Wisconsin Personal Injury Guide
The Wisconsin Personal Injury Guide was created by Keberle, Patrykus & Laufenberg, LLP to help residents who have been injured in a car accident obtain maximum compensation for their claim.
Have you been seriously injured in an accident that could have been prevented? We want to make sure that you know your rights, and we will do everything we can to give you the results you deserve. Please call our Washington County personal injury lawyers today to set up your free initial consultation and discover how you could be fully compensation for your damages. This is a tough legal situation and we want to make sure that you have everything handled so you can focus on getting better.
The types of personal injury cases we cover are as follow:
- Car accidents
- Truck accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Slip and falls
- Pedestrian accidents
- Dog bites
- Wrongful death
- Boat accidents
- Construction accidents
- Negligent security
Basic Information About Washington County Personal Injury Claims
Personal injury is a broad term that includes all of the accidents listed above. If you have suffered harm because of the negligence of another, then you are entitled to compensation for your damages. Personal injury claims can involve anything from a dog bite to a case against a corporation involving a slip and fall in a big box store.
No matter the scenario, you are allowed to seek compensation from the liable party if they are responsible for your injuries. You will receive:
- Past and future medical bills
- Past and future lost wages
- Property damage
- Past and future pain and suffering
Depending on how severe your accident is, your claim could be worth more or less. Typically the worse your damages are, the more compensation you are entitled to. These cases are usually settled out of court and the responsible party’s insurance company will pay for the damages that their injured caused. For the odd circumstances where the case does go to court, it is important that you have a strong Washington County personal injury lawyer.
Compensation Laws in Washington County
There are several things that you can be compensated for in a personal injury case, but in Wisconsin, you are going to be subject to the rules of shared fault. You have three years from the date of your accident to file your claim. After those three years, these cases are not valid. Also, understand that the insurance company will do anything they can to reduce what they owe you. In Wisconsin, if you have been deemed partially responsible for the accident, you will have your compensation reduced relative to how much you are responsible for the incident.
Let’s say you are awarded $100,000 in damages for a severe truck accident. Let’s also assume that the insurance company has pinned you for 30% of the accident because of your violations of the rules of the road. Because of that, you will have your compensation award reduced by 30% which would make your $100,000 award become a $70,000 award. Our Washington County personal injury lawyers know how to protect your case from the liable party’s insurance company.
The best thing you can do is hire a lawyer early on. They will make sure that the insurance company cannot blame you for the accident.
What to Do After Your Accident
Our Washington County personal injury lawyers are skilled in handling difficult cases. We understand that you may be struggling to keep your life going smoothly. It is expensive to be injured and it is hard to work for your wages if you are too injured to go back to your job.
Our experience handling cases like these makes us the right choice to represent your case. You deserve a successful outcome and we are here to help you get that. Our lawyers are ready to serve you and will work tirelessly to win you a result that is fair and full.
Immediately after you are involved in an accident that left you severely injured, you need to seek emergency medical treatment. Once you’ve been seen by a doctor, you should talk to one of our Washington County personal injury lawyers right away. You deserve full compensation. We know how to handle your case so that we can make that a reality for you.
Available Damages in a Personal Injury Case
When we first meet with a client who’s been involved in an accident, their questions often center around how much they can recover for. The law in Wisconsin allows the following types of recovery. First, you have a right to recover all of your medical bills that are related to the injuries that you suffered in the case. There are two types of injuries. There are those where medical bills have been incurred, and there are those where you might have medical bills in the future. If we’re going to be making a claim for medical bills in the future, we must obtain the medical opinion of a doctor, and usually it’s the doctor who’s been working with you to try to make you better. That doctor has to state to a medical degree of certainty that, as a result of the accident, you’re going to need medical treatment into the future, whether that be a surgery, physical therapy, whether it be other types of modalities that are used in physical therapy or pain management techniques. That can often be one of the largest portions of an injury claim.
The second area of damage is called wage loss, which is broken into past wage loss and future wage loss. For the periods of time that people are off of work, we’re going to obtain as many forms of proof of what your loss was as we can. That may be yearly tax returns, it may be statements from your employer, and it might simply be pay stubs that you’ve had prior to the accident to establish what you were earning before your injury took place. We also need, in that type of case, a statement from a doctor who states the period of time that you needed to be off due to your injuries.
Lastly, there’s pain and suffering. Pain and suffering is based on your doctor’s opinion regarding what injuries you suffered in the accident, treatment that you went to or received to get over your injuries, and what that doctor believes your pain levels may be into the future. Just as with your medical bills, a doctor has to state his opinion to a medical degree of certainty.
If you’ve suffered serious injuries and you want to know how your case can be valued at an early stage, a lawyer who tells you that is likely not certain because he can’t be. At our law firm we’re not going to make any guarantees, but what we are going to do is educate you so you can help yourself as you step through the process in your case.
