Consequences of Multiple DUI Convictions in Wisconsin

Drunk driving remains a major problem in Wisconsin. According to the Department of Transportation, approximately 24,000 drivers are convicted of drunk driving offenses in the state every year. Wisconsin drunk driving offenses are charged as OWIs (operating while intoxicated). While all intoxicated driving charges need to be taken seriously, it is especially important for those who already have a prior OWI conviction. Indeed, after a first conviction, any subsequent Wisconsin OWI conviction will carry heightened penalties.

Penalties for Driving Under the Influence in Wisconsin

On January 1st, 2017, Wisconsin put in place new drunk driving penalties. The new legislation, which was signed in April of 2016 by Governor Scott Walker, is designed to try to reduce the rate of intoxicated driving in the state. The updated penalties are substantially more harsh on repeat offenders. As of now, the consequences for multiple Wisconsin DUI offenses are as follows:

Second Offense

  • Skyrocketing insurance costs;
  • Financial penalties, including up to $1,100 in fines;
  • Jail time, between five days and six months;
  • License suspension for up to 18 months; and
  • Possible installation of an interlock ignition on your car.

Third Offense

  • Skyrocketing insurance rates;
  • $2,000 in fines, which can be increased further depending on your level of intoxication;
  • Jail time, between 45 days and one year;
  • Loss of license for up to three years; and
  • The mandatory installation of an interlock ignition device on your car.

Fourth Offense (Plus Additional Offenses)

  • Skyrocketing insurance premiums;
  • Mandatory felony charge;
  • In excess of $10,000 in fines;
  • Substantial jail time, likely to be at least five years starting at your fifth offense; and
  • Automatic license revocation, lasting for at least three years.

Defending an OWI Charge

As the penalties for multiple drunk driving convictions can be extremely harsh, you need to take immediate action following an OWI arrest. It is imperative that you work with an experienced drunk driving defense lawyer who can help to protect your legal rights. In crafting a defense strategy, you attorney will consider several different things, including:

  • Your due process rights, including assessing the existence of probable cause in your case;
  • Whether or not there is sufficient evidence to sustain the charges against you; and
  • The existence of opportunities to seek a reduction in your charges or your penalties.

Ultimately, a proper legal defense strategy should always be narrowly tailored to the individual circumstances of each case. In some cases, it may make sense to aggressively fight the OWI charges. Whereas in other cases, the best strategy may be to focus on seeking a reduction in punishment.

Contact Our Office Today to Speak with a Skilled Appleton DUI Lawyer

At Hammett Bellin & Oswald LLC, our experienced Appleton criminal defense attorneys have extensive experience handling DUI cases. If you need legal assistance, please get in touch our team today by calling 920-720-0000. We offer initial consultations are free of charge. From our offices in Appleton and Neenah, we represent clients throughout Northeastern Wisconsin, including in Wautoma and New London.

Proving Your Slip and Fall Case in Wisconsin

Slip and fall accidents remain far too common in Wisconsin and around the country. Indeed, the (CDC), reports that nearly three million Americans require emergency medical attention for fall accidents each year. Property owners need to do a better job removing safety hazards on their premises. If you slip and fall on another person’s property, you may be able to hold that property owner liable for your damages. Here, our Appleton personal injury attorneys discuss what you need to know about proving liability in a Wisconsin slip and fall case.

Slip and Fall Liability in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, slip and fall accident cases, like all premises liability cases, are based on the negligence standard. This means that in order to hold a property owner liable for your damages, you will need to be able to prove that your accident occurred as a result of their negligence. In broad terms, negligence is the failure to take proper care in a particular situation. In premises liability cases, proving negligence requires proving each of the following three legal elements:

  • Danger: First, you will need to prove that an unreasonable safety hazard was present on the property. Property owners are not automatically liable for a fall accident. For example, a property owner cannot be held liable simply because a person tripped over their own feet. Dangerous conditions must have been present to prove liability.
  • Knowledge: Next, the property owner (or manager) must have had knowledge of the dangerous condition. To be clear, in Wisconsin you can satisfy this element by proving either ‘actual knowledge’ or ‘constructive knowledge’. In other words, you must prove that the property owner knew, or should have known, about the unreasonable safety hazard.
  • Failure to act: Finally, your slip and fall attorney will need to prove that the property owner could have taken action to remove (or reduce) the safety risk, but that they failed to take those actions. Property owners cannot be held liable if there was nothing they could have done to prevent the accident.

