Author Archives: Rob Bellin

Appleton Fatal Car Accidents

Car accidents can be fatal. In Appleton, an average of 1.6 fatal car accidents occur each year. Approximately 44 percent of these accidents involved alcohol. Among the recorded fatal collisions, approximately one third occurred on roadways with speed limits 25 miles per hour and lower. Accidents occurred on all types of roadways in the city, both local roads and highways. The interchange with the greatest number of fatal accidents was where Interstate 41 meets US Route 441.

If you are injured in a car accident, you have the right to work with an Appleton personal injury lawyer to pursue compensation for your damages through a personal injury claim. If you lose a loved one in a car accident, you may seek compensation for damages related to his or her death through a wrongful death claim.

Fatal Car Accidents in Wisconsin

In total, 603 people died in car accidents in Wisconsin in 2017. This was up from 2016’s figure of 588.

Appleton is uniquely situated in three counties: Calumet, Winnebago, and Outagamie. In Calumet County, five people died in car accidents in 2017. In Winnebago County, nine people died and in Outagamie County, the number of victims was 20.

Wisconsin Department of Transportation data from 2016 shows the following statistics about fatal car accidents in Wisconsin:

  • 186 people died in speed-related collisions;
  • 49 pedestrians died;
  • 11 bicyclists died; and
  • 143 fatalities were linked to alcohol.

Reducing your Chance of being Killed in a Car Accident

There are ways you can reduce your chance of being injured or killed in one of Appleton’s fatal car accidents. Do not mistake this for being able to eliminate your chance of being killed in a car accident – the only way to guarantee that you will never die in a car accident is to spend the rest of your life inside your home. But by taking certain safety precautions, you can reduce your chance of being involved in an accident and if you are in an accident, increase your chance of surviving.

  • Always wear your seatbelt when you are in a motor vehicle. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), wearing a seatbelt reduces drivers’ and front seat passengers’ risk of dying in an accident by 45 percent;
  • Put the phone down when you are driving. Reading a text message can take your eyes off the road for up to five seconds, which is plenty of time to get into a fatal collision. Even talking on a handheld phone can increase your chance of being involved in an accident because it takes a hand off the steering wheel and your attention off the process of driving;
  • Adjust your driving to your environment. When the road is covered in ice or snow, slow down and take turns less sharply. When you drive at night, use your headlights and when necessary, your high beams; and
  • Never drive if you feel drowsy. Drowsy driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving. If you feel too tired to drive, drink a cup of coffee, eat a snack, or take a short nap before you get behind the wheel.

These safety tips will help you avoid causing accidents and help you avoid getting into accidents caused by other drivers. When another driver is speeding or swerving aggressively, staying alert by choosing not to use your phone while driving can help you avoid a potentially fatal collision.

Seeking Compensation After Losing a Loved One in a Car Accident

When a victim dies in a car accident, his or her loved ones can seek compensation for their damages through a wrongful death claim. These damages can include:

  • The victim’s medical bills;
  • The victim’s funeral and burial expenses;
  • The family’s loss of the loved one’s companionship;
  • The family’s emotional trauma from the death; and
  • The loss of the victim’s earnings and employment benefits.

Work with an Experienced Appleton Car Accident Attorney

Losing a loved one in a car accident is devastating. When you lose a loved one in a preventable accident, you are entitled to seek compensation for your damages through a wrongful death claim. To learn more about filing and pursuing this type of claim, contact our team of experienced car accident lawyers at Hammett, Bellin & Oswald, LLC today to set up your initial consultation with us. We can answer your questions and provide you with the legal guidance you need.

How to Deal with your Insurance Company After a Car Accident

When a car accident happens in Wisconsin, the driver whose negligence caused the accident to occur is liable for the victims’ damages. This means that if victims suffered bodily injuries, the negligent driver’s insurance provider must compensate them for all the expenses that face related to these injuries, like their medical bills and lost wages.

Under most circumstances, you will have to interact with the other driver’s insurance provider if you choose to pursue compensation for your damages after being injured in a collision. In certain scenarios, however, you could have to use your own coverage to recover the compensation you need. If you were involved in a collision with a driver who did not have car insurance or whose insurance coverage was insufficient to cover your damages, you can use your own uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage to pay for your accident-related expenses.

