There is plenty of blame to go around in a recent Interstate 94 crash which killed one person and seriously injured several others.
A short distance east of the Highway 101 exit, John Houdyshell, of St. Louis Park, lost control of his box truck. Investigators speculate that Mr. Houdyshell may have had a medical episode. The center restraining cables failed to stop the out-of-control truck from crossing into oncoming traffic. The box truck smashed into a 2018 Silverado, killing the driver nearly instantly. Several other people were seriously injured in the multi-vehicle pile-up crash.
Minnesota Department of Transportation spokesperson Kevin Gutknecht said the new restraining cables were clearly “not fail safe.”
Medical Episodes and Negligence
Heart disease is a good example of the kinds of medical conditions which affect driving ability. Cardiac illness is not just the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Heart disease patients are also prone to heart attacks, strokes, and other sudden blackouts. These episodes often happen with little or no warning. So, it is extremely dangerous for these people to drive.
Other conditions in this category include diabetes, seizures, and syncope (fainting or lack of blood flow to the brain).
If the tortfeasor (negligent driver) has any recent diagnosis in this area, a Minnesota personal injury lawyer may be able to establish liability on that basis. These cases are even easier to win if the crash involved a loss of control, such as a vehicle crossing a median or barreling onto a sidewalk.
Minnesota law usually suspends the drivers’ licenses of individuals with certain medical conditions. But this suspension typically only lasts a few months, and the affected drivers often need not present any medical documentation to get their licenses back. They simply have to wait for the suspension period to expire.
Driving with a medical condition implies more than just negligence. It implies recklessness. The tortfeasor intentionally disregarded a known risk simply to drive from Point A to Point B. If there is clear and convincing evidence of recklessness, the victim/plaintiff may be entitled to additional punitive damages.
Employer Liability in Minnesota Car Crash Claims
If the tortfeasor was a truck driver, taxi driver, Uber driver, or another operator who hauled people or things for a fee, the respondeat superior rule often applies. Employers are legally responsible for the negligent actions (or inactions) of their workers if:
- Employee: In this context, the word “employee” has a much broader meaning than it does in tax law or some other areas. To determine who is an employee, most Minnesota courts use the broad Department of Labor definition. Under this standard, any person whom the employer controls is an “employee.” That could include independent contractors, owner-operators, and even unpaid volunteers.
- Scope of Employment: Once upon a time, the scope of employment meant something like a regular delivery driver on a regular route. But courts abandoned that standard long ago. Now, Minnesota personal injury lawyers can establish respondeat superior much more easily. The tortfeasor need only be promoting the employer’s interests in some way. That could include an activity like driving a vehicle which bears the company logo. In these cases, the employer benefits from the free advertising.
Respondeat superior applies in most regular negligence and negligence per se cases. If the case involved an intentional tort, like battery or sexual assault, other employer liability theories may apply. Negligent hiring and negligent supervision are two good examples.
Third party liability like respondeat superior is especially important in catastrophic injury and wrongful death cases. Minnesota has one of the lowest auto insurance minimum requirements in the country. So, many tortfeasors do not have enough coverage to fully compensate victims. Vicarious liability gives Minnesota personal injury lawyers an additional source of compensation to work with.
This compensation typically includes money for economic damages, such as medical bills, and noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages are sometimes available as well, as outlined above.
Can Minnesota Personal Injury Lawyers Sue the Government?
Human error causes about 95 percent of car crashes. Some other causes include defective products and defectively-designed roadways.
This latter instance came up in the 2007 Interstate 35 bridge collapse which killed thirteen people. The state paid almost $40 million in damages stemming from that case.
Defective roadway design might be an issue in other cases as well, such as the crash in the above story. Minnesota removed concrete medians and replaced them with restraint cables to improve driver visibility. The state insisted that the cables were just as safe as the barriers. But it appears that may not be the case.
If the roadway was defectively designed or built, and that defect caused injury, a Minnesota personal injury lawyer might be able to sue the government for damages. Apart from restraint cables, some other examples of roadway defects include:
- Excessively large potholes,
- Dangerously sharp curves,
- Missing or damaged guardrails, and
- Poor drainage.
In many of these cases, a Minnesota personal injury lawyer must first file a notice of claim with the state. If the two sides cannot reach an immediate settlement, the victim may be able to file a claim in civil court.
Compensation is available if the risk was foreseeable, the government knew about the potential danger, the victim had no warning of the hazard (like a “Bridge Out” sign), and the government’s inaction substantially caused the victim/plaintiff’s damages.
Call Today To Speak With A Minnesota Personal Injury Lawyer From Carlson & Jones
Catastrophic injury cases often involve complex legal issues. For a free consultation with an experienced Minnesota personal injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. An attorney can arrange for victims to receive medical care, even if they have no insurance or money.