After peaking in the early 1990s, the number of vehicle occupant fatalities has declined recently. But the number of motorcycle fatalities has remained steady over the years. Engineering advances have increased car crash survivability, although the fatality rate is still high. But the motorcycles available in 2020 are not too much different from the ones in showrooms in the 1990s. That’s very bad news for riders.
Motorcycle accident victims may be entitled to substantial compensation. In Minnesota, this compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. However, entitlement is very different from money in your pocket. So, a Buffalo, MN injury lawyer must have a plan of action to help ensure fair compensation.
How Do Buffalo, MN Injury Lawyers Gather Facts?
Victim/plaintiffs have the burden of proof in accident cases. They must establish negligence, or another theory, by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). More on these theories below.
So, evidence collection is a critical part of a vehicle crash claim. Often, the police accident report is the primary evidence in these situations. Although they are not accident reconstruction professionals, most emergency responders do a good job of collecting evidence at the scene.
But motorcycle crashes are different. Because of the high fatality rate, the report often only contains the tortfeasor’s (negligent driver’s) version of events. And, motorcycle crash reports are often incomplete. Emergency responders are too busy tending to injured victims to concern themselves with evidence collection.
Therefore, a Buffalo, MN injury lawyer must often look elsewhere for evidence in the case. Physical evidence, such as a vehicle’s Event Data Recorder, is often critical. Eyewitnesses often forget key facts or crumble during cross-examination from insurance company lawyers. Other times, a witness simply rubs jurors the wrong way.
Physical evidence in general, and EDR evidence in particular, has none of these flaws. Depending on the vehicle’s make and model, the EDR usually measures and records things like:
- Steering angle,
- Brake application,
- Vehicle speed, and
- Engine acceleration or deceleration.
These figures are often critical in vehicle collision claims. Additionally, assuming the device was working properly, EDR proof is usually very effective in court. Computers are never wrong and never biased.
Buffalo, MN Injury lawyers must act quickly to preserve electronic evidence. Otherwise, the tortfeasor may “accidentally” destroy it. Wrecked vehicles usually end up in junkyards, where they are broken up for parts and exposed to the elements.
Applicable Law in Motorcycle Accidents
Human error causes about 95 percent of all car accidents in Wright County. This error is not always actionable in court, but that’s generally the case. Some common theories include:
- Ordinary Negligence: Most drivers have a duty of reasonable care. At all times, they must drive defensively and obey the rules of the road. Wright County jurors occasionally forgive momentary lapses, but not a pattern of neglect. For example, most jurors would not consider rolling up the window to be a serious infraction. But things are different if the tortfeasor used a device, like a smartphone, in the moments before a crash.
- Defective Product: As mentioned, faulty tires and other defective products do not cause very many car accidents in Minnesota. However, they do cause some. Typically, manufacturers are strictly liable for damages in these cases. Negligence, or lack thereof, is usually only relevant for damages purposes.
- Negligence Per Se: Often, the law establishes the standard of care. Drivers have an absolute responsibility to stop at red lights, drive below the speed limit, signal before turning, drive sober, and the list goes on. So, tortfeasors who violate such laws and cause crashes may be liable for damages as a matter of law.
Many times, a third-party liability theory applies as well. For example, in the aforementioned drunk driving claims, the bar, restaurant, or another commercial provider may be responsible for damages. Employer liability is common as well. The respondeat superior doctrine usually applies in Uber driver, truck driver, bus driver, and other commercial operator claims.
Resolving Motorcycle Crash Claims
A Buffalo, MN injury lawyer must do more than collect evidence and advance the proper legal theories. All this work amounts to nothing if an attorney cannot successfully resolve a motorcycle crash claim.
This process begins with setting an appropriate settlement value. That’s the amount of money the victim will accept in exchange for a liability waiver. The amount usually depends on the facts and applicable law, as discussed above. Other factors, such as contributory negligence or another insurance company defense, may come into play as well.
Almost all these claims settle out of court. In fact, many settle before a Buffalo, MN injury lawyer files legal paperwork. However, an early settlement is not always in the victim’s best interests. It’s usually best to wait until all the facts are in and medical treatment is at least substantially complete. Otherwise, the settlement amount may not be fair.
If the claim does go to court, most Wright County judges refer the case to mediation. This negotiation alternative is usually successful, if both parties are willing to make some sacrifices to get a deal done.
Rely on a Dedicated Attorney
Different motorcycle crash victims often go through the same legal process. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no money or insurance.