Classifying and Dividing Marital Property During a Brainerd Divorce

Like most jurisdictions, Minnesota is an equitable division state. Usually, but not always, “equitable” is synonymous with “equal” in this context.

There are a number of situations in which an unequal division is a just and right outcome, at least arguably. Sometimes, one spouse could have a disability which prevents him/her from becoming self-sufficient. Much more often, wife might want to stay in the house with the kids. Judges usually prefer this outcome if possible. But that outcome is clearly not in husband’s best interests, because he loses his share of the home equity.

Dividing marital property can be a tricky proposition in Brainerd. But before we even reach that issue, there is an important preliminary question to consider.

Is It Marital or Nonmarital Property?

The general rule is that property acquired before the marriage or by gift is nonmarital property; anything else is marital property. That seems fairly straightforward, but let’s see how it works in practice.

Before Ben and Jennifer got married, Ben owned a small rental house. It needed some work and did not have a tenant. Jennifer offered to use a wedding gift from her parents to fix up the house. Ben readily agreed. Before long, a tenant moved in and began paying $2,000 a month. The tenant was quite happy, but Ben and Jennifer soon had a falling out.

Ben owned the house before the marriage, so that makes it nonmarital property, right? Well, maybe. The answer basically depends on how much work the house needed and how big Jennifer’s gift was.

If the house was completely delipidated and Jennifer’s extremely generous gift fixed the foundation and replaced the roof, a Crow Wing County judge might conclude that the property was transmuted. In other words, the gift transformed the rent house from nonmarital into marital property. On the other hand, if Jennifer’s gift just paid for new paint and new carpets, a judge might determine that Jennifer is only entitled to reimbursement for that gift. If Jennifer’s gift just paid for new light fixtures and a few air fresheners, she might not even get reimbursement.

There’s more. The increase from marital property is also marital property. So, if Jennifer’s gift transmuted the house, Ben could owe Jennifer half the prior rents, which would be her share of the marital property.

Some Key Property Division Factors in Brainerd

Once marital property is properly classified, it must then be divided on an equitable basis. Minnesota law sets out a number of factors to consider. Some primary ones include:

  • Agreements Between the Parties: To avoid messes like the one engulfing Ben and Jennifer, many spouses use premarital or post-marital property agreements. Such agreements can spell out who is entitled to what in the event of a divorce. Brainerd judges almost always enforce these agreements, even if they weren’t 100 percent voluntary and are manifestly one-sided.
  • Contributions to the Marriage: This factor includes both economic and noneconomic contributions. If Ben spent long hours at that rental house making repairs and so on, his noneconomic contributions count just as much as Jennifer’s economic contribution. The same thing applies to a housewife who gives up a career to be the primary caregiver for minor children.
  • Custody Arrangements: This factor goes along with contributions to the marriage. In the above example, Wife probably gets to stay in the house with the kids. We’ll address the issue of Husband’s equity in a moment.
  • Future Income: Statistically, divorced men rebuild wealth much faster than divorced women. If there is evidence in the case that supports that conclusion, an unequal division might be appropriate.

The property division may not happen at the time of divorce. Let’s return to the husband/wife example above. If Wife wants to stay in the house with the children, Husband may receive a lien for his share of the equity. Later, when Wife sells the house, she must pay the lien out of the sales proceeds.

Resolving Disputes

Property division can be a very messy affair, and the disputes can be equally as messy. So, most Brainerd judges refer these matters to mediation. In Crow Wing County, mediation is at least partially successful about 70 percent of the time. If the parties cannot work out all their disputes, they can at least narrow the issues before trial.

Mediation usually works because it saves the litigants a lot of money. Mediation also gives the parties more control over the outcome. That’s an extra big plus if one spouse has problems accepting authority. Moreover, voluntary compliance with mediated property settlements is usually higher than it is with court-ordered resolutions.


Divorce property division may not be as easy as it seems. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd Divorce Lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle cases in Crow Wing County and nearby jurisdictions.


17025 Commercial Park Road
Suite 2
Brainerd, MN 56401
Toll Free: (855) 663-7423
Phone: (218) 736-9429
Fax: 763-682-3330
Office Details

Parenting-Related Modifications in Minnesota

Because we live in such a mobile society, Minnesota divorce orders were never intended to be permanent. That’s especially true with regard to child support and parenting timeshare arrangements. Unlike alimony, Minnesota child support is almost entirely income based. So, even a rather slight change could support a modification. Furthermore, many parenting time schedules involve a very delicate balance of activities, locations, pickup times, and drop-off locations. Again, even the slightest change could have major repercussions.

