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Wisconsin’s New Insurance Laws September 24, 2009

Posted by Attorney Jonathan Groth in FAQ Personal Injury.
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It’s a common question lately. When do the new laws go into effect?

Some go into effect next year.

The Journal Sentinel wrote a story about this a while ago.

Motorists will need to have a policy providing at least $50,000 in bodily injury coverage for one person, $100,000 in bodily injury coverage per accident and $15,000 to cover property damage. The current limits are $25,000, $50,000 and $10,000, respectively. The higher limits go into effect Jan. 1.

Your new policy or renewed policy must include underinsured motorist coverage starting November 1, 2009.

Underinsured motorist coverage, which now is optional, will be required for state drivers on new or renewed policies starting Nov. 1.

Auto insurance will be required starting June 1, 2010.

I hope this answers some of those questions.

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Stories From An Auto Accident Trial September 4, 2009

Posted by Attorney Jonathan Groth in Personal Injury Law, Wisconsin Auto Accidents.
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As I’m sure you can imagine I have lots of little stories from my trial last week.  One thing I wanted to mention is the Hanson case.  Hanson v. American Family Insurance, 294 Wis.2d 149, 716 N.W.2d 866 (2006). 

Hanson is a case decided by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.  In short, it says that an injured victim of a car accident (or the victim of someone elses’s negligence or intentional acts in general) has the right to recover for medical care even if that care was unnecessary.  It’s recoverable so long as the injured person initially went to the doctor in good faith and then followed the doctor’s orders.

In Hanson, the injured party went to the doctor in good faith (i.e. used ordinary care in choosing the doctor).  The doctor then performed a surgery.  The at fault insurance company, American Family Insurance, hired a doctor to say that the surgery was unnecessary.  American Family said they should not be held responsible for unnecessary treatment.  The injured victim argued he simply relied on his doctor.

So, when deciding who should pay for this unnecessary treatment the Wisconsin Supreme Court said it should not be the injured victim.   The insurance company is in a better position to pay for it. They caused the initial harm, they should pay for all damages that flow from that initial harm.

We had a nice long discussion with the Judge about this case at trial.  Interesting stuff.

Jon Groth is a Wisconsin Personal Injury Attorney handling cases throughout Wisconsin and most recently in West AllisSheboygan,  Plymouth,  and Germantown.

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Who Is Looking? June 4, 2009

Posted by Attorney Jonathan Groth in Personal Injury Law, Wisconsin Auto Accidents.
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What happens if a medical facility releases your medical records to the general public?  What happens if an insurance company releases medical records to the general public?

Well, according to Section 146.84 Wisconsin Statutes that facility or person may be liable for tens of thousands of dollars in addition to actual damages and ACTUAL attorneys fees.  Believe me, that can be a lot of money.

I found an article from a few years ago written by a couple Michael, Best and Friedrich attorneys concerning this issue.  I hope it will continue to be available.    Finerty and Barlament state:

This statute may apply to entities other than health care entities. The statute’s penalty provisions for example, Wis. Stat. § 146.84, apply to “[a]ny person, including the state or any political subdivision of the state” who violates Wis. Stat. § 146.82 or 146.83. Wis. Stat. § 146.84(1)(b), (bm). Similarly, penalties (including a fine of up to $25,000 and up to 9 months in prison) can be applied to “[w]hoever” obtains certain confidential information under false pretenses or with knowledge that the disclosure is unlawful and not reasonably necessary to protect another from harm. Wis. Stat. § 146.84(2)(a).

I was thinking about this after a client asked me what protection she/he has when medical records are released to an at-fault insurance provider.  In all honesty the liability of the company who discloses to the public certain records depends on the authorization that was signed and the particular facts of the release of those records.  But, if a company or hospital releases records improperly at least this statute exists as a pretty significant penalty.

Worse than Drunk Driving? November 27, 2008

Posted by Attorney Jonathan Groth in Wisconsin Auto Accidents.
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According to a recent story by Milwaukee’s ABC affiliate teens who drive while texting have a reaction time that is worse than those who are under the influence of alcohol or marijuana:

A study found that reaction time for teens who text as they drive slows by 35 percent, which is worse than if they were under the influence of alcohol or marijuana.

According to the report 46% of teens admit to driving while texting.  Knowing teens, because I was one once, my guess is that number is low.

Senator Lasee will introduce a bill in January 2009 calling for fines for offenders and even jail time if someone dies because of a texting driver. This legislation failed last year.

Teen drivers need to consider the consequences of their actions.  Depending on the facts of the collision I don’t think verdicts including punitive damages against texting drivers are too far in the future.

Wisconsin’s Punitive Damages law states at Section 895.85 Wis. Stats.:

“The plaintiff may receive punitive damages if evidence is submitted showing that the defendant acted maliciously toward the plaintiff or in an intentional disregard of the rights of the plaintiff.”

How does this apply to teens who text?  Well, if a teen knows of the dangers of texting or has had near misses or accidents while texting then punitive damages may be possible under Wisconsin law.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court stated:

We conclude that the statute’s requirement that the defendant act ‘in an intentional disregard of the rights of the plaintiff’ necessitates that the defendant act with a purpose to disregard the plaintiff’s rights or be aware that his or her conduct is substantially certain to result in the plaintiff’s rights being disregarded.”

Parents watch your kids.  American Family offers a teen safe driver program.  More about this later.

www.jonpgroth.com

 Jon Groth is a Wisconsin Personal Injury Attorney handling cases throughout Wisconsin and most recently in Milwaukee, West Bend, New Berlin and Wauwatosa.

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