Eau Claire Drunk Driving Accident Attorneys
Drunk driving is one of the biggest menaces on the road in Eau Claire, the rest of Wisconsin, and the nation as a whole.
Tragically, Wisconsin’s figures are above the national average. Thirty-three percent of vehicle accidents involve alcohol intoxication in the Badger State, compared with 29 percent nationwide, and just 16 percent in the state with the lowest level of alcohol impairment in accidents.
If you or a loved one suffered injuries in an accident with a drunk driver in Eau Claire, contact the dedicated Eau Claire drunk driving accident attorneys at Nicolet Law Accident & Injury Lawyers. Our 14 years of experience helping folks speaks for itself. In total, we have recovered $38 million for injury victims over that time. We have investigated on behalf of victims when the other driver claimed innocence or fled the scene—and won. The first consultation with our attorney team is always free.
What Type of Injuries Can a Drunk Driver Cause?
There are no two ways about it. When people drink they become impaired in visual function, motor skills, and judgment. These changes can occur after only one drink, according to the National Safety Council. A drunk person can’t assess how to react to traffic situations or react in time. They may engage in dangerous behavior behind the wheel, such as speeding, running stop signs and lights, racing, behaving aggressively toward other motorists, and more.
As a result, drunk drivers behind the wheel can cause almost every type of injury the human body can sustain, including:
- Soft tissue injuries (such as whiplash);
- Broken bones;
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI);
- Spinal cord injuries;
- Internal injuries;
- Hearing loss;
- Disfigurement and scarring;
- Loss of an organ, such as an eye;
- Loss of bodily functions, such as the ability to walk;
- Coma; and
Some of these injuries, such as bruises or small cuts, are relatively easy to treat medically and generally resolve with no lasting harm to the victim. Others, such as TBIs and spinal cord injuries, can be catastrophic and irreversible.
In Wisconsin, 183 people died in motor vehicle accidents in which a driver was legally intoxicated in a recent year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (legal intoxication is a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or above).
Catastrophic means that an injury exerts an immediate and usually lasting negative effect on the victim’s life. TBIs can result in brain damage and memory loss. Spinal cord injuries can result in paralysis. These and other types of catastrophic injuries can keep the victim from working or enjoying activities like sports that they once loved.
The bottom line is this: drunk driving accidents, no matter what injuries they cause, should not occur. They are preventable. Unfortunately, despite decades of education, attempted deterrence, and strict penalties for a driving under the influence (DUI) conviction, individuals impaired by alcohol continue to get behind the wheel.
Receiving Compensation for a Drunk Driving Accident
Wisconsin is a fault state for all vehicle accidents, including those involving alcohol impairment. This means that the state’s laws hold the at-fault driver responsible for injuries and property damage resulting from the accident they caused. It differs from the no-fault system in some neighboring states, where victims must turn first to their own insurance for compensation. In Wisconsin, you do not need to do that.
You have two methods to seek compensation for injuries: You can turn to the at-fault party’s insurance company prior to filing a lawsuit, or you can file a drunk driving accident lawsuit against the at-fault party in civil court.
These two methods aren’t mutually exclusive. Sometimes, insurance companies refuse to compensate victims fairly. If they do, an Eau Claire drunk driving accident lawsuit can persuade them to settle fairly. Insurance companies don’t like to go to court, because judges and juries often show more sympathy to victims than insurance companies. But victims can also go to court without approaching the insurance company for a settlement first.
Regardless of the method a victim chooses, damage compensation is the desired result. “Damage compensation” is the term insurance companies and courts often use to refer to financial compensation for injuries and harm caused by another party.
Victims can seek damage compensation for:
- Medical bills for emergency transport, emergency room treatment, surgery, hospitalization, doctor’s visits, prescription medication, assistive devices, diagnostic tests, retrofitting living spaces to accommodate a new disability, and more.
- Wages lost from work for wages lost from work due to the accident itself, treatment, or impairment due to the injuries.
- Property damage for personal property damaged or lost in the accident, such as a car.
- Pain and suffering for mental, emotional, and physical pain and suffering from the accident.
Insurance for Drunk Driving Accidents in Wisconsin
Wisconsin requires all drivers to have liability insurance (the type of insurance that pays for injuries and harm caused by the insured).
The minimum amounts are:
- $10,000 for property damage;
- $25,000 for the injury or death of one person; and
- $50,000 for the injury or death of more than one person.
Law enforcement may request proof of insurance at the scene of an accident.
Wisconsin also requires uninsured motorist coverage, with a minimum liability of $25,000 per person and $50,000 for each accident. This mandate is intended to cover you and your family if the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance or if you’re a victim of a hit and run and you cannot identify them later.
Frequently Asked Questions
Victims and their families often have questions about drunk driving accidents in Eau Claire. Below are answers to the most frequently asked questions we receive.
What If I Need Additional Medical Treatment in the Future?
