When you are in a car accident that is not your fault, the at-fault driver and his or her insurance company are responsible for your medical expenses and other costs that you incur because of the accident. Wisconsin is a fault state, which means that you are not required to carry personal injury protection. Instead of your insurance covering your expenses in an accident that is not your fault, the at-fault driver and/or his or her insurance must pay your claim.
At the Scene
If you feel your injuries are bad, don’t try to move. Let the paramedics check you out first. If you move, you could cause more damage. If possible, call 911 instead of relying on someone else to do it. The other person might be unconscious.
If you can walk around, check on other involved individuals, including the other driver. Call 911 while you are doing this. You might be able to let first responders know if more than one ambulance should come to the scene.
Most people carry a cell phone. If you have your cell or another camera, take pictures of the accident scene. Even if you have a dashcam, you’ll want photos of the accident. Be sure to take photos from all angles at a distance and close-up pictures of the damage. When taking close-up photographs, don’t get so close that it’s hard to tell what you’re looking at. If you left skid marks, be sure the pictures show the skid marks, too.
Get Contact Information
Get the other driver’s license number, registration information, insurance information, year, make and model of the vehicle, address, and phone number. Get the names and phone numbers of witnesses standing around, as well.
Do Not Talk About the Accident
Even if you were not at fault, do not talk about the auto accident. The at-fault driver could twist your words in his account to his insurance company, which could make it look like you were at fault or partially at fault.
When speaking to the police officer and/or investigators, just give them the facts. They will come to their own conclusion about fault. Just because a police report includes assertions of who was at fault in the accident, such information is not dispositive. An accident recreation investigator will go through pictures, videos, and other evidence to help determine fault.
Contact Your Insurance Company
When you contact your insurance company, let the representative know that you were involved in an accident and the location of the accident. Let your car accident lawyer tell the insurance company the details of the accident. You may accidentally say something that the insurance company will use against you. Do not contact the other driver’s insurance company. Let your attorney do that for you, as well.
After the Accident
First responders might give you the option of going to the hospital. Always go to get thoroughly checked out. You can pick up your vehicle later if it drives. If not, police officers will arrange for a tow truck to take your car either to their lot or your choice of garage for repairs. If the police officers insist on taking your vehicle to their lot, they might need to go through it for more evidence for their police report.
If the hospital releases you, get copies of your medical records. Contact the police station for a copy of the police report. Contact your car accident lawyer to set up a consultation once the hospital releases you.
If your loved one is expected to be in the hospital for several days or weeks, you should get medical records and the police report for your loved one. Contact a car accident lawyer regarding the accident. If your loved one can talk but does not expect the hospital to release him or her for several days, we might do a phone consultation or might visit your loved one in the hospital.
Recover and Work With Your Attorney
The most important thing to do after an accident is to recover from your injuries. Never deny treatment because it will cost more money. The at-fault driver’s insurance company and/or the at-fault driver will be responsible for your medical expenses, which also covers physical therapy, cognitive therapy, and psychological therapy. Wisconsin law allows you to recover the following:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future lost wages
- Repair or replacement of personal property damaged in the accident, including your vehicle
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of companionship
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do the things you did yourself, including shopping, cleaning, home maintenance, and other tasks
- Loss of consortium
- Burial and funeral expenses
- Extra compensation for the loss of use of a limb
- Punitive damages. The court may order the at-fault driver to pay punitive damages as a punishment for gross negligence or if the other driver’s actions were with the intent to harm you or someone in your vehicle.
You have a limited amount of time to file a claim against the other driver’s insurance company, so contact a car accident lawyer as soon as possible. Depending on the insurance company, the time to start a claim may be as little as 30 days after the date of your accident.
Don’t try to negotiate with the insurance company yourself. Insurance companies are in business to make money, which means they will offer the least amount possible. If you have injuries that doctors expect to last longer than a year, you will want enough compensation to pay for future medical expenses.
If the insurance company does not offer you a fair settlement, even though you have retained an attorney, your attorney might advise you to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. In many cases, a jury will award a higher amount than the insurance company offers.
Your car accident lawyer can answer your questions and help you decide what to do next.