Report the Accident to your Insurance Provider

Regardless of who caused the accident and whether you plan to file a personal injury claim with another driver’s insurance provider, report the collision to your own provider as soon as you can after the accident. As an insured motorist, you have the duty to act in good faith toward your provider, which includes reporting any accidents that involve you.

Have All the Information you Need Ready Before you Speak with the Insurer

After your accident, you should seek medical attention for any injuries you sustained. Have information about your doctor’s appointment, such as your diagnosis, date you saw the doctor, your health insurance policy number, and your treatment plan ready for your conversation with the insurance provider. The insurance provider will likely contact your healthcare provider to verify that you received medical treatment.

You should also have all your information about the accident itself ready for this conversation, like your copy of the police report, the other driver’s name and if he or she was insured, his or her insurance policy number, and any statements from witnesses to the accident. If you have photographs of the accident, you may be asked to send these to your insurance provider.

Never Assign Blame or Admit Fault

During your conversations with your insurance provider, it is always important that you avoid admitting fault for the accident, even if you think you are only admitting partial fault. Do not mention that you were drinking coffee or reading a billboard when the collision occurred. The insurance provider may conduct an investigation of the claim to determine which party was at fault.

Similarly, do not assign blame for the accident to another driver, even if the other driver’s actions clearly caused the accident. Again, this is something your insurance provider will work out, not you.

Always Tell the Truth

When the insurance provider asks you a question about your accident, answer truthfully without admitting fault or blaming another party for the collision. Keep to the facts: if your car was hit by another car while traveling through an intersection, state that. Do not provide unnecessary details in your recount of the accident.

Under no circumstance should you ever lie to an insurance provider. Depending on the lie, this can be an act of insurance fraud. Even seemingly minor lies can be used to justify a higher insurance rate for you.

Part of being 100 percent truthful is being honest about not knowing certain answers. If your insurance provider asks you a question you cannot confidently answer because you do not remember certain details, do not try to “fill in” these details with what you think happened. Instead, tell the insurance provider that you do not know the answer to their question.

Let your Lawyer Help You

Before interacting with your insurance provider, talk to your lawyer about the types of questions you will face and how to answer them. Your lawyer can coach you through these interactions and eliminate any anxiety you have about them.

Work with an Experienced Appleton Car Accident Attorney

When you have to deal with an insurance provider after being involved in a car accident, it is always a good idea to do so with an experienced car accident lawyer on your side. Your lawyer is your advocate and can negotiate with the insurance provider on your behalf to ensure that your rights are protected and your interests are promoted. To start working with one of the Appleton personal injury lawyers on our team, contact Hammett, Bellin & Oswald, LLC today to set up your initial consultation with us.

Driving Safely on Wisconsin Roads this Holiday Season

The winter holidays can be especially dangerous for drivers for a few reasons. One of these is the reduced visibility at this time of year – the days are at their shortest in December. Another is the weather. Snow and ice on the road can make it slippery and difficult for drivers to maneuver, increasing their chances of being involved in accidents. Add drunk drivers leaving holiday parties to the mix, and you can see why your chance of being involved in a car accident is higher during the December holidays than it is at many other points of the year.

Use the following guidelines to reduce your chance of being involved in a car accident this holiday season.

Drinking and Driving Do Not Mix

A driver whose blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08 percent or higher is not only at risk of being arrested and charged with operating while intoxicated (OWI), he or she is a hazard to everybody on the road. Alcohol inhibits an individual’s perception and judgment, rendering him or her unable to safely operate a vehicle.

This holiday season, choose not to drive drunk. There are a few different strategies you can use to stay safe, such as:

  • Volunteering to be a designated driver and choosing not to drink. You can protect loved ones by driving them home after a holiday party;
  • Riding with a designated driver;
  • Using a rideshare service like Uber or public transportation to get to and from your parties; and
  • Staying with your host overnight or being the host and inviting guests to stay in your home until the day after the party.

Keep an Eye on the Weather Before, During, and After your Trip

When you plan a trip to visit loved ones, take a look at the weather forecast first. Look at the weather for your location as well as theirs. Be sure to check the weather forecast for the time of your departure, the duration of your drive, and your drive back home after the visit. If snow or heavy rain is predicted for any point in your trip, consider rescheduling or canceling the trip.

