Maximizing Recoveries For Those Injured In Car Accidents
Car accidents are a leading cause of injury and wrongful death in Wisconsin and across the nation.
The Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles reports that more than 500 people are killed annually in traffic crashes across the state — an average of more than one life lost on our roads daily. In addition, nearly 40,000 people are injured in Wisconsin motor vehicle collisions each year. Approximately 8 percent of those are considered incapacitating injuries. A significant number of fatal and serious injury crashes in Wisconsin are the result of alcohol-impaired drivers, with a serious or fatal drunk driving crash occurring every 3.1 hours.
The Wisconsin Department of Health reports the Sawyer County rate of car accident deaths is 28 per 100,000 — more than double the rate for Wisconsin, which is 11.
Local Lawyers Focused On Your Specific Needs
At Lein Law Offices, our Hayward car accident attorneys can help you determine whether you may have grounds to pursue a tort action against other motorists or third parties for your injuries.
Unlike some states, Wisconsin does not have a no-fault car accident insurance system. Rather, we are considered a “tort state,” meaning in the event of a motor vehicle collision, you can sue for your injuries, but you must prove fault on the part of the defendant(s).
These claims can include economic losses, such as medical bills, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, as well as noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering, disfigurement, and loss of consortium. In some cases (particularly drunk driving), they can entail punitive damages, intended per WI Stat. § 895.403 to penalize the defendant rather than simply “make whole” the plaintiff.
Minimum auto insurance required in Wisconsin, per the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance, is:
- $25,000 for injury/death of one person;
- $50,000 for injury/death of two or more people;
- $10,000 for property damage;
- $25,000/$50,000 for uninsured motorist coverage (good for hit-and-run collisions or when the at-fault driver lacks insurance).
Bear in mind these are the minimum amounts required. It’s often a smart idea to purchase excess insurance. For instance, underinsured motorist coverage isn’t mandatory, but it can provide additional coverage in the event the minimum limits of the at-fault driver’s insurance aren’t sufficient to cover your damages.
Proving Negligence In Crash Cases
Although the term “car accident” is a familiar one, the truth of the matter is these are not truly accidents, but avoidable events caused by a single variable or chain of variables — with the catalyst usually being human error. This could mean distraction or impairment or not using ordinary care when driving in inclement weather.
In crash cases, we will need to establish negligence. As our Hayward car accident attorneys can explain, a finding of negligence requires establishing:
- Defendant owed a duty of care to plaintiff. In crash cases, this is usually fairly easy as all motorists have a responsibility to other motorists, passengers and pedestrians to obey traffic laws and use reasonable care. This duty can also extend to employers whose employees are trusted to drive vehicles in the course and scope of employment.
- Defendant breached that duty of care. This could mean defendant violated a traffic law. It could mean they failed to exercise ordinary or reasonable care, such as maintaining an assured clear distance.
- The breach of care caused plaintiff’s injuries. The injuries of plaintiff must have been caused by defendant. Plaintiff can collect damages for exacerbation of an existing injury, but not if the pre-existing injury was solely caused by something else.
- Plaintiff’s injuries resulted in monetary damages. Your injuries must have cost you something — whether payment of medical bills or necessitating time off work. In many cases, the issue of damages is one of the most contentious. Some defendants will agree they are liable, but then fight vigorously to reduce the amount of damages awarded.
Some people think of car accident cases as relatively straightforward, but the reality is each of these elements must be proven beyond a preponderance of credible evidence (as noted in WI Stat. § 895.443), and that can be more complex in many situations.
Types Of Car Accidents In Wisconsin
Although there are many reasons why car accidents occur in Wisconsin, it almost always comes down to human error and negligence. While the 1943 Wisconsin Supreme Court case of Lembke v. Farmers Mutual Auto Ins. Co. stipulates that no one has an absolute duty not to injure or endanger any person or property, there is a duty to use ordinary care that would enable them to avoid a crash. A failure to use ordinary care occurs when one acts or omits a precaution in circumstances wherein an ordinarily prudent or intelligent person could reasonably foresee that such action or omission would put someone else at unreasonable risk of injury or damage.
Some of the most common types of crashes reported in Sawyer County include:
- Rear-end collisions. These are collisions wherein one vehicle crashes into the vehicle ahead of it. These can involve just two cars, but sometimes, they can also be a chain reaction. As noted in the 1983 Wisconsin Supreme Court decision in Millonig v. Bakken, there is a presumption that the rear driver is at-fault, though that presumption can be refuted. Whiplash injuries are unfortunately common in these cases.
- Side-impact collisions. These are also sometimes referred to as T-bone or broadside collisions and refer to instances wherein the side of a vehicle is impacted by the front or rear of another vehicle or fixed object. These can result in severe injuries, particularly to passengers.
- Sideswipe collisions. These often occur when sides of two parallel vehicles touch and “swipe” each other. If both drivers maintain control of the vehicles, it typically only results in cosmetic damage to the vehicles. However, if a driver does lose control, damages can be far more serious.
- Head-on collision. This occurs when the front ends of two vehicles collide. These crashes are often fatal.
- Single-vehicle accidents. As the name implies, these are when only a single vehicle is involved. Sometimes, vehicles may strike a fixed object, such as a pole or tree. Barring a vehicle defect, drivers may be barred from pursuing damages in these cases, but passengers can typically file a claim against the driver to recover damages for personal injuries.
Tell Us About Your Injury. We’re Here To Listen.
If you are injured in a Hayward car accident, our longtime Wisconsin injury attorneys can help.
Free consultations — Flexible office hours and appointments — In-home and hospital visits available