Car accident claims are so diverse that the “average” total settlement figure doesn’t mean much. In 2017, jurors in Texas awarded a family $300 billion after a drunk driver ran a red light, crashed into another vehicle, and killed two people. Such a large car accident settlement, which is clearly an unusual case, artificially inflates the “average” settlement figure.
The injury claims process, however, is pretty much the same in all cases. Most car accident claims settle out of court. However, these cases are quite complex. That $300 billion settlement involved the bar that overserved the negligent driver. According to evidence presented at trial, the bar served a man about a dozen drinks.
As a result, most car accident claims don’t settle quickly. They aren’t easy to resolve either unless the victim is willing to settle for less. No matter how long the settlement process takes, our Wisconsin car accident lawyers are with you to the end of the line. Insurance company lawyers pull out all the stops to reduce or deny compensation. Our lawyers pull out all the stops to obtain maximum compensation.
The victim/plaintiff has the burden of proof in a negligence claim. Therefore, the settlement process begins with evidence collection. If a lawyer takes shortcuts in the early stages, the victim usually gets a lower settlement later.
Generally, the evidence in a car accident claim includes the police accident report, witness statements, and medical bills. All three sources of evidence are often compelling. However, that’s not true in all cases. In fact, a Wisconsin car accident lawyer usually has some rather large holes to fill.
The police accident report, which is often the evidentiary cornerstone in these cases, is a good example.
When emergency responders arrive at accident scenes, attending to injured victims and securing the scene are their main priorities. Collecting evidence and writing a report is very far down on the list of priorities.
Usually, first responders base their investigations solely on the evidence immediately available at the scene and statements from the drivers. Supplemental evidence, like electronic evidence, usually doesn’t make it into a report. Additionally, if the victim suffered catastrophic or fatal injuries, the narrative part of the report only contains one side of the story.
Additionally, even the most experienced emergency responder isn’t an accident reconstruction professional. Emergency responders do their best with the tools they have. Unfortunately, these toolboxes are usually missing some key implements.
A vehicle’s Event Data Recorder is often the most important source of electronic evidence in a car crash claim. Most EDRs measure and record items like:
Attorneys sometimes partner with accident reconstruction professionals to put these pieces of electronic evidence together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Mostly due to vehicle information privacy laws, which are very strong in Wisconsin, EDR evidence is never immediately available.
Proof doesn’t just build a negligence case, as outlined below. Typically, the more evidence a victim/plaintiff assembles, the higher the final settlement is.
Random jigsaw puzzle pieces don’t mean much unless someone puts them together to form a picture. In a car crash case, this picture is usually ordinary negligence or negligence per se.
Basically, ordinary negligence is a lack of ordinary care. The duty of ordinary care is basically twofold. First, drivers must be at their physical and mental best when they get behind the wheel. Driving while dangerously fatigued or alcohol-impaired violates this part of the duty. Second, motorists must drive defensively and avoid accidents when possible. Speeding and other driving mistakes violate this part of the duty.
Occasionally, the negligence per se shortcut is available. Tortfeasors (negligent drivers) who break safety laws and cause wrecks could be liable for damages as a matter of law. This doctrine only applies if an emergency responder issues a citation.
Sometimes, the tortfeasor is legally responsible for damages, but not financially responsible for them. If that’s the case, a claim’s settlement value usually increases. Respondeat superior employer liability is a good example. Large companies with high profiles are often anxious to keep car crashes their employees cause out of the headlines.
A car accident claim’s settlement value is a bit like a used truck’s asking price. Each figure is a starting point for price negotiations. An owner uses the used truck’s make, model, age, condition, and a few other factors to set the asking price. A Wisconsin car accident lawyer uses the evidence in the case, the applicable legal doctrines, and a few other factors to set the settlement value.
Insurance company defenses are the final piece of the negligence puzzle. Common defenses in car accident cases include contributory negligence and last clear chance. Some defenses are only available in some cases.
Once the aforementioned issues in the case become clear, the settlement value becomes clear as well. At that point, settlement negotiations usually begin in earnest.
Out-of-court settlements usually benefit both parties, even if they feel they have extremely strong cases. Trials are risky. There’s no way to tell for sure how jurors will react to certain facts. Ordinarily, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
Frequently, the two sides view the facts and law in basically the same matter. Many Wisconsin car accident lawyers once worked for insurance companies, and vice versa. If that’s the case, the two sides may be able to resolve the matter on their own.
Other times, however, court intervention is necessary to jumpstart stalled negotiations. That’s where civil mediation comes in. A neutral third-party mediator meets with both sides and tries to engineer a settlement agreement. Usually, if mediation fails, judges aren’t happy. As a result, mediation is usually successful.
Accident victims may be entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced Wisconsin car accident lawyer, contact the Martin Law Office, S.C. by calling 414-856-4010. You have a limited amount of time to act.