Milwaukee Personal Injury Firm on the Radio
Liability, the Law and YOU Featuring Frank Crivello and Victor Harding
Paul: Good Afternoon and Welcome to Newstalk 1130 WISN, I’m Paul Kronforst, and this is liability the law and you and this is going to be fun it's our first time on the air, it’s our first show, and I’m joined with your hosts from the Warshafsky personal injury Law Firm: attorneys Victor Harding and Frank Crivello are in studio. Gentlemen good afternoon
Frank: Good Afternoon Paul
Victor: Good Afternoon Paul
Paul: Welcome to the show. Our listeners might recognize some of the voices. Especially Vic, you’ve got that low radio voice.
Victor: We do advertise on the radio.
Paul: Exactly. You may have heard some of their commercials right before the show in fact, where we’ve talked about some examples some things that’ll come up in today’s show. Before we talk about the show, before we talk about the law and liability let's talk about the Warshafsky personal injury Law Firm – over 60 years now the law firm goes back. Let’s talk a little bit on the elevator speech Vic and Frank if you could what you guys are all about.
Victor: Well Frank's better at this than I am. We started out with Warshafsky law firm starting back in the late fifties. Ted Warshafsky was the senior partner, he started the law firm, he was a fabulous personal injury lawyer so he did all of his life. He was probably one of the best cross examiners and known nationally.
Paul: And that started in Milwaukee?
Frank: It did. Ted started this Law Firm because when he got out of law school and Ted had a real colorful background. He had gone to school, he joined the Marines right around World War 2 time, when he was in the Marines he decided he wanted to come back and he couldn't figure out what to do. First went to school to study a little bit English went to school study a little bit business and decided maybe I'll try law, and that's what he said his passion was right there at the University of Wisconsin Law School. I think was interesting was Ted's career set on the path what we are doing now at the Warshafsky firm. Ted used to tell the story about how he began, he worked on the south side of Milwaukee, and there was a Latino population there that was under-served by the legal community in Milwaukee. One of the things that drove Ted crazy was that there were lawyers would come into the area and they were charging several of the individuals living there for doing such simple things as notarizing documents. They would charge $25 for just a signature of a notary document. It drove Ted crazy. He said how can you take advantage of these people when they need something as simple as a document? He said he would do that for free and I'm going to help you out, I’m going to work pro bono on some of these things for you and I hope that’ll help you get your feet under you. That was sort of the mindset with Ted at the beginning, and he tried for years to get everyone in his office to follow that, and we sort of followed that idea. We’re here to help people, we’re not here just to make a buck.
Paul: And here you are 60 plus years later, doing the same thing. Now, it's safe to say there's other personal injury law firms around town. There's many I'm sure, what separates you guys at Warshafsky, what do you do differently? And we should also mention your trial attorneys, right? You prepare to go to trial.
Victor: That's all we are is trial attorneys. I've been practicing probably 40 years now, for 6 years I represented the insurance companies defending them. I didn't think they deserve my ability, so I switched - I tried 2 cases against Ted Warshafsky, lost ‘em both. And after we got done he invited me to join his firm. And I’ve been doing that for 34 years now, and so, all we do is represent injured people against insurance companies.
Paul: One of the things in the commercial Vic that you and I did, we talked about – and this is just something that pertains to every listener that's listening right now to WISN – we talked about cell phone use in cars and the liability of drivers when it comes down to bicyclists on the road and some of the things that we said the commercials may have even surprised some of the listeners when I was doing the copy, I learned a lot Vic and we’re going to get into that on today’s show. We're going to talk about liability, we’re going to talk about the law and, personally, just before we start any of that a little background on each of you, and Frank I’ll start with you. How long have you been at Warshafsky, and is this all you've ever done?
Frank: This is all I’ve done. I started with Ted in the office right out of law school. I’ve been with them for 25 years now, just having had my 25th anniversary. I've never practiced anything but plain as personal injury work and it was an interesting and difficult decision early on. My father was a lawyer in Milwaukee for several decades and was senior partner of one of the larger Insurance defense firms here in town. When I graduated law school he did encourage me gently to come and work with him and I knew from the minute that I started working with Ted as a law clerk that –
Paul: That's what you wanted
Frank: The plaintiff side was where I wanted to be.
Paul: You had the bug, in other words.
Frank: That’s it, that’s exactly right. Having seen it now, watching what was happening with my father and how he represented individuals and so on and then seeing it from the plaintiff side while I was in my internship in law school, it became pretty obvious where I wanted to be.
