5 Wisconsin motorcycle accident laws affecting your injury claim Insurance companies offer larger settlements to law firms who win in court.

How does Wisconsin law affect your motorcycle accident claim?

Wisconsin law determines liability in a negligence claim by proving that the defendant was at least 50% responsible for a motorcycle accident. If you get in a motorcycle crash, make sure to report all damages and exchange information as soon as possible. Under the Shared Fault Law, your compensation will be reduced if you are proven to be partially at fault. Keep in mind that personal injury claims must be filed within 3 years of the crash.

Guide to Wisconsin motorcycle accident laws

Motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable to accidents. What might be a fender bender in a car could be a life-threatening injury for someone on a motorcycle. Unfortunately, motorcyclists are also vulnerable when it comes to the settlements offered by insurance companies. Insurance companies always lowball their first claim. Sometimes the initial offer will not even cover the damages to the bike. Hiring an experienced trial attorney with countless car accident and motorcycle accident lawsuits under their belt is the best way to ensure you are properly compensated. 

4 requirements after a motorcycle accident under Wisconsin Law

Wisconsin is serious about the responsibilities of motorists after an accident. Failure to stop or remain at the scene of an accident, or to comply with other accident procedures, can result in fines or even jail time, as well as a felony conviction on your record. Failing to comply with these responsibilities will also be detrimental to any injury claim or lawsuit you file. Wisconsin law requires any motorist involved in an accident to do the following:

  1. Stop at the scene of the accident (or as close to it as possible)
  2. Render reasonable assistance to anyone injured in the accident, including calling 911 to get an ambulance on the scene
  3. Report the accident to the police or DMV
  4. Remain at the accident site and provide their name, address, vehicle registration (and driver’s license upon request) to the other driver and passengers involved

Determining liability for motorcycle injury under Wisconsin law

Motorcycle injury claims are premised on the defendant has been negligent in some way, and their negligence is directly responsible for your injuries. Liability hinges on negligence. With a negligence claim, there are four things you must show for the court to determine the other motorist is liable for your injuries/losses:

  1. The law required the defendant (the person being sued) to be reasonably careful. This is always a given with any motor vehicle accident case.
  2. The defendant was not careful. The defendant’s actions did not conform with the actions of a “reasonable person” Accident scene evidence and witness statements play a key role here.
  3. The defendant’s conduct on the road caused your injuries. It needs to be shown the defendant was at least 50% responsible for the accident.
  4. You suffered an injury or loss. If you didn’t get hurt and had no damages to your motorcycle, there is nothing for you to recover.

Determining liability is critical to the success of any motorcycle injury lawsuit. Skid marks on the road, debris from the accident, and environmental factors can disappear or change quickly. There may also be security camera video from nearby businesses that should be obtained before it’s taped over or deleted. This is why it’s important to have an experienced accident investigator on the scene as quickly as possible.

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Common motorcycle accident injuries

Depending on the severity of the accident, you and any injured passengers could be facing expensive treatments, surgeries, and other recovery costs. Medical expenses can rack up at a frightening pace for injuries like:

Wisconsin’s shared fault law

Wisconsin uses shared fault laws for vehicle accidents. This law acknowledges that all parties involved in a motor vehicle accident may share some blame, and reduces the amount awarded to the injured party by whatever percent they are found to have also been liable for the accident. For instance, if you were found to be 25% to blame for the accident that caused your injury the damages you are awarded will be reduced by 25%. In order to recover any damages, the other driver has to be shown to be at least 50% at fault for the accident.

How the cause affects the claim

In motor vehicle accident cases, it’s not unusual for a nearby property owner or business to have contributed to the accident. The homeowner who leaves grass clippings in the roadway that cause a motorcyclist to slide out, for example, or the landscaping business truck that drops gravel in the road that causes an accident. It’s also possible a defect or poor design in the motorcycle may have caused or contributed to your accident, in which case the manufacturer can be sued.

Warshafsky Law has extensive experience holding manufacturers accountable, including one high-profile motorcycle maker that was forced to re-evaluate their product and make leg guards standard safety equipment. Warshafsky Law always looks for all liable parties to ensure you get the maximum compensation possible for your injuries. This is why it’s so important to have a law firm with experienced accident investigators to determine the full scope of liability.

Wisconsin’s Statute of Limitations

In Wisconsin, you have 3 years from the date of your accident or discovery of your injury to file a personal injury claim. If the accident caused a death, you have 2 years from the date of death to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Let the deadline pass without filing a claim and you will be barred from doing so. Even if you think you’re on track to get a fair settlement from the insurance company you’re dealing with, you should consult an attorney—sooner rather than later.

Insurance companies are notorious for dragging their feet on settling claims, often with the goal of delaying your claim past the statute of limitations. They’ll try every trick in the book to minimize your claim or deny it altogether. We know exactly how they work because we have attorneys on staff who used to work for insurance companies. Keep in mind that when dealing with an insurance company, you’re not just dealing with the claims representative you talk to on the phone. Above the representative is an army of attorneys whose job is to look for any reason to deny a claim or minimize their payment on a claim. Trust us, you don’t want to go up against them without an attorney on your side.