When these life changes occur, it’s very important to work with an attorney. Informal “side agreements,” even if they are written, are unenforceable in Buffalo family courts. If one parent unilaterally reneges on the pact, the other parent has no recourse, no matter how long it’s been or what the change was.

Child Support Modifications in Minnesota

Most people change jobs between ten and fifteen times in their working lives. Almost all such changes usually involve more (or less) money. Furthermore, even if a person stays at the same job, compensation usually goes up (or down) periodically.

Legally, income-related changes must be so significant that they render the existing order unfair or unreasonable. That’s quite a mouthful. To make things a bit easier, the Legislature embedded a presumption in the law that a 20 percent change, either up or down, has that effect. The change must be permanent and must also be made in good faith. A temporary influx of overtime does not justify an increase, and obligors cannot leave high-paying jobs, so their child support payments will decrease.

Other changes might also affect the child support obligation. Since Minnesota is an income shares state, part of the initial calculation usually includes the number of overnights for both residential and non-residential parents. If the ratio changes by more than 20 percent, a Wright County judge will presume that there has been a substantial change in circumstances. A lesser change might qualify as well, but the moving party would need to produce additional evidence.

Expenses sometimes play a part in initial determinations as well. For example, children grow up, at least from a biological standpoint, so they no loner need daycare. If that’s the case, a Minnesota judge might re-evaluate the child support obligation. Sometimes child-rearing expenses vanish altogether, at least as far as the law is concerned. Children turn 18 and grow up altogether. Or they may get married, die, join the armed forces, or obtain legal emancipation.

In general, none of these modifications are automatic, even age-related adjustments. The judge must rewrite the existing paperwork.

Parenting Time Modifications in Minnesota

Most people move about eleven times. Many times, these relocations are job-related. So, moves may involve both child support and parenting time modifications. Child support is usually based on the income of the parents, and parenting time arrangements are usually based on the best interests of the children. Both these things almost always change regularly.

Minnesota law contains a presumption that it is in the best interests of the children for them to have consistent and meaningful contact with both of their parents. Items like domestic abuse obviously rebut this presumption, but other evidence may suffice as well. There is also a list of factors to consider. Lawmakers recently refined the list. Some of the more prominent items include:

  • Child’s Special Needs: This factor is a recent addition. Some children have educational, health, or other needs that one parent can meet very well, and the other parent may struggle to deal with.
  • Parents’ Physical and Mental Health: Some parents have physical health issues, perhaps a chronic condition or an injury, that limit their mobility. Others struggle with depression or substance abuse. These limitations could affect the parenting time distribution. Likewise, if there was an issue and that issue goes away, the split might need to be reconsidered.
  • Child’s Preference: Unlike some other states, Minnesota does not place an age label here. Instead, Minnesota judges may consider the preference of any children mature enough to indicate such a preference without being influence by one parent or the other.
  • Status Quo: Family law judges like stability. Therefore, if the current arrangement is working, even if there are problems, many judges hesitate to change it. “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know,” as the old saying goes.
  • Ability to Co-Parent: Some parents are extremely aggressive in child custody matters. Usually on the advice of counsel, they fight every detail and refuse to compromise. Most Minnesota judges assume that if the parent is confrontational before court, that person will also be confrontational after court. Poor co-parents often make poor residential parents.

Other factors include any agreements between the parties that are also in the child’s best interest, along with the needs of each child.


As a general rule, most people need to modify their divorce orders at least once every two or three years. For a free consultation with an Minnesota Family Law Attorney, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle cases in Minnesota.

Who Pays Medical Bills In A Buffalo Minnesota Car Accident Case?

In a serious car accident case in Buffalo, emergency care alone often exceeds $100,000. Followup care, such as subsequent correction surgeries, adds even more to the cost. Finally, many serious injuries require extensive (and expensive) physical therapy.

Health insurance companies rarely, if ever, pay for such costs. They usually deny coverage, citing liability questions. That outcome leaves Wright County victims with enormous bills to pay and no way to pay them. Insurance companies know about this pressure, so they lean on victims to settle these cases very early before the victims even know how much their case is worth.

