Author Archives: Hammett, Bellin & Oswald

Things You Should Always Do Right After an Accident

How to Protect Yourself After a Car or Truck Accident

No one plans to be in a car accident, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be prepared for one. Adrenaline, injuries and high emotions following an accident can make it difficult to think clearly. Even though it’s unpleasant to think about, it’s important to know what you should do in case you’re ever involved in a car or truck accident.

Seven Steps to Take After an Accident

Being in a car or truck accident can have serious medical, financial and legal ramifications. It’s essential that you protect yourself by taking these seven steps after an accident. Remember that you should never leave the scene of an accident until police say you can.

1. Make the accident scene safe. If possible, move your vehicle out of the flow of traffic. Use flares or your car’s emergency blinkers to alert other drivers of the accident.

2. Call the police. According to Wisconsin law, you must call law enforcement immediately if you’re in an accident where someone is injured or where there is more than $1,000 in damage to private property or $200 in damage to government property. If you believe that someone has been injured in the accident, call 911 immediately.

3. Jot down key accident details. Write down what happened during the accident. Make sure to note specifics such as time, date and the events leading up to the accident. Refer to these notes as needed but don’t give your copy to law enforcement officers or insurance representatives.

4. Take photos. You should take photos that can be used as evidence if you need to fight an insurance company or go to court. Make sure to document what the scene looks like, the vehicles and drivers involved, and the damage to your vehicle. You should also take photos of anything that might have contributed to the accident.

5. Exchange insurance information. If you’ve been in an accident that didn’t involve a serious injury, exchange insurance information with the other drivers involved. Avoid talking more than necessary or accepting blame for the accident.

6. Call an attorney. Laws regarding motor vehicle accidents are complex. You can improve your chances of getting fair compensation after an accident by contacting a personal injury attorney right away.

7. Contact your insurance company. File any required report or claim with your insurance company. Be sure to let your agent know that you’re also working with an attorney.

Have you or a loved one been in an accident in the Neenah and Appleton WI area? Contact Hammett, Bellin & Oswald today to set up a case consultation.

When Can You Bring a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Small Claims Court?

Guidelines for Suing in Small Claims Court

Suffering an injury at the hands of another individual can lead to serious physical and emotional harm. Unfortunately, these types of injuries can also cause you to incur substantial medical costs, endure pain and suffering, and miss out on work. One way to get compensation for your injuries is to request damages in small claims court. It’s essential to understand what you can and can’t do with a small claims action before you decide how to proceed with your case.

Understanding Small Claims Court in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, personal injury actions can only be brought in small claims court if you’re asking for $5,000 or less in damages. Personal injury cases can be initiated if an injury was the result of either negligent or intentionally harmful actions by another party. Injuries that warrant action in small claims court can include those caused by
•    motor vehicle accidents,
•    unsafe conditions in a commercial or retail setting,
•    poor residential maintenance,
•    pet attacks,
•    intentional acts of violence and
•    other types of accidents.

You must be considered a mentally competent person and must be either 18 or an emancipated minor to bring your action in small claims court. You can represent yourself in court or you can hire an attorney to represent you. If you were injured at work, you likely cannot bring a small claims action. You’ll need to go through the worker’s compensation claim process instead.

Should You File Your Personal Injury Suit in Small Claims Court?

Imagine that you were injured in a car accident with a driver from Indianapolis. The other driver’s insurance policy may cover some of your medical costs or compensate you for damage to your car, but most insurance companies simply won’t offer you what you deserve. You also won’t receive any automatic compensation for suffering or lost wages.

Instead, you’ll need to fight for compensation in court. If you believe that you’re owed $5,000 or less, it makes sense to bring your action in small claims court. If you think that you’re owed more than $5,000 or if you are unsure of how long you’ll need to receive medical treatment for your injuries, you will need to bring a personal injury lawsuit.

An attorney can help you in both situations. While you may be able to argue your personal injury case in small claims court, it’s important to remember that personal injury law is complex. You’ll need to understand the legal definition of negligence and be able to prove that you didn’t cause or contribute to your injury. A law firm with experience in personal injury actions can handle these tasks for you.

Do you need help evaluating your personal injury case? Contact us at Hammett, Bellin & Oswald today to set up a consultation.

What are the Top 5 States for Drunken Driving?