After a serious accident, a victim may not only need compensation for short-term treatment of the injuries they incurred, but also for ongoing treatment their doctors expect them to need in the future. Multiple surgeries, physical therapy, and intensive nursing care are just three types of medical care that patients may need for a long time—and there are many others.
But the process of assessing how much damage compensation to request for future care is not as straightforward as it is if bills are already incurred. If your doctors expect you to need additional medical treatment in the future, a prediction of what treatments will be necessary and an estimate of the likely cost is needed. You can then seek damage compensation based on that estimate. Your attorney may retain a medical expert to provide a second opinion about future care, to back up your doctor’s predictions.
Do I Have to Seek Compensation in Any Specific Time?
You must bring your Eau Claire drunk driving accident case by a specific deadline. State law establishes this deadline, known as the statute of limitations. In Wisconsin, the statute of limitations is three years from the date of the accident.
If you are injured by a drunk driver, your interests are highly likely to be best served by talking to a lawyer as soon as possible. While real-life legal cases are not generally like the ones you see on television, they are in one respect: Evidence is paramount. Without evidence, justice can be hard to come by.
Without evidence, who or what caused the accident is subject to dispute. So are the nature and extent of your injuries. Negligent drivers, after all, aren’t usually above claiming that they aren’t at fault. They may entirely fabricate a story about how the accident happened, and without evidence, there is no proof that they’re wrong.
Insurance companies also have a vested interest in finding that someone other than their insured is at fault, because it hurts their profits when they have to pay out claims.
Evidence can become lost. For example, eyewitnesses and surveillance footage can constitute excellent evidence as well. But eyewitnesses forget or sometimes move away. Surveillance footage is often erased after a certain time.
Timing in approaching the insurance companies is also crucial. While insurance claims have no specific statute of limitations, you need to file a claim in a reasonable time after the accident. Frankly, an insurance claim should follow the accident quickly—a week at most.
Call us to contact both your own insurance carrier and the at-fault party’s insurance carrier immediately after the accident—or as soon as doctors sufficiently treat your injuries.
Why? Because a delay could cause the at-fault party’s insurance carrier to raise questions about why you waited. They can try to use this to question the extent and nature of your injuries, to pay you less than you deserve.
In addition, of course, the sooner you begin the process of claims and damage compensation, the sooner you will receive compensation.
What If I Don’t Know Who’s At Fault?
The issue of fault is highly important in drunk driving claims. Why? Because the party that caused the accident is the only one liable (financially responsible) for injuries and other harm the accident caused. Other people can be involved in the accident, but involvement does not mean liability. Only causation does.
Victims aren’t always in a position to know who’s at fault. You may have been knocked unconscious or thrown from the vehicle, or perhaps you simply didn’t see what happened. You may not remember the precipitating events in the aftermath of an accident.
And even if you have an idea of who or what caused the accident, the at-fault party may dispute it.
Finally, what seems like someone’s fault may actually stem from another cause. A driver may appear to have run a stoplight, for example. But sometimes, mechanical failure causes brakes not to work. If the problem was malfunctioning brakes, the at-fault party could be the car’s manufacturer or a repair shop, rather than the driver.
All of these scenarios might require an investigation into the causes of the accident. Skilled investigators can analyze the accident scene, talk to law enforcement, pull surveillance footage, find eyewitnesses, and even re-create the accident scene using forensic analysis.
If you don’t know the cause of the accident or the cause is in dispute, contact an attorney. An attorney can work with an investigative team to determine who is at fault for the accident.
How Much Does an Eau Claire Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer Cost?
It’s not uncommon for injured folks to worry about how much a lawyer will cost to get them compensated after an injury from a drunk driver. After all, you may already be facing anxiety about mounting medical bills and wages lost from work due to the accident.
Well, we can set your mind at ease on that score. Hiring a lawyer usually doesn’t cost you anything out of pocket.
First, car accident lawyers almost always offer a free initial consultation to discuss the accident. During the consultation, you’ll explain what happened, who you think the at-fault party is, how you were injured, and what impact the injuries and harm have had on your life.
At the end, we will let you know whether we believe you have a case against the other party. If you do, and decide to hire us, you won’t have to pay out of pocket for our services.
Instead, our lawyers receive a contingency fee as payment for attorney fees in cases where a drunk driver caused the accident and injuries.
If you win a court case or receive a payout for your insurance claim, the lawyer receives a percentage as a contingency fee. If you don’t receive damages in court or an insurance claim payout, you generally owe nothing.
Contact an Eau Claire Drunk Driving Accident Lawyer
If you or a family member suffered injuries or other harm at the hands of a drunk driver, we can help. Nicolet Law Accident & Injury Lawyers will fight to see that justice is done. Our first consultation is always free and we work on a contingency fee basis.
Contact us today. You can call for your free case evaluation at (715) 835-5959 or write to us using our contact page, and we’ll see how we can help you.
Eau Claire Office
402 Graham Ave.
Eau Claire, WI 54701