In times like these, you need a Minnesota Personal Injury Attorney to provide real solutions to problems like these. You also need your lawyer to fight for the compensation you deserve, because no one else will assume that responsibility.

First Party Liability in a Buffalo Minnesota Car Accident Case

The first thing to understand about car crash liability is that these incidents are usually unintentional. But they are almost never “accidental.” Drunk drivers used to use the “It was an accident” line when they caused fatal wrecks. Still, responsibility varies by degrees. As an example, let’s look at Miguel, Pablo, and distracted driving laws in Minnesota.

Each year, distracted drivers seriously injure more than 350,000 people in car accidents. But what exactly is “distracted driving”? According to experts, it could be:

  • Cognitive (taking one’s mind off driving),
  • Physical (taking one’s hand off the wheel), or
  • Visual (taking one’s eyes off the road).

Assume Miguel was having an animated conversation with his teenage son, who was in the back seat. As a result, he did not see the car in front of him stop short, and he rear-ends that vehicle. Miguel was clearly at fault for the wreck. Moreover, he was distracted both cognitively and visually. But most Wright County jurors would not consider talking to a passenger to be negligent.

Assume Pablo used a voice-to-text converter to text as he drove. The phone record shows that he sent and received several texts in the minutes before the crash. Even though he kept both hands on the wheel, he was distracted in the same way as Miguel. However, most jurors would say that Pablo wasn’t just careless. He was negligent.

Negligence is basically a lack of ordinary care. If such a lapse causes damages, that party must usually provide financial compensation for these damages.

There’s a little more to this question. Like many other states, Minnesota courts recognize the negligence per se shortcut. The tortfeasor (negligent driver) is liable for damages as a matter of law if that driver:

  • Violates a safety law, and
  • That violation substantially causes damages.

In negligence per se cases, it does not matter how careful or careless the person was. So, if Miguel received a citation for unsafe driving, which is probably the case, he may be legally responsible for damages. The same thing applies to Pablo. Under Minnesota law, it’s illegal to text and drive. Therefore, even if Pablo still had one eye on the road while he was texting, he’s still liable for damages.

Third Party Liability

Sometimes, the tortfeasor is not the only person who is legally responsible for damages. Assume that Miguel was an Uber driver or Pablo was a truck driver. If so, their employers might be responsible for the victim’s damages, according to the respondeat superior (let the master answer) rule. This doctrine applies if the tortfeasor was an employee who was acting within the scope of employment at the time of the Buffalo car crash.

Minnesota courts define both these elements in broad, victim-friendly terms. An “employee” is usually anyone that the employer controls, including independent contractors or even unpaid volunteers. Moreover, even if the tortfeasor is driving an empty vehicle to the garage, such an act still falls within the scope of employment.

Vicarious liability theories are especially important in cases that involve catastrophic injuries, like head injuries, severe burns, or wrongful death. Minnesota has one of the lowest insurance minimum requirements in the country. Therefore, many tortfeasors do not have enough insurance coverage to provide fair compensation.

In a serious injury Buffalo Minnesota Car Accident, fair compensation usually includes money for both economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages may be available in some cases as well.


Substantial compensation may be available to Wright County car crash victims. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo Minnesota Car Accident Lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. An attorney can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no money or insurance.


215 East Highway 55
Suite 201
Buffalo, MN 55313
Toll Free: 877-344-1555
Phone: 763-682-2220
Fax: 763-682-3330



What To Do After A Serious Car Accident Injury In Buffalo, Minnesota

Because the closest trauma center may be rather far away, car crash injuries in places like Buffalo tend to be very serious and very expensive. It’s not unusual for the hospital bill alone to exceed $100,000 in these cases. That’s not including other costs, such as physical therapy and lost wages. These expenses could easily double this figure. That’s also not including the intangible damages, like pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment in life, and emotional distress.

Legal issues make these financial issues even more complicated. Things are more complex still if the victim was visiting from out of town.

Fortunately, a Buffalo car wreck lawyer is both an attorney and a counselor. An aggressive advocate can get you the compensation and justice you deserve. Furthermore, a counselor can give you solid legal advice at the time when you and your family need it the most.

What To Do About Hospital Bills

Most people would not think to call a plumber to help pay for a roofing repair bill or a lawyer to help with a doctor bill. The plumber can do nothing but offer moral support, but a lawyer can do much more than that.