Paul: I think Vic alluded to how you got started by going against Ted and then there you are 30, 40 years ago, joining the firm and doing it ever since. So clearly there’s a passion for what you do. If there's any advice – and this will come up during the show today – that you have for letters regarding personal injury it's the timing of that injury and getting involved right away making that phone call.
Victor: It's critical. Any personal injury lawsuit starts with a certain fact pattern creating the injury and as you know if you talk to 5 people and they all witnessed an accident everybody has a different viewpoint, and you come up with 5 different stories. But as I said that I've had people come to me two-and-a-half years out asking for my help. I'm happy to give it to them, but they gave up so much information because they didn't have the liability put to bed within a matter of weeks of when the accident happened
Paul: So that’s critical? Any accident, any injury – you’ve got to get on top of that immediately.
Victor: Correct. Skid marks are important. Black boxes vanish after 3 or 4 days, that car is sent to the scrap yard and torn apart.
Paul: And the investigation would stop at that point?
Victor: No black box. You’re going to lose the speeds, you’re going to lose everything, and not everybody is willing to go get it because it does cost extra money and extra time and they’re difficult to pull. So that’s critical evidence. Witnesses are critical, get to them while they’re fresh, while they’re still willing to come forward and give their story as to what happened.
Paul: That's such a good point – while it's in their mind, too, right? I mean, a week, 2, 3 weeks, a month goes by and you forget those details.
Victor: Correct. Or they leave town and you have trouble finding them. I mean it's just across the board you want to get in as quick as you can so you can gather all of the evidence towards liability because damages will develop over time to an individual, but it's the liability which is critical as to whether they can even make a recovery let alone make a good recovery.
Paul: And things that happen are traumatic, usually. Something, personal injury happens because of an accident or something, it’s usually not top of mind, I would assume Frank, “Oh I need to call an attorney” or a family friend or someone should step in and say we should contact an attorney. Your mind is somewhere else in the game, you’re not thinking that right away.
Frank: That's exactly right. One of the things that we find quite frequently with people is that as one would expect a family member dies, they're grieving they're thinking about where they should be with their family or even individual who is seriously injured they’re thinking about recoveries and they're getting their health care treatments and so on. Insurance companies and defendants in those situations will take advantage of that knowledge because they know they're putting together their claims, they're putting together all that they can to defend whatever claim may be coming and at the same time those individuals whose minds are on family and recovery and whatnot, they aren't able to do that. So that's where it becomes real important to have a lawyer who is doing it for them right from the beginning.
Paul: Vic, you said you’re trial attorneys – you prepare to go to trial. Is that something that everybody wants to hear? Do all firms have that approach: ‘our goal is to make it to trial’?
Victor: No. There are, as we advertise, sign and settle law firms that don't want to do the work. They just want to bring you in, get you signed up to the perfunctory tasks to get a case to make an offer to an insurance company, but we take a case as soon as the person signs with us we start collecting evidence to prepare and present at trial. It's the ONLY way you can go it's the ONLY way to bring an insurance company to the table that either mediation or settlement or if they don't come up with the amount of money that's necessary to get rid of the case, then we go to trial and we're ready to go.
Paul: If you don't go, you don't go, but you prepare as if you are going to trial.
Paul: That’s interesting. I’m going to learn a lot on this show, along with our listeners I can tell. What we are going to do is get into some examples, some things that you've been through, both of you, and have seen over the years I can certainly help our listeners out, some good advice and much of that is what we kind of touched on earlier in the show. That commercial that we did, Vic, one of the questions I just asked you was – you see drivers all over the road. I go through the Zoo Interchange coming to WISN 6 days a week, and it's a long project, those lines change daily. It's a challenge if you've got both hands on the wheel and are paying attention to driving the speed limit, but Vic, we know not everybody is paying attention. What's the biggest distraction in cars right now?
Victor: Cell phones.
Paul: More than the radio, right?
Victor: Yes, and you ought to put it down. I know there's an app now you can get which automatically tells somebody that you're driving and you can't text, or you can’t talk.
Paul: Is that right? That’s a good idea.
Victor: Yes. I have a friend in Washington DC who has one because they have laws out there now that you can’t have one in your hand. It has to be hands-free.
Paul: In Wisconsin right now we can have that phone in our hand by law, right?
Victor: Not in a work zone, as of last Saturday. If you’re caught in a work zone with a phone in your hand, it’s a $40 fine.
Paul: Now I’m glad. See? I learned something.
Victor: There you go. It’s eroding quickly, but even the studies that talk about, you know, hands-free is ok versus holding in your hands –
Paul: Sure. Use your Bluetooth right? It’s hands-free, it’s safe.
