A Wisconsin Personal Injury Case from Start to Finish
Experiencing an injury, especially a serious one, can be a stressful and frustrating situation. This stress and frustration can increase dramatically when the injury was caused by someone else, and this person or entity (e.g. the negligent party) refuses to pay for the damages related to the injury or offers a very low amount for the damages.
Wisconsin Personal Injury Timeline – What to Expect
Hiring an attorney to help deal with the negligent party can reduce some of the stress and frustration involved with a Wisconsin person injury case. However, hiring an attorney does not magically eliminate the time settling a personal injury can take, nor does it remove all barriers to obtaining payment for the damages caused by the injury. The time it takes to resolve a personal injury matter varies by case; it will usually take at least a year, but probably a lot longer, especially if a law suit has to be filed in court.
Many people injured due to another’s negligence have never had a personal injury claim and do not know the timeline of a case or what the process of a personal injury claim looks like. This article explains the typical life of a personal injury claim to ease the anxiety that can accompany the drawn-out, mysterious processes of a Wisconsin personal injury case.
1. How the Injury Affects a Personal Injury Claim
An injured person’s injury type, diagnosis, and necessary treatment are imperative to determining the value of a personal injury case. Unfortunately, it can take months and even years for a Doctor to determine what the injuries are, as well as the necessary treatment for them. This is important to know because very soon after the injury, the at fault party’s insurance could contact you to offer a dollar amount for the accident when you do not yet know what the total damages for the injury will be. Damages for the injury will not only be medical costs but also time off work due to the injury, mileage to and from Doctor’s appointments, pain and suffering, and other costs that were accrued because of the injury. Take the following scenario as an example:
While a Wisconsin personal injury case can arise in many scenarios, one of the most common is a car accident. Let’s say you are driving to work on an early morning and are stopped at a red light. When you look at your rearview mirror you see a car approaching and realize they are approaching too fast. You are not able to move your car out of the way, and the car hits you from behind – a classic rear-end collision. The police arrive at the scene, ensure everyone is ok, and give the driver that hit you a ticket for speeding and driving recklessly. Soon thereafter, you begin experiencing pain in your back and right arm, and realize you cannot walk without pain in your back and right leg. At this point, you might think that because the report states the other driver was at fault and was ticketed, a personal injury claim will be a straightforward and you can expect to be compensated for both your car’s damages and all of your medical treatment.
After a week of several Doctor’s appointments, continued pain in the back and right arm, an inability to walk without pain in your back and right leg, and not being able to return to work, you get a call from the at fault driver’s insurance company; they offer you $10,000 in compensation for the accident. As you consider accepting the money, you realize the bills from Doctor’s appointments thus far are almost $3,000. Further, your doctor has not yet figured out why you are having pain while walking, and you have several upcoming appointments to figure out the extent of your injuries.
At this point, if you accept the insurance money and your damages go above and beyond $10,000, you are out of luck and will have to cover the rest of the damages yourself.
If the case explained above was being handled by a personal injury attorney, they would inform you that because you have not reached an end of healing, accepting the $10,000 would be extremely risky, especially with the type of injuries detailed, as the treatment for the injuries alone could total more than $10,000.
2. What “End of Healing” Means for a Personal Injury Claim
Reaching an end of healing means reaching the point in which your Doctor determines you have reached the maximum improvement for the injuries. At this point, a Doctor will be able to say what your injuries were, any disability you will have due to the injuries, and any future treatment you will need. Reaching an end of healing can include attending many Doctor’s visits, physical therapy, imaging, etc.
The time required to reach an end of healing can be months or years and is dependent on the injuries. On average, the more severe the accident and injuries, the longer the time frame to reach an end of healing. During this time the damages from medical visits and being unable to work continue to accumulate.
