The ABCs of ATVs and UTVs

The ABCs of ATVs and UTVs

In Wisconsin, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and utility terrain vehicles (UTVs) are becoming increasingly popular not only for recreation but for travel between and within local communities. In turn, more cities, villages, towns and counties are opening roads, streets and highways to ATV and UTV travel.

To start, ATVs and UTVs are regulated by state law through the Department of Natural Resources. Chapter 23.33 of the Wisconsin Statutes outlines numerous requirements from registration, to noise, to lighting and more. When it comes to access to roadways and highways, however, regulation largely falls on local communities.

State law allows local counties and municipalities to designate some or all highways and roadways under their jurisdiction as all-terrain vehicle routes. On designated routes, these local governments may enact ordinances that regulate the use of ATVs and UTVs. State law leaves local governments with discretion when it comes to regulating aspects of use on routes under their jurisdiction.

While local control is retained over travel within communities, this deference may result in a patchwork of different regulations affecting travel between communities. For example, while one community may limit hours of operation, another may have no limits. For these reasons, it is important to be familiar with the local laws of the communities you intend to travel before heading out on the road with your ATV or UTV.

Some basic things from state law to be aware of include registration as well as operator and occupant restrictions. With limited exceptions, ATV and UTV owners must register the vehicle with the State of Wisconsin. Non-residents may obtain an annual trail pass from the DNR. Generally, ATV operators must be at least 12 years of age and UTV operators must be at least 16. With some exceptions, those born on or after January 1, 1988 shall obtain a safety certificate issued by the DNR. With limited exceptions, those under 18 years of age must wear protective headgear. Furthermore, seatbelts are required for all occupants.

Remember, local communities may impose greater restrictions on operators and occupants. For example, local ordinances may require operators to be at least 16 years of age and hold a valid Wisconsin driver’s license. You should always check with local law enforcement prior to traveling between communities to ensure that you and your occupants will be in compliance with all laws governing all-terrain vehicle operation on locally designated routes.

Injured in an Auto Accident? Who Will Pay Your Medical Bills?

Injured in an Auto Accident? Who Will Pay Your Medical Bills?

If you are injured in an automobile accident, you may be wondering who will pay for accident-related care and treatment. Prior to a settlement or jury verdict, it is unlikely that the responsible party will pay for care and treatment. Therefore, you will likely turn to your health insurer for payment.

If you do not have health insurance through an employer plan, private plan or government plan, the prospect of unpaid medical bills may be daunting. Therefore, it is important to consult your own automobile policy declarations to determine if you have coverage for accident-related medical expenses.

Although not every policy has medical expense coverage, many policies have a small amount of coverage ranging from $1,000 to $10,000. Some auto insurers offer higher amounts, even up to $100,000. While this may seem like a lot of coverage, the cost of significantly increasing the amount of medical expense coverage on your automobile policy may be minimal. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you consult with your automobile insurance agent to discuss options for increasing your medical expense coverage.

This is true even if you have health insurance through your employer. Employer-sponsored health plans may have high deductibles that could leave you with significant responsibility for medical expenses until met. Having medical expense coverage under your automobile policy may assist in covering these expenses. Moreover, under federal law, some employer-sponsored health plans may claim a first right of recovery from any settlement.

Medical expenses paid under an automobile policy, however, are likely subject to a doctrine known as made-whole. The made-whole doctrine provides that the auto insurer making medical payments is not entitled to be reimbursed for medical expenses paid until you are made whole for injuries and damages sustained.

After you receive a settlement from the responsible party’s insurer, it is often possible to negotiate a reduction in the amount of medical expenses to be reimbursed to the insurer paying under the medical expense coverage of an automobile policy to avoid a dispute as to whether the settlement has made you whole.

If you are involved in an automobile accident, you should always remember to check your own automobile policy to access any benefits you may have for medical expense coverage. It is equally important to be proactive by considering increasing your medical expense coverage now before you are the unfortunate victim of a serious automobile accident.

 

Defective Home Construction? Know Your Rights and Responsibilities

Defective Home Construction? Know Your Rights and Responsibilities

Are you thinking it is time to build your new dream home or do some remodeling to your existing home?  Are you a busy homebuilder just trying to keep up?  In either case, you should be aware of a Wisconsin statute that sets out procedures for addressing defects that arise as a result of construction and remodeling projects.

Wisconsin Statute 895.07 was created for claims against contractors and suppliers related to the construction or remodeling of a dwelling.  A dwelling is defined by the statute to mean more than just a new home.  A dwelling includes other existing structures on a residential premise, such as driveways, sidewalks, swimming pools, patios, terraces, fences, porches, garages and basements.

Wisconsin law provides that prior to entering into a written contract to construct or remodel a dwelling (or as soon as possible but before starting work if the contract is oral) a contractor shall give notice to the consumer of his or her rights under Section 895.07.  The specific language to be used may be found in Wisconsin Statute 101.148.