Victor: But it’s really not. And it may be better, but it’s not as if you put them down and are paying attention to what you’re doing.
Paul: You're having a conversation, so your mind is thinking about what to say next to the person on the other end of that line.
Paul: So that’s distraction as much as looking down and selecting your next song on your smartphone, right?
Victor: Correct. It’s just a bad idea – you pull over off at an exit, talk all you want.
Paul: Into a Mcdonalds parking lot. Look for an exit ramp if you have to. I’ve said that, I’ve got 2 teenage daughters, I think I instilled in them by just using fear. This is what can happen – you can end up in a ditch. It's not yourself that you can injure, you could injure a family of four. Would you want to live with that?
Victor: These kids today you know, they’re in school, in class, with phone in their pocket, and they can text blind.
Paul: You're right they can. It’s crazy.
Victor: I can't do it, but they can do it, and they can do it while they're driving but they're not concentrating on the road and you lose that little bit of edge, and when the time gets tight you better not have the phone in your hand.
Frank: One of the things that becomes difficult here is that people don't realize how far they travel in a vehicle at a higher rate of speed when they’re distracted even for just a second or two. When people are texting, they may look down at their phone for 2 seconds but if they're traveling 65 miles an hour they don't understand how far they’ve traveled over those two seconds where they're not paying attention and it only takes that short moment a time where the vehicle can now deviate from its lane sufficiently to hit people. I can tell you that almost on a weekly basis when I'm out running on the street or whatnot, I have vehicles approaching me and I can see them in the front window in the windshield and they’re looking down.
Paul: They're looking on their lap, I’ve seen it. You’re exactly right, Frank.
Frank: They can deviate from their lane just for a second or two, but it’s enough to throw me off the road because I know I’m not going to take the chance to get run over.
Paul: Yeah, there’s no way.
Frank: But it happens, we see cases like this day in and day out where people, it’s just that short period of time, just a second or two or three –
Paul: And it can be prevented by putting the phone away, turn it down, turn it off, put it in your briefcase, whatever it takes – that can be taken care of later. I've also noticed something this, too, tell me if this is a trend: at stoplights. Everybody, as you look around, it turns green – why isn’t that guy moving? He’s looking in his lap, because “oh I’ll check my emails and texts now because I'm at a red.”
Frank: Right. It’s interesting you should say that because, within the last few months, we had a claim at our office an individual who was doing precisely what you're talking about: typing on her phone while she’s sitting at a stoplight. As the light turned she recognized out of her peripheral vision that the traffic around her started entering into the intersection. She went to make left turn, she’s still looking at her phone, turning right into an oncoming car, and unfortunately the driver of the oncoming car suffered some very severe injuries. But it was all because it started with the looking at the phone at the stop sign.
Paul: So again, trying to get around the law by hiding the fact that I'm looking at the phone, the lap is bent, I've seen it just over and over again. And it can be prevented – you said how many yards go by when you go, I mean – the freeway at 70 miles an hour now in Wisconsin on some stretches? What does that mean? We’re going about 80 or 81 right? That’s pretty fast.
Frank: That’s very fast, and again people don’t understand how far you travel per second when you’re traveling 80, 85 miles per hour, 70, 75 whatever it might be.
Paul: This is going to be a fun show. Not only are we going to learn a lot, you’re going to learn about the law. What is the law when it comes a bicyclists on the roads? We've all been there, we've all been behind them, some of you may be bicyclists in the audience who already know the law, some of you may be shocked to find out what the in fact what the law is that's going to be talked about when we come back. I want to really get into that and some things that they need to know about: property damages medical bills, loss of wages, or something that is called hidden liability that were going to talk about. Vic, if you could tell us just what does that term mean, hidden liability?
Victor: Well we get cases not too infrequently where the party’s gone to another attorney to take their case and it's been rejected for whatever reason – they couldn’t find the evidence. I had a latter case within the last year where they went to 2 good law firms. One was a sign and settle law firm, and they couldn’t figure out how to find liability, they couldn’t even find the defendant who set this up. We have a personal private investigator that works out of our office and within 5 minutes he found the party for me.
Paul: That quick?
Victor: That quick
Paul: So you've got I mean you got people working for you then help in this investigation right?
Victor: Yes. Another case where this guy’s in an auto accident and goes home and within 2 hours he's dead, and he had a heart attack the accident flipped the clot, and he was dead. What was missing in that case was we didn't have the right autopsy done and we have a doctor in our office and he met with the doctor who did the autopsy, said let's look at the slides together, he showed things to him that the guy agreed to when he wrote a supplemental report and it made the case.
Paul: So, hidden? Nobody else discovered him, they were hidden liability. It takes experienced people to find that.
