A car accident can happen in a matter of seconds and can turn a person’s life upside down. Some accidents are relatively minor and only cause property damage. However, when a person is injured in an accident, a potential personal injury case has begun.
Do you know what to do after you’ve been involved in a car accident? The Milwaukee personal injury attorneys and car accident lawyers in Milwaukee at Murphy & Prachthauser want to help you be prepared. Take a look at the 10-step process you should follow after a motor vehicle accident injury.
1. Initial Investigation
At the scene of the accident, your number one priority should be your health. If you are injured and need medical transport, make sure you receive the care you need. However, if you are able to conduct some initial investigation, such as, taking pictures at the scene and taking down the names and phone numbers of witnesses, you will be one step ahead. Oftentimes, after police arrive at a scene, they try to clean up the scene and get the vehicles out of traffic. While they may take some pictures, you should try to take your own pictures to document where the cars are located, any debris, witness information, and weather conditions by snapping a few pictures with your smartphone. Additionally, if you have a chance, you should survey the area for businesses which may have surveillance cameras which may have caught the entire collision on tap. If your vehicle or the other vehicle are being towed, take pictures of the vehicles. This initial investigation can help move your case along more quickly and can provide evidence if questions arise later regarding how the accident occurred.
2. Treatment for Injuries
Receiving medical treatment can be the most important step in getting your life back to normal after an auto accident. When you visit your doctor, make sure to explain all of your symptoms. Be honest with your doctor, but do not exaggerate. This will help your doctor give you the best treatment possible. Make sure to ask your doctor if you can return to work with your injuries or if you have any restrictions. Furthermore, make sure to keep receiving medical treatment if you still have any symptoms. Insurance companies see gaps in treatment as an indication that your injury has healed, which is usually not the case. This step in the process should continue until your symptoms stop and throughout the rest of the process of your personal injury case.
3. File Claim with Your Insurance Company
After an accident, you should notify your auto insurance company of the accident. Usually, your insurance company is in the best position to help you get your vehicle fixed or pay for a total loss. Even though the accident was not your fault, your insurance company can help get you back out on the road, provided you have collision coverage under your policy. Then, your insurance company will seek reimbursement from the insurance company of the at-fault driver.
Oftentimes after an accident, the insurance company of the at-fault driver will also contact you. Usually, the insurance adjuster will ask you for a written or recorded statement. It is not in your best interest to provide them with a statement. Sometimes, the insurance agents even try to get you to accept a small amount of money, such as $500 and sign a release. As experienced Milwaukee auto accident attorneys, we always tell clients: do not accept quick cash or sign any documents. Your injuries could last much longer than you anticipate and once you release the other insurance company, you cannot reopen your claim. At this point, you may want to consider talking with a car accident personal injury attorney.
4. Initial Consultation with a Car Accident Attorney in Milwaukee
The Milwaukee personal injury lawyers at Murphy & Prachthauser have a long tradition of practicing exclusively personal injury law. Scheduling a meeting with one of our Milwaukee personal injury attorneys is free and each attorney would be happy to answer any questions you may have. Hiring Milwaukee car accident attorneys who are familiar with personal injury cases will help ensure the insurance company does not take advantage of you. In addition, our attorneys can help you deal with the numerous calls you receive from the insurance adjusters, conduct investigation, and push back against low settlement offers by the insurance company. Furthermore, there is no upfront cost to you for hiring us. We are only paid for our legal services if we help you recover from the insurance company. Murphy & Prachthauser attorneys practices law the way it should be practiced. We are motivated and equipped to do our best for you.
5. Liability and Medical Investigation
After hiring Murphy & Prachthauser, our team of car accident lawyers in Milwaukee will conduct further investigation into the accident as well as follow up with you on a regular basis regarding your medical treatment. As you continue treatment, we begin to order your medical bills and medical records. When your injuries heal, we order all your treatment information and submit it to the insurance company. If, however, your pain does not go away and your doctor thinks that your pain may be permanent, we will contact your doctor and get a report to submit along with the treatment records. This step in the process can sometimes be the longest because it is wholly dependent upon how you are feeling. It is important to wait until your future prognosis is better known before even considering an offer from the insurance company to settle the case.