Do a Vehicle Inspection Before you Hit the Road

Before you leave your home, inspect the following:

  • Your tire treads;
  • Your tire pressure;
  • All fluid levels, such as brake fluid, antifreeze, and engine oil; and
  • Your windshield wiper blades’ wear.

If anything on your vehicle needs to be replaced or topped off, do this before leaving for a long trip. Having tires with sufficient treat is particularly important during the winter months when roadways may be covered in ice or snow. Dramatic changes in temperature can also cause your tires to deflate, so make it a point to check their pressure levels and refill them if necessary.

Be Vigilant and Courteous Toward the Other Drivers on the Roadway

During the holiday season, visitors from other states and regions will be on Wisconsin’s roadways visiting their loved ones. These drivers might not be familiar with the area and can make mistakes, like stopping suddenly or driving below the speed limit as they look for signs. Be patient with these drivers and when you get stuck in holiday traffic, remain calm. Use defensive driving strategies and be alert at all times as you share the roadway with others.

Be Prepared for a Breakdown, Car Trouble, or an Injury

Pack the following in your vehicle to ensure that you are safe in the event of a variety of situations:

  • A first aid kit;
  • Clean water;
  • A flashlight;
  • A warm blanket;
  • A bright colored scarf or other fabric to use to flag down aid in the event of a breakdown;
  • A car cell phone charger;
  • A tool kit;
  • A spare tire and a jack; and
  • Extra antifreeze, oil, power steering fluid, and windshield wiper fluid.

In the event of a breakdown, remain calm. If you have AAA or a similar service, call it to have help dispatched to your location.

Work with an Experienced Appleton Car Accident Lawyer

Our team of car accident lawyers at Hammett, Bellin & Oswald, LLC wishes you and your family a happy, healthy holiday season. If you are injured in a car accident because of another party’s negligence this winter, you have the right to pursue compensation for your damages through a personal injury claim. Contact our office to schedule your initial consultation with us to learn more about your rights and options.

The Ultimate Guide for a Successful Thanksgiving

Are you hosting a large Thanksgiving gathering for the first time? Thinking about planning an entire Thanksgiving dinner for a large group can be daunting, from choosing your menu, to keeping your guests entertained while they wait for food, to ensuring that everyone remains safe and healthy throughout the holiday. To help you prepare for Thanksgiving 2017, we have the ultimate guide for hosting a successful holiday get-together.

Planning Your Thanksgiving Menu: What Should You Serve?

The first step in planning your Thanksgiving menu is finalizing your guest list. You will want to know exactly who is coming over for dinner, along with any food allergies to take into account when you are deciding on a final menu, according to an article in Food and Wine Magazine.

Next, clean out your refrigerator and your freezer so that you have room to properly store all of your food items before you cook them, and to properly store them for leftovers after the Thanksgiving meal is finished. The National Safety Council (NSC) emphasizes the importance of food safety when you are prepping for Thanksgiving or another large holiday meal to avoid personal injury and illness. Never defrost any of your food at room temperature after freezing it. Instead, thaw in your refrigerator, in cold water, or in your microwave. In addition, you should have enough space in your refrigerator and freezer so that you can store your leftovers in shallow containers within two hours after cooking.

Once you are prepared to store your Thanksgiving meal—both before and after cooking—you will need to buy your ingredients. If you need a large turkey, order it ahead of time. When planning your menu, Food and Wine Magazine recommends avoiding complication. Choose five side dishes and two different pies. You can also keep your Thanksgiving menu exciting by introducing colorful dishes like root vegetable gratin and a sturdy salad with greens like kale, escarole, and radicchio.

Getting Your Table Décor Ready for Guests

There are many ideas out there for planning a Thanksgiving dinner tablescape and centerpiece. The following are some tips for putting together stylish table décor for your guests:

  • Wash your linens ahead of time (including tablecloths, table runners, napkins, and even your apron);
  • Coordinate your tableware, but get comfortable with mixing and matching (when you are hosting a large gathering, it is unlikely that you have enough tableware from the same set for everyone, but mixing and matching can create a fun, eclectic table);
  • Create a centerpiece that suits your style (whether it is a vase of autumnal flowers, fruit, or gourds, find a vase or a bowl and fill it up with centerpiece items that complement your tablecloth and tableware); and
  • Choose candles for your dinner table (candles are festive and can create warm light for your guests).