Slip and Fall Cases Can Be Complex

Fall accidents victims may seek compensation that covers the full value of their damages. This includes everything from medical bills to lost wages to pain and suffering. However, property owners, and their insurance companies, usually fight slip and fall accident cases very aggressively. To actually recover the compensation that they rightfully deserve, victims need to have an experienced attorney by their side early on in the claims process. Without thorough investigation early on in the claims process, you will have a difficult time obtaining the evidence necessary to support your claim.

Contact a Slip and Fall Accident Lawyer in Wisconsin

At Hammett, Bellin & Oswald LLC, our Wisconsin personal injury attorneys have extensive experience handling slip and fall accident cases. To request a free review of your case, please call our team today locally at 920-720-0000 or toll free at 866-720-0009. We represent victims throughout Northeastern Wisconsin, including in Green Bay, Oshkosh and DePere.

2017 Law & Justice Scholarship Winner Announced

Hammett, Bellin & Oswald, LLC is pleased to announce that Hannah Krueger is the recipient of the 2017 Law & Justice Scholarship.

This scholarship was offered to all first-year college freshman who planned on attending an accredited College/University during the 2017-2018 school year to assist with college education expenses. Judges selected the scholarship winner based on school activities, special honors and awards, community involvement, interest in pursuing a law degree, academic performance and an essay.

On behalf of the lawyers and staff at HBO Law Firm, we would like to congratulate Hannah Krueger on being the 2017 winner of the Law & Justice Scholarship. We wish her the best of luck in all her educational endeavors.

How Do I Deal with Car Insurance After an Accident?

If you are injured in a car accident because of another party’s negligence, you are entitled to seek compensation for your medical bills and other damages through a personal injury claim. In most cases involving negligent drivers, the money comes from the negligent driver’s automobile insurance provider, but they will generally only pay upon a settlement or a verdict (if a lawsuit has to be filed). Thus, the medical bills usually must first be paid by your auto insurance medical expense coverage or your health insurance. Your auto or health insurance will then want reimbursement for the amounts they pay out of any settlement or verdict you ultimately achieve. If the other driver does not have insurance or enough insurance, you may have to seek coverage under your own auto uninsured motorist coverage.

If you have never filed a personal injury claim before, the process can seem daunting. But once you break it down into small steps, you will see that it can be a fairly straightforward process. Work with an experienced Appleton personal injury lawyer to give your claim the best possible chance of resulting in a fair settlement. Dealing with an uninsured or underinsured negligent driver raises additional issues that will be addressed in future blog posts.

Determine your Damages

Your lawyer can help you determine your damages to determine an amount of compensation to seek. Through a personal injury claim, you can seek compensation for the following:

  • Your medical bills and related expenses;
  • Your lost wages; and
  • Any expenses related to the injury that do not fit into either of the above categories. This can include the need for a mobility aid or your need for hired domestic help while you recover.

Filing your Claim with the Negligent Driver’s Insurance Provider

In Wisconsin, you must settle your claim or file a personal injury lawsuit within three years of the date of your accident. Your lawyer can prepare your claim and submit it to the negligent driver’s insurance provider along with the necessary pieces of evidence to support the claim, such as the accident’s official police report and documentation of your lost wages.

An insurance adjuster will be assigned to your case. He or she will either reject your claim or offer you a settlement offer. Do not accept the settlement offer without discussing it with your lawyer first – usually, this amount is far lower than the amount of money you will need and your lawyer can negotiate a higher settlement for you. If your claim is rejected, your lawyer can help you to file a lawsuit to litigate your claim.

Interactions with the Insurance Adjuster

Let your Appleton personal injury lawyer guide your interactions with the insurance adjuster. It is best to let your lawyer interact with them on your behalf. Your lawyer can also deal directly with the medical expense adjuster under your own auto insurance and your health insurance as may be necessary.

Do not make any statements to the negligent driver’s insurance adjuster and do not admit to fault for the accident. These can be used to justify reducing your settlement amount or even rejecting your claim.

Work with an Experienced Appleton Car Accident Lawyer

If you are involved in a car accident, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed at the prospect of working with an insurance provider to seek compensation for your damages. Medical providers often do not know who to bill for services, and coordinating payments with the different insurers can be difficult and time consuming. But it does not have to be a difficult, uncomfortable process. Work with a compassionate car accident lawyer in Wisconsin who can guide you through the steps of filing and pursuing your personal injury claim. Contact our office today to set up your initial consultation with a member of Hammett, Bellin & Oswald, LLC.

