Over time we have represented a lot of people for all types of automobile collisions. My partner Joe Crumley and I have taught seminars for the Minnesota Association For Justice concerning all sorts of insurance and personal injury issues. Joe and I have authored a number of articles on the topic. Even with that, we still see cases that test the knowledge of even the most most experienced attorneys. The key is being aware and asking the right questions. A couple of stories caught my eye:
- The tragic death of Cincinnati Bengal wide Receiver Chris Henry. According to reports, he and his fiancé were in a fight. She took off in the truck and he jumped into the pickup bed. He was thrown out and killed. In Minnesota, there would be no-fault (PIP) death benefits available to the surviving family members. As to a fault-based claim for the death, there are questions of whether there is liability. Two big questions would be what was his intent in jumping on and what was the driver trying to do?
- The first reported highway death from the big Christmas snow storm. A Wisconsin woman was traveling across Southern Minnesota when she lost control on the ice and hit a car. Four people were injured in the car and the woman was killed. They will all be eligible for no-fault coverage under Minnesota law (even if they’re not from Minnesota). There is a funeral benefit and survivor coverages for the family of the deceased woman. As to liability, there may be look out and control issues for the drivers, but the passengers will all have claims, although insurers may try to claim it was and "Act of God."
- The case of the two good Samaritans that became heroes when they pulled a 87 year old man out of his van seconds before it was hit by a train. Apparently, the man had lost control of his vehicle and got hung up on the tracks. The man had recent had hip surgery and was using a cane to get around. Seconds before the train hit, he was pulled from the van by two men that made sure he was still around for Christmas. For anyone injured here, they would receive no-fault benefits and there may be liability issues once it was determined how the van ended up where it did.
- In Northern Minnesota a buggy was hit by a SUV. The three passengers in the buggy, which included a 3 year old, were taken to the hospital. Some people think that if you’re in a horse-drawn buggy, you can’t get no-fault benefits. This is wrong. Since they were injured by a motor vehicle, they usually have the right to Minnesota no-fault auto insurance benefits. Generally, if they aren’t insured under their own family’s vehicle, they can get coverage from the vehicle that struck them, just the same as any pedestrian. The Todd County Sheriff is still investigating this one.
- In Freeborn county a car rear ended a snow plow. The driver of the car was injured. No-fault will cover all those that were hurt. But snow plow cases in Minnesota have problems with a different issue, “immunity.” Basically, if they are performing their duty and there isn’t heightened negligence on their part, any liability claim would never make it to a jury. Early and effective investigation is vital to these type of cases. The snow plow driver would have no such limitation and also would be able to make a claim for workers compensation benefits.
- A school bus and two other cars ended up in a collision that shut down 394 for a short while earlier in the week. An 18 year old driver was injured. In this case everyone hurt would have a no-fault claim. The bus driver would have a workers compensation claim. Liability would be determined by which of the drivers was at fault. It is possible it could be all three drivers. As a school bus there are formal legal notices that might need to be served on the school district in order to bring a claim.
- The second week of December, a Fargo woman was killed in Moorhead when her car was hit by a fuel tanker truck. Information from the Minnesota Department of Transportation indicates that there have been about 40 accidents and six deaths at the intersection of Highway 75 and County Road 12 in the past 20 years. What needs to be done with this intersection? Maybe nothing, but it should be investigated. Minnesota law would apply and all involved have no-fault coverages available. Liability would need to be determined between the two vehicles.
- The First week of December, a seven vehicle collision was started when a minivan driver had a medical issue. The woman in the first vehicle was killed and a couple others were severely injured. The medical issue would need to be looked at closely to determine what happened and how foreseeable it was. No-fault benefits would apply for all of those involved.
Each of these cases involve injures, some of which were fatal. We send out our sympathy to everyone involved and don’t intend to lessen the loss by using their tragedy as an example. Each case needs to be looked at individually. There really isn’t a simple straight forward case. Sure the fast draw insurance adjuster will call and try to steer things in that direction. They may offer fast and cheap money. There will even be a group of lawyers that will handle it that way.
The right questions always need to be asked and most importantly answered. I will be looking at many of these issues during the coming months and hope that anyone who has questions, takes the time to ask.
A founding partner with Bradshaw & Bryant, Mike Bryant has always fought to find justice for his clients—knowing that legal troubles, both personal injury and criminal, can be devastating for a family. Voted a Top 40 Personal Injury "Super Lawyer" multiple years, Mr. Bryant has also been voted one of the Top 100 Minnesota "Super Lawyers" four times.