When you use candles at your Thanksgiving table, be sure to consider fire risks and burn injuries. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) emphasizes the importance of blowing out all candles when you are not in the room to avoid a dangerous home fire.

Keeping Your Guests Entertained While They Wait for Dinner

For many Thanksgiving dinner hosts, it is important to think about ways to keep your guests entertained once they arrive at your home but before the dinner is served. Guests often enjoy appetizers, wine, beer, and cocktails while they wait for Thanksgiving dinner. In providing appetizers, Food and Wine Magazine recommends keeping your appetizer list “light and easy.” There are many appetizers you can purchase from your local grocery store, such as a meat and cheese board. Some cheese boards can also be ordered online. Other popular and easy appetizers include olives, pickles, crackers, and roasted pumpkin seeds.

You will want to select your wine and beer well ahead of time, choosing drinks to keep your guests busy while you finish cooking, as well as wine that will complement your menu. Serving alcohol at your Thanksgiving dinner is enjoyable for your guests. Hosts should keep in mind, as the American Red Cross emphasizes, that drinking and driving can result in serious and fatal car accidents. Ensure that your guests do not leave your home too intoxicated to drive, and if they cannot safely get behind the wheel, ensure that there is a designated driver.

Cooking and Serving Your Dinner

The last step to a successful Thanksgiving is preparing and serving your dinner. Always check your cooking devices ahead of time, from your turkey fryer to your stovetop burners. Many items, such as pies and salads, can be prepared ahead of time. Set a kitchen timer to ensure that nothing burns, and keep children out of the kitchen to prevent stovetop burn injuries.

As we mentioned previously, planning ahead to store your Thanksgiving leftovers can ensure that your food leftovers are enjoyable the day after Thanksgiving, too.

At Hammett, Bellin & Oswald, LLC, we want you to have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving with your family, friends, and loved ones. In the event an accident does result in a serious injury, an experienced Appleton personal injury lawyer at our firm can help.

Starting the Recovery Process After Domestic Violence and Abuse

With last month being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, it’s important for us to remember that this issue impacts millions of people every day of the year. Those who have suffered at the hands of someone close to them need protection, support and a healthy road to recovery.

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) estimates as many as one in four women and one in seven men have been victims of severe, physical violence at some point in their lives. The numbers are even higher when factoring in verbal abuse. These attacks leave deep scars and lasting effects, and true recovery can take years.

Finding the strength to overcome

For many victims of domestic violence and abuse, the journey to a better life starts the moment they recognize they are in danger. Staying with a friend, confiding in a relative or speaking with an Appleton domestic violence lawyer can help victims break free from abuse.

This can be a frightening process. Because a person’s self-worth, confidence, trust and happiness are all targeted by an abuser, it’s difficult to muster the courage to seek help.

Thankfully, there are many resources designed specifically to protect victims of abuse. According to current data, there are more than 15 domestic violence and abuse shelters, programs and emergency hotlines in the Appleton, Neenah, Oshkosh and Oneida areas.This includes Harbor House Domestic Abuse Programs, which operates right here in Appleton.

Seeking assistance from a domestic violence lawyer in Appleton is also an option. Not only can a qualified legal professional help you secure a protection order, but you’ll also receive guidance on the local networks and resources that can keep you safe.

Healing physically and mentally

Putting distance between yourself and an abuser is not often enough to start the healing process. It takes the compassion of others to truly begin putting the turmoil behind you.This can take many forms:

  • Medical professionals can help mend broken bones, stitch up wounds or provide general medical attention. In cases of sexual abuse, it’s paramount to get medical attention as soon as possible to ensure the safety of the victim and to corroborate police reports or accusations.
  • Counselors can help victims realize abuse is occurring and put things in perspective, allowing them to begin the recovery process. This is critically important for victims who justify their attackers’ abuse or who blame themselves for their situation. Many times, just being able to talk to someone is incredibly beneficial.
  • Survivors are people who know what you’ve been through because they have been there themselves. Talking to people who have overcome abuse can help victims see the light at the end of the tunnel and boost their confidence about their future. It may also be the start of new, healthy friendships that re-cement a person’s self-worth.

