Frequently Asked Questions for Lawyers
About Car Accidents and Crashes
- Q: Who Is Responsible For A Car Accident? Are You Responsible Just For Being There?
- We often hear people say that anyone involved in a car accident is partially to blame just for being involved in the accident. This popular myth is wrong. According to Wisconsin laws, a victim is not partially responsible just because they were at the scene of the accident.
Here is an example. An intoxicated driver, named Lois, rear ends Alice's car. Is Alice partially responsible for this accident?
First, we need to ask if Alice has done anything negligent. Under Wisconsin law, if Alice has not behaved negligently she should not be found responsible for the accident. Therefore she will not be held partially responsible for the accident.
Next, a jury is asked to evaluate how to determine the amount of negligence. In Wisconsin, the jury would be asked to assign negligence between the two parties involved, totaling to 100%. In this case, the jury to assign 100% to Lois and 0% to Alice.
The amount of negligance that is assigned to each party directly impacts how much money each party can recieve. So, if a verdict of $10,000 is determined then Lois (or her insurance company) would pay the full $10,000 since she was found to be accountable for 100% of the negligence. If the negligence is spilt, Alice would only recover the percentage of the verdict that she is no responsible for.
Q: Don’t Let The Insurance Company Take Advantage of You! What Are Preexisting Conditions, And What Can You Do?
A preexisting condition is any health condition you have before the date of your car wreck.
Almost all of us have preexisting conditions. Some of us have such conditions from birth on while others develop over time. The sprained ankle you suffered in high school basketball is a preexisting condition. The time you fell off your bike and hit your head when you were six is a preexisting condition. If you were lifting a heavy object at work and suffered a hernia or pulled muscle in your back, those would be considered preexisting conditions. Repetitive motion can also cause preexisting conditions.
The key is that many of the symptoms go away and any preexisting condition is asymptomatic, which is to say that someone may have an underlying condition without symptoms. Even if the condition is symptomatic, for many the symptoms are minor and not regularly occurring.
In many car wreck cases, insurance companies claim that your symptoms are the result of preexisting conditions, not the car wreck. The insurance companies reason that they are only responsible for paying the damages their insured caused, not for paying your preexisting condition.
Indeed, under Wisconsin law, this is a legitimate claim for insurance companies to make in some cases. However, we have seen insurance companies raise the preexisting condition defense more often than necessary and sometimes for illegitimate purposes, namely to deny payment.
Whether a condition is preexisting or was caused by the wreck can be difficult to sort out. Here are steps that you can take to help.
- Work closely with your doctors. Tell the doctors all of your symptoms, including pain complaints. Documentation is important. Over time, a pattern often emerges that shows differences between your condition before and after the wreck.
- Talk to friends and co-workers and ask them to document the differences between what you could do before and after the wreck.
- Be careful about each insurance company document you sign. In particular, we recommend against signing any authorization that gives an insurance company unlimited access as to time and scope to our clients medical records. In other words, we don’t believe that in most cases it is appropriate for an insurance company to go back to your childhood and get your medical records. Similarly, we don’t believe that an insurance company should have access to sensitive medical records that have nothing to do with the claimed injuries.
- Retain a qualified lawyer who understands the issues in your specific case. The problem is that often when an insurer raises the preexisting condition defense, you may be in for a long difficult fight. A lawyer can help you.
Again, sometimes the preexisting condition defense is used legitimately by insurance companies. Often it is not. We hope these simple steps help you if and when you face this defense in your car wreck case.
- Q: What Steps Should I Take To Collect Evidence After A Car Accident?
- As Wisconsin car crash lawyers, we sometimes deal with cases where certain critical information is no longer available. Follow these steps during and immediately after an accident to preserve evidence that could help your case:
If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact Jason Studinski, an experienced Wisconsin car accident attorney.
- Call 911 to get professional assistance at the scene of the accident. You may lose the chance to collect certain evidence if police officers are not present to document it. Still, there is a chance that some evidence will be lost. Often police officers do not document everything we, as Wisconsin car accident attorneys, would like them to because of the chaotic situations that present themselves at accident scenes. Nonetheless, some accident scene documentation is better than no investigation.
- Cooperate fully with law enforcement’s investigation. Officers may ask you for a statement, insurance information, and other details they feel are important to your case. Under normal accident circumstances, working with law enforcement can only help you. If you were drinking, have a pending warrant for your arrest, or are otherwise potentially involved in criminal conduct at the time of the accident, it may be better to contact a Wisconsin car accident attorney before continuing the investigation with law enforcement.
- If you have your phone, take plenty of pictures! Photos can be key to successfully handling a car accident case. In many instances, police officers do not take photographs at all or take photographs that do not document crucial information about damage to the vehicles involved in the accident. Often photographs are taken by police officers that serve only to handle the matter legally, not to serve the purposes of your case. We suggest that you get plenty of photographs of the accident vehicles at the scene. They are often available for a short period of time after the car accident at a local towing or impound yard.
- As soon after the accident as possible, ask law enforcement to provide an accident report, photographs, and a copy of the 911 recording to you. If you are present when this report is compiled, you will have a chance to address any discrepancies at the scene. Police can make mistakes, just like the rest of us. Mistakes can be easily corrected, especially right after the accident when memory is fresh. Be aware that some law enforcement agencies don't keep records forever. Some law enforcement agencies retain 911 recordings for a short period of time, perhaps only 90-120 days.
- Document all of your injuries and treatments. We suggest you communicate all of your symptoms to your doctors and other medical professionals. Take regular photographs of your injuries. You may want to keep a journal documenting your symptoms, limitations, and any activities you missed as a result of your injuries. Don't be afraid that you're recording too much. Err on the side of over-documenting your injuries. You cannot go back in time after you have healed and prove the extent of your injuries without proper documentation. A Wisconsin personal injury lawyer will be able to better represent you when you have photographs, doctor’s notes, and your own personal account.
- Q: What Must I Prove To Win My Wisconsin Car Accident Case?
- In a general sense, there are three things you must prove to win your Wisconsin car accident case. You must prove:
To start, you have to prove that the offending driver was negligent. People use the word “negligence” to mean different things in everyday life. In the context of a car accident case, to prove a driver was negligent a Wisconsin car accident lawyer will have to prove that he or she failed to exercise ordinary care.
- The other driver was negligent;
- This negligence was a substantial factor in causing your injuries; and
- You sustained injury or damage.
The next element you have to prove is “causation”. We have to show that the offending driver’s negligence caused you injury or damage. Under Wisconsin law, we do not have to show that the other driver’s negligence was the only cause of your injuries, only that the negligence was a substantial factor in causing injury or damage.
Finally, to win we have to prove your injury or damage. Wisconsin car accident cases can involve any type of injury. Whatever injury you claim must be proven. We must also prove the impact of your injury on your life. For example, if your injury caused you to miss work and lose wages; incur medical expenses; or miss out on family activities or personal hobbies, you may be entitled to compensation.
If you have further questions, do not hesitate to contact Jason Studinski, an experienced Wisconsin car accident attorney.
Do you have additional accident or insurance questions for our lawyers?
If you believe that your insurance company is acting in bad faith and breaking Wisconsin law, talk to a Wisconsin bad faith insurance lawyer about your situation. Contact us at (715) 343-2850 or by filling out the simple form below. We are here to help.