For those interested, I wrote an “Ask a Lawyer” piece at InsideMilwaukee.com.
Here’s what I wrote:
Q: Does Hiring a Personal Injury Attorney Mean I Have To File A Lawsuit?
A: When you are involved in a car accident or other personal injury matter you usually hire an attorney soon after the collision/incident. Again, usually the victim of the car accident/personal injury is continuing to go to the doctor and the true extent of the injuries are not known (i.e. residual pain, whether bones completely heal or whether other future treatment is needed). When a victim hires a lawyer this does NOT mean that a lawsuit has been filed.
In Wisconsin, a lawsuit is filed when a Summons and Complaint are filed with a County’s Clerk of Courts. Along with the Summons and Complaint a fee, set by the county, must be paid. After the Summons and Complaint are filed and the fee is paid these documents must be served on the defendant(s). From the date of this filing, depending on the County, it may take up to 1-2 years before the victim of a car accident’s case is decided by a jury.
When a lawsuit is filed a Judge is assigned to the case. One of the first things the Judge will do is schedule a hearing date to set the Schedule for the case. At this point the Judge and Attorneys set deadlines for witnesses, depositions, expert doctor reports, and motions. (If a lawsuit were filed immediately after a collision it may be difficult to make sure that the injured victim gets full compensation allowed by law for all of his/her injuries given the Schedule set by the Judge. In addition, once the lawsuit is filed the costs of the case can increase drastically.)
The odds of a personal injury victim having to file suit are low. On average, maybe 90% of personal injury cases that I have handled settle before having to file a lawsuit.
In the end, that may be the benefit of hiring a lawyer. You’ll have someone fighting for you from day to ensure you get the compensation that Wisconsin Law allows. If need be you’ll have an advocate in court. But, the odds are that the lawyer will help you avoid going to court to get compensation for your personal injuries.
– Jonathan P. Groth of Groth Law Firm SC