A drunk driver is a hazard to everyone with whom he or she shares the road in Wisconsin. Unfortunately, despite the obvious risks involved—and despite the fact that driving drunk is illegal under Wisconsin law—far too many people still choose to drink and drive.
If you have been injured by a drunk driver, it is important to understand what comes next. It is also important to understand what won’t happen unless you take action. This is a situation that many people find confusing—and understandably so—but it is essential that you make smart decisions so that you can protect your legal rights.
So, what happens if you are injured by a drunk driver in Wisconsin? Here’s an overview of what you need to know:
Hopefully, the driver who hit you will receive a ticket at the accident scene. In Wisconsin, drunk drivers can be charged with either: (i) operating while intoxicated (OWI); or, (ii) driving with a prohibited alcohol concentration (PAC). Both charges carry similar penalties, and drunk drivers can face enhanced penalties when they cause motor vehicle accidents resulting in injuries.
If the drunk driver who hit you receives an OWI or PAC charge, his or her case will proceed in Wisconsin’s criminal justice system. A judge will preside over the drunk driver’s trial; and, unless the drunk driver negotiates a plea bargain, the drunk driver will face the very real possibility of a life-altering conviction. However, even if the drunk driver gets convicted of OWI or PAC, this won’t result in you receiving the financial compensation you deserve.
To seek the financial compensation you deserve, you will need to hire a lawyer to represent you. While OWI and PAC cases are handled in Wisconsin’s criminal courts, seeking just compensation involves filing a civil claim. This is an entirely separate proceeding, and you can (and should) file a civil claim regardless of whether the drunk driver faces any criminal consequences.
When you hire a lawyer to represent you, your lawyer will work quickly to gather the evidence needed to prove your legal rights. Even if the drunk driver is clearly responsible for your injuries, you still need proof to file a claim. While the police report and the driver’s OWI or PAC ticket can be helpful, they are not enough to prove liability on their own. Your lawyer can explain this in greater detail, and your lawyer can collect the evidence you need—as long as you start the process in time.
While some drunk driving accident cases go to civil court, most get resolved through the insurance companies. Auto insurance covers drunk driving accidents; and, if the driver who hit you has liability insurance, recovering your losses will most likely involve dealing with his or her insurance company.
But, there are a variety of other possibilities as well. For example, your auto insurance policy may also apply, and you may have a claim against the drunk driver’s employer or another third party. Once your lawyer completes his or her investigation, your lawyer will be able to determine which claim (or claims) you need to file in order to recover the financial compensation you deserve.
In addition to proving that the driver who hit you was drunk, your lawyer will also need to prove the long-term costs of your injuries. You should not rely on the insurance companies to tell you how much you are entitled to recover. When you hire an experienced lawyer to represent you, your lawyer will seek full compensation for all of your current and future injury-related losses.
This includes losses such as:
Once you know how much you are entitled, then you can make an informed decision about settlement—if a settlement offer is on the table. If you do not receive an acceptable settlement offer from the insurance companies, then your lawyer will fight to recover just compensation on your behalf in court.
If you need to know more about what happens after you are injured by a drunk driver in Wisconsin, we encourage you to contact us promptly.
For a FREE, no-obligation case evaluation, call 608-268-0268 or tell us how we can reach you online today. We serve clients across Wisconsin, including Madison and other areas.
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We live in Friendship, Wisconsin, and Boller & Vaughan came to our doorstep to discuss our mother’s wrongful death claim on a Saturday morning. Not only were we pleased with the large recovery, we were so thankful to have lawyers who were willing to explain to us every twist and turn along the way. It is great to know there is a law firm that will fight for the rights of elderly people all over Wisconsin.
Mr. Boller and Ms. Vaughan were incredible in working on my case and my daughter’s case. I was out of work and in the hospital with a new baby. Mr. Boller and Ms. Vaughan protected our rights and it was a pleasure to work with them. I hope never to be in another motor vehicle accident, however, if I am and I am injured, I will contact Boller & Vaughan immediately.
I was referred to Michelle through a friend. I have never had a better experience. It took a little over a year to get my settlement but the staff there stayed in constant contact and kept me in the loop. Oh, and Michelle actually got me MORE money than we discussed. I will refer anyone to this firm. Words cannot do justice the thanks that I have for Michelle and her staff (Mary especially) thank you guys so much!
After my husband died as a result of a motor vehicle accident, Boller & Vaughan spent countless hours talking with me, meeting with me in person, and making sure that I was okay. The drunk driver who hit us did not have any insurance, and we had to make a claim through our own insurance. Boller & Vaughan was fantastic at explaining the law to me and the handling of our claims.
After my son was injured in a daycare setting, Ms. Vaughan took the time to thoroughly investigate our case and my son’s injuries. Michele was approachable and had answers to our questions. Talking with her helped to relieve many of our anxieties.