States where the most people drink and drive

Although drunken driving doesn’t occur as often as it did in the past, this activity remains one of the most common criminal offenses. About 290,000 Americans suffered injuries in 2013 auto accidents that involved inebriated motorists, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Every week, almost 200 people die in these crashes. A recent survey revealed that intoxicated driving happens more frequently in the northern states.

Top States

The survey asked 1,000 residents of each state if they had operated vehicles after drinking. North Dakota came in first because only 12 respondents claimed that they hadn’t made this mistake. Delaware ranked second; 843 individuals admitted to driving under the influence of alcohol. Drinking-related accidents killed 427 Delawareans between 2003 and 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Massachusetts, Nebraska and Louisiana also ranked among the top five states.

North Dakota

Residents of the Peace Garden State may disagree with this ranking. It’s possible that they answered the survey more honestly than people in other regions. However, various statistics suggest that North Dakota truly does have the most drunken drivers. The state’s intoxicated motorists cause a higher rate of fatal accidents than drinkers in any other part of the country, according to MarketWatch. North Dakota also ranks first in beer consumption and youth binge drinking.

Our State

Although it no longer appears among the top five states, Wisconsin has also experienced widespread drunken driving. The federal government conducted a national DUI survey in 2009. It identified Wisconsin as the state with the most adults who admitted to operating vehicles while intoxicated. Alcohol triggered more than one out of three deadly accidents during 2012, according to official figures.

Improvement

Fortunately, Wisconsin has achieved significant progress in recent years. Inebriated motorists caused 163 fewer deaths in 2013 than they did during 2003. Injuries dropped by almost three-fifths, according to Insurance Journal. The total accident count also fell considerably. This news is encouraging, but it’s important to remember that drunken drivers continue to hurt or kill Wisconsinites every day.

If you were recently involved in an alcohol-related crash, HBO Law Firm can help. Our personal injury and criminal defense lawyers handle a wide range of cases. We take the time to conduct thorough research and develop the most effective legal strategies. To protect your rights and ensure a fair judgment or settlement, please contact our Neenah and Appleton, WI law office today.

What Should You Do After Being Arrested for DUI?

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What to Do – and Not to Do – in the Hours, Days and Weeks That Follow

Being arrested on suspicion of DUI can be a disorienting and traumatic experience. If you’re not prepared for it, there’s a good chance that you could do or say something that increases the situation’s legal and financial risk. Fortunately, there’s a “right” way to approach a DUI arrest as well. If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, follow these tried-and-true steps.

Contact an Experienced Lawyer

The first step you should take in the wake of a DUI arrest is to contact an experienced lawyer who understands Wisconsin DUI law. An attorney can examine the specific circumstances surrounding your case and determine how best to proceed. It’s important to note that he or she may not always tell you what you want to hear: In some cases, the options for fighting DUI charges are relatively narrow. On the other hand, working with a lawyer almost always boosts the likelihood of securing the best possible outcome in your case.

Request an Administrative Hearing

Although the rules may vary by jurisdiction, it’s usually prudent to request an administrative hearing for your charges. A hearing could have several advantages for your case. It also offers the best chance for your lawyer to cross-examine the arresting officer and other law enforcement staff.

Determine Whether the BAC Reading Is Faulty

Although blood alcohol content tests are more reliable than field breath analysis tests, they’re still subject to human and mechanical error. A seasoned attorney can inject substantial doubt into the circumstances surrounding such a test. Fruitful lines of argument may include:

•    Poor or inaccurate calibration of the testing machine
•    Mechanical defects in testing equipment
•    Gaps in the chain of custody for blood samples
•    Poor storage of blood samples
•    Lack of proof of intoxication

Explore Your Options for Sentence Mitigation

Even if your blood content test is determined to be accurate, you may be able to reduce your sentence by consenting to rehabilitation, ignition interlock usage and other practices. Your attorney can outline the options that apply in your specific situation.

Find a Drunk Driving and DUI Attorney in Neenah and Appleton, WI

No matter how well you understand Wisconsin’s criminal code or know your rights after being arrested on suspicion of DUI, an experienced lawyer can boost your chances of fighting your charges and mitigating the personal and professional damage. We’ve represented hundreds of clients accused of DUI and stand ready to do the same in your case. To learn more about what we can do for you or to schedule a no-obligation consultation, call us at (920) 720-0000 or fill out our online contact form.

