Drunk driving accidents have drastically decreased since 1979 in Wisconsin and throughout the nation because of the implementation and enforcement of drunk driving laws. However, drunk driving accidents still occur far too often. Although almost all traffic accidents are preventable, sometimes weather, a medical condition, or a deer contributes to the accident, making it unavoidable. Drunk drivers choose to get behind the wheel, and their impairment leads to dangerous accidents and severe, sometimes fatal, injuries—making them completely preventable.
If you have suffered injuries in a Wisconsin drunk driving accident, the law permits you to seek compensation for damages from the drunk driver in civil court. This process typically begins by filing an insurance claim with the drunk driver’s auto insurance policy, if they have insurance. Some drunk driving accident victims choose to embark on this process independently, but it is in their best interest to consult with an attorney as soon as possible after the accident.
An experienced Wisconsin drunk driving accident lawyer helps with various aspects of the case. In general, they protect your rights, preserve the value of your claim, and fight for the maximum amount of compensation commensurate with your injuries. However, you can take steps to help your lawyer protect the value of your claim and build the strongest case possible against the Wisconsin drunk driver who harmed you.
Below is a broad overview of ten things you should do after a Wisconsin drunk driving accident. Do the best you can and ask for help from friends and family, if necessary, to ensure you have the best chance of prevailing in your drunk driving accident case.
1. Follow Your Medical Treatment Plan
If you were in a Wisconsin drunk driving accident, we assume you have been to the doctor. Depending on the severity of the accident and your injuries, you might have gone to the nearest emergency room for treatment within minutes or hours of your accident, or a friend or family member might have taken you in their vehicle. After emergency treatment, the treating physician typically provides patients with a treatment plan to carry out with their primary doctor.
You must follow doctors' orders and comply with your treatment plan to protect the value of your drunk driving accident claim. Medical documentation of your treatment supports your claim.
The insurance company and any legal teams involved have ammunition to question the severity of your injuries if you do not go to scheduled appointments, including physical therapy and follow-up appointments with your doctor and surgeon, if applicable. They might argue that your injuries are not healing as they should because you are not complying with your treatment plan.
2. Report the Accident to Your Insurance Carrier
Even if the drunk driver is completely at fault for the drunk driving accident, you still need to report the accident to your insurance company for a few reasons. First, most auto insurance policies require policyholders to report accidents regardless of fault, and failure to comply could lead to nonrenewal. Even worse, if you need to rely on your policy for interim coverage, your carrier might deny coverage if you did not promptly report the accident.
Next, it is common for drunk drivers, especially repeat offenders, to have lapses in coverage or not have insurance at all. If the drunk driver who hit you does not have insurance, your coverage could kick in and provide benefits to cover losses for your accident. Wisconsin requires all motorists to carry a minimum amount of uninsured motorist coverage.
Finally, you could have to wait months or years to receive compensation for losses related to your drunk driving accident. You can file a claim under your policy to get your vehicle fixed or replaced, and your insurance company will recover the losses once your claim resolves.
3. Start a Daily Journal
Non-economic losses make up a portion of damages in many Wisconsin drunk driving accident claims. This refers to the ways injuries impact someone’s life. Keeping a daily journal is the best way to convey your physical, emotional, and financial struggles related to your injuries to your lawyer. Non-economic losses are difficult to quantify.
When your lawyer has complete information, they can use past cases and call on experts to more accurately evaluate how your drunk driving accident injuries affected your life. Your journal entries can also help you relay information about healing and recovery to your doctor.
Examples of the types of entries to make in your journal include:
- Episodes of acute or chronic pain
- Continued symptoms or new symptoms
- Feelings, especially negative feelings about your injuries, such as anger, fear, embarrassment, frustration, etc.
- Struggles with doing your job or completing daily tasks, such as personal grooming
- Challenges to professional, personal, and marital relationships because of your injuries
- Events you have to miss or activities you have to skip because of your injuries
4. Keep Proof of Economic Loss
The economic losses you incur because of your Wisconsin drunk driving accident directly affect your claim against the drunk driver. However, you need to prove that loss to include it in your claim. Regardless of how soon you consult a lawyer, immediately begin saving proof of economic loss after a Wisconsin drunk driving accident.
Examples of documents you should keep include:
- Medical bills for ambulance service, emergency room treatment, hospitalization, surgery, etc.
- Receipts for prescription and over-the-counter medication, often for pain
- Receipts for assistive devices like wheelchairs, canes, and walkers
- Receipts for transportation costs to and from doctor or hospital for follow-up visits, physical therapy, etc.
- Receipts for vehicle repairs
- Receipts for replacement services for tasks you cannot do because of your injuries, such as lawn care, cleaning, snow removal, etc.
