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Green Bay car accident attorney for passenger injuriesWhen a car accident occurs, the fault usually lies with one or more of the drivers involved, but passengers often suffer some of the most serious injuries. If you have been injured in a crash in which you were a passenger, you should know that you do have the ability to pursue compensation for your damages, but it is important to determine who is responsible so that you have the best chance of recovering the greatest amount possible.

Passenger Injuries in Different Kinds of Accidents

An injured passenger’s options for pursuing compensation usually depend on the other parties involved in the accident. Often, one of the following situations applies:

  • The accident involved only the vehicle in which the passenger was traveling. When a passenger is injured in a single-vehicle accident, the driver of the vehicle is usually fully liable for the passenger’s damages. However, many people are reluctant to bring a claim against a friend or family member who may have caused the accident. Wisconsin has a “direct action” statute, which allows the injured person to recover all his or her damages from just the insurance company, thus avoiding the need to sue a friend or family member and as a result, helping to maintain those important relationships. If the liability coverage for the responsible driver is insufficient, and the passenger is covered on another automobile liability policy with sufficient underinsured motorist coverage, then additional damages may be covered under that policy. Although in most circumstances it is best to use government or private health insurance for medical bills, passengers in the vehicle may also benefit from the medical payments coverage on the auto insurance policy on the vehicle for bills not covered by health insurance. If the passenger is covered on another auto insurance policy, they may also be able to use the medical payment coverage on that policy to cover medical bills not covered by health insurance.
  • The accident involved at least one other vehicle, and the other driver was fully at fault. In this case, the best option is for the passenger to file a claim or a lawsuit against the other driver. However, if other people were injured in the accident, the negligent driver’s liability insurance limits may be less than the passenger’s damages. In these cases, another auto insurance policy with underinsured motorist coverage may provide coverage for the passenger’s damages.
  • The accident involved multiple at-fault parties. In some cases, the driver of the car in which the passenger was traveling may share responsibility for the accident with another driver. In such a situation, Wisconsin’s comparative negligence law applies. This means that each of the negligent parties is responsible for a portion of the passenger’s damages based on their percentage of fault in causing the crash. While a passenger can make a claim for 100% of their damages against the parties who are 51% or more at fault, they also have the option of bringing claims against the insurance companies for both drivers, particularly if the driver with the most fault does not have adequate insurance limits. In some cases, this results in a larger settlement or verdict in the passenger’s favor, because there are other means of recovering compensation even after one driver’s liability insurance limit has been reached.

Contact an Appleton Personal Injury Attorney

Regardless of who is at fault, it is important for injured passengers to work with an attorney who can help them build a case supported by evidence of the drivers’ negligence, including photos and videos, police reports, and testimony from witnesses to the collision. The Green Bay car accident lawyers at Herrling Clark Law Firm Ltd. will thoroughly investigate your case and advocate for your needs in pursuit of a fair result. Contact us at 920-739-7366 to schedule a free consultation.

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Appleton, WI car accident lawyerIf you have been injured in a car crash, your immediate injuries may be just the beginning of the challenges you will face. A car accident can affect your life in many different ways, and as you prepare to pursue a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver, it is important to consider the full impact so that you can work with your attorney to determine a fair amount of compensation that accounts for all of the ways in which you may be struggling.

Major Life Impacts of Car Crash

The following are just a few of the many ways that a car accident can affect your life:

  1. Physical limitations - Injuries ranging from broken bones, to burns and lacerations, to spinal cord damage can result in temporary or permanent disabilities that prevent you from performing basic living tasks in the way that you did before the accident. In some cases, you may require in-home care or assistance to help you throughout the day.

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Green Bay distracted driving accident lawyerCar crashes caused by distracted driving are incredibly common, with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation reporting that one in five accidents involve distracted driving in some form. Texting while driving gets much of the attention in distracted driving prevention and safety campaigns, but this focus on cell phone use may mask the prevalence of other causes of distracted driving that can be equally dangerous. If you are injured as a result of another driver’s distraction due to any of these behaviors, you may be entitled to compensation.

Frequent Driver Distractions

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) publishes frequent reports on driving safety and the factors involved in traffic accidents. A recent report published in 2020 focuses on the effects of distracted driving in fatal crashes. The report defines distraction as a situation in which “drivers divert their attention from the driving task to focus on some other activity instead.” While the NHTSA’s data analysis found that cell phone use was a common cause of distraction, especially among drivers below the age of 40, more than 80 percent of driver distractions came from some other source, even in the younger age groups. Common examples include:

  • Other vehicle occupants. This includes when the driver is conversing with passengers or attending to children or pets in the back seat.
  • Adjusting vehicle controls. This includes radio controls, lights, heat and air conditioning, GPS systems, mirrors, windows, and more.
  • Objects inside the vehicle. Objects that move or shift in transit can be distracting, as can objects that a driver attempts to reach for.
  • Occurrences outside of the vehicle. Animals, car accidents, billboards, scenic views, and roadside attractions are all possible sources of distraction.
  • Eating and drinking. A driver’s hands and eyes may be occupied while eating or drinking non-alcoholic beverages behind the wheel.
  • Daydreaming. Sometimes, distraction occurs simply because the driver’s thoughts are elsewhere.

