s alcohol impairment, people have different definitions of how much eggnog is “too much.” There’s no way to tell how much she drank without doing a blood test. Moreover, as mentioned above, more evidence is necessary as to the nature of Grandma’s ailment.

Damages in a vehicle collision usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Slightly different rules apply in wrongful death cases.

Contact an Assertive Attorney

Don’t let the insurance company leave a lump of coal in your stocking this Christmas. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Brainerd, MN, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We are available to help 24/7/365.

How Do Brainerd Attorneys Resolve Truck Crash Claims?

Medical bills are usually one of the largest components of a truck crash claim. Frequently, these wrecks cause catastrophic injuries, such as spinal cord injuries. The medical expenses of such wounds may exceed $4 million over the course of a lifetime.

To provide short-term relief in these situations, attorneys usually send letters of protection to medical providers. Since these letters guarantee payment when the case is resolved, these providers charge nothing upfront for their services. So, injured victims do not need to worry as much about money. They can concentrate on getting better.

However, these bills must be paid eventually. Therefore, a Brainerd attorney must work diligently to settle the case as quickly as possible, and on the best possible terms.

Determining Negligence

Most truck crash claims involve either ordinary negligence or negligence per se. Fatigued driving, which is quite common in such matters, is a good illustration of the difference between the two.

Drowsy driving is a problem for both economic and medical reasons. Most transportation companies pay drivers by the load and not by the mile. So, to make money, they must stay behind the wheel as long as possible. Furthermore, since they sit most of the day, many truck drivers struggle with sleep apnea. People with this medical condition get little or no deep, restorative sleep. They basically nap all night.

Ordinary negligence is basically a lack of care. Drivers must be well-rested, sober, and focus on the road. In an ordinary negligence claim, the victim/plaintiff must establish a lack of care by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). Some evidence in drowsy driver claims includes:

  • Erratic driving prior to the crash,
  • Time of night or day,
  • Statements the tortfeasor (negligent driver) gave to emergency responders, and
  • Physical symptoms, like bloodshot eyes.

In Minnesota, commercial drivers often must abide by a higher standard of care than noncommercial drivers. Therefore, it might be easier to establish ordinary negligence in truck wrecks.

Fatigued truck driver crashes might also involve the negligence per se rule. These claims do not require circumstantial evidence. Tortfeasors are often negligent as a matter of law if:

  • They violated a safety law, and
  • That violation substantially caused injury.

In this context, the relevant safety laws are the federal and state HOS (Hours of Service) rules. Truck drivers must adhere to strict schedules with regard to driving time and rest periods. If the tortfeasor violated an HOS rule, it does not matter how well-rested s/he was. Liability might still attach.

Brainerd Attorneys and Liability Determinations

This liability usually extends to both economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. These claims are a bit complex. Minnesota has a partial no-fault insurance law which might limit damages in some cases.

There are other complexities as well. The respondeat superior rule usually applies in truck crash claims. Employers are liable for the negligent acts of their employees if:

  • Employee: In a truck crash, an employee is not just a worker who is in an office from 9 to 5. Employees include independent contractors, owner-operators, and even unpaid volunteers. Employers control these individuals, at least to some extent, such as work hours.
  • Scope of Employment: Minnesota law also broadly defines this phrase. Any act which benefits the employer in any way is within the scope of employment. That definition includes things like driving an empty truck to a warehouse.

Respondeat superior is especially important in light of the aforementioned high medical bills. Individual tortfeasors usually do not have enough insurance coverage to make good on these losses.

Pretrial Settlement Negotiations

Once medical treatment is at least substantially complete, Brainerd attorneys open settlement negotiations with the insurance company. It is important not to settle a claim too early. If that happens, the victim may not receive enough compensation to fully account for all losses.

If liability is relatively certain, insurance companies usually have a duty to settle the claim within a few weeks. But in most cases, there is at least some question as to liability.

Contributory negligence often delays settlement. This doctrine shifts blame for the accident from the tortfeasor to the victim. For example, the tortfeasor may have been drowsy, but the victim might have been speeding. Therefore, they might both be partially at fault.

Mediation

If the two sides cannot reach an early agreement, a Brainerd attorney must file legal paperwork to protect the victim’s rights. At that point, most Crow Wing County judges refer these claims to mediation.

During mediation, a neutral third party, who is usually an unaffiliated Brainerd attorney, works to forge a settlement between the victim and insurance company. This work usually involves reviewing the case file, listening to brief opening arguments, and then conveying settlement offers back and forth between the two sides.

