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NON-OBSTACLES TO RECOVERY FOR YOUR INJURIES
But I didn't Hurt Right Away. The accident is over, and while you may have just had the fright of your life, you seem fine. When the other driver or the police officer asks you if you need medical help, you say you are fine. No ambulance is called, no record is made of your injuries.
But the next day... you can barely move. Is it too late to make a claim for your injuries? Of course not.
Often the body is not in immediate pain. A very large percentage of serious injuries, are not apparent immediately. Even life threatening brain injuries sometimes do not manifest themselves for hours. This is why it is standard protocol for most emergency rooms to issue instructions as to monitoring patients for a deterioration of there symptoms when sending someone home who might have suffered a brain injury.
As it is universally understood that many types of injuries will not become symptomatic for hours after an accident, a statement to someone at the scene that you are "fine" is not a significant obstacle to recovering for your injuries.
But it was several weeks before I started having problems with my back, my neck. Again this is a common occurrence, especially if a person had other more obvious pain at the time of the accident. Many times, the body only notices the worst pain. If you have been in an accident, you may have scrapes and bruises all over your body. You may be stiff all over and everything seems to ache. In such situation, even major injury to your neck or back, may not be focused on. In some cases, it may take weeks for a body part which has been weakened by the injury, to snap.
But there was Only Minor Vehicle Damage. Injury in a motor vehicle accident comes as a result of primarily two things:
But I was wearing my seatbelt. Seatbelts saves lives, by reducing the risk of hitting the windshield or being thrown from the vehicle. However, by holding the waste and one shoulder of the person in a fixed position, it actually increases the acceleration/deceleration forces on the head, neck and back. In addition, the twisting that occurs because only one shoulder is held stationary, adds rotational or centrifical force to the equation, which has even greater potential for injury. By all means, wear your seatbelt. But understand that seatbelts do not eliminate all injuries, and can in fact be the cause of much different injuries than would have occurred without having worn them. Such injuries are normally not as life threatening as hitting your head on the windshield or being thrown from a vehicle, but they can still be severe and disabling.
But I wasn't wearing my seatbelt. By not wearing your seatbelt, in Wisconsin, you will have violated the law and open up an argument from the defense that you have contributed to your injuries and that your fault in doing so should be compared to the defendants in determining your recovery. However, the extent to which your recovery can be reduced for failing to wear your seatbelt cannot exceed 15%, and as stated above, many of the injuries which occur in a motor vehicle accident would not have been eliminated by wearing a seatbelt.
But I didn't hit my head. A brain can be injured, without hitting your head. This is because the rapid acceleration/deceleration forces occuring in a car accident, create impact damage from the brain being propelled against the sharp and bony inside of the skull, and because of a process of shearing. Shearing occurs because one of the primary building block of the brains structure, cells called axons, run through layers of brain tissue of different densities. These layers will move at different speeds when the brain is thrown about, causing the axons to be displaced and torn.
But it was my best friend or a family member who was driving. While it is terribly uncomfortable to make a claim against a close friend or family member, in most cases, such claims are against such persons insurance company. In fact in Wisconsin, claimants are lucky in that they can directly sue the insurance company and are not even required to name the other party. Certainly, if the claim is small, avoiding the disruption in personal relationships may be more important than receiving a recovery. But when lives are altered and disability results, a claim should be pursued. Most people have insurance because they understand that they might make a mistake behind the wheel, and that it is there responsibility to assure that a person injured by such mistake is compensated. That is what insurance is for. Making a claim against someones insurance company, is not an assertion that they are bad people, or even that they behaved badly. It is merely a claim that some human being, made a mistake and that because they acted responsibly beforehand and had insurance, you have a right to collect what you have lost.
But the other driver was uninsured. If you have insurance on your car, or the car in which you were riding is insured, then an uninsured wrongdoer does not prevent you from recovering for your injuries. Any motor vehicle insurance policy sold in the state of Wisconsin includes "uninsured" motorist coverage. This coverage allows the injured party to collect from there own insurance company for damages caused by the uninsured driver. There is also another, equally important coverage, which unfortunately is not sold on all policies. This is called "underinsured" motorist coverage. Where the "uninsured" motorist coverage allows you to recover if the other driver had no insurance, "underinsured" motorist coverage allows you to recover if the other driver didn't have enough insurance to compensate you for all your injuries, i.e., the other driver was "underinsured."
But I don't want my insurance to go up. Generally, automobile insurance is rated based upon the conduct of the insured as a driver. If an accident was not the fault of the claimant, then the accident does not indicate that the claimant is a poor driver and should have no effect on rates. Such is not always the case, but even when it isn't, another company will probably have no reluctance to insure you at comparable rates to the company you were with. If you have a major injury and disability, the effect on your insurance rates will be minor relative to the size of your recovery. One should never fail to pursue a significant claim because of concerns about your own insurance rates going up.
But I don't want to be one of those people who are stirring up law suits. One of the fundamental premises of the U.S. Constitution, is the right to be compensated when someone else's mistake or wrongdoing has harmed you. This principle goes back almost a thousand years and has always been at the core of our society and legal system. And we believe that the United States is a better and safer place to live, because of this principal. Why is it that stairs have hand rails, most drivers stay close to the speed limit, airbags and seatbelts are in cars, and cars aren't made that explode on rear end collisions anymore? Our civil justice system, compensates fairly those who are injured, from the pockets of those who were at fault. Such system acts as an effective deterrent to unsafe behavior, maintenance and design. Frivolous lawsuits are rare. The significant and meaningful penalties built into the law to punish any claimant or lawyer who brings such an action, are likewise a deterrent to avoid frivolous clamis. If you are reading this page, we doubt that your claim is frivilous..
While the news media loves the sensational story of millions for hot coffee, the reality is the juries which award those types of damages have the opportunity to hear all of the facts, and judge the conduct of the parties fairly and equitably.
The real injustice is a life that is destroyed by the wrongful conduct of another, who care so little about safety, that there. is little or no insurance to compensate the victim.. The hysteria about too many lawsuits is the result of the insurance lobby spreading half truths, in an effort to increase its profits. Insurance companies should increase their profits by selling more insurance. They could do this by lobbying for higher mandatory insurance limits but don't. Instead they fuel this tort reform campaign to increase their profits by paying fewer claims.
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