Car accidents happen when you least expect them. In Wisconsin, roughly 30,000 people are injured in car accidents every year. If you’ve been injured in a collision that was not your fault, navigating the car accident settlement process can be intimidating.
Most people are unfamiliar with the process until an accident occurs. Victims should never get stuck with medical bills, lost wages, pain & suffering, and so on. The good news is the law is on your side.
Car accident victims typically hire a personal injury lawyer to help them navigate the legal process to earn fair compensation from the at-fault party – so they can focus on getting better. While the attorney will manage the legal hurdles, victims will work closely with them to move the personal injury claim along smoothly.
That said, it’s important that victims have a basic understanding of how the typical car accident settlement process works. In this article, we’re going to explain just that. Let’s get going.
Also known as “tort law”, Wisconsin operates under a fault-based insurance system.
This means the party who caused the car accident is legally responsible for the damages incurred by the victim. This generally involves paying for property damage, medical bills, and other losses (more on this later).
If the costs exceed the at-fault driver’s insurance coverage, the victim may need to pursue additional compensation directly from the at-fault driver.
One of the most difficult aspects of a car accident settlement is proving liability – or pinpointing the at-fault party. Wisconsin has comparative negligence rules in place, meaning multiple parties could be at fault in an accident.
Insurance companies will investigate the nature of the accident to properly determine the at-fault party(s). In these situations, it’s crucial to carry adequate car insurance and understand your rights/obligations.
All car accidents in Wisconsin must be reported to law enforcement if there was an injury, death, or property damage exceeding $1,000.
If the authorities are called to the accident, it will automatically be reported to the state. If they aren’t, you are required to submit a Driver Report of Accident within 10 days.
In regards to car accident insurance claims, there is no time limit to notify your provider, but we strongly recommend doing so as soon as possible. Do your best to provide all necessary details and cooperate fully with their investigation.
Once you speak to your insurance provider, they will assign a car accident claims adjuster to evaluate the incident and determine liability within Wisconsin’s fault-based system. From here, they will estimate the repair costs or other damages. The at-fault party’s provider will do the same thing.
After this assessment, the insurance company will propose a car accident settlement. You can either accept this settlement or negotiate for a higher amount. If you’re unsatisfied with the compensation amount, you can seek legal counsel.
Pro Tip: When you talk to your insurance company, only state the facts as objectively as you can – keep your emotions out of it.
Insurance adjusters play a crucial role in a car accident settlement in Wisconsin.
Once a claim is filed, the adjuster’s job is to review the accident report, examine vehicle damage, and study medical assessments. They will also interview witnesses or any other involved parties to get a complete understanding of the accident.
With this information, they will create a report to determine liability.
From here, they will assess the cost of vehicle repairs, medical expenses, and all other damages stemming from the accident. The insurance company will then proposes a settlement amount to cover these costs.
Keep in mind, the adjusters are obligated to minimize the insurance company’s payout – by any means necessary. This means most initial offers for a car accident settlement are much lower than what the victim deserves – and is the primary reason why people hire a car accident attorney.
In a Wisconsin car accident settlement, there are a few types of damages involved: economic, non-economic, and punitive.
Calculating economic damages is relatively straightforward. These damages have receipts, invoices, and records attached, including:
– Medical bills
– Future medical treatment (estimates)
– Property damage
– Lost income
Non-economic damages are significantly more complicated – as they have no paperwork attached. These damages include:
– Pain and suffering (physical and mental)
– Reduced quality of life
– Lost companionship
Punitive damages are intended to punish the at-fault party for acting negligently. For example, if the driver was severely intoxicated and was driving recklessly over the speed limit, the victim would likely choose to pursue punitive damages.
Economic damages are easy to add up. Non-economic and punitive damages are more subjective. When you hire a personal injury attorney, they will work with you to understand the severity of the injury. Based on this, they will use a multiplier method to determine a tangible compensation amount to demand in the car accident settlement.
Punitive damages are typically no more than four times the value of compensatory damages. Again, your personal injury lawyer will calculate these for you.
The negotiation process of car accident settlements starts once the insurance provider offers an initial compensation amount.
To reiterate, the initial offer is usually lower than what the damages equate to.
If the car accident victim believes the offer doesn’t adequately cover their damages, they can counter with a higher demand. This will need to be backed by medical bills, car repair expenses, proof of lost wages, etc.
The personal injury attorney will navigate a back-and-forth negotiation until both parties agree on a car accident settlement amount. The negotiation process can be extremely contentious and time-consuming – and requires strong negotiation skills, experience, as well as an in-depth understanding of personal injury law and insurance policies.
This is why it’s critical to hire an attorney to manage negotiations for the car accident injury settlement.
Experienced car accident attorneys play a crucial role in settlement negotiations.
The legal experience and negotiation strategies are indispensable in the car accident case. Personal injury lawyers know how to properly counter low settlement offers and add compelling evidence to substantiate the car accident claim.
They also know the tactics insurance companies commonly use to reduce payouts – and how to defend against them. In most cases, insurance companies won’t even be receptive to negotiations if car accident victims do not have an attorney. In other words, if you’ve been injured in a car accident, earning fair compensation from insurance companies will be extremely difficult.
The average car accident settlement process is resolved out of court. It’s estimated that only 4-5 percent of cases end up going to trial.
If the victim’s damages exceed the at-fault party’s insurance coverage – or if the insurance company refuses a fair settlement – the victim may elect to sue the at-fault party for additional compensation.
Taking a car accident injury case to court is generally to pursue adequate compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering damages, and so on.
In Wisconsin, there is a three-year statute of limitations to take a car accident claim to court. Now, going to court is typically a last resort for both parties if a settlement cannot be reached. Pursuing a lawsuit is complicated, time-consuming, and expensive.
If you end up in this situation, your personal injury attorney will manage the process from end to end.
Hopefully, you never have to face the car accident settlement process.
If you end up in this unfortunate situation, it’s important to know how everything works. You don’t need to have in-depth legal expertise about car accident cases (that’s why you hire an experienced attorney), but you’ll have a significant leg up if you just know the basics. ]
Hopefully, this post has provided you with the information you need to get started.
At Mahony Law, we are a car accident injury law firm helping victims seeking a fair car accident settlement in Wisconsin. Our office operates on a contingency fee agreement – meaning you pay nothing unless we win the case. We don’t charge any retainer fees or out-of-pocket expenses to take your case.
Additionally, we provide FREE consultations. We’ll discuss the nature of your car accident, assess the initial evidence, and determine if you have a valid case. For more information, call our office at 262-331-3553, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or fill out an online form to start the process.
Abby is the founder of Mahony Law and devotes her time to representing people who have been seriously hurt due to the negligence of others. Abby has handled injury cases of all types, including birth injury, wrongful death, automobile accidents, motorcycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and truck accidents.
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