- Pay stubs to prove lost income and benefits related to the accident and your injuries
If you doubt whether you should save a receipt or bill, save it. Your lawyer can review your saved documents and let you know what supports your drunk driving accident claim. If you lost something, your drunk driving accident lawyer can find it for you.
5. Create Duplicate Files
Personal injury claims and lawsuits can take time to resolve. Files get lost, and paper fades. The documents you save serve as valuable evidence to support your claim. They provide evidence for your lawyer to negotiate a settlement and proof to the court if you bring a lawsuit and your Wisconsin drunk driving accident claim goes to trial. Ensure you have a master copy of each file and receipt you save.
You might choose to create digital files and store them on a flash drive. However, you can create copies of paper documents and keep the originals in a folder. Regardless of your system, keep all files in an easily accessible, safe place, so you can access them if you need them.
6. Obtain a Copy of the Police Report
Immediately after your drunk driving accident, law enforcement likely came to the scene and gathered information for their formal police report. The reporting officer typically does not give those involved a copy of the police report because they need some time to complete their investigation. If the officer does not provide you with a copy, you need to obtain a copy of the official crash report for the accident from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT).
You can order a report online for a nominal fee. Once you pay, you can print or download your crash report immediately. Accident reports are typically unavailable for at least ten days after an accident, but you might have to wait for at least two weeks. The DOT uploads the report to their system as soon as they receive it from the reporting agency, the local police, or the Wisconsin Highway Patrol.
Your drunk driving accident lawyer can do this for you, of course.
7. Avoid Speaking with the Drunk Driver’s Insurance Company
After the drunk driver’s insurance carrier receives your claim, they will assign an adjuster to investigate the accident. Insurance companies do not like to pay claims. They especially like to avoid large claims. They will do everything they can to deny a claim or reduce the amount they have to pay, even when they know their policyholder is to blame for an accident. You can expect they will want to speak with you about the accident and ask for a recorded statement. Additionally, many insurance companies ask claimants to release their medical history.
Never allow an insurance representative or adjuster to record your statement. They will comb through it to find ways to use your words against you, allowing them to deny or devalue your claim. You only have to provide the insurance company with medical records relevant to your Wisconsin drunk driving accident.
Let your lawyer handle communication with the insurance company so that they can protect your rights and the value of your claim.
8. Do Not Post on Social Media
Insurance companies and their investigators often stalk claimants’ social media pages to find information to use against them. Even the most seemingly innocent family picture from Sunday Funday could hurt your claim.
Insurance companies look for written posts and photographic evidence of physical activity they can use to argue your injuries are not as severe as you claim. Of course, simply being part of a picture does not mean you did not suffer severe injuries. However, many carriers pull posts and pictures out of context to downplay injuries and devalue a claim.
You do not have to cancel your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., but walk away from posting on them until your case concludes.
9. Consult a Wisconsin Drunk Driving Accident Attorney
Contact a Wisconsin drunk driving accident attorney as soon as possible to help with your case. You have three years from the date of your injuries to bring a lawsuit, but you do not want to wait to take action in the final hour. The sooner you discuss your case with an experienced lawyer, the sooner they can investigate your claim and begin to build a strong case against the drunk driver.
Also, the sooner you involve an attorney, the less chance you have of evidence diminishing or disappearing. Eyewitnesses move away, die, or forget the details of what they saw. Although you might assume a drunk driving accident claim is a sure win, it is not always that easy.
The legal process of seeking compensation for damages is complex and frustrating for those unfamiliar with the landscape of Wisconsin’s court system. You must prove the drunk driver was negligent to win your case. It is best to consult with a Wisconsin drunk driving accident lawyer during a free consultation and learn how they can help.
Your lawyer can handle the details of your claim and advocate for you to get maximum compensation while you focus on recovering from your drunk driving accident injuries.
10. Only Talk With Your Lawyer About Your Case
Sometimes insurance companies send representatives or investigators to visit friends and family after someone files a claim for accident injuries. The company tries to extract information in person as they do on social media. They try to find out about your daily activities, and they also try to find out if you took any blame for the drunk driving accident.
If you speak about the details of your case with well-meaning friends and family members, you risk that they might say something that devalues your claim, downplays your injuries, or gives the insurance company a reason to deny the claim.
Avoid conversations about your Wisconsin drunk driving accident claim and direct your questions and comments to your Wisconsin drunk driving accident lawyer.
Your friends and family will support you, even if they do not know every detail. By not sharing with them, you protect them from accidentally saying something that could undermine your claim. Contact a Wisconsin drunk driving accident attorney as soon as possible to help with your case.