Danny is walking across a street in a residential neighborhood in Madison when he is hit by a commercial van. He is not in a crosswalk; he was crossing in the middle of the street. Danny suffers a fractured right arm, hip, and leg. The police come to the scene and call an ambulance for Danny. They do not give the driver a ticket. (Learn more about Pedestrian-Car Accidents.)
Danny spends two weeks in the hospital, then he is discharged to a rehabilitation facility for another two weeks. Finally, he goes home after a month. After two more months of rehabilitation, he is able to walk. After a year of rehabilitation, he is feeling like himself again, although he is still sore and weak. Danny was a carpenter, but he lost his job because he was out of work for a year. He is now looking for work.
The first thing Danny should do is report the incident to the insurer of the car that hit him. Since the police came to the scene, he may not have any further obligation to report the incident to authorities. Learn more: Do I need to report a car accident in Wisconsin?
Danny needs to stay aware of Wisconsin’s statute of limitations, which is a law that sets a deadline for filing a lawsuit.
In Wisconsin, the statute of limitations for most car accident lawsuits is three years. This means, if you were injured in a car accident as a driver, passenger, or pedestrian, you have three years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit in the state’s courts. If the accident involves only property damage, you have six years to file a lawsuit.
If you can’t settle your Wisconsin car accident case well before the statute of limitations deadline expires, it may be time to contact a Wisconsin car accident lawyer.
You want to make sure that the adjuster has all of the medical and financial documentation that supports your claim for your car accident injuries. You also want to make sure that the adjuster has all of the information necessary to evaluate who was at fault in the accident. This is important in any case, and particularly in a case like Danny’s, where the adjuster is certainly going to argue that Danny negligently crossed the street in the middle of the block without looking for oncoming cars. (More: Can a Pedestrian Be At Fault for a Car-Pedestrian Accident?)
Wisconsin follows a “modified comparative fault” rule when the person bringing an injury claim may have played a role in causing the underlying accident. Under this rule, your total damages award is reduced by whatever percentage of the “fault” the judge or jury believes is yours. If, for example, you were awarded $400,000 in damages, but were found 10% at fault, your damages would be reduced to $360,000. However, if you were found to be more than 50 percent at fault, you would receive no damages whatsoever.
In order to maximize your potential recovery, you want to make absolutely sure that the defendant’s adjuster knows that you did nothing wrong. (Learn more about Proving Fault for a Car Accident.)
It's important to note that the other driver may carry only the minimum amount of liability insurance required under Wisconsin car insurance laws. If your medical bills and other damages exceed those minimums, but the other driver carries no additional coverage, then an insurance settlement may not cover your losses. In that situation, you may want to talk to an attorney about your other options.
In Danny’s case, his out-of-pocket (compensatory) damages total $350,000. The breakdown looks like this:
Danny and his attorney decide that another $700,000 in damages is appropriate to compensate for Danny’s pain and suffering in connection with the accident, and they make an initial demand of $1,000,000 to settle the claim. Luckily for Danny, the van that hit him is a commercial van, and so was covered by a very large insurance policy. The insurance adjuster argues strongly that Danny is at fault for this accident for crossing in the middle of the street. The adjuster claims that, if Danny had looked left and right, he would have seen the van. After much negotiating back and forth on the issue of fault, Danny agrees to accept $750,000 in full settlement of the case.
Learn more about Settling a Car Accident Case.