Compensation for Emotional Distress
I’m sometimes asked, when a serious injury occurs or one of our client’s relative’s father’s witnesses an accident of a family member, if they recover for what they’ve gone through as a result of the accident. That type of an accident claim is called emotional distress. In Wisconsin, there’s case law that’s directly in point. An attorney that’s expert in this area of the law will know that case law, but the law on that issue has never been strong.
In a nutshell, the person who’s making a claim for emotional distress has to have a fear for their own danger. They also have to have a physical injury. It puts them in what they call the zone of danger, and the damages in that type of case can be very, very large, as there’s nothing worse than having stress related to something that you’ve witnessed. It’s a type of pain that often keeps one awake at night. It’s the type of pain that one doesn’t get over in a short period of time, and it does have a strong value.
Do Pre-Existing Conditions Affect Personal Injury Claims?
A large majority of the clients that we meet with and that we represent are not 18 years old; they’re not 15 years old; they’re not 25 years old. They’re people that are 30, 40, 50, 60 and 70 years old; their bodies are not the same as they were when they were younger. Everyone has preexisting conditions. What we often run into are people that have been treated at chiropractors for low back or neck injuries sometime in the last two, three or four years preceding their accident, and then they’re rear-ended in a car accident. These clients still have rights.
Their rights are so strong that in Wisconsin, the aggravation of a preexisting condition is a jury instruction that is given to the jury. A jury instruction doesn’t mean your case is going to trial; it means it’s a law that we all must follow at the point when we try to settle your case. It’s a law that doctors know, and the reasons why doctors know it is because it’s such a common occurrence. It’s a common occurrence with shoulders; it’s a common occurrence with neck injuries; it’s a common occurrence with low back injuries.
Most recently, I had a client who was involved in an explosion. He was going over to a humidifier at work, and the humidifier exploded. He had a complete hearing loss. He’s regaining part of his hearing, and the insurance company has located a hearing test that he had five years before the incident even took place. That’s the type of information that is important for us to have at an early stage because if we have it, we’re going to make sure your doctor is aware of it. We’re going to help you inform your doctor regarding any preexisting conditions that you have because the law is going to protect you with respect to the increasing pain, the increasing aggravation and the increasing medical bills that you have due to the accident that we’re representing you on.
There’s one more area of preexisting conditions that we always want to address, and that is if a person had a bad back or a bad neck, or had been treated for it. The law allows you to make a permanent aggravation of a preexisting claim if that’s what your doctor believes you’ve suffered. In that type of case, although you had had a prior injury, we’re going to prove that your injury was not to the extent that it is today and not to the extent that you’re going to have to live with it the rest of your life. When we see cases that have had preexisting conditions, we’re happy to take them, and we’ll be happy to talk to you.
How Long Does It Take to Settle a Personal Injury Claim?
One of the number one questions we hear from clients is about how long it will take for a case to resolve. The answer is always the same for me. The length of your case is going to depend on the seriousness of your injury and how long it takes for you to recover from your injury. There are two types of cases. There are cases where an injury occurs at point A, and at point B, my client can tell me that they are back to 100%. In that type of case, I think it’s of a very strong benefit to them that they also have their doctor conclude that they’re 100%. Whether you’re 15 years old, 20 years old, 40 years old or 50 years old, someone’s going to look back in your chart and see you had a prior condition that didn’t resolve, if you don’t have a final finding that you’re back to 100%. In that type of a case, an experienced injury lawyer will look at the time frame that it took from point A to point B and they’ll value your case based on that period of time. The insurance company will do the same thing.
The second type of case is where you never fully recover from your injury. That’s a concern of every client that comes to our office after being involved in a serious accident. In that type of case, with today’s method of medical treatment, the rule generally is that you need to do everything that your doctor tells you to do. There’s a lot of options to try to get better, to keep your hope alive that you’re going to resolve your injury, but, at the end, whether that be in one year or eighteen months, you may have tried different forms of treatment and you’ve never recovered fully. In that type of case, it’s up to the lawyer to get what he needs from your physician or a doctor who can state to a medical degree of certainty that as a result of this accident, you’re going to have a permanent condition for the rest of your life. In that type of case we’ll obtain a report from your doctor, and then the process begins of trying to resolve your case.
Ninety percent of cases resolve. If your case doesn’t resolve, you’re also with one of the best law firm teams to proceed to filing your case in the county where the accident occurred. Should that happen, the first thing that the judge wants on the case is that final permanency opinion to move the case forward. Because we’re prepared at that stage, we can often move cases forward faster than some firms that might not recognize that they have to have their ducks in a row before filing a lawsuit.