This is How You File a Complaint Against an Insurance Company in Wisconsin

Everything You Need to Know to File a Successful Complaint

You rely on your insurance company to take care of you if you’re injured in an accident or if your property is damaged. Unfortunately, insurance companies don’t always treat their clients as well as they should. If you’re having problems with your insurer, you’ll need to file a complaint against the company and may even need to work with a qualified attorney to get the help you need.

The Basics of Filing an Insurance Complaint in Wisconsin

All drivers in Wisconsin are required to carry insurance that covers their cars and some degree of personal injury. Thanks to Obamacare, adults are also required to secure health insurance coverage. This means that you’re working with insurance companies more than ever, but it doesn’t mean that those companies are always going to work in your favor.

When you buy a policy, you’re signing a contract with an insurance company. That contract assigns certain responsibilities to you such as paying your bill and keeping information about your home, vehicles and health up to date. Such contracts also oblige insurance companies to compensate you if you’re injured or your property is damaged. The details vary from policy to policy, so make sure that you understand what your policy provides for before you sign the contract.

If you’ve reviewed your policy and find that your insurance company has shortchanged you, it’s time to make a complaint with the state. Filing a complaint is easy and can be done online. The office of the State’s Commissioner of Insurance will review your complaint and work with both you and the insurance company to reach a resolution.

In most cases, you’ll follow these steps when making a complaint against an insurance company:

1.    Fill out the complaint form and file it online or via fax or mail.
2.    Wait up to 25 days for the insurance company to respond.
3.    Allow the commissioner’s office to review all information and reach a decision.
4.    Determine if you are satisfied with the company’s offer.

You can also review the current Insurance Complaints and Administrative Actions report before choosing a company. This will help you steer clear of companies that have a history of treating their customers unfairly.

Do You Need an Attorney to Help with Your Insurance Complaint?

If you’ve tried making a complaint against an insurance company and couldn’t secure a resolution, it might be time to work with an attorney. Remember that insurance litigation is incredibly complex. It’s best to work with a law firm that has experience helping clients in the Appleton and Neenah, WI areas with insurance problems. Contact the experienced team at HBO Law Firm if you need any help with your insurance complaint. A link to the commissioner’s office and other helpful links are located on our Resources tab.

Is Getting Treatment the Key to Winning Your Case?

How substance abuse treatment can save your life in more ways than one

Being charged with a DUI is a serious event. For many people, it’s a chance for reflection and personal development. Happily, there’s growing evidence that such reflection and personal development may actually reduce the severity of DUI-related penalties. In some cases, enrolling in a substance abuse treatment program may help you win your DUI case outright.

How Do Alcohol and Substance Abuse Treatment Programs Work?

Alcohol and substance abuse treatment programs come in many different forms. There are two basic types: inpatient and outpatient. Inpatient programs require participants to live in dormitory-style housing or hotel-like quarters and may restrict access into and out of the program facility. On the other hand, outpatient programs allow participants to come and go at will. Some evidence suggests that outpatient program participants have higher relapse rates. However, both types of treatment are considered effective.

Whereas some treatment programs may be associated with a well-known organization like Alcoholics Anonymous, others may be standalone organizations run as nonprofit or for-profit entities. Treatment typically includes education, emotional and psychological support, dietary support, and other channels that collectively improve the health and well-being of program participants.

DUI Diversion Programs

While alcohol and substance abuse treatment programs are useful and even life-saving in their own right, many states and counties are now encouraging first-time and repeat DUI offenders to enroll in treatment after being charged with driving under the influence. This legal “encouragement” is known as a DUI diversion program. Although DUI diversion programs come in different forms, their basic characteristics include:

• Possibly entering a guilty plea
• Having no prior criminal record
• Beginning treatment within 45 days of the hearing at which the diversion program is established
• Possibly paying a fee to participate in treatment

Defendants who follow these protocols may face more lenient penalties, enjoy suspended sentencing, and have their charge or guilty plea wiped from their criminal record on a permanent basis. This may be particularly important for repeat offenders who would face serious penalties, including long-term license suspension, in the event of a full conviction.