Victor: Right, but no one else has a doctor on their staff that can go to and turn this over that quickly or had they gone to several other law firms I doubt they would have taken the case because the critical evidence was missing
Paul: If you're just tuning in on WISN you are listening to liability, the law, and you and our host on Saturday afternoons will be Victor Harding and Frank crivello from the Warshafsky personal injury law firm. I guess, Frank, what's the best way, before we break here, I want to reach out to you get some advice. Go to your website, right?
Frank: That's right. Our website warshafsky.com is the best way to reach us. As everyone talks about with the internet, it’s open 24/7.
Paul: It’s always there. Google it if you forget, warshafsky.com. Simple as that. We’ll take a quick break and be right back on Newstalk 1130 WISN.
Paul: Welcome back on WISN, I’m Paul Kronforst and you are listening to liability, the law, and you. Your hosts are Victor Harding and Frank Crivello from the warshafsky personal injury Law Firm. A lot of stuff, on the first segment we gave some background, over 60 years now and how the firm started and how you even prepare for trial as personal injury trial attorneys. Vic, that's that's the right term I’m using right?
Victor: Correct. We prepare for trial from day one.
Paul: And personal injuries. Okay so one of the things I had to ask you about today was bicyclists because in the circle of friends my family, and Frank you're going to chime in here because you see both sides said you are a pretty avid bicyclist from what I hear.
Frank: I try to be. I try to stay active.
Paul: And that’s great, right? There's a lot of beautiful trails and roads. But what is the law, what isn’t the law? We’ll start from the beginning here and Vic, let me ask you – bicyclists can’t be on the sidewalk, they’re supposed to be in the road going with the flow of traffic.
Victor: Correct. That’s why they’re like any other vehicle in the roadway and everybody has to abide by those rules while they're traveling. So we were talking a few minutes ago of people riding in pairs and it gets frustrating to the car coming up from the rear because they're going slow and he wants to go a little faster, and the answer is they have the right to do that. Now slower traffic, slower vehicles should move over to the right as far as they can to let faster vehicles go through
Paul: So that would mean the bicyclist should actually move over, technically, as far as they can.
Victor: Sure, but they have the right to ride in pairs and it's no different than the example I gave you for some people who may be on the Interstate where it’s 65, 70 miles per hour and somebody’s in the third passing lane going 45 miles an hour. It’s legal, but boy is it frustrating for the people behind them.
Paul: You’ll hear the horns. You’ll see the road rage, perhaps the finger comes out. I’ve seen it all – I’m one the freeways every day. But by law, those bicyclists have as much right as I do, as a driver, as a motorist, right?
Victor: Right. But there’s right and then there’s dead right, and you don’t want to be the latter.
Paul: No, no you don’t. And let’s talk about liability – how that’s established. For example, you say you come on, they’re side-by-side, they’re gonna slow you down as a driver. You get upset, you’re hitting your brakes, I’ve seen people lay on the horn. The bottom line is you have to wait until the appropriate time you can pass them.
Paul: But they have the right to be on the road.
Victor: Correct. And you have to give them extra distance as you go around them. The law – Frank will chime in on this – is 3 feet between you and the bike rider if you’re driving a car.
Paul: So Frank, let’s say you’re on your bicycle, you’re riding and you’re in a group, maybe there’s two of you side-by-side, if somebody so chooses to pass you, a driver, he’s got to give you at least a 3-foot buffer.
Frank: Right there’s got to be that cushion. The law requires 3 feet, and unfortunately what happens quite often is that as motorists attempt to pass a bicyclist, not knowing about that 3-foot cushion or requirement, they do so quickly, and as they go past quickly, it may startle the bicyclist, and what we’ve seen repeatedly is that as those motorists are overtaking the bicyclist, and they’re not giving quite that full 3-foot cushion, the bicyclist, when they’re startled, the bike may shake or wobble.
Paul: And they might go a little bit.
Frank: And they might go a little bit left or right a foot or two and then they impact the vehicle. And sadly, that causes quite a bit of injury for individuals who are on the bikes, but it’s still the motorist’s fault because the motorist hasn’t given them that required 3-foot distance.
Paul: That 3 feet. What if they are 3 feet, let’s say they’re 5 feet away and there’s a buffer… I’ll rephrase the question, can it ever be the bicyclist’s fault? Is it always the motorist’s fault?
Frank: Well sure, bicyclists can have responsibility on the roadway, there is a duty of responsibility rather to act reasonably just as any other person using that roadway.
Paul: Eventually they got to turn? What if they turn, are they supposed to use their hand signals, right?