8 Driving Safety Tips to Follow in 2017

With the start of the new year, take the time to assess your habits and focus on creating safer, healthier ones. Use the following safety tips to make yourself a safer driver and reduce your risk of being injured in a car accident.

1. Adjust your Driving to your Surroundings

As the weather changes, so should your driving style. When the road is covered with snow and ice, drive more slowly and consider using tire chains to give your vehicle better traction.

2. Never Drive Distracted, Drunk, or Drowsy

Remember the three Ds of dangerous driving: drunk, drowsy, and distracted. Always drive well rested and put your phone and any other devices away while driving. If you plan to consume alcohol, get a ride home with a designated drive or make use of public transportation.

3. Share the Roadway

In most settings, you are not the only one on the road. And when you have to share the road with others, you usually have to share it with pedestrians and motorists operating other types of vehicle, such as motorcycles, tractor trailers, and bicycles. Give other road users the space they need to use the roadway safely. Large vehicles like commercial trucks need a greater distance to come to a complete stop and motorcycles can be difficult to see, especially at night.

4. Be Aware of Safety Recalls

It is not uncommon for vehicle parts to be recalled because they pose safety risks to their operators and others on the roadway. Subscribe to a recall newsletter and regularly check websites like recalls.gov to keep yourself informed about current recalls.

5. Proper Maintenance Keeps your Vehicle Safe

Keeping your vehicle in proper condition will keep you and other motorists safe. Replace all worn-out parts, such as brake pads, windshield wiper blades, and lights in a timely manner.

6. Be Prepared for a Break Down

Have a safety kit in your car in the event your vehicle breaks down. This kit should include a flashlight, a warm blanket and at least a gallon of fresh water for you, a phone charger, a basic tool set, and a bright colored ribbon to tie around a nearby tree in the event you are stranded and need to make yourself more visible.

7. Know What to Do After an Accident

If you are involved in an accident, pull over immediately and call 911 if anybody needs emergency medical attention. If not, gather evidence you will need to support a personal injury claim later, such as photos of the accident and contact information for eyewitnesses. Call the local police to have an officer come to fill out an official police report. Do not leave the scene of the accident without exchanging automobile insurance information with all other drivers involved.

8. Keep Calm Behind the Wheel

Your state of mind has a significant impact on your driving ability. Although traffic, aggressive drivers, and personal issues can make you upset while you are driving, keep yourself calm at all times. If you are not in a safe emotional state to operate your vehicle, pull over and give yourself time to calm down before you resume driving.

Work with an Experienced Appleton Personal Injury Lawyer

You can take steps to reduce your chance of being injured in a car accident this year, but you can never completely eliminate that chance. If you are a victim of a car accident facing significant expenses like medical bills and lost wages, consider working with a member of our team of experienced Appleton personal injury lawyers at Hammett, Bellin & Oswald, LLC to pursue compensation for your damages. Contact our office today to schedule your initial consultation with us.

TIS THE SEASON…FOR SAFETY FIRST!

It is truly better to give than receive, and this is the season for giving. However, two recent unpublished Wisconsin appellate cases should remind everyone that safety should come first. More people volunteer to help others during the holidays than at any other time. The two recent cases reflect important policy decisions reflected in Wisconsin statutes and case law with respect to injuries suffered by or caused by volunteers.

Mueller Case

In the Mueller case, many volunteers agreed to assist in a project organized by the WI DNR. As part of the project to construct fish cribs on a frozen lake, 75 volunteers used ATV’s and equipment to place trees into concrete culverts. A private business developed and helped supervise the project. Mueller was pulling a metal wire through a culvert when another volunteer tried to pull a tree through the culvert in the opposite direction. The culvert broke and a piece of cement struck Mueller’s face causing severe injury. Mueller sued the developers and supervisors of the project, but his suit was dismissed. The court held that the suit was prohibited by the RECREATIONAL IMMUNITY statute which prohibits anyone from suing for injuries sustained while engaged in a recreational activity.

Although Mueller’s activity does not sound like a “recreational activity” – he was building up a fishery for the benefit of the public and local business – nevertheless, his suit was prohibited because he was unpaid, and he was using an ATV at the time. The RECREATIONAL IMMUNITY statute, 895.52, lists operating an ATV as a recreational activity – along with 28 other specific activities. Thus, one could look at the big picture and conclude that if a volunteer is assisting a government agency, a private business, a local club, or anyone, with a project that could full under activities in 895.52, one better be very careful and hope that they are not severely injured by someone else’s negligence. Because, the injured person may have no remedy.

