In many situations, proving liability is not the most difficult part of a negligence case. Driver error causes almost all car crashes in Minnesota, and the burden of proof is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).
Collecting compensation might be different. The Gopher State has one of the highest percentages of uninsured motorists in the country. Additionally, Minnesota has one of the lowest auto insurance minimum requirements in the United States. So, many tortfeasors (negligent drivers) might not have enough coverage to provide fair compensation, especially in a catastrophic injury case.
Fortunately, Minnesota also has some of the broadest vicarious liability laws in the country. Fundamentally, Buffalo, MN personal injury lawyers pursue these cases to hold people responsible for their mistakes. Vicarious liability, which is also called third party liability or imputed liability, extends this principle to the person, or organization, which mistakenly set the stage for the crash.
Vicarious liability is usually the best way to obtain maximum compensation in a catastrophic injury wreck. It’s possible to pursue a separate claim against the tortfeasor individually. But these claims are complex, and there is no guarantee of success.
Truck crashes usually cause catastrophic injuries, such as serious burns and wrongful death. The same is true for high-speed Uber, Lyft, and other ridesharing accidents.
Respondeat superior (let the master answer) usually applies in these situations. Back in the day, respondeat superior was available only in limited situations. Now, the doctrine is much broader. Buffalo, MN personal injury lawyers can hold employers responsible for the negligent acts of their employees if:
- Employee: In the car crash realm, employees are not just workers who work regular hours and take home regular paychecks. If the employer controlled the worker, that worker is an “employee” for negligence purposes. This category includes owner-operators, independent contractors, and many unpaid volunteers.
- Scope of Employment: This prong was once limited to situations like a regular delivery driver on a regular route. Today, Minnesota courts define the scope of employment as any act which benefits the employer in any way. That could include driving a vehicle which bears the company logo. In that case, the free advertising benefits the employer.
Think about an Amazon driver accident. The individual drivers usually have little or no insurance. But Amazon has almost unlimited resources.
Other employer liability theories, which often come up in nursing home abuse or other intentional tort claims, include negligent hiring and negligent supervision.
Buffalo, MN Personal Injury Lawyers and Alcohol Provider Liability
Along these same lines, Minnesota’s dram shop law is one of the broadest ones in the country. Recently, many states have curtailed their dram shop laws, falsely reasoning that they discount individual responsibility in drunk driving cases. However, in Wright County, commercial alcohol providers are vicariously liable for car crash damages if they illegally sold alcohol to a patron who later caused a car crash. Examples of illegal sales include:
- Under 21,
- No valid liquor license,
- After-hours sale, or
- Sale to an intoxicated person.
Circumstantial evidence of intoxication at the time of sale includes things like unsteady balance, bloodshot eyes, odor of alcohol, and slurred speech. As mentioned, the standard of evidence is quite low in these cases. So, a Buffalo, MN personal injury lawyer need not produce much evidence to establish this point in court.
Social hosts might be vicariously liable for damages as well, under a theory like negligent undertaking. This legal doctrine applies if a host vaguely promises to do something, like call a taxi for an intoxicated guest, and then fails to follow through on that promise.
Teen drivers cause a disproportionate number of crashes in Minnesota, mostly because they lack driving experience. People under 18 cannot legally own vehicles or other property. Therefore, the negligent entrustment doctrine usually applies in teen driver crashes. Vehicle owners are vicariously liable for damages if they allow incompetent operators to use their vehicles, and these operators subsequently cause car crashes. Evidence of incompetency includes:
- No valid drivers’ license,
- Driving in violation of a license restriction, like driving at night, and
- A poor driving record.
Minnesota is a family purpose doctrine state. If a minor drove a vehicle for a family purpose, like picking up siblings from soccer practice, it is easier to establish owner responsibility for car crash damages.
These damages normally include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages might be available as well, in extreme cases.
Contact an Aggressive Attorney
The tortfeasor is frequently not the only legally responsible party in a vehicle collision claim. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN personal injury lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. You have a limited amount of time to act.