Frank: Right, they do still have the same requirements as we all learn growing up, we should have learned I guess, how to use a bicycle. But you’re right, hand signals, reasonable activities while you are riding the bike, but at the same time you have to remember when you’re a motorist, that motorists and bicyclists, when they come together the motorist is going to win every time.
Paul: They’re driving a 2-ton vehicle. Whatever it’s going to be, they’re going to win. And whether or not you wanna agree with that, that’s the law, so we have to share the road with the bicyclists.
Frank: We do. And here’s the thing, there are a lot of different implications from that 3-foot law and then the laws that flow from it. For example, you have that 3 foot requirement, while you’re driving in a vehicle passing a bicyclist, but there’s also motorists who are parked on the side of the road ,somebody who won't be sitting inside their vehicle who has just parked their car and wants to open the door and jump out, they also have an obligation to make sure that they look for bicyclists who may be passing the car.
Paul: Now you just described something that's near and dear to my heart. You see downtown Milwaukee, I live in Cedarburg. Everything is tight, so your shoppers get out, the driver opens the car door without looking.
Frank: Right, and that's, in our office, we refer to as the Dooring Law. You cannot open your door without looking because if you do and there's a bicyclist is coming and they impact that door, it's your responsibility as the motor vehicle operator for causing that bicyclist to hit your door.
Paul: So now we're getting to establishing liability. Whether it’s a bicycle or any other case that you represent with personal injury you have to establish liability. How is that done, Vic?
Victor: That's kind of what we were talking about earlier – you start gathering evidence, looking for skid marks, witnesses, you’re looking for impact points…
Paul: You're always going to get the “he said she said” right?
Victor: All the time.
Paul: The driver’s gonna have one story, the bicyclist will have another.
Victor: And it's not that people are being untruthful, it’s just that everybody’s perceptions are different, and I have a case now involving 2 kids, and both of the kids have completely different stories and it's partially why we call them kids. Their perceptions are just a little bit outta wack and they don’t jive. And so you have to be discerning, but that’s gathering evidence and witnesses. It’s just everything that's going on at the time of the impact you're looking for surveillance tapes, you see that now stores have surveillance cameras.
Paul: But that’s got to help you a lot in your investigation.
Victor: But you only get 24 hours, it tapes over!
Frank: Forgive me for interrupting, but one of the of things I wanted to mention about surveillance – in our office we have a nationally certified legal investigator and the reason why that’s important is because he knows what to look for and how to look for it. When we talk about surveillance, for example, we had a claim in our office that involved a situation, a tragic case, of an individual who was struck by a vehicle and was killed. There was a surveillance recorder that was on a building adjacent to the area where the incident happened. Our investigator went and obtained a copy of that surveillance video right away and it showed certain aspects of the incident, but what he also did, which the extra yard was, he took the video and was actually able to take the video and enhance it to the point where we could see frames that were wider than what was just seen on the original recording that the police officers had downloaded originally from that first one.
Paul: Technology has really helped that a lot, right?
Paul: It was grainy and black and white, and now you’re seeing this hi-def color surveillance video.
Frank: Precisely. It was clear, and more importantly, though, in this particular instance, he widened the shot. He went wider with it and the reason why that became important is because that extra visual, that wider visual, showed us something with respect to one of the vehicles that we couldn’t see on the narrower view, and it actually established liability on that vehicle where actually the vehicle driver was pointing the finger at the pedestrian. It turned out it could not have occurred the way the driver was stating it occurred based just on that extra wider view of that surveillance video.
Paul: You hear the term “video doesn’t lie, tape doesn’t lie.” There it is, it’s right in front of us. Does that mean, though, that it’s a lock? Is there ever a case where “Listen, I’ve got the evidence, it’s on video tape.” Video doesn’t lie, Vic. It’s there, but I suppose certain circumstances play into every case.
Victor: It doesn’t lie, but it doesn’t oftentimes carry sound, which can be critical. And so you’re working off of body language often, and that’s I think you’re seeing so many of these police body cams and these shootings and they’re getting picked up on surveillance. Two people can look at the same video –
Paul: And come up with a different story.
Victor: And come up with a different story.
Paul: If there’s no audio, you’re exactly right. What was said, right?
Victor: Correct. It’s a big difference.
Paul: It is, it’s huge. You told me before, 24 hours, the timing of getting that, from your perspective as a trial attorney, do you have to go in there quick? I mean, it could be erased, right?