Snowmobiling Case

In another unpublished case, volunteers agreed to teach snowmobiling through a course offered by the DNR. In this tragic case, a 13 year old girl participating in the course was severely injured and died the following day from her injuries. The parents alleged that the volunteer instructors were negligent and should accept responsibility for causing the death of their daughter. One of the instructors was dismissed from the suit, because the instructors were deemed to be agents of the state, and the notice required to sue the state or a state agent was insufficient. The big picture coming from this case is that if an activity is sponsored by a government agency, volunteers who are negligent and cause injury could have the same protections and limited liability that the government has.

Contact our Appleton Criminal Defense Attorneys

So, the holidays will always be a time of giving, and volunteering will always be a very popular way of giving. But, it is important to consider safety and know going into any volunteer activity that if you or a family member are injured because of another’s negligence, you may be on your own for medical bills and other damages. At Hammett, Bellin & Oswald, LLC, we have attorneys well versed in the Wisconsin liability laws and have advised volunteers and volunteer organizations. We are here to help provide preventive advice and assist anyone who suffers injuries because of the negligence of others. Give back to the community, volunteer, and stay safe.

WARNING TO FOX VALLEY RESIDENTS

Local police in Fox Crossing/Menasha are reporting another scam in the area. This one involves a phone call claiming a family member is in trouble. It can be a person posing as a family member. They ask for things like iTunes gift cards, because they need a car to get home or some other excuse. The scammer will claim that there is a deal through Enterprise so the family member can rent a car and get home. They claim that if the target purchases a number of such gifts, say $1,500.00, then the rental company will give the family member a rental vehicle as part of the promotion. Once the target purchases the gift cards, another scammer posing as an attorney will call asking for the gift card numbers.

The Village of Fox Crossing/Town of Menasha are very community oriented and they do a fantastic job warning residents when the scams pop up. These scams can take many forms. In an effort to assist the police and ensure the safety of local residents, we are helping distribute the police department’s warning sign. Hopefully we can get these distributed throughout Appleton, Neenah, Fox Crossing, Menasha and the entire Fox Valley. We at Hammett, Bellin & Oswald are all Fox Valley residents, and we will continue to blog about these scams to protect our community.

Scam Image - HBO

Watch Out For Pokemon Accidents in Wisconsin

The phenomenon of Pokemon Go is getting people off the couch and outside exercising. However, people and news agencies are reporting an increase in car crashes, bicycle accidents, trip and falls, sunburns, and even finding a dead body. Distracted driving is already a huge problem resulting in wrongful deaths, criminal prosecutions, and new laws. To prevent that problem becoming worse, smartphone users need to be more vigilant, and Wisconsin drivers need to know the applicable laws.

PEDESTRIANS IN CROSSWALKS
Wisconsin motorists must yield to pedestrians in marked AND unmarked crosswalks. An unmarked crosswalk will generally be an extension of the sidewalk that would cross the roadway. However, pedestrians cannot step out into traffic suddenly into the path of a moving vehicle when it would be difficult for the vehicle to stop. So pedestrians and motorists need to keep a lookout. Green lights won’t necessarily help a motorist either. For example, even on a green light, a motorist cannot begin a turn if it could endanger a pedestrian legally in the crosswalk.

BICYCLES
Bicyclists are generally considered to be pedestrians. Thus, motorists have to be particularly vigilant in the summer when many bikes are on the road and sidewalks and they can enter crosswalks suddenly. Bicyclists have to be aware of their local ordinances. Some cities and towns prohibit bicycles from riding on sidewalks in certain areas such as business districts.

PARKING LOTS
Most of the Wisconsin Rules of the Road do NOT apply to parking lots. Thus, determining liability for a parking lot crash can be difficult and result in protracted litigation. In many cases, the law simply requires drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists, operators of play vehicles, and people in motorized wheelchairs to be reasonable and prudent. It is imperative for everyone to go slow and watch in all directions when in a parking lot.

NON CROSSWALK TRAVEL
When crossing a roadway by other than an unmarked or marked crosswalk, the burden is on the pedestrian or bicyclist to yield to motor vehicles. However, motorists must still remain observant because a pedestrian could legally begin crossing before the motorist is observable or in the area.

SLIP, TRIP AND FALL
One may think that a pedestrian with their gaze fixed upon their smart phone would be at fault if they trip and fall. However, that is not necessarily the case. Property owners need to inspect their premises and make repairs to all points of ingress and egress, including doorways, walkways and the like. Federal, and sometimes local, regulations set the amount of height that is acceptable for changes in level and firmness of surfaces. If a ramp is required but is not in place, the property owner could find themselves liable for an injured Pokemon player. There is at least one report of a person falling into a hole while playing. Even though a hole may be open and obvious, it would make sense to clearly mark the hole, repair it, or block off the area.

