Below are some initial questions many personal injury, products liability, and medical malpractice clients have when they first contact Laufenberg, Stombaugh & Jassak, S.C.. In the aftermath of a serious injury, victims and their family members want accurate and objective legal answers quickly. The information below will hopefully address many initial concerns you have. If you don’t find the answers here, contact us for answers to more complex questions or questions specific to your case. There is never a charge for the initial consultation.
- What is the responsibility of a product manufacturer or seller?
- What if the user of the product is careless?
- How do I know if I have a product liability case?
- How does a lawyer decide whether to take my product liability case?
- What do I need to do if I think I have a product liability claim?
- How do I pay a lawyer to handle my product liability case?
- What are the chances that a product liability case will be successful?
- What is medical malpractice?
- How do I know if a health care provider has committed malpractice?
- How do I find an expert willing to review my case?
- How does a lawyer decide whether to take my case?
- How long do I have to file a medical malpractice claim?
- How do I pay for a lawyer to handle my case?
- How long does it take to complete a medical malpractice case?
- Are medical malpractice cases frequently settled?
- What are the chances of success if my case goes to trial?
- Am I required to have automobile insurance?
- What kinds of automobile insurance are there?
- What other kinds of automobile insurance are available?
- What is Liability Coverage?
- What is Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
- What is Underinsured Motorist Coverage?
- What is Medical Expense Coverage?
- What is Property Damage Coverage?
- What is Collision Coverage?
- How much insurance coverage should I have?
- Who will be covered by my policy?
- What is a Personal Injury claim?
- How do I know if I have a Personal Injury claim?
- If the accident is partly my fault can I still have a claim?
- If I have a personal injury claim do I have to go to court?
- Q: What is the responsibility of a product manufacturer or seller?
A: Under Wisconsin law, the manufacturer and seller of a product have a responsibility to consider the safety of the user in making decisions about product design and function. If a product is “defective” or if there is a failure to use reasonable care in the design and manufacturing process, the manufacturer and seller will be responsible for injuries which result from the use of the product.
- Q: What if the user of the product is careless?
A: Under Wisconsin law, the user of a product has a responsibility to use reasonable care in handling or using a product. This includes a responsibility to follow the manufacturer’s directions and observe warnings. However, a manufacturer/seller must take account of “foreseeable misuse” in designing a product. Sometimes, injuries result from a combination of improper design and improper use. In these situations, a jury may be required to “compare” responsibility for the injury.
- Q: How do I know if I have a product liability case?
A: An experienced product liability lawyer will have the ability to evaluate the circumstances of the injury and, with the help of engineering and design consultants, determine whether there is a product liability claim.
- Q: How does a lawyer decide whether to take my product liability case?
A: Product liability cases often require a substantial investment of time and money to investigate and prosecute. As a result, experienced product liability attorneys will be concerned about the seriousness of the resulting injuries and their effects. The amount of recoverable damages is an important factor in the decision to accept a product liability case.
- Q: What do I need to do if I think I have a product liability claim?
A: If you think you have a product liability claim, you should contact an experienced lawyer immediately. It is critically important to preserve evidence which might be relevant to evaluating and proving your case.
- Q: How do I pay a lawyer to handle my product liability case?
A: Most experienced product liability lawyers accept these cases on the basis of a contingency fee contract. This means you do not pay an attorney’s fee unless there is a recovery on your case. The fee will then be a percentage of the amount recovered. Because of the investment of time and money required to investigate and prove product liability claims, the percentage charged may be higher than in other personal injury cases.
- Q: What are the chances that a product liability case will be successful?
A: The facts of each case are different and success often depends on the experience and ability of the lawyer chosen to investigate and prosecute the case. Be sure to ask about the experience and track record of the lawyer in handling product liability cases before making a decision about which lawyer should handle your case.
- Q: What is medical malpractice?
A: Not every bad result from medical treatment is medical malpractice. Medicine is not an exact science, and some risks of medical treatment are unavoidable. However, when bad results happen because a health care provider has failed to follow accepted standards of medical care, there may be a basis for a medical malpractice case.
