What are my rights after a semi-truck accident in Wisconsin?

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Semi-trucks are dangerous. When they are involved in crashes with other vehicles, the damage is almost always catastrophic. Therefore, it is important to take certain precautions if you, or someone you love, are in a semi-truck accident:

  1. Do not give a statement about the accident to anyone other than the police and your own insurance company. If the other driver's insurance company wants a statement, you should not provide it. This rule might not apply in no-fault states.
  2. Do not sign releases for any insurance company other than your own, permitting it/them to get your medical records. You can choose what records to release at a later date, when you are ready to settle your claim. If your own insurance company requests medical and/or employment information releases, you should sign them. Otherwise, you risk losing coverage.
  3. Doctor as best you can. After crashes like these, if you don't have adequate insurance, it is sometimes difficult to pay for medical bills. If, however, you do not treat your injuries promptly, the opposing insurance company will later argue that you either were not injured or that you were injured by something other than the motor vehicle crash. Even if you must take on debt, get the medical care you need, if you are able.
  4. Get pictures of the site, if you are able. If you cannot, have someone else do it for you. Get good quality pictures, typically more than what you would be able to get from a cell phone.
  5. Consider getting counsel involved early. Many lawyers accept these cases on a contingency basis, which means their fee is a portion of the recovery. You don't save any money by waiting to hire a lawyer. Often, hiring a lawyer early can help you to get good information to avoid problems later.
  6. Write down your memories of the accident for your lawyer. Do not share your writing with anyone else. These cases can last a long time and memories fade. So, write down your recollections early.
  7. Do not even discuss your case with the insurance company of the other driver. Only ever discuss it with your own insurance company. You have a duty to cooperate with your own insurance company. Otherwise, you can lose coverage for failing to cooperate. You have no duty to cooperate with the other driver's insurance company. These rules might not apply in a no-fault state.
  8. Ask your own insurance company whether you have medical payments coverage. Often, this coverage can help with medical expenses that are not covered by your health insurance. Your insurance company should pay all accident-related medical expenses up to the limits of your medical payments coverage. It does not matter for this coverage whether you were to blame for the accident. Typically, this coverage has a time limit and you lose it if you do not use it during that time (sometimes as little as one year following the accident).
  9. Cooperate fully with your health insurance company so that you can get the maximum payments on your medical bills. In dealing with your health insurance company, focus on your injury as much as possible, and not on the facts of the accident. Remember that every time you speak to an insurance company, the representative makes notes of what you say. Often, these representatives make mistakes in their notes. So, focus on your medical issues and not on the facts of the accident to avoid statements in the insurance company records that are in error. The same rule applies to communications with your doctors. Don't talk as much about the accident itself as you do about the injuries you sustained. For example, don't talk about the speed of the vehicles, talk about the pain in your head or back.
  10. If you are not able to work, inquire of your employer whether there is any disability insurance through your employer. Carefully follow the requirements of that insurance to receive at least some of your wages while you are not able to work following the accident.
  11. Hire a lawyer with experience in these kinds of cases. Many lawyers are not familiar with the special issues that semi-truck accidents present.
  12. Keep all materials regarding the accident neatly organized. The paperwork will build up fast. You do yourself a favor if you keep all accident-related information in one handy place so that you can share it with your lawyer.

Our firm provides free consultations on these cases. Do not hesitate to call with further questions: 608-662-2286.   

Robert J. Kasieta

Certified Civil Trial and Pretrial Specialist by the National Board of Trial Advocacy

Named one of the top 50 lawyers in Wisconsin by Milwaukee Magazine

Answered 12/05/2013

Disclaimer: This answer was provided by an attorney selected to Super Lawyers, and is intended to be an educated opinion only. This answer should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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