RECREATIONAL IMMUNITY
Wisconsin has very strict laws protecting property owners from lawsuits by people injured while using the property for a recreational purpose. It is too early to tell how these laws will affect people on other’s property while playing Pokemon. Such a case could involve application and interpretation of Wisconsin immunity laws, trespassing laws, negligence laws, nuisance laws, and others.

CONTACT OUR APPLETON PERSONAL INJURY LAWYERS
At Hammett, Bellin & Oswald Law firm we have been protecting the rights of Wisconsin residents for many years. If you are involved in a personal injury, car crash, truck crash, trip and fall or similar serious matters, call us for a free consultation and know your rights and responsibilities before you strike out after Pokemon.

Summer Safety – FREE BIKE HELMETS

Summer in Wisconsin is biking season. However, biking can also be very dangerous. It is always recommended to use designated trails, but many areas in the Fox Valley do not have trails or sidewalks. Bikers often have to ride on two lane county highways, some of which do not even have shoulders. We always recommend the use of safety equipment including mirrors, bright clothing, lights, and helmets. Here in the Village of Fox Crossing/Town of Menasha the police department has additional helmets free to the public. However, this Thursday may be the last opportunity to get them. The notice below is from the PD:

“Just a reminder that this Thursday is our Summer Safety Night from 4:30pm to 7pm here at the police department. Lots of FREE bike helmets, FREE inflatable activities, FREE Home Depot building activities, and much more. Our detective division and the chief will be working away at the refreshment area offering brats, nachos and world famous steamed corn for sale! Stop by and say hi!!”

At Hammett, Bellin & Oswald, LLC we handle bicycle versus car crashes all too often, and we encourage everyone to take advantage of the free safety night and helmets, and make summer as safe as possible.

8 Rules for Drinking and Boating in Wisconsin

Summer is rapidly approaching, and that means that it is almost finally time to get out on the boat and enjoy the water. A lot of us enjoy drinking while out on the boat. Although sharing beers with friends or slowly sipping a cocktail on a lazy summer afternoon can be a relaxing, satisfying experience, it can also impair your ability to safely operate your boat. Remember, alcohol can impair your ability to safely drive any vehicle, whether that vehicle is a car, a boat, a bicycle, or a wave runner.

Below are eight rules you need to remember this summer to protect yourself and those around you. If you are charged with boating while intoxicated, you may wish to reach out to an Appleton DWI lawyer immediately.

1. The Legal Blood Alcohol Limit for Boaters is 0.08 Percent
The legal BAC for drivers of any type of vehicle, car or boat, is 0.08 percent. Boaters whose BAC exceeds this level may be charged with boating under the influence (BUI).

2. Commercial Boaters Have a Lower Legal BAC
The legal BAC for individuals operating commercial boats is lower than that for private boats at 0.04 percent.

3. All Boaters Give Implied Consent to Breathalyzer Tests
Refusing to comply with an officer’s request that you take a Breathalyzer carries the same penalties as a first-time BUI offense.

4. A BUI Does Not Result in Suspended Boating Privileges
But you can be required to take a boating safety course and undergo an Alcohol and Other Drug assessment.

5. The Influence of Any Drug Can be Grounds for a BUI
An individual can be charged with BUI if he or she is found operating a boat while under the influence of any drug, not just alcohol. This includes prescription drugs.

6. Obey All Water Traffic Signs
Although you cannot control other boaters’ choices about drinking and boating, you can reduce your chance of being involved in an accident by obeying the established boating laws. These include driving within the marked channel and observing no-wake zones.

7. Use a Designated Driver
Just like you designate a driver when you are in a car, designate one when you are on the boat. This individual should be a licensed boater if he or she is required to be by Wisconsin law.

8. Penalties for a BUI Can be Significant
Although you will not face a revocation of your boating privileges with a BUI, you can face fines and jail time. You can also face these penalties for refusing to take a Breathalyzer test if you are suspected of boating under the influence.

Work with a Neenah DUI Lawyer

If you are charged with boating while intoxicated, you need to reach out to a skilled attorney immediately. Work with a member of our team at Hammett, Bellin & Oswald, LLC to craft a solid defense. Our team of Wisconsin DUI attorneys is here to help ensure your rights are protected.