Domestic abuse from a loved one takes its toll in so many forms. That’s why it’s so important for victims to receive care and attention as they work to address everything they’ve experienced.

Seeking closure and finality

Depending on the person and the issues involved, recovery from domestic abuse can take months or years. No matter how long it takes to regain a sense of confidence, it’s important to seek legal protection from abuse without delay. Prosecuting an attacker is the ultimate form of domestic abuse defense because it ensures that person cannot continue the pattern of violence against others.

It can be downright terrifying to take an abuser to trial. Having to give testimony in the same room as someone you fear is something no person wants to experience. And, with evidence and previous testimony on trial, it can make victims feel as if they are reliving the worst moments of their lives. However, it also allows victims to truly free themselves from their abusers and experience closure.

Legal action can also be an important way for victims to protect themselves. Being able to publicly show an abuser for who they are gives victims the ultimate protection. It allows you to get on with your life and overcome all that has happened to you.

At Hammett, Bellin & Oswald, we do everything in our power to help victims of domestic violence and abuse on their road to recovery. Whether you are taking your first step toward separating from your abuser or you are ready to build a legal case, we are here to help.

6 Tips to Keep your Children Safe While Driving

When you are driving with your children, you are not the only one in the car who can be injured in a car accident in Wisconsin. Your children can be victims of a collision as well and potentially suffer severe injuries with permanent complications. The only way you can ensure that your children will never be hurt in a car accident is to never drive with them, which is not practical or realistic. You can take safety precautions to reduce your chance of being involved in a collision and to protect your children from harm if you are in an accident.

Use Appropriate Child Seats for their Ages and Weights

If your children are small enough to need safety seats, make sure the seats they are in are appropriate for their sizes and oriented the correct way in your vehicle. Children age 12 and under are safest in the back seat.

Until your child is one year old or 22 pounds, he or she should be in a rear-facing car seat. Once a child’s height or weight exceeds the manufacturer’s recommendation for his or her forward-facing car seat, he or she should use a booster seat. Most children are ready to ride with just an adult seatbelt by age eight, but some are not large enough to ride without a booster seat until age 10.

Follow Posted Traffic Laws

Obeying the posted traffic signs protects you and all others on the roadway, including bicyclists and pedestrians. Come to a full stop at every red light and stop sign, drive within the speed limit, and comply with all other signs like yield and merge signs.

Do Not Drive Drunk, Distracted, or Drowsy

Just like obeying the posted traffic signs is safest for you, your passengers, and all others on the roadway, it is important that you are in a safe state of mind when you drive. This means driving only when you are alert enough to safely operate a motor vehicle and choosing not to drive if you are under the influence of alcohol or another drug. Using your cell phone and allowing yourself to become distracted by other sources like eating, drinking, and your vehicle’s radio can also put you and your passengers at an increased risk of being involved in an accident.

Be Mindful of Safety Recalls

Visit and sign up for email notifications about new safety recalls to keep yourself aware of all new child safety seat and vehicle recalls as they are issued. Having a faulty part on your vehicle replaced or repaired can reduce your chance of causing an accident and replacing an insufficient car seat can protect your child from injury if you are involved in one.

Keep Up on your Vehicle’s Maintenance

A well-maintained vehicle is a safe vehicle. Be sure to keep your tires appropriately inflated at all times and to replace your brake pads as necessary. Bald tires, worn brakes, and worn windshield wipers can all increase your likelihood of being involved in a collision.

Model Safe Driving Behavior

Before you know it, your children will be teenagers and driving on their own. As a parent, you want to be sure that your children are safe when they get behind the wheel. One of the most effective ways to do this is to model safe driving behavior like wearing your seat belt and maintaining a safe following distance with other vehicles. When your children ride in your car, they see everything you do. If they see you using your cell phone while driving, speeding, and making other unsafe driving choices, they will be more likely to make these choices themselves.

Talk about the consequences of unsafe driving, and be sure to go beyond your personal consequences for them if you catch them speeding or using the phone while they drive. Talk about the fines and other legal consequences for speeding and drunk driving and the injuries they can sustain or cause others to suffer if they are involved in a collision.

