Changed liability laws may hinder accident victims’ claims

On behalf of Peterson, Berk & Cross, S.C.

In April of last year, a 51-year-old Wisconsin man was injured while driving on Highway 151 when a large chunk of concrete dislodged from the road and flew through the driver’s windshield, hitting his skull before landing in the rear seat of the vehicle. The driver was able to reach a hospital 20 miles away. He received surgeries and implants to treat the skull fracture.

A year after the incident, this driver suffers from blindness and occasional numbness on the left side of his face as well as shoulder issues. While he did have auto insurance and health insurance at the time of the accident, changes to Wisconsin liability laws enacted in 2011 mean that he can’t claim any damages for the brain injuries or medical expenses that resulted from the freak accident.

The recent legislation exempts towns, cities, counties and villages from responsibility for auto accidents that occur because of highway defects. It eliminates the maximum $50,000 that the driver could have filed for in this case. Legislators hoped that the funds saved would help improve road conditions.

Now, claimants who seek liability damages from Wisconsin governments following accidents that were caused by highway defects must take additional steps to win restitution. They have to prove that the government violated its duty to adhere to transportation statutes or mitigate known dangerous conditions. Because it is extremely difficult to prove this and overcome the so-called “pothole immunity” clause, many accident victims may not get the compensation they need. In these instances, it may be especially wise to call on an experienced personal injury attorney.

Source: Beaver Dam Daily Citizen, “Fall River man victim of change in road liability law,” Jessica Vanegeren, Jan. 26, 2013

•· Our firm works with people who have been injured in an accident. To learn more, please visit our personal injury page.