6 things you NEED to know before filing a car accident lawsuit in Wisconsin
Get an overview of what's involved in filing a car accident lawsuit in Wisconsin.
Understand what you can do to lay the groundwork for a lawsuit.
You have a limited amount of time to file a claim - don't wait too long.
Get the facts on why injury lawsuits take so long to get resolved.
Why the do-it-yourself approach is NOT a good idea.
A look at what goes into calculating pain and suffering awards.
An auto accident disrupts virtually every aspect of your life. In a best case scenario, you’re without a car for weeks, possibly months, and if your car was totaled you’re without a car completely.
Being without a car is bad, but injuries can deprive you of your ability to work and even your ability to just get around. The pain you endure is even worse. And when you’re dealing with the aftermath of an accident that caused the death of a loved one, it’s a pain that never heals.
If you’ve been injured in an auto accident, you deserve fair compensation. Wisconsin car accident attorney Steve Caya will see to it you get everything you’re owed.
1. Can you sue?
Absolutely. The legal system in Wisconsin is set up to allow injured parties to seek financial compensation for the costs they’ve incurred as a result of being injured by someone else’s actions (or inaction). In addition to an award for medical costs and time lost from work, there can also be a monetary award for pain and suffering.
Who can you sue for your accident injuries?
- The insurance company of the driver who caused your accident
- The employer of driver who caused your accident, if driving a company vehicle
- The driver who caused your accident (if uninsured)
- The maker of the vehicle you or the other driver was operating
Depending on the circumstances, there can be several parties named in a lawsuit. The best way to determine who to sue is to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney.
One thing to keep in mind is that Wisconsin has a shared fault law. If the court considers you partly at fault for the accident, the value of your claim will be reduced by the percentage you were determined to be a fault. If you’re found to be 50% or more responsible for the accident, you cannot sue for damages.
2. How do you file a car accident lawsuit?
The obvious answer here is to hire an experienced personal injury attorney to file a claim on your behalf. Before this happens, though, there are some things you can do to lay the groundwork for a lawsuit:
- Get treated for your injuries. This should go without saying, but often accident victims will brush off a little shoulder pain or a stiff neck and not see a doctor. Huge mistake. What you may think is just a minor bruise or a sore neck from a fender bender can actually be something more serious. If you wind up needing a fair settlement for a whiplash injury, your chances go up if you sought medical attention after the accident.
- Hand in hand with the above, document all medical appointments and any out-of-pocket costs you have (even if it’s just for aspirin). Keep a log of your mileage to and from appointments and any time you miss from work due to your accident or for going to medical appointments.
- Get contact information from any witnesses. If you were seriously injured in an accident, you obviously can’t ask bystanders or other motorists for their contact information, but if it wasn’t a serious injury accident you should ask any witnesses for their contact information. This will be extremely helpful in your lawsuit.
- Take photos of the accident scene. If you’re able, document the scene of the accident with the camera on your cell phone. Get as many shots as you can, including wide shots of the surrounding area—this can be helpful for an attorney to contact any businesses in the area that may have surveillance cameras that captured the accident.
- Lawyer up. Get real legal representation and take the first step to winning the compensation you’re owed.
3. What is the statute of limitations for car accident lawsuits?
Wisconsin imposes a time limit on how long you have to file a lawsuit after an accident—3 years from the date of the accident. [Wis. Statute 893.54] After three years, you’re legally shut out of filing a suit.
Three years may seem like a long time, but the deadline sneaks up on many accident victims. You can’t wait until the week before you’re out of time to consult an attorney. The sooner you get the ball rolling, the better.
4. How long does an auto accident lawsuit take to get resolved?
It all depends on the complexity of the case and the dollar figures involved. If you’re willing to take the first offer an insurance company makes to settle your case, it can be resolved very quickly. We don’t recommend this because their offer is usually a lowball offer.
The cold hard fact is that insurance companies do everything they can to delay paying out on claims in the hope you’ll throw in the towel and just go along with whatever they’re offering. And there are plenty of “sign and settle” law firms in Wisconsin all too willing to “assist” you in accepting a lowball offer.
Don’t do it!
An experienced personal injury attorney will fight for the settlement you deserve. Yes, it will take longer—possibly 1 to 3 years—but it will be well worth the wait.
5. Do you really need an attorney to file a lawsuit?
Unless you’re an attorney and familiar with the process of writing and filing pleadings, petitioning the court for a hearing, handling counterclaims, scheduling depositions, and dozens of other legal proceedings, you shouldn’t even consider representing yourself in an auto accident injury lawsuit.
If you’re ok with going up against a swarm of big-time attorneys who will quickly make your life a mess with reams of paperwork, by all means try representing yourself. Our advice: do yourself and your future a favor by getting an experienced personal injury attorney on your side.
6. How much can I expect to get for my injuries?
If you’ve been seriously injured in an auto accident, the payout in a successful lawsuit can be quite large. 5-figure amounts are typical, but with serious injuries the dollars can go well into the hundreds of thousands. It all depends on the nature and the extent of the injuries, as well as how they affect your life.
Is there compensation for pain and suffering?
Yes, “pain and suffering” is a legal term used to encompass the physical, mental and emotional pain of an accident. In addition to the pain and inconvenience of physical injuries, pain and suffering can include, anxiety, worry, insomnia and grief (in the case of a loved one’s death in an accident).
How is an award for pain and suffering calculated?
There are no set guidelines for monetary awards for pain and suffering. It all depends on the type and extent of the pain and suffering, as well as your attorney’s skill in presenting it to the court.
One common way attorneys calculate a pain and suffering award is to multiply your actual damages (medical bills and lost wages) by a number between 1 and 5 – with 1 representing a relatively mild injury like one requiring chiropractic treatment and 5 representing a severe injury (such as paralysis).
Another approach some attorneys use is a per diem calculation—which involves assigning a dollar amount to each day from the date of the accident until the case is fully resolved. For instance, $100 per day.
Settlements won by personal injury lawyer Steve Caya:
View all personal injury case results and examples. We've earned big settlement amounts for many unique types of personal injury cases.
The best way to get a fair settlement
Insurance companies have their own ways to determine what’s reasonable for a pain and suffering award, and their calculations are usually at odds with what an accident victim considers fair.
Ultimately, the size of your settlement (or judgment, if the case goes to trial) isn’t determined by a calculator or an insurance company’s actuarial spreadsheet. It’s determined by the type of attorney you hire, which is why you need an attorney willing to fight for you-- an attorney like Steve Caya.