Personal Injury

Auto Accident, Product Liability & Negligence Claims  

What is a personal injury claim?
A personal injury claim is a claim made for compensating an individual for physical and/or emotional injuries that are caused by another, such as an automobile accident, medical negligence, intentional or negligent acts, defective products or unsafe premises. The compensation is generally in the form of a monetary settlement or award.

Who can bring a personal injury claim?
The person who is injured has the legal right to bring a claim. The injured person's spouse and minor children have their own claims for effects on them as a result of the family member's injuries. If the injured person is a minor child, the child's parents also have a possible claim. In Wisconsin, if the injuries cause death, both the deceased's estate and certain survivors may have claims.

What is a personal injury award?
A person who is successful in a personal injury claim will be entitled to a money award for hospital, medical, dental, and related expenses that were incurred to treat the injury from the date it occurred until the trial date or settlement date and for future anticipated expenses. The injured person can also be compensated for pain and suffering, limited or permanent disability, loss of the enjoyment of life, lost wages and loss of future earning capacity caused by the injury. If someone dies from the injuries, his or her estate is entitled to compensation for any medical expenses incurred for treatment of the injuries, for conscious pain and suffering, for disability suffered and for funeral expenses. Survivors can recover for loss of the deceased person's society and companionship and for loss of future financial support. If hospital and medical expenses connected with treatment of the injury have been paid by someone other than the injured party, that entity has a subrogation claim. For instance, a health insurer may claim the right to be paid back out of any recovery the injured person receives. Most personal injury awards are not taxable by the federal or state government.

What is the time limit to file a personal injury claim?
In Wisconsin, the Statute of Limitations requires that a claim be brought by commencing a lawsuit in court, usually within three years of an accident or usually within one year after the date on which the person knew, or should have known, that he or she has a cause of action; for instance, the person was negligently injured and knows the cause of the injury and the identity of who or what caused the injury. The date used to begin calculating the three year period is usually the same as the date of the injury. A two-year statute of limitations applies if the injury was intentionally caused. The Statute of Limitations varies for certain kinds of personal injury claims, such as medical malpractice claims, employment related injuries, claims against governmental units, and claims involving injury to a minor. If you are injured in another state, the statute of limitations of that state may apply, and it may be shorter or longer than Wisconsin's. You should consult with an attorney to see what time limit applies in your case.

How long does a personal injury claim take?
A claim is customarily made with an insurance company and an attempt is made to negotiate a settlement, through the insurance adjuster, without litigation. This process can take months depending upon investigations, the insured's recovery period, the treating physicians cooperation in providing information and the insurance company's speed in processing the claim internally. If the claim cannot be settled with the insurance company, a lawsuit needs to be filed. Each side will ask the other for information in writing for certain relevant documents and will take testimony, through depositions, from parties, witnesses and doctors to assist in the proof or defense of the case. Most lawsuits filed are settled without the need for a trial even after the lawsuit has been commenced. If there is a trial, either to a judge or jury, the losing side has the right to pursue an appeal.

Disclaimer: This summary offers basic legal information only and does not offer legal advice. If you have legal problems, please seek legal advise; only an attorney can advise you on how the law applies to the specific facts of your situation and in your location.  

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