Victor: Right, they play over each other. You know, nobody wants to spend a lot of money, it’s good to have surveillance, I mean the stores are using it for their own purpose which may be to pick up thieves or something else going on in his parking lot. We’re looking at it from the standpoint that it may be evidence that will be critical to the case, and some of these surveillance tapes just play over each other every 24 hours, so if you’re not in there right away grabbing it, it’s gone for good.
Paul: And every business, some mom-and-pop business might have an older surveillance system that's 20 years old. So I might have a brand new one that’s all color and like you said that can do things but you that every business is different. Do they have to offer that up as evidence? Is that something volunteer?
Victor: Well, no generally they are not even aware that it's picked up necessarily what's important to us and so it's critical that we start investigating. We will go around all the stores that may be on a corner of an intersection –
Paul: And ask to see their footage?
Victor: And they don't have to give it to us, on the other hand, we can get a court order pretty quickly and requiring that they maintain it
Paul: See, I watch a lot of Law & Order TV shows. It's not like a TV show right? Life is different, so a lot goes into these investigations and, Frank, to establish liabilities we were talking about before that's essentially what you guys do.
Frank: It is. You can’t… you can say the terms “I'm preparing this case for a claim to present to an insurance company” or “I’m preparing this case for presentation at trial” but you’re not going to go very far if you aren’t establishing liability at the outset because you just don’t have a claim to go anywhere with if you don't do that. One of the things that we find is being critical in any of these cases we handle is that we start doing this at the outset right away, as Vic was commenting on earlier – if we don’t start preparing for trial from the start, right from the first moment we’re contacted, every moment that passes, we’re getting a little further behind the eight bomb. We don't ever want to have that happen to a client; establishing the liability on a particular defendant or defendants; that’s the first step, that's what we're looking at from the beginning.
Paul: So Frank, I think after the break, you and Vic, I’ve got questions. Practical advice, what individuals, what our listeners need to know if a friend, a loved one, a family member if you're seriously injured, practical advice on what to do. I know timing is critical, but there's some other factors involved too. We’re going to come back with that, time is huge, but some more advice coming from both Frank and from Vic here on WISN. We’ll take a quick commercial break – we’ve mentioned it before, Warshafsky Law Firm, and I was going to ask you at the time, Frank how do you spell that? And that’ll be the last time I ask you in the show. How to spell it – warshafsky.com. I’m gonna leave you to spell it.
Frank: That’s W-A-R-S-H-A-F-S-K-Y
Paul: And you can also Google it, I’m sure you’ll find it easy that way too. We’ll take a quick break on WISN, you are listening to liability, the law, and you. Victor Harding, Frank Crivello are your hosts for the show, and I’m Paul Kronforst on Newstalk 1130 WISN.
Paul: Welcome back to WISN. Liability, the law, and you continues, with our hosts Victor Harding and Frank Crivello are here from the Warshafsky personal injury Law Firm. We did mention your website warshafsky.com just go there for more information, all the contact information is on there, and that kind of leads us into this segment we're going to get into what individuals you, the listener, need to know if a friend, yourself, a family member – any loved one, is seriously injured. This is what you do, Frank and Vic, so the process starts, let’s say something happens – an accident. Do the wheels need to be set in motion right away and if I call the wrong law firm can that screw up things down the road?
Frank: Absolutely, as we talked about earlier today, when we have clients contact us, we encourage them to get in touch with us as soon as possible so that we can start the investigation, and if you don’t start it right away, things can be lost. Oftentimes people will call law firms that aren’t as capable of starting that process immediately or as thoroughly as the individuals might need and when that happens things get lost and once they’re lost they can be gone forever. Sadly, what happens is, quite frequently, that people come to our office after they’ve retained another law firm, and they’ll come months or even years after that initial law firm was involved, and unfortunately our hands are tied on some things because we can’t go back and recreate things that have disappeared.
Paul: And too much time has passed. Is there a statute of limitations? How much time has to go by?
Frank: Those things are real critical, because once a statute of limitations is expired, you’ve essentially lost your right to make a claim. In Wisconsin those vary, and also if you have claims that involve more than one state, they can vary as well.
Paul: So they do vary from state to state?
Frank: They do. For example, if you have somebody who’s involved in an incident that involves Wisconsin individuals that may have happened in Illinois. Illinois has a 2-year personal injury statute of limitations, generally Wisconsin has a 3-year. Those are both important, and you can have people who have those situations where they go to a Wisconsin lawyer and nobody ever brings up the fact that our borrowing statute which says you may borrow as a statute of limitations from another state may shorten things from 3 to 2 year. We get past that 2 years, and the 2 years was supposed to apply, you’re out. There's also other situations it can be a lot faster. We have notices for example when you bring in a claim against the state of Wisconsin or if you're bringing a claim against a municipality, you have to file certain notices with that municipality or the state within time periods as short as 120 days and if you haven't done it, say with the state for example, you've lost your claim. You don't have a right to do that.