Should defects arise as a result of the project, Section 895.07(2) requires the consumer to give the contractor written notice describing the defects complained of no later than 90 working days before commencing action, such as a lawsuit or arbitration.  This notice must include a description of evidence that the consumer knows of, including expert reports, that substantiate the nature and cause of the defects.

Within 15 working days of receiving the consumer’s notice, the contractor has one of five options for responding.  Those options include: 1) offering to repair or remedy the defect at no cost to the consumer; 2) offering to pay money to settle the claim; 3) offering a combination of repair work and money; 4) rejecting the claims in total; or 5) proposing to inspect the property.

If the contractor chooses to inspect the property, the consumer must provide access within 15 working days.  Following the inspection, the contractor has 10 working days to respond to the consumer identifying one of the remaining four options listed above that the contractor chooses.

Contractors often use a host of suppliers for dwelling construction and remodeling work.  It may be the case that one of these suppliers bears responsibility for the defects.  In that case, the contractor may assert a contribution claim against the supplier.  Section 895.07 provides a procedure for making contribution claims.  The contractor must provide notice to the supplier within five days after receiving a consumer’s claim unless the contractor has taken no action to repair the defect, performed no destructive testing, not permitted the consumer to take action to repair the defect, has not interfered with or altered the property subject to the claim, and has not precluded the supplier from offering to remedy the defect or make repairs.

As a contractor, if you failed to give the notice required by Section 101.148 and are sued for construction defects, the court must stay the legal action and order the parties to comply with the notice requirements and the procedures in Sections 101.148 and 895.07.

Whether a consumer or a contractor, we hope your construction and remodeling projects go smoothly.  However, when that is not the case our litigation team at Anderson O’Brien is here to help.

 

TIF – A Development Tool for New and Expanding Businesses

TIF – A Development Tool for New and Expanding Businesses

My litigation practice has taken me into many areas of law in my career, including handling matters for both municipal and business clients that involve tax incremental financing (TIF.) Despite these turbulent economic times, new and existing businesses as well as municipalities are still searching for ways to move forward. TIF may be one very useful tool for a successful public-private partnership.

TIF is a mechanism for financing development from taxes that are generated from a tax incremental district (TID.)  TIDs, governed by state law, have been in existence for decades. In simple terms, a TID is a geographic area that is created to advance development within the district for a limited time. The tax revenue generated on property within the TID at the time of creation will continue to be shared with overlying tax entities. However, tax revenue generated from new development within the TID will be retained entirely by the TID to finance further development during its life.

Financing can come in many forms. Cash grants to new and expanding businesses to incentivize development may be one such form. Pay-as-you-go incentives, which involve developers retaining tax revenue generated by their own specific development, may be another form. Hybrid arrangements of these two financing tools are another potential.

For new businesses especially, TIF can serve as added security for a lender. Moreover, TIF may often work in combination with private financing, other state incentives and gap financing to make a new business venture a reality and a win-win for business and local taxpayers in the long run.

However, a win-win situation starts with understanding the options available, the typical municipal processes to go through and ultimately structuring a strong development agreement.  Poorly drafted development agreements can lead to litigation from both sides.  Securing TIF advice from municipal counsel early in the process can pay dividends and avoid problems on either side down the line.

 

Update on Bill That Seeks to Curb Harassment of Sports Officials

Update on Bill That Seeks to Curb Harassment of Sports Officials

Sports, even at the high school level, can raise emotions in players and spectators alike.  Sports officials are not strangers to displeasure with calls they make on the field or court.  However, there comes a point when expressing displeasure can cross the line. For this reason, a growing number of legislators from both sides of the aisle are backing a new bill that would criminalize harassment of sports officials.

Under current Wisconsin law, a person can be charged for harassment or intimidation of another, striking, shoving or kicking another person or engaging in a course of conduct that repeatedly commits acts which harass or intimidate another person and which serve no legitimate purpose. Offenders can be slapped with a fine up to $1,000 which is classified as a Class B forfeiture.

Under the bill, someone who harasses a referee, umpire, judge or person performing similar functions and the conduct is in response to a sport official’s action or is intended to influence a sport official’s action, could receive greater consequences.  Punishment could include up to nine months in jail, a fine of $10,000 or both, classifying it as a Class A misdemeanor.

Organizations are identifying an increasing need for protections specific to sports officials.  Referees are already protected by law in 24 other states.  According to a Wisconsin Public Radio report on the bill: “In 2017, the National Association of Sports Officials conducted a survey of more than 17,000 referees from across the country. It found that nearly 50 percent of officials have feared for their safety, while almost 60 percent felt that sportsmanship is on the decline.”

Legislation offering protection to sports officials has found support from organizations including the National Association of Sports Officials, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, the Wisconsin Athletic Directors Association and the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

The bill has bi-partisan support but is currently seeking co-sponsors before it would be presented to a legislative committee in Wisconsin.  Support for the bill continues to grow with sponsorship coming from 29 Assembly representatives and nine senators.

 

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