Victim’s Family Deserves Compensation, Local Attorney Says

A 19-year-old man, whom investigators believe was impaired, is dead after his car left the road and hit a tree.

The crash happened near the intersection of 380th Ave. SE and 330th St. SE in Gulley. Joshua Anderson apparently misjudged a curve in the road and lost control of his truck, which rolled over multiple times. The force of the crash ejected him from the vehicle, and he was declared dead at the scene.

According to investigators, Mr. Anderson was not wearing a seat belt.

“This gentleman’s family may think they have no legal recourse, since their son died in a single-car crash and was not wearing a seat belt,” commented Amery personal injury attorney Erik Bergmanis. “But according to the law, this young man was an accident victim and his family deserves compensation.”

Minnesota has one of the broadest dram shop laws in the country. If a bar, restaurant, grocery store, or other commercial provider illegally sells alcohol and the customer causes a car crash, the provider is fully liable for damages. Examples of illegal sales include:

Underage customers,

Obviously intoxicated customers, and

After-hours sales.

Generally, with regard to underage sales, liability attaches as a matter of law. The old “s/he looked older” defense does not hold water in Minnesota.

Liability only attaches if the crash was a foreseeable consequence of the illegal sale. Foreseeability is a bit harder to establish in packaged alcohol transactions, but it’s still possible to prove by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).

There is more good news. Minnesota’s dram shop law bypasses the normal joint and several liability distribution. Alcohol providers are liable for “all” damages sustained in the car crash. Legally, this rule makes sense. The alcohol provider was arguably in the best position to stop the crash, so full liability should attach.

So, even though there was no other negligent driver, the young man in the above story is still an accident victim.

Additionally, Minnesota does not recognize the so-called seat belt defense. So, seat belt non- use is inadmissible in a claim for damages. Insurance company lawyers may not bring up this fact to shift fault for the accident to the victims or blame the victims for their own injuries. Once again, this rule makes sense from a legal standpoint. Seat belt use or non-use has nothing to do with the cause of the crash. And, victims have no duty to mitigate (reduce or guard against) damages before the accident occurs.

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