Bringing a personal injury claim for injuries sustained in a Wisconsin car accident can be a long and frustrating process. An experienced Wisconsin injury attorney can assist the injury victim in obtaining the highest possible recovery for their injuries.
This article provides individuals that have been injured in an accident in Wisconsin with an outline of the 7 general phases of a Wisconsin car accident personal injury claim.
1. Investigation and Documentation of Claim
Once a case is discussed and signed up by a Wisconsin personal injury lawyer, he/she will dive further into the case to determine who is at fault, whether or not there were any new injuries caused by the accident, and if there is insurance (uninsured and under insured coverage is now mandatory in Wisconsin) or other funds available for recovery.
The attorney may hire an accident investigator to examine the vehicles involved, document any evidence at the scene of the accident, take photos of the evidence and interview any witnesses to the collision. The attorney will also gather any relevant medical records from before the accident and subsequent to the accident. Pre-existing conditions are also researched in order to determine if the accident-related injuries are aggravations of pre-existing conditions.
The attorney will also request and examine all relevant insurance coverage documentation for the at-fault parties including the owner of the vehicle, driver, and employer in order to determine all possible coverages that may be available to the injured party such as Wisconsin required liability polices, umbrella policies, uninsured motorist coverage and under insured motorist coverage (which are now required in Wisconsin), health insurance policies, and medical payments coverage.
2. Demand Phase
Once the attorney has determined there is a valid claim and the injured party has reached maximum medical improvement, a demand package is then prepared by the attorney on behalf of the injury victim. The package can consist of the following documents: accident report, photos of the vehicle/accident scene, property damage report, EMS report, ER records, doctor reports, diagnostic tests, medical bills, prior medical records, final medical evaluation, expert witness reports, witness statements, evaluation of future medical expenses, and an evaluation of loss of future earning capacity.
The package is introduced by a letter from the attorney which summarizes all the information and documents the demand to the insurance company. The demand will usually state an amount the injured party is willing to accept in order to avoid a lawsuit against the at-fault party.
3. Negotiation Phase
Once the insurance company receives, and has had a chance to review, the demand package, the company will usually make an initial offer to settle the case. In the event the offer is the maximum coverage available, often the client and attorney will decide to accept it. After the initial offer, the attorney begins negotiating. Offers can go back and forth until either the offer is accepted by the client or a lawsuit is filed.
It is important to understand that there are advantages to settling a claim before filing a lawsuit in Wisconsin. Some basic advantages include less attorney fees, less case costs, quick availability of cash, less stress, and a guaranteed outcome.
4. Litigation Phase
If the highest offer made by the insurance company is rejected by the client, the next phase in the personal injury claim process is to file a lawsuit in the Wisconsin court system. The attorney will file the complaint and have it served upon the parties responsible for the accident and injuries.
After the lawsuit is filed and served upon all responsible parties, the attorney proceeds with the discovery phase, which can include written interrogatories, depositions, subpoenas, and motions with the court.
5. Mediation Phase
Mediation is typically ordered by the judge presiding over the case. Mediation is an informal dispute resolution process, where both sides come together with a mediator (typically a retired judge) to attempt to settle the case without going to trial.
Each side gets time to explain their understanding of the case and present exhibits to the mediator. Shortly after, the defendant and their attorney go into one room and the plaintiff and their attorney go into another room. The mediator will go between the rooms in an attempt to settle the claim. If a settlement is reached, the insurance company will usually send the monetary recovery within 2-3 weeks and the Wisconsin lawsuit is ended.
6. Trial Phase
If a settlement is not reached during mediation, then the attorneys inform the judge and a trial date is typically assigned. A jury will be assembled and given the task of determining who was at fault in causing the collision and how much money will make the injured party whole for all of their harms and losses caused by the collision.
Trials can last a few days to a few weeks based on how many witnesses must testify. The injured party has the burden of proof to establish who was at fault and the full extend of their harms and losses.
7. Appeal Stage
Both parties maintain the right to appeal the verdict or trial court rulings. The Wisconsin appeals process usually takes years and oftentimes leads to a new trial, at which time the process begins anew.