This process usually works. If both sides negotiate in good faith, which means they are willing to make sacrifices to get a deal done, mediation is successful about 75 percent of the time.

Connect with a Diligent Lawyer

Truck crash claims often take some time to settle. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.

Brain Injury Causes, Brain Injury Solutions, and Brainerd, MN Accident Lawyers

Each year, Traumatic Brain Injuries send nearly three million Americans to hospital emergency rooms. Almost a third of these victims are children. Many other people seek treatment for Acquired Brain Injuries which spring from conditions like heart disease.

Head injuries are degenerative. Without prompt and proper treatment, initial symptoms, such as nausea and tinnitus (ringing in the ears) give way to more severe symtoms, such as chronic severe headaches and personality changes. Eventually, TBIs cause dementia-like symptoms. These injuries also cause or contribute to roughly 50,000 American fatalities per year.

Furthermore, TBIs are permanent. Someday soon, doctors may be able to use stem cells and other advanced methods to reverse brain injuries. But for the foreseeable future, managing the symptoms is the only available option.

Due to the nature and severity of these injuries, Brainerd, MN accident lawyers may be able to obtain substantial compensation for these victims. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, as well as noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

What Causes TBIs?

Car crashes cause most of the TBIs in Minnesota. These incidents combine all three major brain injury causes, which are:

  • Trauma Wounds: Even the most advanced restraint systems can only absorb a certain amount of force. So, occupants’ heads often slam into solid objects, especially during high-speed crashes. Furthermore, when vehicles crash and stop suddenly, small objects inside the passenger area, such as cell phones, keep moving at the same speed. In other words, these objects become high-speed missiles that frequently hit victims’ heads.
  • Violent Motion: Brains do not fit snugly inside skulls. Rather, the skull is like a water tank that suspends the brain in cerebrospinal fluid. So, the sudden motion of a car wreck causes the brain to repeatedly slam against the inside of the skull.
  • Loud Noise: Witnesses often say that car crashes sound like explosions. These sudden loud noises create shock waves that disrupt brain functions. So, even if the victim suffers no serious trauma injuries, a car crash victim probably has a brain injury.

Vehicle collision TBIs are very difficult to diagnose, largely because not all head injury victims have the same symptoms. As a result, doctors often misdiagnose brain injury symptoms as shock or soreness from the accident or even early-onset dementia.

To obtain compensation in car crash claims, Brainerd, MN accident lawyers usually rely on ordinary negligence or negligence per se. Ordinary negligence is a lack of reasonable care, and negligence per se is a violation of a safety statute.

Alcohol is a good illustration of the difference between these two concepts. If the tortfeasor (negligent driver) was legally intoxicated, the negligence per se doctrine usually applies. Generally, tortfeasors who violate safety laws and cause accidents are responsible for damages as a matter of law.

But, drivers are impaired before they are intoxicated. In fact, alcohol impairment begins with the first drink. In these cases, Brainerd, MN accident lawyers may use circumstantial evidence to establish a lack of care. Such evidence includes erratic driving, bloodshot eyes, and an odor of alcohol.

Additionally, the tortfeasor may not be the only party responsible for car crash damages. Some common vicarious liability theories include respondeat superior employer liability, dram shop alcohol provider liability, and negligent entrustment owner liability.

Other major TBI causes include falls and assaults. These incidents often involve two of the three aforementioned brain injury causes. Property owners are usually responsible for fall and assault-related injuries, if the owners knew about the hazardous condition and the owner owed a legal duty to the victim.

How Do Brainerd, MN Accident Lawyers Help VIctims Recover?

To reduce brain injury symptoms, most doctors use a combination of surgery and therapy. Surgery keeps the injury from getting worse. Doctors can stop brain bleeding and reduce brain swelling. Physical therapy usually improves brain injury symptoms, but the road is long and winding.

Brain injury therapy is quite unlike broken bone or other physical therapy. Brain injury therapists must train uninjured areas of the brain to assume lost functions. As a result, progress comes in fits and starts.

Brainerd, MN accident lawyers play a critical role in this process. If victims show no physical therapy progress for a few months, or even a few weeks, stingy insurance companies often try to cut off funding. If that happens, the victim may never fully recover.

So, attorneys do not just advocate for victims in the courtroom, as outlined above. Brainerd, MN accident lawyers also help ensure that victims remain in physical therapy until they reach MMI (Maximum Medical Improvement).

