Category Archives: Drunk Driving

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Damages for Drunk Driving Crashes in Wisconsin

It is not uncommon for the evening news to feature a devastating story about someone seriously injured, or even killed, by a drunk driver. Furthermore, it should come as no surprise that Wisconsin has one of the highest rates of drinking and driving in the country.

The “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign, which ran through January 1, 2019 was an effort undertaken by law enforcement agencies across the state to limit the number of impaired drivers on Wisconsin roadways. Authorities are optimistic that Wisconsin drivers are finally beginning to hear the messages about the dangers of impaired driving as traffic related fatalities overall actually declined in 2018 during the campaign.

In 2017, the total number of traffic related fatalities in Wisconsin was 594. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s preliminary report in January of 2019 reported 565 deaths through December 30, 2018, which would be the first yearly decline since 2014 of traffic related deaths. David Pabst, who is the Director of Transportation Safety, noted that the overall traffic fatalities in Wisconsin were down about 4% in 2018. The hope is that this trend continues in 2019 and beyond.

Around 12:39 a.m. on Sunday, March 10, 2019, a 36-year-old woman from Waterford, Wisconsin was critically injured in a drunk driving crash. The crash occurred on WIS-20 in Racine when the drunk driver, a 36-year old East Troy man, crossed the center line and struck a vehicle traveling in the opposite direction. The driver of the other vehicle was not injured. Both the drunk driver and passenger were non-responsive at the time 911 was called. The drunk driver was transported to an area hospital and treated for minor injuries. He was then transported to Racine County Jail to await charges to be filed against him for his third OWI offense.

The female passenger in the drunk driver’s vehicle was also transported to an area hospital and is being treated for life threatening injuries. Along with an OWI (3rd), the driver of the vehicle was also arrested for felony causing injury by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle due to the extent of the woman’s injuries.

This accident is just another example of the devastating effects caused by drunk driving. The driver’s bad decision will now potentially have horrific lifelong effects on his passenger. What makes tragic situations such as this even worse is learning that the offender has been convicted in the past of the same offense, often on more than one occasion. The sad reality is that many times, even multiple convictions is not enough to stop the abhorrent behavior.

Like any other motor vehicle crash in which the injured victim has a right to be compensated for the damages caused by the at-fault driver, drunk driving crashes work in much the same way. The drunk driver who caused the crash is responsible for compensating the injured victim for his or her medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and for any future care that may be needed if the injury is permanent.

Since drunk driving is a much more egregious type of negligence, another type of damages may be available for the victim in certain circumstances. These types of damages are called punitive damages. The purpose of punitive damages is to have a deterrent effect; not only will they work to punish the wrongdoer, but punitive damages should also deter the wrongdoer – and others – from engaging in the same type of behavior in the future.

Wisconsin Statute Section 895.043 governs the law as it relates to punitive damages in this context. According to Wis. Stat. § 895.043(3), a plaintiff is entitled to punitive damages if he or she can show that “the defendant acted maliciously toward the plaintiff or in an intentional disregard of the rights of the plaintiff.” In order to prove that the defendant (i.e drunk driver) acted with an intentional disregard of the plaintiff’s rights, three criteria must be met:

(1) the act must have been deliberate;
(2) the act must actually disregard the injured party’s rights; and
(3) the act is sufficiently aggravated to warrant an award of punitive damages.

With regard to element number one, typically no one ever forces someone to drink and drive. It is typically obvious that someone who makes the decision to drink and drive did so deliberately. Similarly, element number two is usually not too difficult to show as a drunk driver on the roadway disregards the rights of all other users of the roadway, at large, by making it inherently unsafe. The third element – the aggravating factors – is generally where there is most room for argument. Aggravating factors include details that make the act of drunk driving even more egregious. For example, prior convictions, a high blood alcohol concentration or having children in the vehicle at the time of the accident may all constitute factors sufficient to warrant an award of punitive damages.

It is important to note that, generally, Wisconsin law imposes a cap on punitive damages to no more than twice the amount of underlying compensatory damages or $200,000, whichever is greater. According to Wis. Stat. § 895.043(6), however, this cap does not apply to an injured person seeking punitive damages from a defendant whose actions giving rise to the injury occurred while operating a motor vehicle “under the influence of an intoxicant to a degree that rendered the defendant incapable of safe operation of the vehicle.”