3. Next Steps after End of Healing Established
Once end of healing has been reached, a personal injury attorney can begin to calculate the full value of the case. This process includes gathering all records relating to the damages of the injury. This means:
• obtaining updated medical records and medical billing records from all the places you have treated at
• obtaining personnel files from your employer to confirm your prior earnings
• determining how much time and wages you lost due to the injury
• gathering information from any entity that may have paid for your treatment, as they will likely want to get paid back
The time necessary to obtain these records varies, but could add at least 3-6 months to the case. After obtaining these records, the next step is to review all of the information to determine which costs are related to the injury and which are not. Depending on the amount of records received (which can often be over 500 pages) this can also add a few months to the case.
After reviewing all records related to the injury, a Wisconsin personal injury attorney can begin to draft a demand for the at fault party. A demand letter explains the following:
• details of the accident
• details of the injuries
• itemized list of all the damages
• a set dollar amount for which the injured person would be willing to settle the case
The at fault party rarely accepts the initial demand. Typically, there will be several back-and-forth communications to negotiate the settlement amount. This, again, adds more time to the case. At this point, most of the leg work has been completed, so the time added for negotiations should not add too much time to the case, but it depends on the speed that emails or calls are returned, and the size of the gap between the initial offer and the counter-offer.
Although the at fault party can negotiate and the parties can eventually get to an agreement, the at fault party can also decline liability and/or refuse to offer a reasonable amount for the case. When at this juncture, a Wisconsin personal injury attorney typically files a law suit in court on behalf of their client.
Filing a Personal Injury Law Suit in Wisconsin
If a law suit has to be filed for a personal injury case, at the very least this will add six more months to the timeline, but more likely a year or more, especially if additional negotiations do not conclude in an agreement. Why so much time? Many processes occur before and after filling a law suit, and they all add up.
Before filing suit, the attorney must research any additional parties to the case. For example, if the injury is due to a fall at an apartment complex, the attorney must determine if the at fault party is the owner of the complex. If they are not, then the attorney will likely want to include the owner of the building in the law suit.
Further, the attorney must draft a complaint, which is the initial document that begins the law suit. This document is served upon the at fault party, and any additional party that the attorney thinks may also have a legal responsibility for the injuries.
After this complaint is filed, the at fault parties have 30-45 days to respond to the complaint. There is a range to respond because the time allotted a Defendant to respond depends on whether they are a person, a company, or other entity.
Once a case is filed with the court, many further processes and exchanges of information must occur. To name a few:
• Motions to dismiss, attempts by a defendant to get the law suit thrown out
• Discovery requests, documents sent to the opposing party in order to gather as much information as possible regarding the circumstances surrounding the injury
• Opinion requests from doctors or experts. These opinions are obtained in order to provide proof for the case. For example, an opinion letter from the doctor can indicate the injuries sustained from an accident, future treatment, and cost of past and future treatment.
Most of these additional processes that require a response from the opposing party have defined times, about a month on average, for which the opposing party has to respond by.
After the complaint is filed, the Court will also set a case schedule. This schedule will determine the deadlines for several processes like discovery, motions, and expert reports. This schedule can be set before or after some of the procedures detailed above occur.
During the entire time the above processes occur, there is always a possibility of negotiation, settlement, and/or rescheduling. If further negotiations do not come to fruition, and the Court does not change the schedule, then the trial occurs as scheduled.
Overall the process of resolving a personal injury claim can be very complicated and take a long time. From the instant a person is injured to the conclusion of the case, whether it is a settlement between parties outside of court or a decision after a trial, it can take one to three years or more before the case is closed.
Lastly, to add to the confusion, not all of the processes detailed above occur in all cases. In situations where an attorney knows the at fault party is denying liability or will not pay a reasonable amount, there may not be a demand letter. Other case-specific scenarios can also cause some of the processes to take longer or never occur.
Communicate With Your Attorney
Personal injury claim processes vary by case and therefore time frames can differ. Therefore, it is important to communicate with your personal injury attorney if you have concerns or questions about your case. The personal injury attorney handling your case will be the best person to inform you of the case timeline, the step your case is in, why the case has taken the time it has, among others. Although your attorney may not be able to inform you of exactly how much longer the case may take, they will be able to give you information on what steps have been completed and provide you with an idea of how much more time your case will continue for.
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