Paul: In that time period, Vic, a lot of things can happen. You can have insurance companies reach out and talk to you before you even talk to an attorney,
Victor: Correct, and they’ll play along. They can they can sit and talk about how they're going to compensate you and they're nice and they're sweet and if they walk you past the deadline and you miss it, your case is gone, no matter what they said.
Paul: When you said sign-and-settle firms essentially, it's exactly that – they sign they settle and it's over at that point, right?
Victor: Correct. Once you’ve signed a release with a lawyer your case is through. And unfortunately most people don't know how to value their own case and when the lawyer says this is a good settlement number or this is the value we put on it and if they’re lawyers don't go to trial, haven't gone to trial, don't know what the true value of a case is, you’re going to be out of luck and insurance companies love it. Insurance adjusters they work based on bottom line – they want to pay as little money as they can to get the release signed by the victim and if that's done with the lawyer and hand it's no way of turning back the clock.
Paul: Once you sign on the dotted line. Now different injuries occur, and – I always think of auto accidents, there are all kinds of injuries that can happen to us personally. A lot of medical bills can be approved down the line that we don't even know about at the time I would think, Frank, we don't know how much it's going to cost to get this surgery done or how to the extensive injuries – we just don't know at the time of the accident. So it's critical that you get some attorney on your side doing that investigative work if you sign and settle for x amount of dollars had you done it the right way, you could have obviously settled for more down the road.
Frank: Right, there are a lot of examples we could give of situations we could give that involved doing things the wrong way and when I say that I mean claimants, they may not know what's the difference between the way it should be done or not be done and all those examples involve or can involve delay, failure to accumulate information that’s necessary and so on. We talked about medical bills for example – one of the things that can happen with lawyers who aren't handling these files correctly for their clients is that people don't understand when they go right at the start of a case, that they may be better off in utilizing the laws of Wisconsin to make sure that their medical expenses are paid for by health insurance. They don't want to start pushing their medical expenses through automobile insurance because what happens is there are certain doctrines, collateral sources in Wisconsin, other things that apply to these situations where they increase their recovery at the tail end of things if they followed the right steps. Many lawyers don’t realize there are certain steps you need to follow, and that’s why getting involved early, so you can have these conversations with your clients, and advise them as to what’s the right route to go are so critical.
Paul: Medical bills are huge. That comes to mind as being the most the number one in the list it's you know some of these medical bills can just set you way back then there's lost wages.
Frank: Right, and lost wages is an interesting concept in Wisconsin. The state of Wisconsin bases the idea of wages and loss of earnings from a job based on the concept of laws earning capacity. So think about this, I think a lot of people don't know the fact that you may have an injury that precludes you from being able to work and you may be able to make a loss of earning capacity claim even if you weren't working at the time of the incident. So in other words if you Paul happened to be out of a job right now and you're looking for a new job and you're actively interviewing, and you get into an incident that causes you to break your legs and or whatever injure yourself, and you're not able to go to work, even though you weren’t working at the time you still have a right to make that claim for loss of earning capacity and a lot of lawyers don't know that and in fact they look at it just as did you lose wages? If you didn't lose any wages, if you didn't miss any work
Paul: You’re out of work. So you didn’t lose wages.
Frank: So you have no claim. That’s what people think sometimes.
Paul: I mentioned car accidents as what came to my mind when talking about personal injury because I’m sure you get all kinds of examples, but besides car accidents, personal injuries can occur, I suppose on any level. You can fall on steps, you can be at a public store, trip on something. Anything can happen.
Frank: That’s right. And actually there are often times cases that come in that the initial incident may have caused an injury, and it may not be a liability type incident, but there may be a secondary occurrence that actually was as a result of negligence. I’ll give you a simple example – if you have somebody who is involved in a fall, you talked about falling down stairs or falling or whatnot, and they go in and they seek treatment, and if that treatment is not done correctly if it's done negligently, there may be a claim there. In giving that example, we’ve had many cases where situations like that, in fact what we just talked about, we had that particular incident occur.
Paul: With the fall?
Frank: With one of our clients. Fell down some stairs and suffered a neck injury. And one of our attorneys on staff, who is also a medical doctor, we’ve talked about him earlier, he went and took a look at some x-rays, and they were taken over a series of time with respect to that client of ours. And what it happened was he found and going to these X-rays something that several of the other doctors and looked at it had missed which was a subtle change in her spine and in her vertebrae that contributed to what was ultimately some paralysis.
