Wisconsin Car Accident Laws and Victim’s Rights

December 17 , 2021 | Car Accident Lawyers

Even though today’s motor vehicles are safer than the ones that rolled off assembly lines thirty years ago, vehicle collisions injure or kill about three million Americans every year. Head injuries are among the most common such wounds. These injuries are also difficult to diagnose and treat. Therefore, many victims don’t get the medical attention they need when they need it.

Frequently, powerful insurance companies seemingly dictate the course of events in these situations. These bureaucrats treat your unique car accident claim like it was just like any other one. However, victims have important legal rights, as outlined below.

These important legal and financial rights are only ink on paper unless a Wisconsin car accident lawyer enforces them in court. Insurance company adjusters have small armies of lawyers who watch out for their financial interests. Unless victims have dedicated attorneys of their own, these lawyers could easily run roughshod over victims’ rights. That’s a situation our Wisconsin car accident lawyers refuse to tolerate.

Right to Know What Happened

Victims have a right to access the police accident report as well as medical bills related to the wreck. However, the entities which control these records also have the right to restrict access.

Most law enforcement departments have very strict rules about releasing accident reports, even to the people involved in the collision. Usually, these reports contain personal identifying information, like drivers’ license numbers and addresses, of not only the principal people involved but also of witnesses. Since a web of privacy laws applies to such information, many law enforcement agencies delay the release for days or weeks, so they can comply with such requirements.

Privacy laws also apply to medical records. Although the hospital or other provider acts on behalf of the patient, the records technically belong to the hospital, as opposed to the individual. Therefore, the hospital largely sets its own rules as to releasing such information.

A Wisconsin car accident lawyer cuts through this red tape, making these records available almost instantly.

Right to Medical Treatment

We mentioned the right to medical records above. Victims also have a right to medical treatment, even if they have no insurance or money.

Usually, attorneys send letters of protection to medical providers. These letters guarantee payment when the case is resolved. Therefore, most providers defer billing, or at least collection, until that point.

Providers who focus on car accident injuries treat victims in these situations. As mentioned, some of these injuries are difficult to diagnose and treat. Whiplash is a specific kind of head-neck injury that’s unique to car wrecks and very difficult to address. Since it’s a soft tissue injury, whiplash normally does not show up on diagnostic tests. If not promptly and properly treated, whiplash could cause paralysis.

As a bonus, attorneys usually negotiate with providers, so they reduce their fees. So, victims who have lawyers could end up keeping more of their settlement money, because of Wisconsin’s complex collateral source rule.

Right to Investigate the Matter

The aforementioned police report is often a critical bit of evidence in a vehicle collision claim. Unfortunately, this report could also be incomplete or inaccurate.

Sometimes, experienced officers who are dedicated to accident reconstruction matters prepare these reports. Other times, individual first responders write them, almost as an afterthought. Furthermore, if the victim was catastrophically injured or killed, the police report’s narrative section only includes one side of the story.

Victims have the burden of proof in negligence cases. As a result, they have the right to collect additional evidence, so they can better establish their claims in court.

Frequently, subsequent investigation centers on electronic evidence, such as a vehicle’s Event Data Recorder. Much like a commercial jet’s black box flight data recorder, most EDRs measure, and record items like:

  • Vehicle speed.
  • Steering angle.
  • Brake application.
  • Engine RPM.

Privacy laws similar to the ones which apply to written reports apply to EDR information. Usually, only the vehicle’s owner may access the data these devices contain. So, a Wisconsin car accident lawyer usually must obtain a court order. These orders are difficult for nonlawyers to obtain.

There are some practical investigative issues as well. EDRs are extremely sophisticated devices. Tapping into these gadgets requires a high degree of skill, not to mention the proper tools and expertise.

Attorneys must also act quickly to ensure these devices are available. Insurance companies usually destroy wrecked vehicles within days. Once that happens, the EDR, and any other physical evidence, disappear forever. To prevent that from happening, attorneys send spoliation letters to insurance companies. These letters, which are legally enforceable, instruct insurance companies to preserve any potential physical evidence, including the EDR, for future inspection.

Right to Fair Compensation

All these rights lead to the ultimate victims’ right in a car crash case, which is the right to fair compensation.

The economic losses related to a serious injury vehicle collision are about $100,000. Medical bills make up about half those costs. The other half is property damage and lost wages. Although these losses are economic, there are some non-economic elements. For example, the family car often has an emotional value that exceeds its financial value.

Compensation in a car wreck claim must put victims in the same position they would have been in if they were not injured. Therefore, compensation for economic losses, such as pain and suffering, is available as well. To determine a fair sum, most attorneys multiply the economic losses by two, three, or four, depending on several factors, such as the facts of the case.

Most damage claims settle out of court. Settlement negotiations usually begin in earnest once medical treatment is at least substantially complete. At that time, items like future medical expenses become clear. If the case settles too quickly, the settlement might not account for all such costs, which means the victim could be financially responsible for them.

If the case remains unresolved as the trial date approaches, most Milwaukee County judges refer these matters to mediation. A third-party mediator meets with both sides and tries to engineer a settlement agreement. Since both parties have a duty to negotiate in good faith, car crash mediation is about 90% successful.

Reach Out to a Hard-Hitting Milwaukee CountyCar Accident Attorney

If negligence causes an injury, compensation is usually available. For a free consultation with an experienced Wisconsin car crash attorney, contact the Martin Law Office, S.C. here or call 414-856-4010. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters.