The Mn Criminal Defense, Personal Injury & Family Law Blog
Who Can a Brainerd Injury Lawyer Hold Responsible for Truck Crash Damages?
March 3, 2019
In Minnesota, bus drivers, truck drivers, and other commercial operators are common carriers. Since they are professional drivers, these individuals have a very high duty of care. That higher duty is reflected in things like the different highway speed limits for large trucks and passenger vehicles.
Because of this higher duty of care, it is easier for a Brainerd truck accident lawyer to establish negligence, which is a lack of care. Certain technological and legal tools make this process even simpler. It is also easier for Brainerd injury lawyers to establish negligence per se, which is a violation of a traffic or other law.
The higher duty of care affects more than first party liability theories, like negligence and negligence per se. It also concerns some third party liability theories, which are discussed below.
Injuries in Large Vehicle Collision Claims
Third party liability is especially important in catastrophic injury cases. Many times, the injuries which truck accident victims sustain fall into this category. Minnesota has one of the lowest vehicle insurance minimums in the state. So, in many cases, the individual tortfeasor (negligent driver) may not have sufficient insurance coverage to pay fair compensation.
Large commercial trucks weight over 80,000 pounds. Many other large vehicles, such as tour buses, are almost equally massive. So, Brainerd injury lawyers often must obtain compensation for a number of serious injuries, including:
Head Injuries: Trauma, motion, and sudden loud noises cause most head injuries. Truck accidents involve all three. Victims usually sustain very serious trauma injuries in these cases. Additionally, upon impact, their necks often move in a sudden, whip cracking-like motion. That motion alone may be sufficient to cause a head injury. Finally, many victims and witnesses say the noise of a truck crash is like an explosion. Noises like these create shock waves which disrupt brain functions.
Blood Loss: Because of external and internal trauma injuries, many victims are practically in hypovolemic shock by the time emergency responders arrive on scene. Typically, if people lose more than about a fifth of their blood, it is very difficult to recover.
Serious Burns: Diesel fuel burns at a different temperature from gasoline. That’s why many large truck crashes are fireball collisions. That’s also why many truck accident victims sustain third or fourth-degree burns. These injuries always require specialized, and expensive, treatment at designated burn centers. Furthermore, even if the injuries heal, these victims must often deal with permanent disfiguring scars.
Brainerd injury lawyers can obtain significant compensation for these injuries, depending on the facts of the case and the extent of injury.
If the victim survives, damages usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Under Minnesota law, if the victim receives treatment at a hospital, the victim normally sustained a “serious” injury.
If the victim does not survive, a Brainerd injury lawyer may file a wrongful death claim. These claimants usually receive compensation for pecuniary losses, such as the decedent’s pain and suffering, lost future financial contributions, and lost future emotional contributions.
Employer Liability in Truck Accident Claims
Respondeat superior (let the master answer) is the most common employer liability theory in large vehicle collision claims. This legal doctrine basically has three elements:
Employee: In this context, an “employee” is not just someone who receives a regular paycheck. Independent contractors, owner-operators, and even unpaid volunteers may be employees for negligence purposes. The employer controls them to some extent, and that control is all that’s required.
Scope of Employment: In a similar vein, any act that benefits the employer in any way is within the scope of employment. That definition goes well beyond situations like delivery drivers. For example, Crow Wing County courts have held that employee softball games are within the scope of employment. Employers benefit from the free advertising.
Foreseeability: The victim/plaintiff’s injuries must be a foreseeable result of the tortfeasor’s conduct. For example, if a doctor makes a medical mistake during treatment, that’s not a foreseeable result of a vehicle collision claim.
Other employer liability theories, which often apply in intentional tort cases, include negligent hiring, negligent entrustment, and negligent supervision.
Brainerd Injury Lawyers and Owner Liability
Negligent entrustment normally applies if vehicle owners allow incompetent drivers to operate their vehicles, and these operators negligently injure other people. Commercial negligent entrustment cases, like people who rent a U-Haul moving truck, work a bit differently because of the Graves Amendment.
This federal law imposes legal obstacles to fair compensation. In commercial negligent entrustment cases, in addition to driver incompetence, the victim/plaintiff must also establish that the vehicle owner was:
Not in the trade or business of renting motor vehicles, and
Typically, tortfeasors rent U-Haul trucks from moving companies and not from vehicle rental companies, like Enterprise. Furthermore, if the owner or agent fails to verify that that driver’s license is valid, the owner or agent may have been negligent.
Rely on Experienced Attorneys
Truck crashes often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these cases.