You were on US-41 on your way to Fox River Mall to pick up a birthday present for your dad. Traffic up ahead was slowing down and so you did, too. Unfortunately the guy in the BMW behind you was busy texting, did not slow down in time, and ran right into you. You are a mix of emotions -- scared, angry, confused. What do you do now? What can you expect? To help you, here is some basic information about what to do after a car accident in Appleton.
Stop at the Scene
After any accident, the first thing you need to do is stop at or as close as possible to the scene without obstructing traffic more than is necessary. According to Wisconsin law, in any accident involving death, injury or damage to an attended vehicle, you must give your name, address, and vehicle registration number to the other driver, present your driver's license if requested, and render reasonable assistance to any injured party. Even if you strike an unattended vehicle, you need to stop and either locate the owner or leave a note in a conspicuous place with your contact information and a description of what happened.
So make sure to stop after any accident, check to see whether anyone is injured, and call 911 if so.
Next, be sure to gather information about the other driver (name, address, telephone number, driver's license number, insurance carrier) and vehicle (make, model, license plate number, registration number) while you are at the scene. It is also a good idea to take photographs, jot down notes on the weather and traffic conditions, and get the names and contact information of any witnesses. FindLaw's pamphlet, Motor Vehicle Accidents: First Steps, has a useful checklist of actions to take and spaces to record information.
Report the Accident
If the accident results in death, injury, or property damage to an apparent extent of $1,000 or more ($200 or more if state or government-owned property is involved), you are required to "immediately, by the quickest means of communication" make a report to the Police Department, the Sheriff's Department or traffic department of the county or municipality in which the accident occurred, or to a State Patrol officer. If a law enforcement officer does not complete a Motor Vehicle Accident Report, you should complete the Wisconsin Driver Report of Accident within 10 days.
The next step in deciding what to do after a car accident in Appleton involves your insurance provider. You should contact your insurance company to report the accident right away. In order to drive in Wisconsin, you are required to be financially responsible for your vehicle. Typically, folks carry automobile liability coverage to fulfill this requirement. In Appleton and the rest of the state, the minimum liability coverage is: $25,000 for the injury or death of one person, $50,000 for the injury or death of more than one person, and $10,000 for property damage. You are also required to carry uninsured motorist coverage with minimum bodily injury coverage of $25,000 for injury or death of one person and $50,000 for injury or death of more than one person. The website of the Insurance Commissioner offers more information about the requirements.
Taking Legal Action
Although you may resolve the matter directly with the insurance companies, depending on the extent of the accident, you may decide to bring legal action. If you do, remember that you can't wait forever. In Appleton and the rest of Wisconsin you generally have 3 years to bring a personal injury case. FindLaw has compiled courthouse information for the Appleton area, too.
A typical motor vehicle accident lawsuit will allege that the other party acted negligently. Basically, to act negligently is to act carelessly and for that carelessness to cause or contribute to the accident and resulting damages. In some cases, however, both you and the other driver act negligently.
Wisconsin follows what is known as the modified comparative negligence doctrine. Under this law, so long as your negligence was not greater than that of the person you are seeking recovery from, you can still pursue your action, although your recovery will be reduced by the percentage of your fault. So, for example, if you had $100,000 in damages and you were 30% responsible, you can still seek recovery of the 70% ($70,000) that was not your fault.
Get Legal Help After Your Car Accident in Appleton
If you've been in a car accident, it's important you understand both your rights and obligations under Wisconsin law. A good first step in this process is to speak with a knowledgeable car accident attorney in Wisconsin today.