Connect with a Tough Attorney

Serious brain injury victims need aggressive representation throughout the process. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN accident lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Home and hospital visits are available.

How Does the Graves Amendment Affect Law Firms in Buffalo, MN?

If you see a U-Haul or other rented moving truck on the streets or highways of Wright County, an incompetent driver is probably behind the wheel. A fully-loaded, 17-foot truck may weigh up to 25,000 pounds. Even experienced drivers have a hard time managing these huge vehicles. Novice drivers who do not know the area and probably do not even have commercial drivers’ licenses are clearly incompetent.

The negligent entrustment rule states that vehicle owners are liable for damages if they allow incompetent driver to use their vehicles, and those drivers cause collisions. But commercial negligent entrustment cases are more complex, because of an obscure federal law called the Graves Amendment.

This complication is significant. Large truck crashes often cause catastrophic injuries, and many U-Haul drivers have little or no insurance. Fortunately, the Graves Amendment has some key loopholes, so law firms in Buffalo, MN can usually still obtain maximum compensation in these matters.

What is the Graves Amendment?

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, juries in several states ordered vehicle rental companies to pay millions of dollars in damages after several horrific crashes. As a result, the companies threatened to pull out of these states.

To prevent this outcome, Congressman Sam Graves (D-MO) attached what later became 49 U.S.C. 30106 to a large transportation bill. Lawmakers often attach policy and special-interests riders to must-pass bills, and the Graves Amendment definitely fit into this category. Its sole purpose is to protect vehicle rental establishments in Missouri and a few other states.

There are no hearings or any other legislative history regarding the Graves Amendment. There is only a brief floor debate. Additionally, like many policy riders, the Graves Amendment is rather poorly drafted. So, law firms in Buffalo, MN have a good chance to get around the Graves Amendment in a truck wreck claim. The two most common approaches are outlined below.

Law Firms in Buffalo, MN and the “Not Otherwise Negligent” Requirement

Commercial negligent entrustment immunity only applies if the owner or agent was not negligent during the transaction. So, the agent or owner must follow all applicable industry standards. Violating these standards is evidence of negligence.

Here, the relevant standard involves drivers’ license verification. When the Graves Amendment became law in 2002, most agents and owners visually inspected a renter’s drivers’ license, and that was it. If the license was facially valid, the person could rent the truck.

But more and more companies like U-Haul run drivers’ license checks before they rent vehicles. Customers who have safety-suspended licenses are ineligible, or should be ineligible, to rent trucks. The same thing is arguably true if the customer has a poor driving record which includes a recent safety suspension or an at-fault accident.

Mere failure to verify the license may be negligent, but it may not be enough to invoke the negligent entrustment doctrine. Typically, the victim/plaintiff must prove that the owner knew the driver was incompetent. Constructive knowledge (should have known) is normally insufficient.

The “Trade or Business” Requirement

As mentioned, the Graves Amendment is poorly drafted and lawmakers held no hearings. So, it’s impossible to interpret key phrases like “trade or business of renting or leasing motor vehicles.” Therefore, law firms in Buffalo, MN must look elsewhere.

The Uniform Commerical Code, which lawyers and judges often use in contracts cases, defines “merchant,” which is a similar term, as “a person who deals in goods of the kind or otherwise by his occupation holds himself out as having knowledge or skill peculiar to the practices or goods involved in the transaction.” Most U-Haul dealers in Wright County do not fit this definition.

Typically, these businesses do not exclusively rent trucks. They are usually moving and storage companies which have a few trucks available on the side. By analogy, a convenience store is not a liquor store even if it sells copious amounts of beer and wine.

Furthermore, the employees at these establishments have no specialized knowledge about the vehicles they rent. They know nothing about engine torque, air conditioner BTU capacity, or anything similar.

Damages in a commercial negligent entrustment claim usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Additionally, since these cases usually involve additional negligence as outlined above, many Wright County jurors award additional punitive damages in these cases. These damages are designed to punish the negligent actor and deter future wrongdoing.

Contact an Aggressive Attorney

Despite the Graves Amendment, U-Haul truck owners may be legally responsible for damages. For a free consultation with an attorney at a law firm in Buffalo, MN, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Home and hospital visits are available.

Can Personal Injury Lawyers in Brainerd, MN Overcome Dog Bite Defenses?

Every year, dogs bite over 4.5 million people in the United States. Many of these incidents result in serious injury, especially if the victim was a child. As outlined below, these injuries include both physical and emotional wounds, in many cases.

