Some say that baseball is a game of firsts. Pitchers who throw strike one retire most of the batters they face, teams that score the first run win most of their games, and so on. In many ways, a Minnesota Personal Injury claim is much the same. Prompt and decisive action in the first few days usually has a tremendous impact on the outcome.
Obviously, however, a Brainerd car accident is not a game. In fact, quite the opposite is true. The medical bills alone from a serious crash often exceed $100,000. Most people do not have the funds to meet these obligations and most health insurance companies refuse to pay them. The insurance company knows that the victim’s family is in dire straits. So, representatives call constantly and pressure the victim to settle the case.
When things are at their worst, an attorney can step in and make things better.
Traditional Evidence A Brainerd Car Accident Lawyer Can Use
In most car crash cases, victims must establish liability by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). Generations of lawyers have used the accident report, witness statements, and physical evidence to build successful cases. Brainerd Car Accident Lawyers still use these same proven methods.
In injury accident situations, first responders almost always prepare written reports. These brief summaries contain a wealth of information that a personal injury attorney uses to build a case. The reports also drop hints about possible insurance company defenses.
Accident reports are hardly ever biased, but they are often incomplete. If the victim could not give a statement due to serious injury or death, the reporting officer only hears one side of the story.
Technically, a victim’s statement may be sufficient evidence. But most Brainerd jurors also expect to hear testimony from people like accident eyewitnesses, accident reconstructionists, and medical experts. If the victim has no corroborating witnesses, the case appears weak. The police report sometimes identifies one or two accident witnesses, but even this information is often absent.
So, an attorney must work hard to develop this evidence. There are many ways to coax reluctant witnesses into coming forward. Furthermore, when selecting the reconstructionists and medical partners, it’s important to keep in mind which ones will be good witnesses.
Brainerd jurors also expect photographs and other physical evidence. In fact, with today’s technology, they expect high-resolution pictures and other digital images. Without such evidence, many jurors conclude that the plaintiff has something to hide.
Non-Traditional Evidence A Brainerd Car Accident Lawyer Can Use
Technology has opened up an entirely new area in evidence collection. Brainerd Car Accident Lawyers who fail to take advantage of these tools simply are not giving their best efforts on behalf of their clients.
Most passenger vehicles have Event Data Recorders. Just like an airplane’s “black box” records critical flight data and other information, an EDR measures and records items like:
- Vehicle speed,
- Engine RPM,
- Brake application, and
- Steering angle.
The exact capability varies by EDR make and model. This data is often more precise than information from witnesses. For example, a witness may say that a car was fast-moving, but the EDR says it was travelling at 66mph. As a bonus, it is very difficult for insurance company lawyers to claim that EDR data is inaccurate.
Electronic Logging Devices are also very accurate. Many commercial trucks have these gadgets which yield information about HOS (hours of service). Before ELDs, drivers kept track of their hours in paper log books that were easy to fake. But an EDR is attached to the ignition, so the information is almost 100 percent reliable. Furthermore, even if a driver was technically HOS compliant, many drivers are naturally sleepy at certain times of the day. EDRs are useful in these cases as well.
Finally, today’s Minnesota jurors expect to see high-quality video evidence. Red-light cameras and other surveillance cameras are very important. This is the footage that first responders usually review. An attorney goes a step further. Cameras a few blocks away may fill in the evidentiary gaps; for example, a tortfeasor (negligent driver) might be on camera at a nearby bar.
The best available evidence does little good unless an experienced attorney matches this evidence with a compelling legal theory. This doctrine must also be straightforward enough for jurors to easily understand. Most Brainerd car wrecks involve one of two theories:
- Negligence: Most drivers have a duty of ordinary care. They must obey the rules of the road and drive defensively. If their behavior falls below that standard of care, and that failure causes injury, these individuals are liable for damages.
- Negligence Per Se: If the tortfeasor violates a safety law, such as DUI, and that violation substantially causes the victim’s damages, the tortfeasor may be liable as a matter of law. Sometimes, negligence per se is only a presumption of liability.
In some cases, third party liability may apply. For example, the bar in the above example might be partially responsible for damages, if there was an illegal sale. In Brainerd, alcohol sales are illegal if the customer was under 21 or obviously intoxicated. Vicarious liability is especially important in uninsured or underinsured motorist cases.
CALL TODAY TO SPEAK WITH A BRAINERD CAR ACCIDENT LAWYER AT CARLSON & JONES
Successful car crash claims are based on compelling evidence. For a free consultation with an experienced car accident lawyer in Brainerd, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We have several locations throughout Minnesota.