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2 Strikes? 4 Strikes? 6 Strikes? More? May 1, 2008

Posted by Attorney Jonathan Groth in Personal Groth.
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6 comments

Who in Wisconsin’s Legislature is tough on drunk driving?  I’d like to know.

Personally, I don’t believe someone should be given the opportunity to cause a car accident after numerous convictions for drunk driving.  Isn’t that just common sense?  I think I am in the majority of public opinion on this issue.  Aren’t I?

If the majority of Wisconsin’s citizens agree then why doesn’t the Legislature do something?  Why let a drunk driver back on the road after numerous convictions?  Why not take him out of society?  A place called prison.

I admit this post is chock-full of indignation.  Recently, in Oconomowoc (Waukesha County) a “Doctor” (former M.D.: he had his license pulled for drug abuse and writing fake prescriptions) was driving while under the influence of Oxycodone, Ambien and Xanax and killed a teacher, her young daughter and her unborn child, not to mention sending others to the hospital with injuries.

The Journal Sentinel uncovered that Mark Benson had a history of driving while intoxicated dating back to 1993.  In fact, he was in court for drunk driving just a few days prior to the vehicular homicides.

Also, Mark Benson did NOT have auto insurance OR a license [UPDATE: 9-26-08 According to Mark Benson’s brother he DID have insurance].  So, I ask again, who in the legislature is tough on crime?  Will this finally be the wake up call to put drunk/intoxicated drivers behind bars?

Sadly, because the criminal system failed, the only solace for the victims of this collision may be in civil court.  The criminal court system failed by not putting Mark Benson in prison, now the family of the victims will only be able to get monetary compensation for the loss of their loved ones.  Hopefully, they will hire a personally injury attorney that IS tough on drunk drivers and does everything in his/her power to punish Mark Benson.  If anyone asks why there is a need for punitive damages just point them to this case.

Maybe … hopefully a Judge will put Mark Benson behind bars and he will pay his debt to society.  Hopefully, someone will take Mark Benson to civil court so he pays his debt to the victims.

www.jonpgroth.com

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The Difference Between Pre-Suit Negotiations and a Lawsuit April 20, 2008

Posted by Attorney Jonathan Groth in FAQ Personal Injury.
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A few weeks ago I mentioned the difference between pre-suit settlement negotiations and a lawsuit.  In short, hiring a lawyer does NOT mean that you have “filed a lawsuit.”    

When you are involved in a car accident or other personal injury matter you usually hire an attorney soon after the collision/incident.  Again, usually the victim of the car accident/personal injury is continuing to go to the doctor and the true extent of the injuries are not known (i.e. residual pain, whether bones completely heal or whether other future treatment is needed).   When a victim hires a lawyer this does NOT mean that a lawsuit has been filed. 

In Wisconsin, a lawsuit is filed when a Summons and Complaint are filed with a County’s Clerk of Courts.  Along with the Summons and Complaint a fee, set by the county, must be paid.  After the Summons and Complaint are filed and the fee is paid these documents must be served on the defendant(s).  From the date of this filing, depending on the County, it may take up to 1-2 years before the victim of a car accident’s case is decided by a jury. 

When a lawsuit is filed a Judge is assigned to the case.  One of the first things the Judge will do is schedule a hearing date to set the Schedule for the case.   At this point the Judge and Attorneys set deadlines for witnesses, depositions, expert doctor reports and motions.  (If a lawsuit were filed immediately after a collision it may be difficult to make sure that the injured victim gets full compensation allowed by law for all of his/her injuries given the Schedule set by the Judge.  In addition, once the lawsuit is filed the costs of the case can increase drastically.)

The odds of a personal injury victim having to file suit are low.  On average, maybe 90% of personal injury cases that I have handled settle before having to file a lawsuit.

In the end, that may be the benefit of hiring a lawyer.  You’ll have someone fighting for you from day to ensure you get the compensation that Wisconsin Law allows.  If need be you’ll have an advocate in court.   But, the odds are that the lawyer will help you avoid going to court to get compensation for your personal injuries.

www.jonpgroth.com

Jon Groth is a Wisconsin Personal Injury Attorney handling cases throughout Wisconsin and most recently in Fond du Lac, Sheboygan, Janesville, Kenosha and Wauwatosa.

Your Health Insurance’s Right to Subrogate Your Personal Injury Case April 18, 2008

Posted by Attorney Jonathan Groth in FAQ Personal Injury.
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The easy answer is: call your attorney as soon as you receive any documents from your health insurance, auto insurance or any government insurance (e.g. Medicaid or Medicare).

When someone is involved in an auto accident, motorcycle accident, slip and fall, truck accident or any personal injury for that matter their health insurance or auto insurance (med pay policy) will most likely have the right to get paid back from the at fault party.  

The best I can describe it is: Let’s say you are driving your car and a tree suddenly falls onto the road in front of you.  You hit the tree and are injured.  No one is at fault for the collision.  Your auto insurance policy (med pay) and health insurance will pay for the medical care.  They don’t expect anyone to pay them back.  (You can only sue God on shows like Ally McBeal or Boston Legal). 

On the other hand if you are driving a car and are rear ended by someone else then someone IS at fault.  The at-fault driver is responsible to pay your medical expenses (also see What is My Case Worth). 