Work with an Experienced Appleton Personal Injury Lawyer

If you or your child are injured in a car accident, work with an experienced Appleton car accident attorney to file and pursue a personal injury claim. Contact our team at Hammett, Bellin & Oswald, LLC today to schedule your initial consultation in our office, during which we can discuss your case in greater detail and determine the most effective way for you to move forward with your claim.

Texting While Driving: A Killing Combination

It is no secret that text messaging while driving causes car accidents. Text messaging is by no means the only distraction drivers face, but it is currently one of the most prevalent. Many states across the nation have passed laws prohibiting the practice, imposing steep fines and other penalties on drivers found using their smartphones for text messaging and app use while driving. In fact, lawmakers in a few states have even proposed legislation to permit law enforcement to use “textalyzers,” electronic devices that can determine whether a driver was using his or her phone at the time of a collision.

Wisconsin and National Distracted Driving Statistics

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3,477 people died as the result of distracted driving in 2015. That year, 391,000 people were injured by distracted drivers. Each day, an estimated 660,000 drivers use their cell phones while driving.

In Wisconsin, 24,016 collisions due to distracted driving were reported in 2015. 10,615 people were injured and 94 were killed by distracted drivers that year.

Why is Texting while Driving Dangerous?

Text messaging while driving is dangerous because it takes the driver’s eyes and hands – the most important connections he or she has with the vehicle and the task at hand – off the road. Not only does text messaging physically inhibit the driver’s ability to control his or her vehicle, it takes the driver’s mind off the task of driving as well.

When a driver relinquishes control of a vehicle like this, he or she can easily cause a collision by missing a hazard in the roadway, failing to swerve, stop, or adjust speed appropriately to the present traffic conditions, and miss stop signs, yield signs, and red lights. Even taking one’s eyes off the road for a few seconds can dramatically increase his or her risk of being involved in a collision. On average, a text message takes a driver’s eyes off the road for five seconds. Traveling at 55 miles per hour, that driver travels the length of a football field without looking at the road.

Texting and Other Driving Distractions

Other distractions drivers face in the car include:

Talking on the phone. Although hands-free headsets and software can make talking on the phone while driving less dangerous, it is still safest for drivers to completely focus on the roadway;

  • Loud music that blocks important sounds outside the vehicle;
  • Eating while driving;
  • Grooming while driving;
  • Adjusting a vehicle’s radio, climate control, or GPS;
  • Daydreaming while driving;
  • Pets in the vehicle; and
  • Heated interactions with passengers in the vehicle.

Choose Not to Text and Drive

Texting while driving is a choice. You can protect yourself and others on the roadway by choosing not to text while you are driving.

For many, curbing a text messaging habit is not easy. Many individuals have to train themselves not to text and drive. A few strategies to consider to keep yourself from being tempted to respond to your phone’s notifications include:

  • Setting your phone to silent when you are in the car;
  • Downloading an app like Live2Txt and Cellcontrol to block incoming phone calls and messages while you are driving;
  • Putting your phone in the glove box or back seat where you cannot reach it while you are driving; and
  • If you are driving with a passenger, having him or her take over phone duties. This can mean taking your calls for you and responding to text messages on your behalf.
  • If you are expecting an important text message or phone call, change the notification tone for its sender so you can differentiate between that individual and others. When you hear the tone for that caller or sender, pull off the road and park so you can take the call or respond to the message.

If you are the parent of a teen who drives or soon will drive, model safe driving behavior by opting not to text and drive. Talk to your child about the dangers of distracted driving and the consequences for texting and driving, which can include tickets, fines, damage to the vehicle, and injuries.

Work with an Experienced Appleton Car Accident Attorney

If you have been injured in a collision with a distracted driver, you have the right to file a personal injury claim to seek compensation for your related damages. To get started on your case with an experienced Appleton personal injury lawyer, contact our team at Hammett, Bellin & Oswald, LLC today to set up your initial consultation in our office.

DWI in Wisconsin: What Are the Consequences?

There are more than 24,000 drunk driving convictions in Wisconsin each year, according to the state Department of Transportation. But not all cases of operating a vehicle while intoxicated–OWI, the Wisconsin equivalent of DUI or DWI in other states–are treated the same by the legal system. In fact, Wisconsin is relatively lenient with first-time offenders, although the penalties will escalate for each successive OWI conviction.