At Carlson & Jones, we direct our clients to qualified medical help. Family and ER physicians usually know little about whiplash and other car wreck-related injuries. So, we make sure that our clients receive proper diagnosis and treatment plans.

There is more good news. Our lawyers send letters of protection to these medical providers. These letters guarantee payment once the case is resolved. So, our clients usually pay nothing upfront to receive top-quality medical care. They do not even need health insurance.

We’re not finished. The letter of protection also authorizes us to negotiate the fee on your behalf. During these negotiations, we can usually arrange for a lower fee. So, our clients keep more of their settlement money.

The letter of protection does not make medical bills go away. But it does remove the immediate pressure to pay them in the short term, as well as make them more affordable in the long term.

Where to File a Claim

During holidays like the Fourth of July, many people in Wright County are in the area just to visit friends or relatives. The underlying law in negligence cases does not vary too much among different counties in Minnesota or even among different states. Under Wright County’s venue rules, out-of-towners can file legal damage claims:

  • In the county where the wreck occurred, or
  • In the county where they normally reside.

Many people file claims where the crash occurred. The evidence is close at hand. Moreover, Wright County jurors are fairly conservative on the whole. So, they are usually more sympathetic towards victims than jurors in big cities.

Filing a claim in the county of residence has its advantages as well. For example, if the victim/plaintiff is from far outside Buffalo, coming back and forth for hearings and other events may be a significant hardship.

There may also be some major differences in the law. When it comes to multiple fault in a car crash, Minnesota and most other states are modified comparative fault jurisdictions. Here in the Gopher State, the tortfeasor (negligent driver) must be at least 51 percent responsible for a crash for the victim/plaintiff to receive proportional damages.

In contrast, neighboring South Dakota has a one-of-a-kind slight/gross comparative negligence rule. In some cases, this rule may bar recovery entirely in multiple fault situations.

How to Win Your Claim

The victim/plaintiff always has the burden of proof in negligence cases. So, the victim/plaintiff’s Buffalo attorney must collect evidence. First responders begin this job by preparing a police accident report. Attorneys finish this job by collecting things like:

  • EDR Data: Most vehicles have Event Data Recorders. These devices record items like velocity, steering angle, and brake application. Evidence like this is obviously very important when it comes to establishing legal fault.
  • Additional Witness Statements: For various reasons, many Buffalo residents do not like talking to police officers. However, these individuals often voluntarily come forward when approached in another way.
  • Physical Evidence: Most Wright County courtrooms have high-definition video screens. So, jurors expect to see lots of high-resolution pictures of physical injuries, skid marks, physical damage to the car, and so on.

To collect this evidence, Buffalo car wreck attorneys often partner with private investigators.

Other professional partnerships often include an accident reconstructionist. These professionals are especially important in catastrophic injury cases. A reconstructionist can put the pieces of evidence together sort of like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. The simpler you can make things for the jury, the more likely a good outcome becomes.

Of course, the best evidence in the world is not much good without a top legal advocate. Our attorneys use theories like negligence and negligence per se to obtain fair compensation in these cases.

Call Today To Speak With A Buffalo MN Personal Injury Attorney From Carlson & Jones

Serious car wrecks are bad enough, but out-of-town car wrecks are even more complex. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Buffalo, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Home and hospital visits are available.


215 East Highway 55
Suite 201
Buffalo, MN 55313
Toll Free: 877-344-1555
Phone: 763-682-2220
Fax: 763-682-3330

Office Details

Why Should I Hire A Buffalo MN Lawyer For My Car Accident Claim?

Every year, car accidents in the United States seriously injure more than two million people. Even if the police officer only gave one driver a ticket, fault is usually not easy to establish in court. Because liability is so uncertain, many health insurance companies do not pay for car accident-related hospital bills. Since these expenses could exceed $100,000 in a serious injury case, the victim might have to come up with a lot of money in a hurry. Once the case goes to court, people can handle their own claims. But the legal process is awfully intimidating, even for attorneys who are not seasoned litigators.

These are three very large areas of concern. They are also three of the areas where Buffalo MN lawyers help the most.

An Attorney Can Collect Evidence

The evidence in a Buffalo MN car crash case starts with the police accident report. This report is not always easy to obtain, depending on the department’s policies. Nevertheless, it is publicly available.

