How Are Personal Injury Claim Awards In Wisconsin Determined?

February 28 , 2022 | Personal Injury

In criminal court, defendants pay fines, which are penal in nature. In personal injury claims, tortfeasors (negligent people) pay damages. These damages compensate victims for their accident-related losses. Damages don’t punish tortfeasors. Instead, paying damages is a way of accepting responsibility for a mistake. We all make mistakes, and we must all accept responsibility for the mistakes we make.

Incidentally, negligent actors, like negligent drivers, usually are not financially responsible for damages. Their insurance companies must pay these damages, at least in most cases. Generally, the insurance company is also financially responsible for other aspects of the case. For example, the insurance company usually has a duty to provide an attorney.

Most personal injury claims settle out of court. Largely depending on the facts of the case, the settlement process could take a few weeks, a few months, or a few years. No matter how long it takes, a Wisconsin personal injury attorney is committed to maximum compensation for your serious injuries. As we all know, taking the first offer is usually a mistake. At the same time, an attorney does not unreasonably delay your settlement by making unreasonable demands.

Compensatory Economic Losses

Hospital and physician treatment is usually the largest component of economic losses in a vehicle collision or other negligence claim. The average injury-related medical bill usually exceeds $50,000. Catastrophic injury medical bills, like spine injury medical bills, could be fifty or sixty times higher.

Medical transportation expenses could be almost as high, in some cases. To avoid these costs, many non-emergency patients hire Ubers or other ride-sharing vehicles to take them to hospitals. But that’s usually not an option for serious injury victims. In fact, many of these victims require helicopter medevac. A brief flight could cost as much as $40,000.

Medical expenses don’t end after patients are discharged from hospitals. Quite often, they are just beginning. Health insurance companies usually refuse to pay for items like prescription drugs and medical devices which are related to personal injury cases. Furthermore, there is no telling how long physical therapy may last. Everyone makes progress at their own pace.

On a related note, medical insurance companies often refuse to pay for any injury-related expenses. If they refuse to pay, a Wisconsin personal injury attorney usually convinces providers to delay billing, or at least collection, until the case is over. If they do pay, victims might be able to keep more of their settlement money, because of Wisconsin’s complex collateral source rule.

Other economic losses include property damage and lost wages. Property damage claims are both economic and non-economic.

Frequently, items like a family car have a substantial emotional value. Since the accident was not their fault, victims deserve compensation for both tangible and intangible losses.

Lost wages, which could also be lost productivity, are also difficult to calculate in many cases. Generally, recovering accident victims have good days and bad days.

Compensatory Noneconomic Losses

The compensatory noneconomic loss category includes intangible items like:

  • Pain and suffering.
  • Loss of consortium, or companionship.
  • Emotional distress.
  • Loss of enjoyment in life.

These things are priceless. It’s impossible to put a dollar value on something like the ability to push a child on a swing. However, no one can turn back the clock and reverse the events leading up to the accident. Furthermore, in most cases, money damages are the only available remedy.

To roughly calculate noneconomic losses, most lawyers use a multiplier or a per diem formula. The multiplier could be two, three, or four, usually depending on the strength of the evidence and the presence, or absence, of insurance company defenses.

Victims have the burden of proof in these claims. They must prove negligence, or a lack of care, by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not. Additionally, there’s usually a direct link between the amount of compensation jurors award and the amount of evidence in the case.

Most insurance company defenses shift blame for accidents from the tortfeasor to the victim. A few, like sudden emergency and last clear chance, could derail negligence claims, in some cases.

Per diem formulas are usually based on the victim’s weekly income. Assume Jim earns $1,000 per week. He spends three weeks in a hospital and twelve weeks in physical therapy. Ten weeks later, he goes bowling with his friends for the first time since the accident. Under the per diem formula, Jim’s noneconomic losses are about $25,000.

Punitive Damages

We mentioned the difference between criminal fines and civil damages above. That comparison usually holds true, unless a court awards punitive damages. These damages punish negligence parties and deter future wrongdoing.

These additional damages are available if there is clear and convincing evidence that the tortfeasor intentionally disregarded a known risk.

Punitive damages are often available in extreme cases, like a drunk driving wreck if the motorist had a very high BAC level. A Texas jury recently awarded a staggering $300 billion in punitive damages in just such a case. Punitive damages are also often available in high legal duty cases, such as product liability matters and medical negligence claims.

Resolving Your Negligence Claim

The sum of the three kinds of damages, compensatory economic, compensatory noneconomic, and punitive, establishes a claim’s settlement value. Much like the sticker price on a new car, an injury claim’s settlement value serves as the starting point in settlement negotiations. These negotiations usually involve some give and take.

Informal settlement talks usually begin once medical treatment is at least substantially complete. By that time, a Wisconsin personal injury attorney can fairly estimate the amount of future medical expenses. If the final settlement doesn’t account for such costs, the victim could be financially responsible for them.

If informal negotiations fail, formal and court-supervised negotiations often succeed. During mediation, another name for such negotiations, the insurance company has a duty to negotiate in good faith. Largely because of this additional legal duty, mediation is about 90% successful.

Reach Out To A Compassionate Milwaukee County Personal Injury Attorney

Injury victims may be entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced Wisconsin personal injury attorney, contact the Martin Law Office, S.C. by calling 414-856-4010. Virtual, home and hospital visits are available.