Evidence of Distracted Driving

When you have been injured by a distracted driver, it is important to work with an attorney as soon as possible to look for evidence that may point to the driver’s distraction or other negligent behavior. In some cases, the driver’s own admission of their distraction can help your case, especially if it is recorded in a police report or 911 call. However, you will often need to seek other evidence, including testimony from witnesses to the driver’s behavior, photographs of the vehicles and accident scene that show possible distractions, and any available camera footage that shows the circumstances leading to the collision. Your attorney will use all available evidence to build a strong case for your compensation.

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Appleton personal injury lawyer for snowmobile collisionsSnowmobiling is a common pastime during Wisconsin winters, and in fact, some of the first ever snowmobiles were created in the state of Wisconsin. However, it can be a dangerous hobby, as recent years have demonstrated. In 2019, snowmobile accident fatalities in the state matched the most recent 10-year average of 16, and there was an even greater number of fatal accidents in 2020. Fortunately, injury victims of accidents involving snowmobiles and other recreational vehicles may be able to recover damages if the injuries were caused by another person’s negligence.

Snowmobile Laws and Regulations in Wisconsin

Though snowmobiles are often used away from roadways, including on private property, they are still subject to important regulations under Wisconsin law. These regulations are aimed at promoting the safety of riders and other people in their vicinity. For example, snowmobiles must be registered with the state, and operators born in 1985 or later are required to earn a Snowmobile Safety Certification. Other snowmobile safety laws include:

  • Restrictions on the use of snowmobiles on public roads, which usually require that snowmobile operators maintain a distance of at least 10 feet from the actual roadway.
  • Prohibition of operating a snowmobile on public property while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. These laws are especially important, given that the majority of fatal snowmobile accidents involve alcohol intoxication.
  • Restrictions on speed during the hours of darkness and when within a certain distance of a home or a person who is not on a snowmobile or other vehicle.

Negligence in Snowmobile Accidents

If you are injured in a snowmobile accident, you may have a case for a personal injury lawsuit under a variety of circumstances. For example, you may have been injured in a collision with another negligent snowmobile operator, or with a car, truck, or other motor vehicle while driving near the roadway. You may also have been injured as a snowmobile passenger due to the driver’s negligence, or as a pedestrian in an area where people were riding snowmobiles. Wisconsin law requires that you notify law enforcement and the Department of Natural Resources after any snowmobile accident resulting in injury or death, and you should also consider contacting an attorney who can help you preserve evidence of negligence, including alcohol intoxication, excessive speed, other violations of snowmobile regulations, or any behavior that endangered your safety.

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Green Bay personal injury lawyer for medical expensesIf you have been injured due to someone else’s negligence, you have the ability to pursue a personal injury claim seeking compensation for all your damages from the at-fault party. However, the process of reaching a settlement or achieving a trial verdict in your favor can often take several months or more, and you will most likely need medical care during this time. As you deal with your ongoing medical expenses, you may understandably be concerned about how you will cover the costs of your treatment until you receive compensation. Your attorney can help you understand your options and what you can expect while your claim is pending and after it has been settled.

Options for Covering Medical Expenses While Your Case Is Pending

Until your personal injury claim is resolved, your best options for managing medical expenses usually include working with your own insurance and health care providers. Specific options include:

  • Health or government insurance - Your own personal employer-sponsored or government-sponsored health insurance coverage can often cover a significant portion of your medical expenses related to any injuries you have sustained, though there may be deductibles or copays that you will have to cover on your own, at least temporarily.
  • Medical payments coverage - Also known as medpay, medical payments coverage is required for all Wisconsin car insurance policies unless the policy holder explicitly opts out. This coverage can provide for the medical expenses of you and your passengers for injuries from a car accident, regardless of who is at fault. Required medpay coverage starts at $1,000 per person, but you often have the option to purchase additional coverage. Although every policy is different, in most instances, because medical payment coverages are capped, it is best to use alternate insurances first so that the medical payments coverage can be used for co-pays, deductibles, or uncovered expenses for as long as possible.
  • Payment plans - If you lack insurance coverage, or if you are otherwise facing significant out-of-pocket expenses, you may be able to work out a payment plan with your health care provider in order to avoid excessive hardship until you receive compensation. This could include spreading out payments over time or reaching an agreement in which you delay payments until after your settlement or verdict.
  • Health care letters of protection and lien agreements - If everything else fails, occasionally, a health care provider may agree to wait until a case is settled before receiving payment, as long as they are given a lien against your recovery. This process is complex and may require the assistance of an attorney.

Keep in mind that if your car insurance or health insurance provider covers some of your expenses, they may be entitled to a portion of your settlement or award in order to reimburse their contributions. This process is known as “subrogation.” Your attorney can advise you on an approach to your claim that can help you obtain adequate compensation to account for both subrogation and your own personal needs.

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