Find a DUI Attorney for Your Drunk Driving Case in Neenah and Appleton, WI

Combating your recent DUI charge isn’t the only worthwhile reason to enroll in a substance abuse treatment program. In fact, doing so could change your life for the better in numerous ways. However, it’s becoming increasingly clear that substance abuse treatment can also help your DUI case. If you’re interested in learning more about the assistance that we can provide as you fight your charges, call us at (920) 720-0000 or fill out our online contact form.

How Should I Handle a Dog Bite?

After dog bites, safety first—and then action

Do you know what to do after being bitten by a dog? Taking the appropriate steps to handle your injury can mean the difference between a manageable recovery and serious medical complications. Worse, your actions could impact your quest to secure compensation for the injury and inconvenience. If you’re bitten by a dog under any circumstances, keep these important tips in mind in the subsequent hours and days.

Medical Bills

This may be your most pressing concern in the aftermath of a dog bite. Dog bites can produce medical bills for surgeries, long hospitalizations, expensive medications, and other costly line items. Often, these bills come from multiple providers and may be difficult to track in real time. By working with an experienced attorney, you can ensure that you secure compensation for all of the attendant medical bills that your injury produces.

Lost Income

If your dog bite results in a significant layoff from work, you could be entitled to compensation for lost income. An attorney can help you calculate a fair value for your lost productivity, including the long-term economic cost of an injury that renders you unable to perform your pre-injury job duties.

Pain and Suffering

If your injury causes substantial pain and suffering, you could be entitled to this special type of compensation that accounts for your mental and physical discomfort. It’s important to retain an experienced attorney to advocate on your behalf.

Loss of Services

It might sound almost scandalous, but “loss of services” is a very real concept. In certain jurisdictions, it’s possible to sue the owner or caretaker of a dog in the event that the bite rendered the victim incapable of providing companionship or intimacy to his or her spouse. These awards can be substantial.

Punitive Damages

If you can prove that your dog bite was the result of willful negligence or malice, you may be entitled to punitive damages that can significantly increase your total compensation. Also, keep in mind that Wisconsin law states that a victim of a dog bite is entitled to double damages if the dog has bitten someone before. However, it’s difficult to argue for punitive damages without the assistance of an attorney.

Find a Personal Injury Lawyer with Dog Bite Experience in Neenah and Appleton, WI

We sincerely hope that you’ll never have to deal with a rampaging dog or the aftermath of an encounter with one. However, there are plenty of dogs in the world. Occasionally, out-of-control animals cause serious problems for innocent bystanders. To learn more about your legal options in the aftermath of a dog bite, give us a call at (920) 720-0000 or fill out our online contact form at your convenience.

5 Major Consequences of a Drunk Driving Charge

The DUI arrest is only the beginning

Have you ever been arrested on suspicion of drunk driving? It’s not a pleasant experience. Unfortunately, things may only get worse after you’ve been booked and released in preparation for your court date. Here are five of the biggest consequences of a drunk driving charge—and what they could mean for your future as a driver, employee, and family man or woman.

1. You Could Lose Your Job

Many employers have a zero-tolerance policy for DUI. Even if you’ve only been charged with DUI, you could lose your job without warning. If you’re convicted, the likelihood is even higher.

2. You Could Face Hefty Fines

Despite our cultural affinity for social drinking, DUI laws in Wisconsin are just as strict as in many other states. Even for a first offense, you could face a fine of up to $300 for the citation you receive after your arrest. Worse, you could face court costs and other fees that stretch well into four-figure territory. If you’re on a budget, the last thing you want to do is face a drunk driving charge.

3. You May Need to Install an Ignition Interlock Device

You may be able to avoid this after your first offense, but any subsequent DUI conviction will land you with an inconvenient ignition interlock device. IIDs require you to blow into a Breathalyzer tube every time you get into your car. If you don’t blow a clean 0.0, you can’t start the car.

4. You Will Lose Your License Temporarily

Even a first offense requires you to give up your driving privileges for at least six months. For subsequent offenses, you could lose your license for three years. That’s a long time to go without a legal ride.

5. Your Reputation Will Be Affected for Up to 10 Years

DUI convictions remain on your criminal record for up to 10 years. Whenever a prospective employer, landlord, or lender runs a background check on you, it’ll turn up.

