By Sally A. Hestad -– Madison, WI
Personal Injury Lawyer and former insurance claims adjuster. The author offers a free consultation to anyone who has questions about the claims process after an auto accident. You may contact her at (608) 273-1600 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Read more about Sally A. Hestad)
Caveat: These are only general guidelines for car accidents in Wisconsin and there may be exceptions depending on the facts of a particular case.
• If you are involved in an accident and want to make an insurance claim, immediately call the police so that a report will be filed. If the police won't come to the scene, get the other driver's name, address, and insurance information. Obtain a report form and complete it yourself, then file it with the police department or the Wisconsin State Department of Transportation.
• Do not drive your damaged car; have it towed to a body shop. The body shop will determine if the car is drivable or totaled.
• If you want to use your collision insurance, call your agent and report the accident. If you use your own insurance, you will be charged your deductible. But you may get quicker service through your own insurance. Your repair will be covered 100% less your deductible. If the other driver is at fault and has insurance, all or part of your deductible will eventually be reimbursed.
• If the other driver is 50-100% at fault, you may make a claim for your vehicle repairs, towing, and car rental to his or her insurance company. The adjuster may pay a corresponding percentage. For example, if the adjuster determines the other driver is 80% responsible, then only 80% of your repair or car rental may be covered. You could be better off to proceed under your own collision coverage. Also, there could be a delay while the adjuster investigates the facts and determines the percentages of responsibility.
• If the other driver is 50-100% at fault, and is uninsured, your uninsured motorist coverage pays for your injury claim but not your car repair. Have your car repaired using your collision coverage. If you have no collision coverage, you'll have to sue the other driver for the cost of your repairs. You may proceed without an attorney in Wisconsin small claims court for amounts up to $5,000.00. If you win, be sure your judgment gets recorded. Then you'll need to collect on the judgment--cross your fingers because if the other driver files for bankruptcy, your judgment may be wiped out.
• Rental cars. Always get authorization from the insurance company before you rent a car so you will not be stuck with the bill. If you bought your own car rental insurance, the policy allows a certain amount towards the daily car rental rate. You'll have to pay any difference. You also have to pay for gas. Get an unlimited mile rate so there won't be any additional mileage charges. If you have collision insurance, it imay not be necessary to buy the insurance offered by the rental car company. But check this out with your own agent just to be sure.
• If your car is insured, you probably carry a coverage called "medical pay". Under this coverage, your insurance company will pay for medical bills up to the policy limit for anyone injured in your car. The limit is typically $1000, $2000 or $5000 but could be higher. These benefits are immediately available after the accident. Just send the medical bills to your insurance agent. If you have health insurance with a deductible and/or co-pays, you can use your health insurance to cover your medical treatment, and send the deductible and co-pay amounts in to your auto insurance agent or claims adjuster for payment under "medical pay."
• If you are injured, and the other driver is 50-100% at fault, you can make a liability insurance claim for damages. Usually, no part of your injury claim will be paid before you are ready to settle the entire claim, but once in a while an adjuster will make an advance, usually only if you are in extreme financial crisis. No adjuster is required to make advances. At the time of final settlement, the other driver's insurance company should pay an amount which includes
a) your medical bills,
b) your out-of-pocket expenses,
c) your wage loss;
d) your pain and suffering, disability and loss of quality of life;
e) your future medical treatment, and
f) damages due to any loss of earning capacity.
You must provide proof of all of these elements of damages. The secret is documenting. Some claim elements can be documented by the individual who is hurt by writing in a journal about pain, changes in work or recreational activities, etc. Other documenting must be done by your doctor or a physical therapist. You may need a vocational expert to prove loss of earning capacity. Your employer must provide wage loss documentation if you miss time from work due to your injuries.
• Time limits - Statutes of limitations. BE CAREFUL! In Wisconsin, the negligence statute of limitations is three years from the date of the negligence. BUT, there are exceptions, and special notices are due 120 days from the accident date if the State, the county or a municipality's negligence is involved. A lawyer should advise you about your statute date. If the claim is not settled or sued by that date, the claim is lost.
• What can an experienced personal injury lawyer do for you and your injury claim? Your lawyer will be your advocate and will deal with the adjuster on your behalf. Many people find that they are very stressed by the accident, the injury and the car damage. It is a relief to hire a good lawyer who has
• Experience handling insurance claims
• Experience evaluating injury claims like yours
• Expertise in investigating accidents and fully documenting injury claims
• Knowledge of the claims negotiation process
• And who uses his/her experience and legal skill to maximize your settlement.
Call Hestad Law Office for a free evaluation of your claim. 608-273-1600.