Office of Traffic Safety reports that traffic deaths are up in Minnesota

Recently reported data indicates that traffic fatalities on Minnesota roadways are on pace this year to exceed last year's deadly numbers, according to Minnesota's Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), which is a division of the Department of Public Safety.

Sadly, this news is especially troubling for the many areas of the state that already suffered an increase in traffic deaths from 2011 to 2012. For instance, OTS data shows that the there were 109 traffic fatalities in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Twin Cities metro area in 2012 - compared to 107 in 2011. And, although these recent increases may not be large, any increases are significant given the fact that prior to 2012 the State of Minnesota was actually experiencing a steady decline in fatal car accidents for several years.

Many reasons have been posited for the recent uptick in fatalities on Minnesota roads, including speeding, distracted driving, unwillingness to wear seat belts and, importantly, drunk driving. In the case of fatal drunk driving accidents, it can be particularly frustrating for the families of victims as many of the accidents, and subsequent injuries, could have easily been avoided had the driver merely decided not to get behind the wheel after drinking.

Drunk driving liability in Minnesota

Victims of drunk driving accidents in Minnesota, and their families, should be aware that they can hold drunk drivers liable for damages - such as medical expenses or lost wages - by filing a lawsuit against the driver in civil court. Additionally, in circumstances in which the drunk driver was over served alcohol at a bar or tavern prior to driving, victims of Minnesota drunk driving car accidents may attempt to hold these bars or taverns liable for injuries as well. In Minnesota, this form of legal responsibility is known as Dram Shop liability.

Specifically, under Minnesota law it is illegal for bars to sell or give alcohol to anyone under the age of 21 year or to anyone who is "obviously intoxicated." Furthermore, Minnesota law states that anyone injured by an intoxicated individual has a "right of action [...] for all damages sustained" against the person who illegally sold alcohol to the intoxicated individual in the first place. This right applies not only to the person injured but also to his or her family should the victim tragically die.

Consequently, if a Minnesota bar or tavern serves alcohol to an individual who is already obviously intoxicated - or under 21 - and that individual subsequently leaves the bar and injures or kills a third party in a drunk driving car accident, the bar or tavern may be liable for any damages.

Ultimately, the question of Dram Shop liability is a very fact specific issue in Minnesota, which is why it is always best to seek the counsel of an experienced personal injury attorney if you or a loved one has been injured in drunk driving car accident. A skilled attorney can assist in investigating the causes of your accident and help ensure your rights are protected.