Warshafsky battled insurance companies in court including:

  • State Farm
  • GEICO
  • Allstate
  • American Family
  • Progressive
  • Acuity
  • West Bend
  • Liberty Mutual
  • MetLife
  • Nationwide
  • Partners Mutual
  • The Hartford
  • Travelers
  • Erie
  • USAA
  • CSAA
  • National Gerneral
  • Mercury
  • Auto-Owners
  • MAPFRE
  • Kemper
  • Farmers
  • Auto Club
  • Artisan & Truckers Casualty Company
  • American Standard Insurance
  • Amica Mutual
  • Infinity Insurance

How long do personal injury negotiations take?

It all depends. It’s rare that the first settlement offer made by an insurance company adequately addresses the expenses you’ve incurred and the income you’ve lost as a result of the accident. There is usually a series of offers and counteroffers. To give you some idea, though, it can take anywhere from weeks to months just for an insurance company to contact you about a settlement. During this time, they’re investigating the accident and making a determination as to who was responsible. The insurance company of the at-fault driver will frequently drag out their investigation in an attempt to make the injured party anxious and more willing to accept whatever settlement they offer. You’re under no obligation to accept the first settlement offer an insurance company makes, and in most cases you’re better off not accepting it. Having a good personal injury attorney handling the negotiations is the best way to ensure you aren’t shortchanged by your insurance company.

What is the average payout for a motorcycle accident?

If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident, you either already have or will shortly be getting medical bills. Filing a personal injury claim may be the only way to get fair compensation. Since all cases have their own unique circumstances, the payouts on settlements and judgments vary significantly. The only research done on this is from a Thomson Reuters survey, which showed that between 1999 and 2006 the average motorcycle accident settlement was $73,700. Obviously, this dollar amount is virtually irrelevant at this point in time. Warshafsky Law has secured settlements and judgments for motorcycle accident injury victims well in excess of that $73,700 figure. Learn more about how we’ve helped injured motorcyclists get the compensation they deserve.

What can I do if my insurance company settlement offer is less than the value of my motorcycle?

It’s unfortunate, but if your bike was totaled in an accident the insurance company is only going to value your bike by the NADA (National Automobile Dealers Association) guide. They will not take into account any aftermarket parts, custom paint, or chroming that you’ve had done to your bike. And they’re definitely going to pay you what it would cost to replace the bike you currently own, just as you have it set up. In many cases, the settlement amount offered may be lower than what you still owe on the bike. The only way to ensure you get what your bike is truly worth (to you) is if you have gap insurance, which pays the difference of what the motorcycle is worth and what you owe on it, or if you have insured the bike for a certain amount (aka schedule or stated value). Many policies offer protection for accessories that have been added to the bike. Just be sure to keep your receipts for any accessories or aftermarket parts you’ve installed on your bike.

Can I file a wrongful death suit for the death of a loved one killed in a motorcycle accident?

It depends on your relationship with the deceased. If you are the surviving spouse, domestic partner, child, parent, or guardian of the deceased, you have the standing to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Siblings can also file the suit if the deceased leaves no spouse, domestic partner, or minor children. It is also possible for the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Wisconsin law defines “wrongful death” as one caused by “a wrongful act, neglect or default.” A wrongful death claim can seek financial compensation for medical expenses incurred by you or your loved one’s estate, funeral and burial costs, the wages and income the deceased would have earned if not for the untimely death, and loss of society and companionship (up to $500,000 for the loss of a minor; up to $350,000 for an adult). Although punitive damages are not awarded in Wisconsin wrongful death cases, the personal representative of the deceased can file a “survivorship claim,” which seeks damages for the pain and suffering the deceased endured from the moment of injury until death. There is no limit on the damages that can be awarded in these claims. If you’re considering filing a wrongful death claim, you should be aware that the statute of limitations requires the claim to be filed within two years of the date the accident that caused the death occurred, rather than the typical three-year time frame allowed for injury claims.

I was a passenger on a motorcycle that crashed. Is the driver liable for my injuries?

As an accident victim, you can file a personal injury claim against the operator of the motorcycle, the driver of the other vehicle (assuming another vehicle was involved), or both. If the motorcycle you were riding on was the only vehicle involved, it will likely be a negligence case. The exception is if some mechanical defect on the motorcycle caused the operator to crash. If the motorcycle you were on was hit by another vehicle, you can file a claim against both the other driver and the operator of the motorcycle (unless only one of the operators was at fault). If the driver who caused the crash speeds off and cannot be found, you obviously cannot file a claim against this driver. This often happens when a car cuts off a motorcycle in a way that results in a crash. In such cases, you may be able to file a claim for a hit and run accident under the motorcycle operator’s uninsured driver insurance policy.

Wisconsin motorcycle accident settlement amounts

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