But this report is incomplete. First responders only speak to witnesses who voluntarily come forward at the scene. Furthermore, they usually do not collect supplemental physical evidence. Police reports hardly ever contain photos of personal injuries or property damage. Finally, the police report is usually incomplete. Unless neither party was seriously injured, the report usually only contains one side of the story.

A Buffalo MN lawyer uses the police report as a starting point. Then, an attorney moves on to even better items, such as the Event Data Recorder. Unbeknownst to many people, all new vehicles in the U.S. contain an EDR. This instrument captures and records information like:

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

So, a jury can hear from a witness who testifies that she “thought” the tortfeasor (negligent driver) was “going fast.” Or, the jury can review evidence from an onboard computer which states that the tortfeasor was travelling at 57.8mph. Which source is more compelling?

But before an attorney can review the EDR, an attorney must preserve it. To do so, a lawyer sends a spoliation letter to the insurance company. This letter creates an ironclad legal duty to preserve all physical evidence in the case, including the EDR. There are stiff penalties if the insurance company “accidentally” destroys such evidence after receiving such a letter.

There are other examples as well. Buffalo MN lawyers, sometimes working with private investigators, can canvass the area and find additional witnesses. These professionals can also review nearby surveillance video.

Buffalo MN Lawyers Make Medical Bills Easier to Pay

The letter of protection is another key piece of pre-suit correspondence. Lawyers send these letters to medical providers. They guarantee that the provider will be paid when the car crash case is resolved. Therefore, the victim pays nothing upfront.

A letter of protection also creates bargaining leverage. When the settlement check comes, an attorney can negotiate with the provider for a lower rate. If these talks are successful, and they usually are, that means that the victim gets to keep more of the settlement money.

An Attorney Knows the Law

People can serve as their own lawyers just like people can be their own doctors. In 2000, a Mexican woman performed a C-section on herself at home. Both she and the baby survived. The story is pretty interesting, although it’s not for the squeamish. We thought the most interesting facts were that the woman only stayed in the hospital for five days (!) and she then took the bus home (!!).

Serving as your own lawyer is not exactly like performing a C-section on yourself, but it is in the same ballpark. Buffalo MN lawyers know how to plug the facts into the appropriate legal theory. The two biggest ones are:

  • Negligence: If the tortfeasor breached a legal duty, and that breach proximately caused injury, the tortfeasor may be liable for damages in accordance with the law. If you did not understand much or any of that, you are not alone.
  • Negligence Per Se: Things are a little more straightforward if the tortfeasor broke a safety law, such as the DUI law. In that case, the tortfeasor may be liable for damages as a matter of law.

Buffalo MN lawyers are also ready to blunt some common insurance company defenses. These lawyers will use any means possible to reduce or deny compensation to the victim. They care nothing about what’s fair or what’s right. So, you need an equally assertive attorney on your side. Otherwise, a court battle is a one-sided fight that you have almost no chance of winning.

Call Today To Speak With A Buffalo MN Lawyer At Carlson & Jones

Even the strongest claims for compensation fall flat unless aggressive attorneys are there to push them forward. For a free consultation with experienced Buffalo MN Lawyers, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Home and hospital visits are available.


215 East Highway 55
Suite 201
Buffalo, MN 55313
Toll Free: 877-344-1555
Phone: 763-682-2220
Fax: 763-682-3330

Office Details

Map and Directions

How Do Brainerd Lawyers Fight DWI’s?

Drinking-and-driving infractions are quite common in semi-rural areas like Crow Wing County. In some jurisdictions, as many as half the probationers were convicted of DWI. Due to the high volume, many Brainerd Lawyers automatically try to arrange plea bargains in these cases. Especially if the defendant took a chemical test, which most do, these attorneys believe that the state’s evidence is just too overwhelming.

However, that’s not always the case. Even if the defendant provided a chemical sample, it’s possible to fight a DWI charge and win.

What is at Stake?

Even if you are convicted of a first-time DWI, you may some jail time. You will almost certainly serve a lengthy period of probation. But those are not the biggest consequences of a DWI.

One major effect is possible drivers’ license suspension. In a place like Brainerd that has very little public transportation, a drivers’ license is practically a necessity. There may be no other way to run necessary errands, get to and from work, and get the kids to and from school. A first DWI could mean up to a one-year suspension.

Higher insurance rates are the second major consequence. These costs are usually the biggest ones, by far, in a DWI. Many people may see their rates increase by as much as 90 percent. Their rates usually stay that high for at least three years.