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver, the Groth Law Firm may be able to help. The team at Groth Law Firm has experience in handling cases against drunk drivers and will fight to get you the compensation you deserve. The drunk driving attorneys at Groth Law Firm will ensure that your rights are protected and your recovery is maximized. They can also evaluate whether or not you may be able to pursue a claim for punitive damages against the defendant driver. Call the attoneys of Groth Law Firm for a free consultation at (414) 375-2030.
Woman critically injured, man arrested for 3rd OWI after crash in Racine County

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Drunk Driving Consequences

These days, more than ever, there is no excuse for drunken driving. With the ever-increasing, affordable, ride sharing services like Lyft and Uber, there are more ways to safely enjoy a night out than ever before. Despite this, irresponsible drunk drivers still regularly cause death and destruction nationwide.

No matter your age or alcohol tolerance, consumption of alcoholic beverages affects your decision making, reaction time, and judgement skills. All three of these skills are required to safely operate a motor vehicle on Wisconsin’s roadways. When people ignore the law and drive drunk there can be consequences beyond just the associated criminal penalties. Nearly everyone knows someone who has personally been affected by drunk driving. Whether it is family, friends, or a member of your community, drunk driving’s catastrophic consequences are far-reaching, and often irreversible.

If you or a loved one is involved in an accident cause by a drunk or impaired driver, you may have a right to compensation. This compensation can address various losses that you have sustained as result of a drunk driver’s negligent actions. This includes, but is not limited to, payment of medical bills, compensation for lost wages, payment of property damage, and pain and suffering. In addition to the aforementioned, you may further be entitled to additional damages that are often characterized as “punitive damages.” Punitive damages may be awarded by the court to punish a drunk driver for their recklessness in choosing to operate a motor vehicle while drunk or inebriated. Our full staff of attorneys and paralegals have experience in achieving all forms of compensation that are related drunk driving accidents. When you or your family is impacted by the actions of a drunk driver, you want a legal team with the experience and skill to litigate your case.

Unfortunately, even in some cases of drunk driving, insurance companies are reluctant to pay you the compensation you deserve. Insurance companies will look for every reason not to pay, and will often only offer you a “nuisance value” on your case. All too frequently we have Wisconsinites call in and say, “I was struck by a drunk driver and the insurance company offered to pay my medical bills and $500 for my case. Is that a good deal?” If that sounds familiar, don’t hesitate to contact the Groth Law Firm. We will work with you during our free consultation to determine the true value of your case, and explain exactly how we’re going to fight for you to achieve what you are entitled to.

Insurance companies will fight every step of the way to hide the fact that their insured was drunk, or even minimize how much their intoxication effected their ability to drive. It is an unfortunate fact that insurance companies will do everything within their power to reduce their exposure and pay as little as possible to injured people. If you are struck by a drunk driver, the last thing you want to do is to argue with an insurance adjuster who is difficult to get ahold of, unsympathetic, and unwilling to pay you what you deserve. The Groth Law Firm ONLY represents injured people and their families. We know that it can be overwhelming to take on huge insurance companies alone.

Drunk driving accidents can also become further complicated by potential Dram Shop laws. In Wisconsin, and many other states, a bar, restaurant, or location serving alcohol can also be held liable in certain cases. For example, if a bar is found to have knowingly served alcohol to a minor and that individual goes on to cause an accident, there may be an additional action that can be brought against the bar. One of the primary reasons these laws exist are to incentivize bartenders and others to help keep our roads safe, and to not intentionally over-serve someone who could then cause a horrific accident.

In Wisconsin it is illegal for a driver over the age of 21 to operate a motor vehicle with a Blood/Breath Alcohol concentration of 0.08 or great. It is also illegal to drive under the influence of an intoxicant; while you have a detectable amount of a restricted controlled substance in your blood; or while under the influence of a control substance or any other drug. The State of Wisconsin Department of Transportation defines “under the influence” as when a driver’s ability to operate a motor is impaired. Additionally, “A person’s ability to operate a motor vehicle is impaired if he or she is less able to safely control the vehicle because of the consumption of alcohol or controlled substances.”

There are a range of penalties associated with drunk driving, and they can range from forfeiture and license revocation to spending multiple years imprisoned. Penalties are increased if the drunken driving results in death or injury. Despite the severity of these penalties, irresponsible drivers still make the reckless choice to operate their vehicle while under the influence.