- Q: How do I know if a health care provider has committed malpractice?
A: Unless the provider openly admits to having failed to follow accepted standards of care (a rare event, in our experience), whether there has been malpractice can only be determined by having the records reviewed by a qualified health care provider with experience treating the condition involved.
- Q: How do I find an expert willing to review my case?
A: An experienced lawyer may agree to investigate your case. Lawyers with experience handling medical malpractice cases will have access to qualified experts who will provide an objective opinion about the quality of care provided and its consequences.
- Q: How does a lawyer decide whether to take my case?
A: Medical malpractice cases require a significant investment of time and money and are vigorously defended by malpractice insurance companies. In Wisconsin, there may be no right to recover for medical malpractice if it results in death to a single (unmarried) adult. Wisconsin law also places limits on awards which can be made for some consequences of medical malpractice. As a result, experienced medical malpractice lawyers must look at such things as: How serious was the injury which resulted from the treatment? Who has been affected by the injury? Has there been a permanent impairment of the ability to earn a living? Will the injury require significant future care? Most experienced malpractice attorneys will be willing to discuss these issues with you without charge.
- Q: How long do I have to file a medical malpractice claim?
A: In Wisconsin, there is a limit to the time within which a malpractice case must be filed. While this time is typically 3 years from the date of injury, the determination of the precise time available is subject to several qualifications and conditions. An experienced medical malpractice lawyer can help determine how much time is available in a particular case. To be safe, you should not delay in seeking legal advice if you think you may have a medical malpractice claim.
- Q: How do I pay for a lawyer to handle my case?
A: In Wisconsin, lawyers are required to offer you the option of paying an hourly rate for their services in handling a medical malpractice case. Because most people who have suffered injuries resulting from malpractice cannot afford to pay a lawyer on this basis, experienced malpractice lawyers will offer to handle the case on the basis of a contingent fee agreement. Under such an agreement, the lawyer gets paid only if there isa recovery on your claim. The fee is typically a percentage of the amount recovered, and Wisconsin law places limits on these percentages in medical malpractice cases.
- Q: How long does it take to complete a medical malpractice case?
A: The first step is to confirm that there is a valid claim by having a qualified expert review the records. Depending on the complexity of the case, this can take several weeks to several months. When a valid claim has been confirmed, a lawsuit will be started which will permit the experienced medical malpractice lawyer to take the testimony of defendant health care providers under oath. Again, depending on how complex the case is, it may take several months to more than a year to prepare the case for trial.
- Q: Are medical malpractice cases frequently settled?
A: Because of the limits placed by Wisconsin law on some losses resulting from medical malpractice, and because medical malpractice insurance companies aggressively defend against such claims, experienced malpractice lawyers prepare each case as if it will go to trial. The best opportunity to settle a medical malpractice case occurs after all preparations for trial have been completed. A higher percentage of medical malpractice cases go to trial than other types of personal injury cases.
- Q: What are the chances of success if my case goes to trial?
A: In Wisconsin, up to 80% of all medical malpractice trials are decided in favor of the healthcare provider. However, cases handled by experienced medical malpractice attorneys have the best chance of success at trial. It is ,therefore, important to have your case handled by a lawyer who has a track record of success in settling and trying medical malpractice cases.
- Q: Am I required to have automobile insurance?
A: Yes. Effective January, 2010, Wisconsin law requires all drivers in Wisconsin to have automobile insurance.
- Q: What kinds of automobile insurance are there?
A: Effective January, 2010, Wisconsin law requires that insurance companies provide three kinds of coverage to persons who purchase automobile insurance: 1) Liability coverage; and 2) Uninsured Motorist coverage; 3) Underinsured Motorist coverage.
- Q: What other kinds of automobile insurance are available?
A: Most insurance companies offer Property Damage, Collision and Medical Expense coverage in addition to the mandated coverages identified above.
- Q: What is Liability Coverage?
A: This insurance will pay damages suffered by persons who are injured as a result of your negligence.
- Q: What is Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
A: This insurance will pay your damages if you are injured by a person who does not have automobile liability insurance.
