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Brainerd, MN Accident Lawyers and the Five Types of Driving Impairment

by | Dec 9, 2019 | Car Accidents, Firm News, Injuries

Collectively, the five types of driving impairment cause about half the car crashes in Crow Wing County. Impairment-related collisions never happen because the tortfeasor (negligent driver) was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Instead, these tortfeasors deliberately engage in unsafe driving behavior. So, compensation in these cases is usually rather high.

A Brainerd, MN accident lawyer may be able to obtain money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. But these claims are quite complex. Minnesota has a partial no-fault insurance law. Furthermore, the law regarding driving impairment is rather intricate.

Medical Condition

Many Minnesota residents struggle with diabetes, epilepsy, heart disease, and other conditions which could cause a sudden loss of consciousness. It is very dangerous for these people to drive. If they lose consciousness behind the wheel, the consequences could be tragic, especially if the incident occurs on a freeway or other high-speed, high-traffic roadway.

The DMY usually suspends drivers’ licenses for medical conditions, but the suspension is only temporary. Additionally, the DMV only takes such action if a doctor or another individual reports the condition.

Therefore, Brainerd, MN accident lawyers might use both negligence per se and ordinary negligence may apply in medical condition-related crashes. Negligence per se is the violation of a safety statute, such as driving with a suspended license. Ordinary negligence is a lack of reasonable care.


Distracted driving is a bit different from the other forms of driving impairment. Tortfeasors make poor distracted driving decisions in the moments before a crash, instead of when they get behind the wheel. Scientifically, distracted driving includes any of the following behaviors:

  • Manual (taking one’s hand off the wheel),
  • Visual (taking one’s eyes off the road), and
  • Cognitive (taking one’s mind off driving).

Note that hand-held cell phones combine all three forms of distraction. Hands-free cell phones, which many pundits tout as a safe alternative, might be even worse. Hands-free devices are distracting. Users take their eyes off the road and their minds off driving. That cognitive distraction is especially bad. After drivers use a hands-free device, there is usually a latency effect. It may take up to twenty-seven seconds for these people to re-engage and concentrate on driving.

Minnesota has a limited hands-free law, so the negligence per se doctrine may apply in some device distraction cases. In other situations, including hands-free crashes, victim/plaintiffs must use circumstantial evidence to establish ordinary negligence. Such evidence includes web browsing records, erratic driving, and text message logs.

Other causes of distracted driving include eating while driving, drinking while driving, and talking to passengers while driving.

Brainerd, MN Accident Lawyers and Alcohol

This substance causes about a third of the fatal crashes in Crow Wing County. Alcohol impairs both judgment and motor skills. Significantly, this impairment begins with the first drink.

Therefore, drivers could be impaired, but not legally intoxicated. In these situations, Brainerd, MN accident lawyers must once again use circumstantial evidence to establish impairment. This evidence includes:

  • Erratic driving,
  • Odor of alcohol,
  • Bloodshot eyes, and
  • Tortfeasor’s point of departure (i.e. the tortfeasor just came from a place that sold alcohol).

Minnesota has a broad dram shop law. So, these commercial providers may be vicariously liable for damages. To establish third-party liability, the victim/plaintiff must prove that there was an illegal sale. It is illegal to sell alcohol to impaired customers, to underage patrons, and in a few other situations.

If the tortfeasor broke the DUI law, even if the tortfeasor beats the criminal charges, the negligence per se doctrine usually applies.


Drowsiness and alcohol have roughly the same effect on the brain. Fatigue impairs motor skills and also slows reflexes. In fact, driving after eighteen hours without sleep is like driving with a .05 BAC level.

Alcohol and fatigue have something else in common. There is no quick fix for either condition. Only time cures alcohol intoxication, and only sleep cures fatigue. Shortcuts, like drinking coffee and rolling down the window, make people feel more alert for a few seconds, but that’s normally it.

There is no Breathalyzer test for drowsiness. So, Brainerd, MN accident lawyers normally must establish ordinary negligence. Truck crashes are different. These commercial drivers must adhere to strict HOS (Hours of Service) rules regarding mandatory rest periods.


Both criminal and civil laws are very broad on this point. Almost anything could have an impairing effect on drivers, such as:

  • Heroin, LSD, or other street drugs,
  • Oxycontin, Fentanyl, or other prescription painkillers, and
  • NyQuil, Sominex, and many other over-the-counter medicines.

Although there is no Breathalyzer test for drugs, the negligence per se doctrine sometimes applies in drugged driving cases. In fact, in many jurisdictions, police officers arrest almost as many drug-impaired drivers as alcohol-impaired drivers. The ordinary negligence rule also applies in many drugged driving crashes.

Contact an Aggressive Attorney

Impaired drivers often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced Brainerd, MN accident lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no insurance or money.