Attacking the FSTs

The Field Sobriety Tests almost always provide probable cause for the arrest. Legally, if the officer did not have probable cause, the arrest is invalid and so is the prosecution. If the defendant did not provide a chemical sample, and about one in five do not, the FSTs also serve as evidence of intoxication at trial.

So, it’s important to undermine the FSTs to the greatest extent possible. At Carlson & Jones, our Brainerd lawyers use proven methods to do just that.

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus: In the HGN test, defendants must track moving objects with their eyes without moving their heads. If there are involuntary pupil movements at certain angles, the person probably has nystagmus. One problem with the HGN DWI test is that it often takes place at night while overhead squad car lights flash in the defendant’s face. Another problem is that alcohol is not the leading cause of nystagmus. In fact, it’s not even close to the leading cause of nystagmus.
  • Walk and Turn: For the heel-to-toe walk test, defendants must walk a straight line heel-to-toe then walk back the same way. Officers are supposed to give defendants the opportunity to remove high-heel shoes and account for various disabilities, but they don’t always do those things. Furthermore, it is almost impossible for anyone, drunk or sober, to walk an imaginary line in the dark heel-to-toe.
  • One Leg Stand: Much like the WAT, the OLS is a divided attention test that measures both physical and mental ability. Also like the WAT, officers often testify that the defendant “failed” the test based on a technicality like lifting the leg at a slightly-incorrect angle.

Some peace officers in Brainerd also use unapproved FSTs, like reciting the ABCs or the finger-to-nose test. But these tests are usually either inadmissible or only admissible for limited purposes.

How Brainerd DWI Lawyers Challenge Chemical Tests

If the defendant provides a chemical sample, it is nearly always a breath sample. Per a recent Supreme Court decision, officers must obtain search warrants to perform blood tests. Except in rare cases, they usually do not take that extra step.

Today’s Breathalyzer is a small device that looks very high-tech. But on the inside, it is basically the same gadget as the Drunk-O-Meter which appeared in the 1950s. So, the Breathalyzer suffers from some of the same flaws, including:

  • Acetone Levels: Diabetics, smokers, and many other individuals have high levels of these particles in their bodies. The Breathalyzer reads them as ethanol. So, the reading may be artificially high.
  • Mouth Alcohol: The law was once very strict about a fifteen-minute monitoring period. That’s no longer the case. Ironically, however, the change may benefit Brainerd DWI Lawyers and their clients. With no one to monitor the defendant, there may be no way to prove that the defendant did not burp or belch prior to the test. Such activity releases mouth alcohol which skews the results.
  • Unabsorbed Alcohol: If the defendant has been drinking in the past hour or so, the kidneys have not yet absorbed the alcohol into the bloodstream. Once again, the results may be artificially high.

These flaws are especially important in borderline BAC cases, such as a .08 or .09. Basically, the Breathalyzer measures breath alcohol and uses that value to estimate the person’s blood alcohol level. Many people do not understand that there is an extra step involved, so Brainerd lawyers must educate jurors without talking down to them.

Call Today To Speak With A Brainerd DWI Lawyer From Carlson & Jones

The anti-DUI fight is a winnable fight. For a free consultation with experienced Brainerd Lawyers, contact Carlson & Jones. We routinely handle cases in Crow Wing County and nearby jurisdictions.


17025 Commercial Park Road
Suite 2
Brainerd, MN 56401
Toll Free: 877-344-1555
Phone: 218-454-3337
Fax: 763-682-3330
Office Details
Map and Directions

Who is the Best Personal Injury Attorney in Minnesota?

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

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

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

Legal Issues in Minnesota Vehicle Collisions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Best Personal Injury Attorneys in Minnesota Handle Premises Liability Claims

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

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

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

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

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


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

Who is the Best Criminal Defense Attorney in Brainerd?

When many people think of crime in Brainerd, they think of the 1996 movie Fargo. The film included a disclaimer that it was based on a true story. Producer/Director Ethan Cohen later said that there was nothing factual about the story, except for some random bits and pieces. However, “You don’t have to have a true story to make a true story movie,” he once said rather cryptically. It may be entirely fictional, but if you can stomach the blood, it’s also a very good movie.

But, back to reality. Smaller jurisdictions like Crow Wing County are known for their extremely aggressive prosecutors. No one wants to be prosecuting DUIs in Brainerd as they approach retirement. Since the only way to move up the ladder is to get lots of convictions, your criminal case may be little more than a stepping stone.