Because of the nature of these injuries, and also because of Minnesota’s victim-friendly dog bite laws, personal injury lawyers in Brainerd, MN are often able to obtain substantial compensation in these cases. In fact, the average dog bite injury settlement amount has almost doubled since 2003.

Since significant damages are within relatively easy reach, insurance company lawyers usually defend these cases very tenaciously.

Dog Bite Injuries in Crow Wing County

When animals suddenly attack without warning, the victims usually sustain three different types of injuries, as follows:

  • Knockdown: Depending on the type of breed, the knockdown may cause head injuries and broken bones. The Centers for Disease Control has not kept breed-specific bite information since the 1990s, so statistics are difficult to come by in this area.
  • Bite: When dogs bite, their teeth usually cause both lateral tears and deep puncture wounds. The surface lacerations usually require extensive and costly reconstructive surgery. Meanwhile, the deep puncture wounds typically pierce internal organs and cause extensive internal bleeding. There is an interplay here. Surgeons usually cannot touch surface wounds until they stop the internal bleeding.
  • Emotional Effects: Doctors can help patients recover physically, but when it comes to emotional injuries, their effectiveness is limited. Many dog bite victims experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-type symptoms, such as flashbacks, nightmares, and heightened awareness. These symptoms usually only improve after many months of therapy, and even then, the symptoms usually do not completely disappear.

Personal injury lawyers in Brainerd, MN can usually obtain compensation for economic losses, such a medical and therapy bills, as well as noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Your Claim for Damages

Minn. Statutes Annotated, Section 347.22 is one of the broadest dog bite laws in the country. One court described it as follows: “[L]iability is absolute. It makes no difference that the dog owner may have used reasonable care; negligence is beside the point. Past good behavior of the dog is irrelevant.” Those stern words underscore the law’s strong nature.

Additionally, provocation is the only available defense. So, these claims are not just relatively easy to establish. They are also relatively easy for personal injury lawyers in Brainerd, MN to defend.

However, damages in strict liability cases are often somewhat limited. Since negligence is irrelevant, the jury never hears anything about the owner’s lack of control over the animal.

Alternatively, victims may pursue claims under the scienter (knowledge) rule. If the owner knew the dog was potentially dangerous and the dog attacked someone, the owner may be liable for damages. Evidence of knowledge includes prior attacks and also pre-bite viciousness, like aggressive barking or sudden lunging.

There are pros and cons here as well. Once jurors learn about owner negligence, they are often more willing to award large damages. However, victims must present additional evidence in scienter claims. And, they must also deal with both of the defenses discussed below.

Other options, such as negligence per se, may be available as well. Negligence per se usually involves the violation of a leash law or other animal restraint ordinance.

Personal Injury Lawyers in Brainerd, MN and Assumption of the Risk

This affirmative defense is only available in negligence claims. Tortfeasors (negligent actors) are not liable for the aforementioned damages if the victim:

  • Voluntarily assumed
  • A known risk.

In the dog bite context, this defense usually involves a “Beware of Dog” or other warning signs. Such signs make the defense easier to prove, but they do not conclusively establish it.

Specifically, the defendant must prove the victim knew about the risk of a dog bite. In other words, the victim must have been able to read the sign and understand what it meant. If the victim was a child or someone with limited English proficiency, such a showing is difficult to make.

The Provocation Defense

As mentioned, this defense is available in strict liability claims as well as negligence claims, so it is usually the go-to defense in dog bite cases. Yet despite the best efforts of homeowners’ insurance company lawyers, the provocation defense often does not hold up in court.

In everyday language, provocation could include verbal teasing. And, provocation could also be unintentional. But in a dog bite context, provocation must be both physical and intentional. Sudden movements and words alone are not legally sufficient to provoke a dog. Furthermore, it is impossible to “accidentally” provoke an animal in these situations.

Partner with Assertive Attorneys

Dog bite victims have several legal options. For a free consultation with experienced personal injury lawyers in Brainerd, MN, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We have several offices in the area.

A Brainerd Attorney Looks at the Medical and Legal Aspects of a Traumatic Brain Injury

The number of TBI-induced emergency room visits has increased 54 percent since 2006. This increase does not include the substantial number of Acquired Brain Injuries. Chronic medical conditions, such as cancer, along with prolonged alcohol or drug poisoning, causes most ABIs.