Selecting a Personal Injury Attorney
Just the other day, I spoke with a client who was seriously injured. Just like you, they wanted to know how they would choose the right lawyer. We often have clients come in first. We’ll speak to them, we want them to get to know us, and we want them to understand that they can trust us. Usually over a period of time, whether that’s one appointment or two appointments, they recognize what we offer. What we offer are three lawyers who are experienced, who have been each handling injury claims for over 25 years, and who have each had very, very successful results.
I also tell clients that I think injury law is a very noble profession. There are a lot of good lawyers in the state of Wisconsin. There are a lot of good lawyers just south of us down in Milwaukee. The lawyer that you choose has to be one that you know is going to respond to your phone calls, get back to your questions, and fight for you.
Some of the jury verdicts that we’ve had and settlements that we’ve had here are the largest in the state of Wisconsin. Over time, you learn what you must do on a case; cases can become complicated. At the same time, smaller injuries can also become complicated. The goal of every client is to make sure they can trust their lawyer and that from the beginning of the case to the end of the case, they’ll have their attention and they’ll be able to have all of their questions answered. If you’ve been injured, we hope to get the opportunity to speak to you.
Should I Accept the First Settlement Offer In a Personal Injury Case?
Once we obtain the necessary opinions regarding a client’s injury, we will move as fast as we can against the insurance company to try to resolve your case. I often call that stage one. We’ll send to them what’s called a settlement demand or a position statement. In that statement, we will roundtable what we believe the value of your case is between attorney Patrykus, attorney Laufenberg, and you and I, and then we’re going to send it out to the insurance company. Insurance companies commonly get back to us within 30, to 60, to 90 days. When they do get back to us, we often expect a lower offer than what would be acceptable on your case, and that’s why I call it stage one.
In a normal injury case, I’m going to want to have four, five or six settlement conferences with that insurance adjuster before I can tell my client that I believe we’re at the top of their range. It’s at that point that we’ll have another roundtable of your case, in which we will determine whether or not the high end of the adjuster’s evaluation of your case falls into what’s fair. What’s fair may not be what our clients always think is fair, but that’s where trust has to come in. We may think your case is worth more than you think it’s worth. We may have to explain to you why your case may be worth what it’s worth; but the most important thing when you’re with an experienced lawyer is that you’re going to know how your case is valued and why it’s valued where it is.
The other thing is we’re not going to accept the offer of an insurance company if we don’t believe the offer is fair. With that in mind, we often file a lawsuit. We may enter what we call stage two. Once we file the lawsuit, because we have experience both with the court system that we’re working in and due to the fact that we often know the defense counsel on the case, if there’s no issues in the case, there’s absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t again start up settlement negotiations. It’s for those reasons, because we know there may be additional offers, increased offers down the road on your case, that we would never accept early offers of settlement in our clients’ injury claims.
Will My Personal Injury Case Go to Trial?
A lot of clients, when we first meet them, want to know if their case will have to go to trial. A lot of times they’re thinking just because they’ve hired a lawyer that they have to go to trial. You may be wondering the same thing. Cases that go to trial are less than ten percent of the cases we handle, and, quite frankly, of the more than thousand cases that I’ve taken, I think it’s much less than that. There’s a reason for that.
There’s two types of injury cases. There is a type of case that occurs where the injury happens at point A and at point B, the person has totally recovered. In that type of case, the issues are going to revolve around who caused the accident and what the damages are. The part regarding who caused the accident is called fault, liability or negligence. If there’s no issue regarding negligence, that claim rests totally on what the case is worth. In a case that resolves, we’re going to look at the period of time that it took for you to get better. The insurance company is going to do the same thing. If we can agree on that amount, your case is going to settle.
The second type of case is where the injury doesn’t get better. In that type of case, we’re also going to identify what the most important issues are in the case, but, if it’s a serious injury, we’re going to spend the money to get an accident investigator and accident reconstruction team involved. The purpose is to look at the facts and determine early on that we can establish, beyond any doubt, that we can prove fault falls on the defendant in the case. When you have a team of lawyers that can do that at an early stage, fewer cases go to trial.
The second part and the reason why a case may go to trial in a serious injury case is because you’re going to have pain the rest of your life. It’s not often that an insurance company agrees with us as to the value of your case. We are going to use our experience to help educate you as to what other settlements have reached, in terms of pain and suffering for your type of injury, and we’re going to be able to tell you whether or not the insurance company is being fair. If they’re not, we are prepared to move your case forward to a trial.
Contact Our Washington County Personal Injury Lawyers Today
If you were injured by another person’s act of negligence, you deserve the chance to fight for compensation! The Wisconsin personal injury lawyers at Keberle, Patrykus & Laufenberg are proud to stand up for the rights of victims. The firm has been helping clients for almost 10 years and is driven by considerate compassion, personalized care and aggressive zeal. Before we can be an advocate on your side, however, you will need to inform the firm about all of the details surrounding your case, so contact us for your free consultation.
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