Moreover, small counties usually have very conservative residents. That means the jury is likely to have quite a few “tough on crime” jurors. So, prosecutors often take more chances in places like Crow Wing County.

Even in rural Minnesota, you have a lot of criminal defense choices. How do you know how to pick the best criminal defense attorney in Brainerd?

Familiarity with the Process

Most crimes in Brainerd consist of three separate stages. It’s important to know the legal issues that are unique to each one of them. That is the best way to attack the state’s evidence, and that is the best way to ensure a positive result.

A criminal law case usually begins with a traffic stop or other kind of law enforcement contact. DUIs are a good example. Nearly all these arrests begin with a minor traffic violation. Even a non-moving violation, like a burned-out taillight, may suffice.

When the officer gets to the defendant’s car window, the officer is looking for reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Recently, the Supreme Court has watered down this standard. However, the officer must still have “specific articulable facts” that point to criminal activity. In a DUI case, that means things like:

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

These facts do not necessarily mean that the defendant is intoxicated. In fact, they may not even mean the defendant had been drinking. Many people driver erratically not because they are drunk but because they are lost, sleepy, nervous, distracted, and the list goes on. However, the standard is very low. So, it’s very difficult to challenge a criminal case at this stage.

The next phase is different. To make an arrest, the officer must have probable cause. This evidentiary standard has no precise definition. But, it is somewhere between reasonable suspicion (very low) and beyond a reasonable doubt (very high).

Let’s stay with the DUI example. If the defendant refuses to provide a chemical sample, the officer must rely on the field sobriety tests to establish probable cause. The three officially-approved tests are:

  • Walk and turn (walking a straight line),
  • One leg stand, and
  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (following a point with your eyes).

The officer invariably testifies that the defendant “failed” every test. That failure may be based on a minor technicality, like starting with the wrong foot. The judge must review the evidence for legal sufficiency. If it comes up short, the judge may throw out the case.

As mentioned, at trial, the prosecutor must prove every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Much like probable cause, this term has no precise definition in Minnesota. In a DUI, the evidence must be so overwhelming that there is no other reasonable explanation other than the prosecutor’s version. The jury must be convinced that the defendant was intoxicated beyond the legal limit, and not simply “buzzed.”

The Best Criminal Defense Attorney in Brainerd Comes Out of the Closet

That subheading got your attention, didn’t it? Here, the closet we mean is the “plea closet.” Some attorneys zero in on a plea bargain arrangement and neglect trial preparation. While the overwhelming majority of cases (97 percent by one count) do settle out of court, that leaves a significant number which go to trial.

One famous example is the 1968 slaying of Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy in California. Sirhan Sirhan was arrested at the scene, and there was quite a bit of evidence against him. His attorneys spent a lot of time trying to plea bargain the case, but the judge rejected the deal. As a result, some say, the defense failed to poke holes in the prosecutor’s evidence. A jury rather quickly found Mr. Sirhan guilty.

More importantly, attorneys who stay in plea closets do a disservice to their clients. Prosecutors know that they will not challenge their evidence, so they do not get the best deals.

Call Today To Speak With A Brainerd Criminal Defense Attorney From Carlson & Jones

In addition to vast knowledge and the right attitude, the best criminal defense lawyer in Brainerd also has a passion for representing defendants in court. For a free consultation with a passionate criminal defense attorney in Brainerd, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Home and jail visits are available.


17025 Commercial Park Road Suite 2
Brainerd, MN 56401
Toll Free: 877-344-1555
Phone: 218-454-3337
Fax: 763-682-3330
Office Details
Map and Directions

What Issues Can A Buffalo MN Divorce Lawyer Help With?

Two innovations in California family law in the 1970s had an almost seismic effect on twenty-first century Buffalo MN Divorces.

In 1970, one of the country’s first no-fault divorce laws went into effect. Before then, a spouse could get a divorce, but only on evidentiary grounds like mental cruelty or adultery. Nationwide, the divorce rate skyrocketed through the 1970s and 1980s. It levelled off in the 1990s and has actually declined a bit since 2000.

Also, during the 1970s, California lawmakers approved the nation’s first joint custody law. Before then, divorced fathers had almost no rights whatsoever when it came to their children. Joint custody has its detractors, but it is still the standard outcome in most Minnesota divorce cases and the goal that most Buffalo MN Divorce Lawyers work toward.

