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October 2014 Archives

"Is a Car Crash Ever an Accident?"

That was the title of a short article in today's Star Tribune (Metro section, B3). The article was written by a journalist who had written an article which appeared in the paper last week about this 11-year-old boy who was struck by a car as he crossed a busy St. Paul Street on his way to school. The first vehicle in line saw the little boy crossing the street and slowed so that he could cross safely. The driver behind that vehicle went around that vehicle on the left-hand side and hit the little boy who suffered a traumatic brain injury and still resides in the hospital.The journalist called that an "accident" and this prompted a twitter exchange between her and her reader on whether or not it would be proper to refer to this sort of thing as an "accident" because that connotes that this was some sort of the inevitable thing which could not have been prevented in the exercise of reasonable care. That is, of course, total nonsense.Virtually every single car crash is the result of a poor choice or a series of poor choices made by a driver.Most recently the Minnesota Department of Public Safety has moved away from using the word "accident" and now would like to refer to those as "crashes". A spokesman for the DPS is quoted in the article as saying: "Accident implies that what occurs is random and there is no way anyone could have prevented it,". He went on to say that there are choices we can make when we are behind the wheel - such as driving the speed limit and avoiding distractions like texting - which can help prevent tragedy.I would also add the following. Jury trials in personal injury cases arising out of car accidents serve at least two purposes, the first being to do the best we can, as a society, to compensate the injured person for what has been taken from them. The second thing is to deter conduct like this in the future, not only by the defendant or defendants in the case, but by other drivers as well. Today's small personal injury case may very well prevent tomorrow's drunk driving tragedy.

Why Jury Service is Important

I happened to be in France for my oldest daughter's wedding two weeks ago. While there I got in a discussion with my daughter's future father-in-law about jury trials, something not available to the average citizen in his country. He was very intrigued by the whole idea of a group of citizens from the area deciding cases involving other citizens from the same area. He thought it was a wonderful idea.As the song goes, "you don't know what you've got till its gone". Right now big corporations are doing their best to incrementally take away your right to a trial by jury. Corporate wrongdoers don't like jury trials because they can't buy them off like they can the politicians. That is how they are chipping away at the right to trial by jury, by getting legislatures to pass laws immunizing them for their irresponsible conduct or allowing them to force consumers to an arbitration hearing instead of a trial by jury. It's almost impossible now to find any kind of consumer contract (credit card, mortgage, bank, etc.) that doesn't contain a clause requiring mandatory arbitration in a forum selected by the Corporation.If you are ever called for jury service I hope that you will appear. Each day, in every courthouse in this state, jurors serve as the voice of the community. Most people think only of criminal cases in that regard, but it is equally applicable in civil cases.