FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: I just talked with a lawyer for the first time about my recent car crash. He guaranteed me that I would win the case, and then promised me how much I would get. It sounded good. Should I hire him?
A: You should be wary of any lawyer who makes promises and guarantees to you about the outcome of your case the very first time you meet him and before he does any investigation into the facts of your case. Wisconsin’s Rules of Professional Conduct for Attorneys forbids lawyers from making “a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services,” and defines a “false or misleading” communication as one which, among other things, “is likely to create an unjustified expectation about results the lawyer can achieve . . . .”
If you meet with a lawyer for the first time about your case, and he makes promises and
guarantees to you about the outcome of your case, without investigating it and getting all
the information, it may create an unjustified expectation, is false advertising and is
unethical. Wisconsin lawyers cannot do that, and you are probably better off not hiring that lawyer.
Q: I was just in a crash with another car. Should I call 911?
A: Yes. There are several reasons you should call 911. First, there may be people who need
medical attention. Calling 911 to report what happened will allow qualified medical personnel to be sent to the scene, if needed. Even if there is not significant property damage or physical injuries, it is important to document what happened while the facts are still fresh in your mind. Calling 911 will allow the appropriate law enforcement personnel to be notified, who you can then tell what happened.
When law enforcement arrives, speak only with the officer about what happened. Ask that an accident report be filed, and that you be given the name and badge number of the officer, along with the accident report number, so that you can obtain a copy of it. The accident report will document the officer’s conversations with the drivers involved. The report will also document the officer’s observations at the scene, including road and weather conditions, and other factors that may have played a role in the collision. The accident report will also contain the name, address and telephone number of the other parties involved in the crash, along with the name of the parties’ insurance companies. When you report your crash to your own insurance company, they will ask you for this information.
In some cases, you may be told that law enforcement will not be called to the scene. You can still fill out your own accident report at the Police Station, so be sure to obtain the other driver’s full name, address and telephone number, as well as the name of his or her insurance carrier, so that you can prepare you own accident report.
Q: The accident was partly my fault. Can I still recover for my injuries?
A: As long as you are not more than 50% at fault, Wisconsin law allows you to recover compensation if you are injured in a car crash. Your share of the “fault” for the accident is called “contributory negligence,” and the compensation for your injuries and other damages will be reduced by your percentage of negligence. For example, if you are 50% at fault for the crash, and your damages are $100,000, you will only receive $50,000; if you are 10% at fault, you will receive $90,000. However, if you are found to be 51% at
fault or more for the crash, you are not entitled to any compensation under Wisconsin law.
If you have been injured in crash, and believe you might be found partly at fault, it is critical that you contact an experienced injury lawyer to review the facts of the crash, give you an honest opinion about your chances of recovery, and protect your rights.
Q: Do I need to report my car crash to my insurance company?
A: Almost all car insurance policies have provisions that require you to report your crash to your insurance company, regardless of the amount of property damage or whether someone was hurt. If you do not report your crash, the insurance company could deny any claim you later bring.
Q: Should I see a doctor, even if I think my injuries are minor?
A: If you have pain or don’t feel well after a crash, you should get a medical evaluation, even if you think the injury is minor. If you do not get medical care, your injury could be more difficult to treat. Additionally, the insurance company will want proof of your injury before agreeing to settle your claim. If you do not get medical care, even for minor injuries, there will be no record of them.
Q: How soon after a crash should I seek medical care?
A: For serious problems, get immediate medical attention at the emergency department of the nearest hospital. For less serious problems, you should be evaluated as soon as possible after the crash. Always follow the advice of the health care providers concerning follow-up evaluations and care.
Q: Should I get treatment from a chiropractor?
A: The type of medical care you seek after a crash is a very personal decision. Some people believe that chiropractic care is just as good, or better, then traditional medical care. Others believe chiropractic care is not as good as traditional medical care. Whatever your beliefs are about chiropractic care, you should know that choosing to go to a chiropractor after a crash could make resolving your claim more difficult, and could leave you with less in your pocket after you settle your claim. Although chiropractic care has gained in acceptance in the community, many insurance companies still do not “value” chiropractic care as high as traditional medical care. Additionally, some chiropractors are known to “over-treat” their patients, running up large bills; and, some of these, then, refuse to submit the bills to your health insurance or the medical payments coverage of your automobile policy. This practice leaves you with a larger, unpaid chiropractic bill and, because you did not receive the benefit of your health plan’s discounts, you will have to pay the full amount of the bill out of your settlement.
Q: Who pays my medical bills if I am in a car crash?
A: If the driver of the car that caused the crash has insurance, that insurance company is not going to pay your medical bills as you incur them, but will wait until you settle your claim to pay the medical expenses. Although each injury case is different, in most circumstances, you will want your medical bills submitted to your health insurance, first, as you incur the bills. This allows you to take advantage of the discounts that most commercial health insurers have with health care providers. If there are co-pays or balances remaining after your health insurance has paid, these can be submitted to your own automobile insurance company to be paid under the medical payments provision of your auto policy. If your health insurance is governed by ERISA (Employee Retirement Security Act of 1974), a federal law, you may not want to have your medical bills submitted to your health insurance, first. Speaking with an experienced injury lawyer can help you decide the most advantageous way to have your medical bills paid.