Injuries from drunken driving accidents can be even more severe than typical motor vehicle accident collisions. Drunk drivers have a tendency to exhibit more risky and reckless behavior while on the road, and may even greatly exceed the speed limit. As a result, injuries from drunken driving accidents have the potential to be permanent, or effect you for the rest of your life. Insurance companies are aware of this, and often, they will quickly try to settle your case before you can properly plan for future care you might require. Sometimes, you may need additional surgeries years from the day of the accident. If the insurance company is only paying your existing medical bills, this future care would be wholly excluded. Whether it’s surgeries, injections, support hardware, or in-home care, the Groth Law Firm has helped thousands of clients cover every aspect of their case. If you, or someone you know has been the victim of a drunk driver’s careless actions, please call in today for a free consultation. At the Groth Law Firm, our staff of attorneys is available to speak day and night regarding your potential case.

Hope Christian School Bus Accident Highlights Dangers of Large Trucks And Impaired Driving

Twenty people were injured on Wednesday, May 23, including five critically, when an impaired driver operating a semi struck a school bus. The bus was carrying students from Hope Christian School in Milwaukee. Students were on their way to the Wisconsin Dells for an end of the year field trip.

The bus was pulled over on the shoulder of I39/90 near Lodi due to mechanical problems when the semi struck the bus from behind. Sgt. Greg Jensworld stated that more than half the semi was on the shoulder when it impacted the bus. Twenty of the thirty-three bus passengers were injured, and five had serious injuries. Two passengers had to be airlifted to the hospital.

Impaired Driver

The driver of the truck, Wayne Murphy, was booked on 5 counts of causing injury by intoxicated use of a vehicle. Murphy’s employer stated that he had only been driving for an hour. However, state troopers had already received calls reporting Murphy as a reckless driver before the accident. The 42-year-old Murphy, from Indianapolis, reportedly had opioids and a tranquilizer in his system at the time of the crash. Columbia County DA Jane Kohlwey expects to file felony charges of operating a motor vehicle under the influence and reckless endangerment soon.

Tragic Impact Of The Crash

School Bus Accident in Milwaukee

Damage From the Accident

To see the impact impaired driving has, you need look no further than 15-year-old Alexis Jenkins. Alexis suffered broken bones, punctured lungs, and was breathing on a ventilator after the accident. In an interview with CBS 58, her grandma described the tremendous grief the driver’s alleged reckless and irresponsible conduct has caused: “He’s put a hole in my heart. My granddaughter was going on a field trip. She was graduating today and he put a hole in my heart. She will never be the same.”

If you’d like to donate to the recovery of Alexis Jenkins, click here.

Large Truck Accident Statistics

This truck accident implicates the extensive damage large trucks can cause on roadways. There are currently more than 2 million semis that operate on U.S. roadways. There are over 500,000 large truck accidents annually which result in approximately 5,000 fatalities nationwide. Fatal large truck accidents tend to occur on weekdays during the daytime. The majority also occur on highways in rural areas. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration illustrates these tendencies:

  • Approximately 61 percent of all fatal large truck accidents occurred in rural areas, 27 percent occurred on Interstate highways, and 15 percent fell into both categories by occurring on rural Interstate highways.
  • The majority of fatal large truck accidents (84 percent) and nonfatal large truck accidents (88 percent) occurred on weekdays (Monday through Friday).
  • In 2016, 4,440 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes, a 2-percent increase from 2015. The number of large trucks and buses in fatal crashes has increased by 29 percent from its low of 3,432 in 2009.
  • The number of injury crashes involving large trucks or buses increased 62% from 60,000 in 2009 to 97,000 in 2015. In 2016, there were an estimated 119,000 injury crashes, based on NHTSA’s new CRSS data collection.

Although a large truck accident may be caused by an array of factors including road conditions, driver-related reasons are often the issue. Driver fault can be divided into four categories:

  • Non-Performance: The driver was impaired by alcohol or drugs, fell asleep, or was disabled by a heart attack or seizure.
  • Recognition: The driver was inattentive, was distracted by something inside or outside the vehicle, or failed to observe the situation adequately for some other reason.
  • Decision: For example, the driver was driving too fast for conditions, misjudged the speed of other vehicles, or followed other vehicles too closely.
  • Performance: For example, the driver panicked, overcompensated, or exercised poor directional control.

In 2016, at least one driver-related factor was recorded for 32 percent of the large truck drivers in fatal crashes. “Decision” was the most frequent driver-related factor, followed by “Recognition,” “Performance,” and “Non-Performance.”