First Offenses in Wisconsin

If you have no prior drunk driving record, a first OWI conviction will generally result in a fine and a suspension of your driver’s license. You will not face any jail time. The judge will fine you between $150 and $300, and you will lose your license for 6 to 9 months.

However, if there was a minor–anyone under the age of 16–in the vehicle with you at the time of your OWI arrest, you can be sentenced to jail, for a period of anywhere between 5 days and 6 months. The maximum fines and license suspension period also increase, to $1,100 and 18 months, respectively.

Second Offenses

The penalties for a second offense largely depend on when your first offense occurred. If you have a prior OWI conviction within a 10-year period, you are facing jail time of between 5 days and 6 months. Otherwise, the second offense has the same penalties as a first offense. For example, if you were convicted of OWI in 2002, and convicted a second time in 2017–more than 10 years later–you would only face a maximum possible $300 fine and a license suspension.

Third and Subsequent Offenses

Once you get to a third OWI conviction, you are facing at least 45 days in jail. Starting with the fourth conviction, Wisconsin treats OWI as a felony. Here is a brief rundown of the felony classifications and penalty ranges:

  • 4th offense – Class H felony, punishable by 60 days to 6 years in jail and a $25,000 fine.
  • 5th-6th offenses – Class G felony, punishable by 6 months to 10 years in jail and a $25,000 fine.
  • 7th-9th offenses – Class F felony, punishable by 3 years to 12 years, 6 months, in jail and a $25,000 fine.
  • 10th and all succeeding offenses – Class E felony, punishable by 4 to 15 years in jail and a $50,000 fine.

From the third OWI conviction forward, your driver’s license will also be suspended at least 2 to 3 years, which will be in addition to the length of any prison term.

OWI Involving Death or Injury to Other People

All of the drunk driving penalties described above apply to cases where nobody else was injured. If you cause injury to while operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, even if it is a first offense, you will face up to 1 year in jail and lose your driver’s license for 1 to 2 years, in addition to the length of your confinement. For second and succeeding OWI’s involving bodily injury, you can be charged with a Class H felony, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 6 years.

Additionally, if an OWI causes “great bodily harm,” it is considered a class F felony, and the maximum prison term more than doubles from 6 years to 12 years, 6 months. And drunk driving that results in the death of another–legally, “Homicide While OWI”–is a Class D felony. This carries a prison sentence of up to 25 years. But if the driver has any prior OWI convictions, Homicide While OWI is elevated to a Class C felony, which can lead to a prison term of up to 40 years.

Penalties for Refusing Chemical Tests for OWI

When police arrest you for OWI they will typically request you take a blood, breath, or urine test to confirm your blood-alcohol level is above the legal limit. By law you are deemed to give “implied consent” for such tests. But constitutionally, you have the right to refuse to give evidence that may serve to incriminate you.

You cannot be fined or sent to jail for refusing a chemical test, even if you have multiple prior OWI convictions. But the State of Wisconsin can–and will–automatically suspend your driver’s license if you refuse. Since license suspensions are administrative actions in this context, rather than criminal penalties, they are not considered a violation of your constitutional rights.

Do You Need Help From an Appleton Criminal Defense Lawyer?

Any drunk driving arrest is a serious matter, regardless of whether or not you have a prior OWI record. Given the potential consequences of a conviction, it is critical you work with a qualified Appleton DUI lawyer. Contact Hammett, Bellin & Oswald, LLC, today if you need immediate legal assistance.

Wisconsin State Bike Laws

Bicycle accidents are often overlooked in comparison to car accidents and truck crashes. But according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, a bicyclist is killed or injured approximately every 9.7 hours on the state’s roadways. Altogether, that is more than 1,000 crashes per year. And while there may be fewer overall bicycle accidents, bicyclists are more exposed than someone driving a motor vehicle. Indeed, the Department of Transportation noted that bicyclists “are almost always injured in a collision also involving a motor vehicle.”

What Are My Rights as a Bicyclist?