Q: What if I don’t have health insurance to pay my medical expenses?
A: If you don’t have health insurance, your bills can be submitted for payment by the medical payments coverage of your automobile insurance policy. If your bills are more than your medical payments limits, arrangements can sometimes be made with your medical care providers to make monthly payments, or for discounts. Sometimes medical care providers will agree not to bill you until your injury claim is settled. The responsible insurance company will not pay your medical bills as you incur them. If you are in this situation, you should speak with an experienced injury lawyer to discuss what options you have.
Q: Do I need to give a statement to the insurance company of the car that hit me?
A: No. You are under no obligation to give a statement to the responsible person’s insurance company. In most cases, you should not give a statement to the other driver’s insurance company without first speaking with a lawyer. If you have given a statement, make sure the insurance company gives you a copy of it, because you are entitled to have
Q: Do I need to sign the insurance company’s medical records release forms to allow it to get my medical records?
A: You will need to give the insurance company proof of your injuries, medical care and medical bills if you want it to compensate you, but you do not have to sign the insurance company’s medical records release forms, which often have no date restrictions and have no limitations on the types of records to be released. You can obtain copies of your injury-related records, yourself, and give those directly to the insurance company. In more significant cases, you should seek the help of a lawyer in order to control what records the insurance company sees.
Q: How long do I have to file a claim after my Wisconsin car crash?
A: In Wisconsin, the Statute of Limitations – the time in which you have to either settle your injury claim or file a lawsuit, is three (3) years from the date of the crash. If you were in a crash with governmental entity (city snow plow, school bus, police car, etc.) there are special notice requirements and other time-lines that need to be met. You should speak with a lawyer as soon as possible in those cases to determine the time-lines and other requirements of your claim.
Q: Do I need a lawyer to handle my Wisconsin crash claim?
A: Not always. Although we believe you should speak with an experienced lawyer if you have been injured in a crash in Wisconsin, in some cases, you will probably be better off financially handling the claim by yourself. Remember, you will have to pay a lawyer for handling your claim, and that will reduce the amount you get in the end.
If your crash claim only involves property damage, or only involves minor injuries which your doctor believes have resolved with just a few visits, and a small amount of medical bills or lost wages, you may be able to settle it on your own, without the need to hire a lawyer. In Wisconsin, you are entitled to recover for you pain and suffering, lost income, other out-of-pocket expenses related to your injuries and medical care, and the full amount of your medical charges, not just the amount that was paid by your health insurance. Do not let the insurance company try to tell you they will only pay you the amount paid by your health insurer. In most cases, you will also be required to reimburse your health insurer for at least a portion of the amount it has paid for your medical expenses (the other driver’s insurance company might not tell you this).
If you are not sure whether you should settle your claim on your own, call us. After we get the facts, we will tell you what we think. In some cases, for a flat fee, we will also agree to look at your documentation before you send it to the insurance company with your settlement demand.
Q: How much will I have to pay a lawyer to help me with my injury claim?
A: Generally, when you hire a lawyer to handle your injury claim, you will need to pay her for the time he spends (his attorney fee), as well as the out-of-pocket expenses he incurs handling and pursuing the claim on your behalf. Personal injury lawyers will agree to handle most car crash claims on a contingency fee basis, instead of an hourly basis. What this means is that the lawyer will not require an up-front payment, a retainer, or a monthly payment based on the hours he has worked. Instead, with a contingency fee agreement, the lawyer is only paid an attorney’s fee if he is successful in obtaining compensation for you. The amount of the contingency fee usually ranges from 25%-33% of the amount recovered, but can be negotiated with the lawyer. The contingency fee contract is required to be in writing and will also include provisions for how the lawyer’s out-of-pocket expenses are to be paid. You should always review the contingency fee contract with the lawyer so you fully understand how she will be paid, and ask any questions you have, before signing it.
DANGEROUS PRESCRIPTION DRUGS
Q: What is a drug injury?
A: A drug injury is any harm caused by taking an over-the-counter or prescription drug. Injuries can be temporary, long-term, or permanent.
Q: Are all drug injuries the same?
A: No. Different drugs can cause different injuries. And, the symptoms and side effects of a drug injury that are caused by the different ingredients compounded in the drug can affect users differently.
Q: How much money are drug injury cases worth?
A: Every case is different. The amount of compensation you’re able to collect is based on a number of factors, such as the known risks associated with the drug you were taking, the severity of your injuries, the costs of medical expenses related to your injuries, and more. After reviewing your claim, one of our lawyers can help determine if you have a case and how much money the case could be worth.
Q: How do I know if I have a case?
A: After you’ve received medical attention for your drug injuries, you should consult a lawyer to determine whether you have a case or not. At Keberle, Patrykus & Laufenberg, LLP, we will review the facts of your claim and help you determine what you’re next step should be.