Paul: He noticed it, nobody else did?
Frank: He had picked up on it, and then everybody was able to work backward and say yep, that's the reason why she was suffering from this paralysis, not any other reason. So there can be situations like that that arise and it’s helpful to have, it was critical in that case.
Paul: That doctor
Frank: To have the doctor on staff with us.
Paul: You’re talking about the ability to see, to discover and find liability and that's what sets you apart from other personal – you talk about sign and settle, let’s just get this over with quick, I can see people wanting to let’s move beyond this, but that can be a problem too. You need to do it the right way and do the investigation. That can take some time, I would assume.
Frank: It can. If I were as a lawyer looking to try and settle a case for a client in that particular incidence quickly, there's no way they would have been a claim there because most lawyers would have looked at it and said “I’m sorry there's nothing we can do for you right here, we have no connection, we have no causal connection, there's nothing we can do. Thank you for coming to our firm.” But having the resources that we have allowed us to figure it out there and in other cases as well, it allows us then to pursue those things that are otherwise be missed by other lawyers.
Paul: Frank, WISN has listeners all over, not just listening to the radio signal in southeast Wisconsin, wherever you are we have the iheart media app. So we’ve got people listening everywhere. Are your offices based right in Milwaukee?
Frank: We do, we have offices in Milwaukee, we also practice out of Madison as well. But we do do practice around the entire state of Wisconsin, and we do actually have cases outside of Wisconsin.
Paul: So again more information on the website, warshafsky.com. And we’ll be right back on WISN liability, the law, and you. A new program here on WISN with your hosts Victor Harding and Frank Crivello, from the Warshafsky personal injury law firm. I’m Paul Kronforst, we’ll be right back.
Paul: We are back on WISN liability, the law, and you. And exactly that’s what we’ve talked about today. From Warshafsky injury law firm, your hosts are Victor Harding and Frank Crivello. I learned a lot today, guys, and we’ll have future shows together to talk more about liability and some of the case examples that you cite are eye-opening to say the least, and Vic, we were talking on the commercial break about how there are judgements that have changed the way things are done in corporations across the board that you have been a part of.
Victor: Correct. Spent 36 years of doing it with Ted Warshafsky, he was very good at it. Yes, one thing we do as personal injury attorneys is try and make a recovery for the people we represent and the injuries they sustain. On the flip side, it’s also to try and get people, corporations to act reasonably. It’s all we ask that they do is take a reasonable approach, and we’ve changed any number of industries over time by suing the manufacturers’ products for not changing their product.
Paul: So you can change policy. You can change the way corporations do things.
Victor: And the way they think. And put safety first. I told you I worked for 10 years on probably 30 or 40 cases around the country trying ot change the medicine, and it was a bad medicine, there were 3 or 4 manufacturers that were making it, it was injuring a certain number of people, a small number of people, but it was still injuring them. They knew what was causing the injury, they knew how to change it and make it right, and they didn’t want to do it because it was going to cost too much. And when we made it cost-prohibitive by having them pay for the damage that they did to small children, they eventually, in about 10 years, changed their ways and changed the medicine. Frank gave you the example of Ted’s case against GM involving the slip differential in the rear of a car.
Paul: Yeah, and how tires turn different and how one compensates, right?
Victor: Correct. It prevents spin-outs and all sorts of things.
Paul: And you were a part of that?
Victor: We were a part of that. We used to be a fair number of in-running nip cases, a lot of printing presses in Wisconsin and people would clean them on the fly and their sleeve would get caught and all of a sudden it would be up to their armpits and going through rollers, and horrible injuries. Simple safety devices to correct those things and again if we can make it putative enough, the companies will do it.
Paul: Does that mean that there is a judgement, which means it had to go to trial, right?
Victor: Oh yes
Paul: So one thing I've learned from this – don't be afraid of that word “trial.” As you said, you prepare as if you're going to trial.
Victor: Most people would prefer to settle their cases and many times it's good that we do it but again if you're not prepared to take it in to try it and if you're a lawyer who doesn't try cases insurance companies pay less money. I used to work for insurance companies, one of my early cases that I recommended to the insurance company that they pay a certain amount of money and they said we won't pay that much that lawyer won't start a lawsuit. So they paid half and they got away with it and that's one of the reasons I switch sides
Paul: Vic, that is some great stuff, and I want to do another show right now – can we go another hour? A lot of great information. I want to thank our hosts Victor Harding and Frank crivello from the warshafsky personal injury Law Firm. Guys, great show we're looking forward to the next show already. Have a great weekend.
Victor: Thank you, Paul
Frank: Thanks Paul