Learn More About DUI and Drunk Driving Laws in Appleton and Neenah, WI

Even the most careful folks slip up from time to time. If you’re facing a DUI charge and want to know more about your legal options, we’d be happy to consult with you and advise you on your best course of action. To schedule a convenient meeting with one of our highly professional DUI attorneys, head over to our website to fill out our contact form. You can also check out our videos and other resources.

Different Car, Same Insurance Company

Hiring a car accident attorney when there’s a potential conflict of interest with the insurance company

Handling insurance claims after a car accident is confusing enough, but what do you do if the other party has the same insurance company? This potentially knotty problem may require the services of a car accident attorney to avoid confusion and ensure that you get a reasonable settlement.

Separate Claims Adjusters

When both parties in an accident have the same insurance company, that company should never issue just one adjuster to handle the claim. The use of separate adjusters or some other internal system of checks and balances is essential to avoid a conflict of interest.

Since accidents involving two people insured by the same company aren’t uncommon, most insurance providers understand how to handle the situation. Each adjuster should evaluate the accident independently before making any contact with the other. If you find that this isn’t the case, it’s time to call an attorney.

Standard Procedure Still Applies

Filing a claim in the event that the other driver shares your insurance company should work exactly the same way as if you had separate coverage. If there are deductibles to be paid or a specific filing procedure to follow, that will all go as usual. Treat the claims adjuster handling the other party’s case as a separate entity just as if they were a completely different company.

After both claims have been filed and evaluated, the adjusters will share their findings and decide who is at fault. If they agree, they’ll work together on a settlement. If not, they’re continue to work separately to ensure a fair outcome.

Profit vs. Fair Payout

Unfortunately, not all insurance companies use fair practices. Sometimes adjusters will come to an unfair settlement without openly speaking to either party and with only the interest of profits in mind. On the other hand, having the same insurance can sometimes result in a quicker settlement due to the company wanting to make both parties happy and avoid a drawn-out internal conflict. Deductibles may also be waived to make the process easier. In any event, adjusters should never “play favorites” by giving one party preference over another.

If you need help navigating the maze of insurance claims after an accident, contact HBO Law Firm. Our attorneys represent only accident victims – not insurance companies – so you can rest assured that your case is never compromised. With offices located in Neenah and Appleton, WI, we’re easy to find and always ready to help ease the aftermath of any auto accident.

Don’t Wait to Get a Personal Injury Attorney

Find out how waiting to call a personal injury attorney can hurt your case down the road.

Taking the steps to file any kind of legal claim is always a little tough, and personal injury cases are no exception. Whether you’re reluctant to get involved in a potentially lengthy court process or can’t help but feel like the accident was partly your fault, procrastinating about getting your formal claim started is a normal and common response to a stressful situation. The problem is that the longer you wait, the weaker your case can become.

Why Is Waiting to Call a Personal Injury Attorney a Bad Idea?

1. Legal Limitations

Although a lot depends on the nature of you case, personal injury lawsuits generally have shorter statutes of limitations – laws that determine the amount of time you have to file a claim – than criminal felonies. In other words, if you wait too long, you might be legally blocked from filing your claim altogether. You can learn more about time limits for personal injury cases in Wisconsin here.

2. Lack of Evidence

Without the guidance of a qualified personal injury attorney, collecting the right body of evidence can be difficult. For example, medical files need to show a strong connection to your accident injuries, while physical evidence should be detailed enough to back up every aspect of your story. Another issue is that evidence can get lost or accidentally destroyed over time, putting your entire case in jeopardy.

3. Inaccurate Memories

While you may never forget your accident completely, exact details can fade with time. What you were doing right before your accident, how the defendant was acting and what happened in the seconds after the altercation are all examples of memories that attorneys rely on to build successful cases.

Even if you think you have everything down exactly as it happened, are your witnesses as reliable? When witnesses play an important role in representing your side of the story, getting their statements while their memories are still fresh can be the key to winning.

4. No Resolution

It’s tough to move forward when you feel like someone else’s reckless actions have caused you emotional, physical, and financial hardships. Handing your case over to a qualified personal injury attorney can put you back in control of your life and help you get closure. Plus, when you act fast, you’re more likely to improve your chances of getting a quick and fair settlement.

Looking for a personal injury attorney? Contact HBO Law Firm directly or visit us online to learn more about our services in Neenah and Appleton, WI.