But just because bicycles are at a disadvantage when pitted up against a car or truck, that does not excuse irresponsible driving on the bicyclist’s part. Remember, a bicycle is considered a “vehicle” under Wisconsin traffic laws. This means that as a bicyclist, you must obey the same rules of the road as any other vehicle. Conversely, you also have the same rights as any motorist.

Of course, many bicyclists do not travel as fast as cars. Wisconsin law therefore requires anyone operating a bicycle on a public roadway “at less than the normal speed of traffic” for that time of day to ride “as close as practicable to the right-hand edge or curb” of the road. This is only a general rule, however, and the bicyclist is allowed to reenter the main part of the lane to overtake another vehicle traveling in the same direction, to prepare for a left turn or U-turn, or to avoid a hazard or “unsafe condition” on the right-hand side.

Bicyclists should always stay on roadways or specially designated bicycle paths where available. You should never ride a bicycle on a sidewalk unless it is expressly permitted by local laws. In Appleton, for example, the City does have an ordinance that permits bicyclists to use most public sidewalks so long as they exercise “due care.”

But according to a recent report by the Appleton Post-Crescent, this ordinance does not apply to “sidewalks on College Avenue between Drew Street and Badger Avenue.” Local police have issued at least 42 citations this year for bicyclists who rode on those prohibited sidewalks. Appleton Police Department policy is to issue written warnings for each such violation, which carry fines of between $20 and $162.70.

Can I Ride Double-File?

Bicycling is a popular group activity. Riding double-file–or “2 abreast”–often helps reduce the risk of serious car accidents by deterring motor vehicles from attempting to make unsafe pass attempts. And overall, when multiple bicyclists operate as a group, they are simply more visible to traffic. For this reason, riding 2 abreast is legal on Wisconsin roadways so long as it does not “impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic” and both riders stay in a single lane when traveling on a two-lane road.
But as with single riders, double-file riders must stay “as close as practicable” to the right-hand side of the road, except as discussed above. Nor is it legal for bicyclists to ride in groups of more than 2 abreast–i.e., no riding triple-file–on public roads, although it is permissible on designated bicycle paths.

Do I Need to Use Hand Signals?

Since most bicycles lack automated turn signals or “signal lamps,” state law does require bicyclists to use generally accepted hand signals to indicate a turn or stop. Here is a brief reminder of those hand signals: in Hand and arm extended horizontally – bicyclist is making a left-hand turn or U-turn
Hand and arm are extended upward – bicyclist is making a right-hand turn
Hand and arm are extended downward – bicyclist is making a stop or decreasing speed
Any bicyclist who fails to give a proper turn signal may be cited by local law enforcement and fined $20.

Do I Need to Wear a Helmet?

It is always a good idea to wear a helmet when operating a bicycle, especially on public roads. According to the Department of Transportation, helmet use “can eliminate 85 percent of head injuries when crashes do occur.” That said, there is no state law that mandates bicycle helmets for either adults or children. At least one Wisconsin city–Port Washington–has its own municipal ordinance requiring children under the age of 16 to wear bicycle helmets. You should check with your local police department to see if there are any similar rules in place for your city or town.

Get Help From a Qualified Appleton Bike Accident Attorney

Negligent motorists often try to blame bicyclists for accidents. That is why it is critical for all bicyclists to understand and follow state bike laws in Appleton, Green Bay and all throughout Wisconsin. And if you are in a serious bicycle accident, you need to work with an experienced bicycle accident lawyer in Wisconsin who will zealously defend your interests. Contact the injury lawyers at Hammett, Bellin & Oswald, LLC today if you have been injured and would like to schedule an initial consultation with our office.


Hammett, Bellin and Oswald Law Firm is proud to be one of the sponsors for the 2017 Wilson Center for the Arts Guitar Festival. From August 17-19 artists from around the world will converge in Wisconsin to showcase their talents and compete in numerous guitar competitions. There will be classes, exhibits, and incredible performances from world class musicians.

This year there will be tickets provided for several community organizations, such as the Boys & Girls Club, so that they can provide free entry for 100 children to attend the performances. This is an incredible event for all ages and lovers of all styles of music. Individuals create the conscience of the community, and at HBO Law we believe providing opportunities for all members of the community will only make it stronger. Thanks to the Wilson Center for making this great event happen.