Your health insurance or auto insurance (med pay policy) will pay the bills as they come due.  Your policy most likely says that they have a contractual duty to pay them.  But, your policy also probably says that they will pay with the understanding that once you obtain a recovery from the at-fault party you will pay health insurance or your auto insurance’s med pay back. 

In essence, they pay the bills so you can get the care you need.  They pay the bills so the doctors don’t come after you directly.  They pay the bills and then send “reminder letters” called Lien Letters or Subrogated Party letters to remind everyone that once the case is settled they want to get paid back.

I strongly encourage all of my clients to submit their bills to their health insurance first.  Then, if they have co-pays or out-of-pocket expenses submit these amounts to their auto insurance (med pay). 

You are probably wondering why the at-fault party doesn’t pay your medical expenses right away.  Good question.  I’ll discuss this later on.  The short answer is that the at-fault party in a collision won’t pay until they receive re-assurance that they will never have to pay again (i.e. a signed release from the injured party).  The at-fault insurance company almost never pays what they are responsible to pay until you are totally done treating.  See my other entry about making sure the at-fault party pays what the laws says they must pay.

www.jonpgroth.com

Jon Groth is a Wisconsin Personal Injury Attorney handling cases throughout Wisconsin and most recently in Beloit, Marinette, Racine, Manitowoc and Wausaukee.

What Is My Personal Injury Case Worth? April 15, 2008

Posted by Attorney Jonathan Groth in FAQ Personal Injury.
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This is one of the most commonly asked questions from victims of car accidents, motorcycle accidents or other personal injury matters.  Many times after trying to handle a case on their own someone will come to me and tell me what their health insurance paid, their wage loss and out of pocket expenses and say the insurance company wants to settle but they don’t know what the case is worth. 

My most common answer is an honest one: I need more information.   You see, we have to look at what the law says must be used to measure the losses associated with a car accident, for example.   In Wisconsin the law says that if someone causes a collision then he/she is responsible for all damages by paying a fair amount of money.   An accident victim must receive compensation for 1)past medical expenses, 2) past wage loss, 3) past pain suffering and inconvenience and other miscellaneousexpenses like mileage and damaged property.  If the injuries are more serious (permanent injuries) then Wisconsin law states that the accident victim must receive compensation for 1,2 and 3 along with 4) future medical expenses, 5) future wage loss and 6) future pain suffering and inconvenience etc. 

When potential clients ask what their case is worth it is difficult to give an education opinion.  It depends on the injuries, types of treatment, duration of treatment, venue and other more personal questions.  

For example, many personal injury victims don’t think to include mileage.  Or victims include only what health insurance paid and NOT the actual medical bill from the medical provider.  These items can often total large amounts of money that will change the compensation they are due under Wisconsin law.

I always tell potential clients that there is not an easy answer to this question.  I can say that I’ll do my best to make sure that they receive full compensation under the laws of Wisconsin.    

Later on I’ll talk about the difference between pre-suit settlement negotiations and a lawsuit.  In short, just because you hire a lawyer that does NOT mean that you have “filed a lawsuit.”  Actually the opposite is true.  Hopefully, by hiring a lawyer you’ll avoid going to court to get compensation for your personal injuries.

www.jonpgroth.com

Jon Groth is a Wisconsin Personal Injury Attorney handling cases throughout Wisconsin and most recently in Waukesha, Milwaukee, Two Rivers, Oconto and Saukville.

Why doesn’t the Insurance Company for the person that caused the accident pay my bills as I incur them? April 2, 2008

Posted by Attorney Jonathan Groth in FAQ Personal Injury.
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The short answer is that the insurance company doesn’t want to part with their money unless they have to.  Let me try to explain: 

When someone is involved in a car accident, slip and fall, dog bite or other personal injury matter there are a few questions that I am asked almost every time.  Let’s assume I received a call from a client who was in an auto accident.  The client tells me that they went to the hospital and the bills were submitted to the at-fault party’s insurance but weren’t paid.  Why?  It’s there fault.  Why submit the bills to the at-fault party’s insurance if they won’t pay them right away?  They are responsible, they said so at the scene of the collision. 

 Well, I agree with the idea behind all of these questions.  Ideally, the at-fault party would pay the bills as they are incurred.  The hospitals get their money right away and the victim’s credit doesn’t get ruined.  However my experience has shown that insurance companies won’t pay until they have a guarantee that the victim won’t ask for more money later (they also don’t want to pay hoping you’ll go away and not want to deal with the hastle of the insurance company run-around).  

So, when it is time to settle a personal injury claim, you need to make sure your attorney doesn’t leave any stone unturned.  In Wisconsin, you have the right to compensation for past pain and suffering, medical expenses, mileage to the doctor, past lost wages along with future pain and suffering, future loss of earnings capacity and future medical expenses. 

 So, how do you keep the bill collectors at bay while you recover from your injury?  Give me a call or email me and I’ll be happy to discuss this with you.  The quick answer is make sure you have health insurance, auto insurance and contact a personal injury attorney. 

Remember this, if you are hurt please go to a doctor.  Get help.   The most important thing is for you, the victim, to get better.

www.jonpgroth.com