Financial Issues in a Minnesota Divorce

The concept of no-fault divorce, which Minnesota lawmakers quickly adopted, had some significant financial repercussions. Since no one spouse was responsible for ending the marriage, it stood to reason that no one spouse should suffer financially due to the breakup.

The division of debts and assets is the most obvious area. As a rule, any property or debt acquired during the marriage, unless it was a gift, is marital property. Some people are surprised that something like a 401k retirement account is marital property, even though only one spouse made the financial contributions.

Classification is especially difficult after a long marriage because property becomes commingled. For example, Wife may use money from her paycheck (marital property) to pay off her student loans (non-marital debt). Upon divorce, Husband may be entitled to some reimbursement for those dissipated (gone) marital funds.

As for the division itself, Minnesota is an equitable distribution state. “Equitable” is not necessarily the same thing as “equal.” To bring about an equitable division, Buffalo divorce lawyers look at a number of factors, including:

  • Length of the marriage,
  • Relative health, age, and educational background of each spouse,
  • Noneconomic contributions to the marriage (the “homemaker factor”),
  • Custody of minor children, and
  • Any agreements between the spouses.

The spousal agreement factor is usually the most important one. Minnesota has adopted the Uniform Premarital and Marital Agreements Act. Under the UPMAA, any agreement which was mostly voluntary and not entirely one-sided usually becomes part of the divorce.

Buffalo MN Divorce Lawyers and Child Custody

The Gopher State has a joint custody law. But that law usually refers to legal custody, which is basically the right to make important decisions concerning the children. “Joint custody” also refers to the right of access. In most cases, Minnesota law presumes that it is in the best interests of the children for them to have ongoing, meaningful contact with both parents.

In terms of physical custody, the children usually “live” with one parent and “visit” the other one every other weekend, every other holiday, most of the summer, and some other days in the year. The division usually works out to about a 70-30 time split.

Much like property division, Minnesota judges can use a variety of factors to determine the best interests of the children. Some of these factors include:

  • Child’s preference as to custody,
  • Family and sibling relationships,
  • Any agreements between the parties, and
  • The current state of affairs.

That last factor is usually the most important one. Most judges like to keep the status quo in effect, even if it is not perfect. So, unless there are major problems or new evidence arises as discussed below, most Wright County judges keep the children where they are.

How Does a Buffalo MN Divorce Lawyer Resolve Your Case?

Only about 3 percent of the civil cases in Minnesota go to trial. Instead, a Buffalo divorce lawyer resolves most property divisions through mediation. The social study resolves most child custody disputes.

Minnesota judges usually order contested cases to mediation. The setting is both trial-like and quite informal. After each side gives a brief opening statement, the two spouses and their attorneys retire to separate rooms. A neutral third-party mediator, who is usually a local family law attorney, then convey settlement offers back and forth.

Mediation is at least partially successful about three-fourths of the time. If the parties cannot resolve all disputes, they can at least narrow the issues for trial. Either way, most litigants save time and money through mediation, which is why the forum is so popular.

If child custody is an issue, most Minnesota judges order a social study. A social services investigator prepares a report after extensive interviews, research, and other activities. The judge does not technically have to accept the outcome. But, as far as most are concerned, the social services report is basically gospel truth.

An attorney has no control over the outcome, but a lawyer can influence the process. The right social worker is perhaps the single most ingredient in the outcome. Some social investigators have a bias toward one parent or another. Others have a reputation for cursory examinations instead of in-depth explorations.



Buffalo divorces involve both emotional and financial issues. For a free consultation with an experienced Divorce Lawyer in Buffalo, Minnesota, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Our attorneys have over fifty years of combined experience.


215 East Highway 55
Suite 201
Buffalo, MN 55313
Toll Free: 877-344-1555
Phone: 763-682-2220
Fax: 763-682-3330


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

Office Details
Map and Directions

Brainerd Lawyers

17025 Commercial Park Rd, Suite 2
Brainerd, MN 56401

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

Office Details
Map and Directions

Hutchinson Lawyers

114 Main Street North
Hutchinson, MN 55350

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

Office Details
Map and Directions

Minnetonka Lawyers

3911 Ridgedale Dr, Suite 404E
Minnetonka, MN 55305

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

Office Details
Map and Directions