Every year, car crashes kill or seriously injure millions of Americans. Driver impairment, such as alcohol use or excessive fatigue, causes about half these wrecks. Operational errors, like speeding or making an illegal lane change, cause most of the rest. Lightning strikes and other true “accidents” only cause a handful of these incidents.
All vehicle collisions usually trigger significant medical bills and missed work. Additionally, victims must deal with pain and suffering from their injuries, in addition to emotional distress and other intangible losses.
To obtain compensation for these injuries, a Buffalo, MN injury lawyer must establish negligence by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). That negligence could be a lack of ordinary care, like driving while drowsy, or a violation of a statute, like driving while intoxicated.
On the other side, insurance companies make money by collecting premiums, and they lose money by paying claims. So, their lawyers often use legal loopholes to reduce or deny compensation. Some of the more common ones are discussed below.
Buffalo, MN Injury Lawyers and Contributory Negligence
Comparative fault is probably the most common insurance company defense in Wright County vehicle collision claims. Many times, the foundation is already in place. For example, Ted Tortfeasor may change lanes without signaling and collide with Vince Victim, who is speeding. Even if emergency responders only give a ticket to Ted, liability is still uncertain. The insurance company could claim that Vince’s excessive speed, as opposed to Ted’s dangerous lane change, substantially caused the crash.
A Buffalo, MN injury lawyer basically has two opportunities to respond to this defense. First, a lawyer can argue that the defense is not legally available. Truthfully, however, most Wright County judges side with insurance company lawyers in these situations. Judges generally do not like to take an issue out of the jury’s hands.
So, a Buffalo, MN injury lawyer must convince jurors that the wreck was substantially Ted’s fault. Perhaps Vince was only traveling a few miles per hour over the speed limit, or perhaps Ted was zipping between lanes. The jury must consider all these facts and arguments, then assign blame on a percentage basis between Ted and Vince.
Minnesota is a modified comparative fault state with a 51 percent bar. So, even if Vince was 49 percent responsible for the crash, a Buffalo, MN injury lawyer could secure a proportional share of damages for Vince.
So, contributory negligence generally only reduces the amount of damages the victim receives. Sudden emergency, if it applies, completely eliminates damages.
This scene from 1995’s Tommy Boy illustrates both prongs of the sudden emergency defense, which are:
- Sudden emergency, and
- Reasonable reaction.
The hood fly-up is almost certainly a sudden emergency, because it is a completely unexpected situation. For the same reason, a tire blowout probably a sudden emergency as well. In contrast, events like stalled cars and construction zones are not sudden emergencies. These things are not completely unexpected situations, so drivers should be ready to avoid them.
Nevertheless, in Tommy’s case, the defense would probably not apply, even though the hood fly-up is a sudden emergency. Instead of reasonably reacting by pulling over to the right, Tommy drove recklessly. He even crossed the centerline. Due to this reaction, if he struck another vehicle after the hood fly-up, he would probably be liable for damages.
Insurance companies often use the sudden emergency defense in pedestrian injury claims. However, a jaywalking pedestrian is typically not a “sudden emergency.” Most drivers see jaywalking pedestrians almost every time they leave the house.
Last Clear Chance
Did you notice how the other vehicles in the Tommy Boy clip steered out of the way when Tommy drove recklessly? That reaction introduces the third common insurance company defense in car wreck cases.
Buffalo, MN injury lawyers often deal with the last clear chance defense in head-on and rear-end collisions. If the victim had a reasonable chance to avoid the crash, but did not do so, the victim is legally responsible for the wreck.
In other words, those other vehicles had a legal duty to get out of Tommy’s way if they could. Drivers simply cannot sit back and let collisions happen.
Significantly, the victim must have the last clear chance and not any possible chance. Sometimes, environmental or traffic conditions make it impossible to safely make emergency maneuvers, like steering out of the way of a crazy driver. That’s especially true if the victim was riding a two-wheel motorcycle, as these vehicles are hard to control.
Contact an Aggressive Attorney
Despite what commercial jingles imply, insurance companies are never “on your side” in vehicle collision cases. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.