What to Do if You Are Seriously Injured in an Accident Outside of Wisconsin? By Attorney John Peterson

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

Although there are similarities, the laws governing the rights of accident victims differ depending on in which state an accident occurred. The law of the state where the accident happened governs the rights and responsibilities of the parties involved. When car accidents occur in states the parties are just visiting, most of the investigation, deposing of witnesses, and trial preparation occurs elsewhere.

Although most of the cases handled by Peterson, Berk & Cross arise out of incidents in Wisconsin, our trial practice in personal injury, employment law and civil rights litigation is nation-wide in scope. Our attorneys have represented clients in the First Circuit Federal Court of Appeals in Boston, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, and in states as far flung as New Mexico, Wyoming, Rhode Island and South Dakota. Typically, we retain the services of “local counsel” to assist us in the nuances of local law and customs at no extra cost to the client. We have access to experienced local counsel around the country because of our active involvement in national trial lawyer organizations such as the American Association for Justice, the Foundation for Civil Justice, the National Board for Trial Advocacy, the American Board for Trial Advocacy, Litigation Counsel of America, and the American Trial Lawyers Association.

Several years ago, we were retained by a young man injured in a motor vehicle accident near Laramie, Wyoming. Our client, the passenger in a car driven by a drunk driver, was seriously injured in the accident. The driver was killed, and our client suffered a traumatic brain injury. He was hospitalized in Wyoming, but his parents brought him back to Wisconsin as soon as possible. Nearly all our client’s treating physicians and the expert witnesses were in Wisconsin. It would have been prohibitively expensive for a Wyoming lawyer to have primary responsibility for the case. We retained local counsel in Wyoming and filed suit in Federal Court in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

The accident happened after an end-of-the-year, technical college party. By the time depositions were scheduled, the witnesses were scattered all over the western United States. We conducted depositions in Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Colorado, along with many in Wisconsin.

The opposing insurance company hired a large law firm from Denver, with virtually unlimited resources, to defend them. After the investigation and trial preparation were completed, a mediation session was held in the Federal Courthouse in Cheyenne. Fortunately for our client, all our travel and hard work paid off. The case settled for nearly one million dollars. Our client will be able to live comfortably despite the dramatic decline in his lifetime earning potential.

Currently, we represent a client who lived in Arizona at the time of his accident. He was a passenger in a car being driven by his nephew. As they were driving on the expressway through urban New Mexico, a semi tractor trailer rig suddenly changed lanes and struck them from the side.

Initially, our client was treated in Arizona. He moved to Wisconsin shortly afterward. Since his move to Wisconsin, he has undergone shoulder surgery as well as complicated spinal surgery. Virtually all the post-Arizona treating physicians and expert witnesses are in Wisconsin. It would make little sense to have New Mexico counsel represent the plaintiff. Even if they could conduct all the depositions during repeated visits to Wisconsin, the expense would be substantial and would eventually have to be paid out of any award our client might receive. We have retained local counsel in New Mexico and are very optimistic that we can achieve a result which will cover our client’s extensive medical expenses, loss of past earnings, loss of his ability to earn a living in the future and the disruption of his life.

The attorneys and staff of Peterson, Berk & Cross are grateful we have the expertise and ability to handle the time, travel and financial demands of out-of-state cases. We are happy to help victims of serious injuries no matter where those injuries occurred.