- Q: What is Underinsured Motorist Coverage?
A: This insurance will pay if the damages you suffer are greater than the amount of automobile liability insurance covering the person at fault for your injuries. However, whether this coverage applies to a particular accident will depend on the language of the particular policy.
- Q: What is Medical Expense Coverage?
A: This insurance will pay medical expenses for the treatment of injuries you or others covered by your policy suffer in an auto accident without regard to “fault” for those injuries.
- Q: What is Property Damage Coverage?
A: This insurance pays for damage to another person’s vehicle or property caused by your negligence.
- Q: What is Collision Coverage?
A: This insurance pays for damage to your vehicle without regard to who is at fault for the accident.
- Q: How much insurance coverage should I have?
A: Wisconsin law requires that insurance companies provide liability and uninsured motorist coverage for $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. These minimum amounts are scheduled to change effective January, 2010 to $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident. However, these amounts of coverage are often inadequate to fully pay for the consequences of injuries suffered in automobile accidents. We recommend that our clients purchase coverage with limits as high as possible within their personal budget restrictions. We also recommend that persons with significant personal assets consider an “excess” or “umbrella” policy which will provide additional coverage for catastrophic injuries and that they purchase “excess” uninsured (UM) and underinsured (UIM) coverage to protect their families.
- Q: Who will be covered by my policy?
A:Policies issued to individuals in Wisconsin provide coverage for the “named insured” as well as other “residents” of that person’s household. In addition, persons occupying or using a vehicle insured by the policy with the permission of the owner will also have coverage. There are differences in the language used in some policies which can affect the scope of coverage.An experienced personal injury lawyer can help determine whether coverage exists for a particular person or accident. We have been representing victims of auto accidents in Wisconsin for over 30 years and have extensive experience helping our clients win insurance coverage disputes.
- Q: What is a Personal Injury?
A: Personal injury law, or tort law, protects the rights of victims of negligence, recklessness, malpractice, and the inaction of others. A Personal Injury is any physical or mental injury to a person as a result of someone’s negligence or harmful act. Sometimes personal injury may be referred to as bodily injury.
- Q: How do I know if I have a Personal Injury claim?
A: To have a personal injury case, you must be able to show that you have been injured. This may be a physical injury or it may be an emotional injury. In addition, you must be able to show that someone else (the defendant) is at fault for your injury under a negligence, strict liability or intentional misconduct theory. In some cases, it may be necessary for you to show that the other party is more at fault for the injury than you are.
- Q: Can you guarantee a successful case?
A:We will not take your case unless we think it has a good chance of success. Even so, there are no guarantees. All we can do is give you a fair assessment of the outcome of your case based on our experience, the injury itself, and what jury verdicts have been achieved in cases similar to yours.Any attorney that offers a “guarantee” is behaving unethically, and you should re-think your decision to retain his services.
- Q: If the accident is partly my fault can I still have a claim?
A: Even if an accident or injury was partially your fault you still may have a claim based on the concept of Comparative Negligence or Contributory Negligence. The term “contributory negligence” is used to describe the actions of an injured person that may have also caused that person’s own injuries. For example, a person who ignores a “Caution – Wet Floor” sign and slips and falls in the supermarket may be found to have been careless and partially at fault for any injuries suffered. The term “comparative negligence”, means that the fault of all parties is compared and the amount of the recovery for damages sustained by the injured victim is reduced by the percentage of his or her own fault. In this way, each person is held accountable for the amount of damages that they “caused”. If you are injured by the negligent action of another, but you contributed to the accident by your failure to exercise reasonably prudent care, you are guilty of contributory negligence. You may also be guilty of a form of contributory negligence if you voluntarily expose yourself to danger – by riding a roller coaster without wearing a seat belt, or working with a neighbor’s power saw or other dangerous tool if you are inexperienced or fail to use a safety guard.
- Q: If I have a personal injury claim do I have to go to court?
A: Most personal injury cases are settled out of court between opposing lawyers or by the insurance company. If a case does go to trial you most likely will have to appear so that your testimony can be heard.