6. Settlement Demand
Once your medical condition has stabilized or plateaued, we usually submit a demand for settlement to the insurance company on your behalf. Usually, the insurance company will make the first offer and usually there are a few negotiations back and forth with the insurance adjuster until we know the insurance company will not offer any more.
7. Case Settles or a Lawsuit is Filed
When we receive a final offer from the insurance adjuster, it is your decision as to whether you want to settle your case or whether you want to file a lawsuit. Many clients will say they are not the type of people who would file a lawsuit and they want to settle. However, insurance companies know that people do not want to file lawsuits so they offer low amounts knowing that oftentimes cases will settle. During this process, Murphy & Prachthauser, and their team of experienced car accident lawyers in Milwaukee, will provide guidance on whether the offer from the insurance company is fair and whether it makes sense to continue with a lawsuit. As previously mentioned, this is your decision and we will back you with whichever decision you make.
Once a lawsuit is filed, the case goes into a discovery period. Discovery means that your team of Milwaukee auto accident attorneys get to find out more information about the other side and the other side gets to find out more about you. The discovery process includes interrogatories, requests for documents, and even depositions. Interrogatories are written questions sent to the other side. Requests for documents may include a request for photographs you have taken or your medical records. A deposition is the opportunity for lawyers to ask questions of the parties involved in the accident, witnesses, police officers, treating doctors, or anybody else who may provide evidence in the case at trial. If a lawsuit is filed, at some point the lawyer on the other side will have the chance to ask you questions about the car accident and your injuries. After the exchange of information is complete, the court usually orders mediation prior to the start of a trial.
Mediation is a dispute resolution process where a neutral third party, the mediator, facilitates a discussion between the parties to a lawsuit in order to promote the voluntary settlement of the case before trial. At most personal injury mediations, you will be in a room with your Milwaukee car accident attorney and the attorney for the other side will be in a separate room. The mediator will move between the two rooms to try to get both sides to agree on a number for settlement. The mediator has no power to order settlement. However, over the past decade, many lawsuits resolve at mediation.
In the event mediation is unsuccessful, the case will proceed to trial. In busy counties, a trial may not happen until more than a year after the lawsuit is filed. At trial, the injured person has the burden of proving that the other driver was negligent. In proving negligence, the injured party and his or her attorneys have to show that the other driver failed to use ordinary care and his failure caused your injuries. In addition, the injured party and his or her attorneys have to show how much money the jury should award in damages. After you, the other driver, witnesses, police officers, doctors, and other witnesses testify, the jury is required to answer a special verdict. The questions on the special verdict will ask if the other driver was negligent and if his or her negligence caused your injury. The jury will then be asked if you were negligent and if your negligence caused your own injuries. If the jury answers yes to both questions, the jury is required to apportion fault between you and the other driver. In Wisconsin, as long as the injured person is not more at fault than the other driver, the injured person will win the lawsuit and be able to recover. If the plaintiff is partially to blame for his injuries, damages may be reduced. The jury is not told that this is how it works. The jury is only told to answer what amount of money will fairly and reasonably compensate you for your injuries. Unlike a the juries we see on TV, only 10 out of 12 jurors have to agree on the answer to each question. After the jury reaches its verdict, the results are announced in court and you can recover based on how the jury answered the questions.
If you have been injured in an auto accident, call Murphy & Prachthauser. We can help guide you through the steps of a personal injury auto accident case.
Do you have any questions for our team of personal injury attorneys? Let us know how we can help.
At Murphy & Prachthauser we are car accident lawyers in Milwaukee who practice the law the way it should be practiced – motivated and equipped to do our best for you. We take pride in being good lawyers who help people.
If you have a case you would like to speak to a personal injury lawyer about, please contact us to schedule a free consultation and get an experienced Milwaukee auto accident attorneys working on your behalf.