Until recently, hit-and-run crashes were very rare. But these incidents have increased 62 percent since 2009. Without a responsible tortfeasor (negligent driver), many accident victims assume they cannot obtain compensation for their injuries. But, that’s not necessarily true.
Even after a Buffalo car accident lawyer identifies the tortfeasor, obtaining compensation may still be a problem. Minnesota has one of the lowest auto insurance minimum requirements in the country, so many drivers are dangerously underinsured. But many hit-and-run drivers flee the scene because they are intoxicated. This impairment opens a number of doors in terms of third party liability.
The Burden of Proof in Civil Cases
It’s difficult to obtain criminal convictions in hit-and-run cases. The burden of proof in these cases is beyond a reasonable doubt. So, the prosecutor needs a witness or some other evidence which places the driver behind the wheel at or very near the time of the crash. Otherwise, there may be a reasonable doubt as to the driver’s identity.
That’s not true in civil cases. The burden of proof – a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not – is much lower in tort cases. If the victim/plaintiff identifies the car, this evidence may be sufficient.
Assume a witness sees a dark-colored sedan strike a pedestrian and then drive off. The witness says the last two letters of the license plate are “XG.” That’s not much to go on, but it is probably enough for a Buffalo car accident lawyer. There may only be a few dark sedans in Buffalo with XG plates. It is definitely more likely than not that one of them is the tortfeasor, especially if the owner lacks a rock-solid alibi for the time of the crash.
Additional Evidence in Hit-and-Run Claims
To further narrow the list of potential tortfeasors, Buffalo car accident lawyers can use additional circumstantial evidence and establish a negligence case.
Culling the area for additional witnesses is usually a good idea. To return to the above example, a witness a few blocks from the crash might have seen a dark sedan with the license plate “LXG.” There may also be additional witnesses at the scene who did not speak to police officers, for whatever reason.
Emergency responders often inquire at major nearby body shops to find clues. But many hit-and-run tortfeasors do not go to these places for repairs. Instead, they go to underground places. Only a Buffalo car accident lawyer, perhaps working in partnership with a private investigator, can find such places.
The more evidence the victim/plaintiff has, the stronger the claim for compensation becomes. This compensation usually includes money for economic damages, such as medical bills, and noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering. Moreover, many Wright County jurors intensely dislike hit-and-run drivers. So, they often award additional punitive damages in these cases.
Buffalo Car Accident Lawyers and Third Party Liability
Alcohol-related crashes usually involve vicarious liability, since Minnesota has a very strong dram shop law. Restaurants, grocery stores, convenience stores, and other commercial alcohol providers are liable for damages if their patrons negligently cause damages if:
- Illegal Sale: It is illegal to sell alcohol to minors. It is also illegal to sell alcohol to a person who is obviously intoxicated. In underage sales, the evidence is usually clear cut. The person was either over or under 21. In adult sales, circumstantial evidence of impairment, like bloodshot eyes and slurred speech, is admissible.
- Foreseeable: It is foreseeable that a person who drinks and drives may cause an accident. It is also foreseeable that if a person buys packaged alcohol, that person will have a drink on the way home.
Minnesota’s dram shop law also applies in noncommercial transactions. Party hosts and other social hosts are vicariously liable for damages if they control the premises where the tortfeasor acquired the alcohol, and the owner recklessly allowed consumption to take place.
The alcohol third party liability laws apply in other alcohol-related cases as well.
Call Today To Speak With an Experience Buffalo Car Accident Lawyer From Carlson & Jones
Even if the tortfeasor flees the scene, a successful claim may still be in the cards. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo car accident lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.