Q: Should I stop taking my medication if I’ve suffered a drug injury?
A: If you think you’re experiencing side effects from a drug you’re taking, you should immediately consult your doctor. Your doctor can tell you whether or not to stop taking the drug and determine if you need further medical help.
Q: Who is responsible for my injuries?
A: Drug manufactures have a responsibility to thoroughly test their products before releasing them to the market. The manufacturers should know the drug’s side effects and disclose this information. When they fail to do so, they should be held accountable for their actions.
Q: What is the Food and Drug Administration?
A: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for protecting the public health by assuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation.
Q: What is a black box warning?
A: A black box warning is the strongest warning administrated by the FDA to warn consumers of the risks associated with using a product. The warning appears on the product’s labeling and is outlined by a black box.
Q: I fell on someone else’s property and was hurt. What should I do?
A: It is important to report your fall and any injury to the property owner, manager or landlord immediately. If you are at a store or other place of business, report it to the manager or person in charge. Be sure to write down the name and contact information of the person you reported the fall to, and get the names, addresses and telephone numbers of any witnesses. If the owner, manager or other person documents your fall in writing, takes a statement from you, or takes other notes or photographs, you should request a copy of those items while you are still there. If the police are called and an accident report is filed, you should also request a copy of that. In addition, you should document how you fell and the conditions that might have contributed to the fall (for example: snow or ice, water or other slippery substance, uneven surface). This will help you remember what happened later on, and is useful if the property owner or police do not make any written reports. If possible at the time, take photographs of the area, or ask someone else to take photographs. If you are injured, seek medical help as soon as possible. In addition, it is a good idea to keep the footwear and clothes you had on at the time of the fall in safe place, in case they need to be examined at a later time.
Q: Should I give a statement to the property owner’s insurance company or sign any forms?
A: Speak with an injury lawyer before giving a written or recorded statement, or signing anything. Under most circumstances, you are not required to give a written or recorded statement to any insurance adjustor or investigator for the property owner, and are not required to sign any forms or other papers unless you decide to make a claim for your injuries or other damages. It is a good idea not to sign or fill out anything that you do not understand.
Q: How long do I have to make a claim for injuries suffered when I fell on private property?
A: In Wisconsin, generally, the time in which you have to resolve your claim or file a lawsuit (called the Statute of Limitations) for injuries that happen on private property is 3 years from the date of the fall. If a minor child is injured, he/she has until 2 years after his/her 18th birthday to either resolve the claim or file a lawsuit. Because evidence of the conditions which may have contributed to the fall may change or disappear over time, and memories may fade, it is not a good idea to delay pursuing a claim.
Q: I was bitten by my neighbor’s dog. Is my neighbor responsible for my injuries?
A: Wisconsin has a “dog bite” statute that makes the owner or keeper of the dog responsible for injuries the dog causes. The statute is § 174.02, Wis. Stats.
Q: I was at the dog park with my dog, when another dog ran into my leg, breaking it. Can I recover compensation for my injuries and medical care?
A: Yes. Although it is commonly referred to as the “Dog Bite” Statute, § 174.02, Wis. Stats., covers more than just bites, and says that “the owner of a dog is liable for the full amount of damages caused by the dog injuring or causing injury to a person, domestic animal or property.”
Q: When I was walking my dog, another dog attacked us, injuring my dog. What can I do?
A: Section 174.02, Wis. Stats., covers more than just bites, and says that “the owner of a dog is liable for the full amount of damages caused by the dog injuring or causing injury to a person, domestic animal or property.” If your dog (or any other domestic animal) was injured or killed by another person’s dog, you are entitled to recover the cost of the veterinary care for the dog, any out-of-pocket expenses you incur because of the incident, and if the animal dies, then the fair market value of the animal, which is oftentimes determined by the purchase price. In Wisconsin, you are not entitled to be compensated for any “pain and suffering” or mental anguish you suffer because of the injury to, or death of, your dog or other domestic animal.
Q: I was bit by a dog that is known to be vicious and has bitten other people in the past. What are my rights?
A: The owner of a dog is responsible for double the amount of your damages if it bites “a person with sufficient force to break and cause permanent physical scarring or disfigurement” if the owner was notified or knew that the dog had previously bitten “a person with sufficient force to break the skin and cause permanent scarring or disfigurement.
Q: I was playing with a dog when it bit me. Can I still receive compensation for my injuries.
A: Wisconsin’s “Dog Bite” Statute allows for compensation even if you are also at fault. If you provoked the dog, your fault (called contributory negligence) will be taken into account. As long as you are less than 51% at fault for the injury, you can still receive compensation for your injuries. However, the amount of your total damages will be reduced by your percentage of fault. For example, if your damages total $100, and you were 50% at fault, you would only receive $50.
Wisconsin Injury Lawyers -
Keberle, Patrykus & Laufenberg, LLP
Helping victims for over 25 Years.