October 12 , 2021 | Personal Injury
Every year, millions of people are killed or seriously injured in accidents that were not their fault. If negligence, or a lack of care, substantially caused the injury, substantial compensation could be available. This compensation usually includes money for:
- Economic losses, such as medical bills,
- Non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Since victims must prove negligence by a preponderance of the evidence, the proof is critical in negligence claims. This proof usually includes the police accident report, witness statements, and medical bills. All these kinds of proof have some pros and cons.
Therefore, even if a claim seems straightforward, an Oak Creek personal injury lawyer should always evaluate your case. Furthermore, there’s often a difference between fault for an accident and liability for damages. So, even if a police officer or insurance adjuster says you were at fault, an attorney might still be able to obtain fair compensation for your serious injuries.
Motor Vehicle Crashes
Car wrecks are one of the leading personal injury claims in Wisconsin. These incidents kill or seriously injure millions of Americans every year, and driver error causes over 90% of these wrecks. Operational errors, such as speeding and making an illegal turn, cause many of these collisions. Driver impairment causes others. Some kinds of driver impairment include:
- Alcohol: Even after a decades-long crackdown against drunk drivers, alcohol still causes about a third of the fatal car crashes in Wisconsin. The impairing effects of alcohol, such as clouded judgment and slow reflexes, begin at the first sip of alcohol, and then get progressively worse over time.
- Drugs: Prescription pain pills and marijuana are the leading causes of “drugged driving” in Wisconsin. Both these substances are dangerous, but they affect the body differently. Most people feel the effects of prescription pain pills after fifteen or twenty minutes. But marijuana hits most people like a ton of bricks after the first puff.
- Fatigue: Many people are surprised that fatigue is in this category. But alcohol and drowsiness have similar effects. Intoxicated motorists have trouble concentrating and reacting quickly. So do sleepy people. In fact, driving after eighteen consecutive awake hours is like driving with a .05 BAC level.
Legally, these forms of driver impairment could involve the ordinary negligence doctrine or the negligence per se rule.
As mentioned, negligence is basically a lack of care. The duty of care requires motorists to be at their best when they get behind the wheel. If their behavior falls below that standard, they could be liable for car crash damages.
Negligence per se is a violation of safety law, as the DUI law. Tortfeasors who violate this law and cause wrecks could be responsible for damages as a matter of law.
Comparative fault is the most common insurance company defense in car crash claims. This legal loophole shifts blame for an accident from the tortfeasor to the victim. For example, an insurance company might admit that its insured motorist was speeding and blame the wreck on the victim’s alleged failure to maintain a proper lookout.
Falls From A Height/Slip And Fall Injuries
These incidents, which include falls from a height and slip and fall injuries, are the leading cause of emergency room visits in Wisconsin. Fall victims often sustain head injuries and other serious injuries.
Many personal injuries, like broken bones, heal if victims receive proper treatment. Head injuries are different. These wounds are permanent. Once brain cells die, they never regenerate. The best that doctors can do is prevent these injuries from getting worse and address the symptoms. Legally, obtaining compensation for these and other injuries is basically a two-step process.
First, an Oak Creek personal injury attorney must establish the applicable legal duty. The extent of this duty usually depends on the relationship between the property owner and the victim. Since most fall victims are invitees or people who have permission to be on the property and who provide an economic or another benefit to the owner, most owners have a duty of reasonable care in these situations.
Next, victims must prove that the owner knew, or should have known, about the hazard which caused the fall. Common hazards include wet floors, sidewalk cracks, loose handrails, and uneven walkways. As mentioned, victims must prove actual or constructive knowledge, should have known, by a preponderance of the evidence.
Evidence could be a problem in some fall cases. Typically, there are no eyewitnesses. Furthermore, if the victim was killed or catastrophically injured, the victim’s testimony could be unavailable. Fortunately, Wisconsin has a very broad res ipsa loquitur or the thing speaks for itself rule. If the event, which in this case is a fall, is usually associated with negligence and the defendant has exclusive control over the property, jurors may presume negligence.
Other common defenses include comparative fault, which was discussed above, and assumption of the risk. This defense usually involves a “Caution Wet Floor” or other warning sign. Contrary to popular myth, such signs are not get-out-of-jail-free cards. The assumption of the risk defense is more complex than that.
Animal attacks account for about a third of the homeowners’ insurance claims in Wisconsin. Generally, the knockdown alone causes a head injury. Then, when dogs bite, their teeth usually cause deep, puncture wounds as well as severe tearing lacerations. Due to the severity of these injuries, most of these victims experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-type symptoms.
The average dog bite medical bill has increased significantly in recent years, mostly because doctors understand these injuries better. To obtain compensation, these victims have several options.
- Strict Liability: Wisconsin has a very broad strict liability law. Owners are liable for all animal attack damages, even if they didn’t know the dog was potentially dangerous. It’s easy for victims to establish liability under this law, but it’s so broad that some pet owner jurors resent it.
- Scienter (Knowledge): If the owner knew the animal was potentially dangerous, liability attaches as well. Even pet owners are often willing to apply the scienter rule to other owners they see as negligent. Evidence of knowledge includes pre-bite behavior, like aggressive barking.
- Negligence Per Se: Many communities in Milwaukee County have very strict leash laws, fence laws, and other animal restraint laws. If an owner violates such a law, and that violation substantially causes injury, the owner could be liable for damages as a matter of law, regardless of knowledge of viciousness.
Provocation, which is a form of comparative fault, is the most common insurance company defense in dog bite claims. In this context, the P-word has a very narrow meaning. Victims cannot “accidentally” provoke dogs by moving fast or making a loud noise. A provocation is an intentional act. Furthermore, provocation is usually a physical act. Mere teasing, no matter how aggressive it is, usually doesn’t support the provocation defense.
Reach Out to a Dedicated Milwaukee County Attorney
If negligence causes an injury, compensation is usually available. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Oak Creek, contact the Martin Law Office, S.C. at 414-856-4010. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters.