Terrazas Henkel, P.C.

Missoula Personal Injury Law Blog

Understanding who can file a wrongful death lawsuit

While loss is often viewed as a normal part of life, that may do little to assuage the grief of those in Missoula who suffer through the deaths of family members and friends. Your gown grief over the loss of a loved one may be compounded even further if their death was unexpected. If it is later discovered that their loss was due to another's negligence, then you may be justified in your desires to hold that party financially responsible through a wrongful death lawsuit. Many in your same position have come to us here at Terrazas Henkel PC ready to initiate such action, only to then learn that it is not a privilege afforded to all. 

Montana's wrongful death statute can be found in Section 27-1-513 of the state's Annotated Code. It states that only a decedent's personal representative can file a wrongful death lawsuit on their behalf. The reason for this requirement is that any award that may come as the result of such an action is typically given to the decedent's estate. As the personal representative is responsible for the administration of the estate, the job of initiating a wrongful death action would also fall to them. 

Respondeat superior in premises liability cases

Most hold two common assumptions regarding the matter of liability: that property owners are responsible for what happens on their properties, and that individuals are responsible for their own actions. Yet what about when the two concepts merge? If you are injured by a person whose is an employee or agent of the owner of the property in Missoula the incident occurred on, who then would be responsible? Many have come to us here at Terrazas Henkel PC with this very question. Unfortunately, there may not be an easy answer to it. 

A legal principle exists known as "respondeat superior." Directly translated from Latin, this means "let the master answer." According to the Cornell Law School, respondeat superior holds employers liable for the action of their employees. However, said actions must be considered to be within the scope of an employee's job functions in order to apply this principle to your case. A good example to help demonstrate this distinction might be the actions of a security guard. The nature of such a job might require confrontation, yet given that is what the employer is expecting, then it might be assumed that it is prepared to accept responsibility. 

How can I cope with the wrongful death of a loved one?

If you recently lost a loved one due to another person's negligent actions, the pain can also be too much to bear. Losing someone close to you is never easy, but it can be especially difficult when the loss is senseless or happens suddenly. The Mayo Clinic offers the following tips on how to cope with grief, which can help you navigate the process to the best of your ability.

Give yourself time

Tips on driving safely in the winter

Winter in Montana often means treacherous roads and poor driving conditions. As a result, local motorists must take the proper precautions to ensure a safe experience for all, including themselves and their passengers. The following information explains what to do when encountering snow and ice, so you can reduce your risk of having an accident during winter.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests keeping certain items in your vehicle during the winter season. This includes an ice scraper, salt or kitty litter to increase traction, flares, jumper cables, a flashlight, and a snow shovel. Keeping warm blankets and clothing in your vehicle is also recommended in the event you're involved in an accident and stranded until help can arrive.

Snow removal, plows and traffic accidents

Driving during the wintertime can be particularly dangerous in many parts of the country, especially areas that see heavy snowfall and brutal temperatures. There are a number of risks associated with snowy roads, and aside from losing control of a vehicle or becoming stuck, drivers should also be mindful of trucks that are plowing snow. Whether someone collides with a county-operated plow truck or a small truck with a plow attached, the outcome of these collisions can be disastrous. Moreover, these trucks often take to the road when conditions are terrible and there is poor visibility, increasing the risk of a wreck.

If you regularly drive in an area that requires snow plowing during the winter months, it is pivotal to watch out for plows whenever you are on the road. Unfortunately, an accident may still occur, even if you are extremely cautious. For example, you or the driver of a snow plow truck may lose control after driving over a patch of ice. Moreover, those driving a snow plow truck may have problems with visibility due to the massive size of their vehicle.

What should you know to stay safe on an icy road?

Each year when the snow begins to fall, you may be caught off guard by how it affects the road conditions in Montana. When the winter season arrives, you will undoubtedly have to drive in less-than-ideal weather on roads that may sometimes be covered in ice. Understanding how to safely operate your vehicle and modify your driving is critical to protecting yourself and your passengers. 

Before you get into your vehicle, you should make sure that all of the snow is cleared on the windows. Sometimes, it takes several minutes for the ice to thoroughly defrost before your windshield wipers can clean your window entirely. It is imperative that you wait the entire time to make sure that there are no obstructions to your visibility before you begin driving. Additionally, you should always make sure that your lights are on when it is foggy or snowing outside and that you and your passengers have fastened seatbelts. 

How can I keep my kitchen safe this holiday season?

Families all over Montana will be hosting holiday gatherings in their homes complete with lavish feasts. While preparing a meal for loved ones is certainly fun and fulfilling, it's also important that you take the proper steps to keep you and guests your safe. Accordingly, Everyday Health recommends the following kitchen safety tips.

Keep multitasking to a minimum

How safe are Montana roads?

If you or someone you know has been involved in a car accident in Montana, even a relatively minor fender bender, you know all too well how upsetting these events can be. When a crash leaves one or more people with serious injuries or, even worse, results in the death of a person, the experience becomes even more fraught with challenges for those involved. While vehicle safety features have improved and laws are designed to keep people safe, there are still many people who end up dying unnecessarily in accidents every year.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1,021 people lost their lives on Montana roads and highways between 2013 and 2017. Excessive speed and alcohol were noted factors in 339 and 382 of these deaths, respectively. Large commercial trucks, like tractor-trailers, were involved in 97 of the fatalities. Of the people who died, 122 were on motorcycles and 72 were pedestrians. 

Does Montana law enforce liability waivers?

As a state, Montana is known for its many fun and exciting recreational opportunities. Some of these opportunities may bring with them certain inherent risks. These risks may be due to the physical features or attractions involved, or the nature of the opportunities themselves. To help shield themselves from liability concerns, the providers of said opportunities may ask you (and other participants) to sign a waiver prior to your participation. Are such waivers enforceable? 

In Montana, waivers are not even required in some instances. Section 27-1-753 of Montana's Annotated Code states that you assume the risks of any sporting or recreational activity in which you choose to participate. This assumption of risk means that if you are injured while participating in said activity, you cannot hold the provider liable. The only exception to this rule is if your injury is due to an activity provider's own negligence. 

You versus a moose: What to do if you hit one

At Terrazas Henkel, P.C., in Montana, we know the serious injuries you can receive in an auto accident. We also know that not all accidents represent cars colliding with each other. Sometimes you collide with one of our state's most recognized large animals: a moose.

Unfortunately for drivers, this time of year is exactly when female moose and their offspring tend to roam a lot, especially at dusk and dawn. Your best strategy when driving, particularly at these times of day, is to slow down and maintain constant vigilance for moose. If you see one, assume more are nearby.

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Terrazas Henkel, P.C.
PO Box 9077
1923 South Higgins Avenue
Missoula, MT 59807

Phone: 406-541-2550
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