What To Do If You See A Reckless Driver

Obviously, semis are much heavier than passenger cars and thus often cause more serious injuries and property damage. Therefore, it is essential to be on the lookout for semis that are driving recklessly or suspiciously.  If you see a semi or any type of vehicle display any sort of erratic behavior, do not hesitate to call 911 to report the activity. These reports could save lives.

Unfortunately, many terrible events like the school bus accident near Lodi occur regardless of proper reporting. If you are injured in an accident caused by a large truck in Wisconsin, you may be able to be compensated for property damage, medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. It is important to contact a personal injury attorney right away to ensure that your rights are protected.

If you or a loved one has been injured by a large truck or intoxicated driver, contact a skilled, dedicated, and proven personal injury attorney to discuss your options as a victim of a crash.

Traffic-Related Deaths Remain High in the U.S.

On February 15, 2018, the Wall Street Journal published an article entitled “U.S. Road-Death Rates Remain Near 10-Year High.” The article discusses the National Safety Council’s (NSC) statistics on traffic-related fatalities for 2017.[1] The NSC found that traffic-related deaths in the U.S. declined by approximately 1% in the year 2017. While any decline in traffic-related deaths is good news, analysts hoped to see an even larger decline following back to back increases in traffic-related fatalities in 2015 and 2016.

The National Safety Council is one of two primary organizations that publish data on roadway fatalities. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also published data but only reports deaths occurring on public roadways. The NSC incorporates incidents from private roadways into their report which slightly increases the number of total fatalities.

The NSC reported a 7% increase in 2014 and a 6% in 2015.[2] Both years’ data came as a surprise because traffic-related deaths per vehicle miles traveled (VMT) have declined since 1921 (see graph below).[3]

Traffic-Related Deaths are High in U.S.

The Wall Street Journal article also documents the comments of experts regarding the factors behind the unfortunate trend.[4] A spokesperson for the NSC attributed the rising fatality rate to drunk driving incidents. She cites the differences between the blood alcohol level laws in the United States and other nations and remarks that the best way to drive down roadway deaths is to reduce drunk driving. Automotive executives point to the increased use of hand-held devices as a catalyst for the trend. Automakers have focused resources in recent years to add hands-free technology in their vehicles to reduce this trend among motorists.

Experts are unable to pinpoint the exact reasons the trend in traffic-related fatalities has shifted upward in recent years; however, the problems of drunk driving and smartphone use continue to plague drivers across the nation.

In most cases, traffic accidents result in injuries rather than fatalities. Over the past decade, traffic-related injuries in the U.S. have vacillated between 2.2 million and 2.4 million.[5] The sheer volume of these numbers underscores the necessity of paying attention while driving. Of course, avoid driving while intoxicated and refrain from smartphone use, but it is also imperative to stay alert while operating a motor vehicle realizing that others may not exercise careful driving.

If you think you have been injured as the result of a traffic accident see a doctor, and, as always, please call Groth Law Firm, S.C. at 877-375-7001 with any questions.  We are available 24/7 to discuss your options as the victim of someone else’s negligent actions. Our initial consultations are always free.







It’s Our Party We Can Do What We Want

Not really, Miley. At least not in Wisconsin. The MTV Music Awards this year were eye opening. I didn’t think that show would be the inspiration for a blog post.

In Wisconsin, if a minor is served alcohol by an adult and gets into a car, crashes it and causes injuries or property damage it’s not just an “accident” and an “oops.” It is a serious matter where multiple parties, kids and adults, can be held responsible and pay the consequences.

Simply looking at the child’s actions isn’t enough. The adults throwing the party can not just “do what they want” in this situation.

In Wisconsin, negligent supervision and possibly Dram Shop responsibility must be researched. For example, Wisconsin law forbids adults from knowingly allowing the illegal consumption of alcohol beverages by underage individuals, so long as the individuals are under the adult’s control or are on premises owned by the adult. The need for responsible behavior from both kids and adults goes beyond alcohol related incidents. It is also important to be responsible with phone use and driving privileges.

When you live in society everyone needs to live by the rules.

You need to stop texting, stop driving while buzzed or drunk, stop driving recklessly, and stop for pedestrians.

If someone “can’t stop” and “won’t stop” doing these things and their actions result in a crash, please contact our law firm.

In Wisconsin, “This is OUR house … This is OUR rules.” Let’s all be responsible and obey the rules of the road. Doing so will help keep our community safe.