Initially, most TBI victims experience symptoms like unconsciousness and vomiting. Without immediate and effective treatment, these symptoms soon lead to things like chronic severe headaches, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and temporary personality changes. Later, these personality changes become permanent. Other long-term symptoms include dementia and loss of mobility.

Later symptoms like these are one of the main reasons that TBIs are some of the most expensive personal injuries, in terms of medical bills and lost wages. So, a Brainerd attorney works hard to obtain compensation in these cases.

Medical Issues in TBI Cases

As mentioned, the number of ER visits has increased significantly over the past ten years. Yet many of these victims do not get the treatment they need at the hospital. As a result, their injuries get worse instead of better.

Not everyone experiences the same signature symptoms. Many victims are dazed instead of completely unconscious. Other victims experience nausea, but they do not vomit. As a result, many doctors misdiagnose TBIs as shock from the vehicle collision or early-onset dementia symptoms.

Furthermore, despite the large body of research to the contrary, many doctors do not believe that TBIs are physical problems. Instead, they mistakenly believe that rest and hydration will “cure” this injury.

A Brainerd attorney usually cannot help with the direct aspects of medical treatment. However, a lawyer can arrange for victims to receive treatment from brain injury specialists. These professionals know the many signs of a TBI. More importantly, they fully understand the serious nature of this injury.

TBIs are permanent. Once brain cells die, they never regenerate. However, surgery to reduce swelling and extended physical therapy usually all but eliminates the symptoms over time. So, early treatment is essential.

There is more good news. Your Brainerd attorney sends a letter of protection to the medical provider. This letter guarantees payment when the case is resolved. So, victims pay nothing upfront to receive top-notch medical treatment.

Attorneys send letters of protection to other injury-related providers as well, such as vehicle rental companies and body shops.

How a Brainerd Attorney Evaluates Your Legal Claim

Car crashes cause most of the Traumatic Brain Injuries in Minnesota. These incidents combine all three major TBI causes, which are:

  • Trauma: When the skull cracks, jagged fragments often push into brain matter. This trauma injury causes permanent damage.
  • Motion: The brain does not fit snugly against the skull. Instead, the skull is basically a water tank which holds fluid that suspends the brain in space. The violent motion of a car crash causes the brain to slam against the insides of the skull.
  • Noise: Explosive blasts and other sudden loud noises release shock waves which disrupt brain functions, in much the same way as an Electromagnetic Pulse disables electronic devices.

Vehicle collisions are usually not unavoidable accidents. Instead, a lack of statutory or ordinary care causes most of these incidents. Either one of these things could mean compensation in court.

Distracted driving is a good illustration. In Minnesota, it is illegal to talk or text on a cell phone while driving. Drivers who do so may be liable for damages as a matter of law if they cause car crashes. Other cell phone-related behavior, such as watching a video or surfing the web, is not illegal but still clearly distracting. If the behavior constituted a lack of ordinary care, liability may attach.

Falls cause almost as many TBIs as vehicle collisions. Car crash victims have steel cages and multiple restraint layers to protect them, but fall victims have none of these advantages. Legally, when victims slip and fall on wet spots, uneven stair steps, and other property hazards, they are entitled to damages if:

  • Legal Duty: In Minnesota, most fall victims are invitees. These people have an express or implied invitation from the landowner, and they provide a tangible or intangible benefit. In these cases, landowners have a duty of reasonable care, which is one of the highest duties in Minnesota.
  • Knowledge of Defect: Additionally, the victim/plaintiff must establish knowledge. This proof could be direct evidence of actual knowledge, or circumstantial evidence of constructive knowledge (should have known). This circumstantial evidence usually involves the time-notice rule. The degree of knowledge is linked to the amount of time the hazard existed.

These same rules often apply in assault TBIs. If a defective property condition, such as a burned-out safety light or a lack of security, substantially caused the incident, the owner is responsible for damages.

Contact an Assertive Lawyer

Brain injury victims may be entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We have several area office locations.

Call For A Free Consultation (877) 344-1555Free Consultation

Buffalo Lawyers

215 East Highway 55, Suite 201
Buffalo, MN 55313

Toll Free: (877) 344-1555
Phone: (612) 800-8057
Fax: 763-682-3330

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Brainerd Lawyers

17025 Commercial Park Rd, Suite 2
Brainerd, MN 56401

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

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Hutchinson Lawyers

114 Main Street North
Hutchinson, MN 55350

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

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Minnetonka Lawyers

3911 Ridgedale Dr, Suite 404E
Minnetonka, MN 55305

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

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