Category Archives: Car Accident

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.

Car and Pedestrian Crash Deaths On the Rise in Wisconsin

According to the “Spotlight on Highway Safety” published by the Governors Highway Safety Administration (GHSA), pedestrian fatalities have dramatically increased. From 2009-2014, deaths in the U.S. went up 19%. During the same period, total traffic fatalities only increased 4%. The trend is continuing.

GHSA estimates that pedestrian deaths will increase an additional 10% in 2015 from 2014. The report identifies numerous factors that may be causing the troubling increase. One possible factor is cell phone use. Distracted walking can be as dangerous as distracted driving. Alcohol use is another.

In a surprising note, the report indicates that 34% of pedestrians involved in fatal crashes had blood alcohol levels (BAC) of 0.08 or higher. That is high compared to the fact that 15% of drivers involved in such crashes had a BAC of 0.08 or more.

Wisconsin ranked in the lowest 10 states for pedestrian fatality rate per capita. However, Wisconsin is not immune from the disturbing trend. In fact, pedestrian deaths in WI increased 47% in the first 6 months of 2015 as compared to the same period in 2014. That was the 8 the highest increase in the entire U.S.

As with other states, WI is taking action to improve this senseless loss of life. WI funded the “Share and Be Aware” program to educate roadway users, is implementing training classes for law enforcement, is training planners and engineers in pedestrian safety, and has begun high-visibility enforcement projects in 3 cities. WI law enforcement has also begun enforcing distracted driving laws.

For example, a driver was recently convicted of negligent homicide in Fond du Lac, WI. The driver had been sending and receiving texts just moments before rear ending another vehicle at 70 mph and causing the wrongful death of the other occupant. The defendant driver is set to be sentenced on June 24, 2016, and she faces 10 years in prison.

This is an important safety issues for all residents of the state of WI. Despite best efforts, any of us could become the victim of a distracted or impaired driver. Such cases require the assistance of an experienced car crash and personal injury attorney. There are potential issues with payment of medical bills, insurance coverage, and the right to pursue punitive damages. At Hammett, Bellin & Oswald, LLC, we have the experience and knowledge to handle such insurance claims. If you or a loved one have been injured by a distracted driver, call Hammett, Bellin & Oswald, LLC or go to our website for more information.

How to Request a Copy of Your Own Accident Report in Wisconsin

The days and weeks after a car accident can be confusing and painful. While you are most likely focusing your energy on medical treatment and dealing with the immediate impact of lost wages and costly hospital bills, it is also important to begin thinking about putting together the best possible accident lawsuit. To have a strong case, you will need to have evidence that supports your version of the events, and it can be extremely helpful to have third-party witnesses who can clarify facts surrounding the collision.

If you have been injured in a serious accident in Wisconsin, one of the first steps you can take toward building your case is to request a copy of your own accident report before speaking with a Green Bay personal injury lawyer. It is much easier to amend mistakes sooner rather than later, and you will need the accident report as evidence in your lawsuit.

Importance of Double-Checking the Facts on Your Accident Report
As we noted above, you should obtain a copy of the MV4000 as soon as possible, and you should review it for accuracy. An MV4000 is the accident report form in Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation provides a guide for law enforcement officials who create and amend them. You might be surprised, but these accident reports often contain small (and sometimes even major) errors, and it is important to get these mistakes corrected quickly. And you cannot know whether your report is accurate until you request a copy and take a close look at it yourself.

Getting accurate evidence in order as quickly as you can is extremely important to proving that the other driver was at fault for the crash. You should keep in mind that it is certainly possible to amend an MV4000 if there is a piece of information that is incorrect, and the sooner you do this, the faster your attorney can work on the other elements of your case. You should also take a quick look at this YouTube video developed by the advocates at Hammett, Bellin & Oswald, LLC, which emphasizes the need for speedy investigation work. If you wait too long to take photos connected to an accident or to look for witnesses, you can find out that importance evidence can be lost.

Requesting Your MV4000
Now that you know the importance of requesting your MV4000 in a timely manner, how do you actually obtain a copy? You will need to take the following steps:

1) You will need to determine which agency was responsible for completing your accident report. Depending upon where the accident happened, you may need to contact a city police department or the county sheriff’s department.

2) If your accident happened in Appleton and the Appleton Police Department completed the report, you will need to request a copy of the MV4000 online within 90 days of the accident. To complete this online request, you will need to visit https://app.wi.gov/crashreports, and you will need to have the following information handy: document number, accident number, or the date of the accident and your driver’s license number. If you do not know this information, you can contact the Wisconsin DOT at (608) 266-8753 to get your accident number.

3) If another agency (aside from the Appleton Police Department) completed the report, you will need to write a letter to the records department at that agency to make the request. What should your letter say? You should include all of the following information:

  • Your name;
  • Your contact information;
  • Names of the people involved in the accident;
  • Date of the accident;
  • Location of the accident; and
  • Document number (if you know it).

Certain other agencies also have online systems to request a copy of the accident report. If you are not sure what to do, you can call the agency that completed the report and inquire about how to obtain a copy of the MV4000.

Contact an Appleton Car Accident Lawyer
If you or someone you love sustained injuries in an accident, an experienced personal injury lawyer in Appleton, WI can help. Contact Hammett, Bellin & Oswald, LLC today for more information about our services.

Have you Checked your Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverages?

Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is the portion of your automobile insurance policy that allows you to recover compensation if you are injured in an accident involving a driver who either does not have automobile insurance or whose policy’s coverage limits do not provide enough money for you to cover your needs. Wisconsin is a “fault” state when it comes to seeking compensation after a car accident, which means that an injury victim must seek compensation from the negligent driver’s insurance provider. When this does not result in an adequate amount, the victim may go through his or her own policy to cover the rest of his or her needs.

In recent years, Wisconsin’s laws about this type of coverage have changed. Check your insurance policy to determine what your current rights and coverage are. They could have changed with the law changes, leaving you entitled to recover less money for your damages than before.

Repeal of the Truth in Auto Law
In 2009, Wisconsin saw multiple dramatic changes to its automobile insurance rules with the repeal of the Truth in Auto Insurance Law. One of these was a law that prohibited “stacking,” which is the insurance policyholder’s right to collect up to the maximum amount of compensation multiplied by the number of vehicles on his or her policy. For example, a driver who had two vehicles with $100,000 worth of uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage each on their policy could potentially recover $200,000 through that policy. Now, a driver can only recover up to $100,000 in this scenario.

Another change was the new reducing clauses, which make it possible for the amount of money a victim could recover through an uninsured and underinsured motorist claim to be reduced if he or she receives compensation from another source, such as the negligent driver’s insurance policy or state disability compensation. This potential recovery amount can be reduced all the way down to nothing if adequate funds can be found recovered elsewhere. An example of how the reducing clauses work is this: If an injured driver suffers $300,000 worth of damages in a collision and the negligent driver’s insurance policy can only cover $100,000, but the victim has $100,000 worth of uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, he or she could use both to have $200,000 worth of his or her damages covered. Now, the amount of money the victim can apply to damages in a case like this is reduced according to the negligent driver’s insurance contribution, putting the victim in this scenario in a position where he or she can only recover $100,000.

Work with an Appleton Car Accident Lawyer
If you are suffering from financial damages after being involved in a car accident in Appleton, Neenah, or elsewhere in eastern Wisconsin, consider working with one of the experienced Appleton personal injury lawyers at Hammett, Bellin & Oswald, LLC to seek compensation through a personal injury claim. Our Appleton OWI lawyers can discuss your options for recovering compensation through your uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage policy as well. Do not wait to contact our firm and schedule your free legal consultation with us.

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.

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.

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.

Are Drivers the Only Ones Liable for a Car Accident?

When you should think twice about letting others drive your car

There are plenty of myths in the world of car insurance. One of the most pervasive is the notion that you can’t be held liable for another driver’s actions behind the wheel of your car. While there are certainly protections in place to ensure that you aren’t unfairly penalized, it’s important to understand the liability issues that surround this common practice and know how to anticipate potential problems.

Young Drivers and Liability

You might not think twice about letting your teenager or twentysomething drive your vehicle, but you could be held liable for their actions. There are several legal frameworks that govern liability in this situation:

• Family purpose: The owner of a “family vehicle” may be held liable whenever that vehicle is used by any driver. It’s an old Wisconsin doctrine, but the driver could be found to be an agent of the owner, thus subjecting the owner to liability.

• Negligence: If you lend your vehicle to a child who may be deemed incompetent due to inexperience or intoxication, you may be held liable.

• Minor drivers: By signing your minor child’s driver’s license application, you may have complicit liability in their actions behind the wheel as a sponsor.

If you’d like to learn more about the liability issues surrounding teenage drivers, watch our Youtube video.

Letting an Employee Drive a Vehicle You Own

If your employee needs to use a vehicle owned by you or your company for business activities, the owning individual or entity—that’s you or your business—could be liable for damage or injury that results from an accident. However, employees using company vehicles on their own time and without permission are liable for their own actions.

Intoxicated Drivers

If you lend your vehicle to someone who’s clearly intoxicated, you’ll be held liable for whatever happens. If they’re not yet intoxicated but are likely to indulge while the car is in their possession, you may be held liable as well.

Otherwise Unfit or Incompetent Drivers

Similar rules apply with other types of incompetency, including:

• Unlicensed drivers
• Drivers with little on-the-road experience, including those with just a learner’s permit
• Drivers who have previously been charged with vehicular crimes like DUI or reckless driving
• Elderly drivers
• Drivers with medical conditions that could affect their ability to drive, including epilepsy

Work With a Seasoned Car Accident Lawyer in Neenah and Appleton, WI

Whether you’re being kept up at night by your teenage kid’s driving habits or the fact that you lent your family vehicle to a close friend for a weekend up north, we’re happy to help you sort out the liability issues that come with letting other drivers use your car. To learn more about what we can do for you, call us or visit our website to fill out our online contact form.