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Wisconsin Car Accident Compensation Laws

Auto accidents are a very common occurrence in Wisconsin, which makes familiarity with Wisconsin car accident compensation laws an unfortunate necessity for many drivers. This article discusses what you need to know about Wisconsin car accidents, including what to do after an accident, an overview of Wisconsin car accident compensation laws, and how to get appropriate compensation for your injuries and losses.

What Should You Do After an Accident in Wisconsin?

Here is a list of what to do if you are in an accident:

  • Don't leave the scene; leaving the scene of the accident, even if it's minor, could be considered an illegal hit-and-run
  • Get to safety out of traffic and check everyone for injuries (and consider providing first aid to any car accident victims)
  • Call the Wisconsin highway patrol or the police department for help and medical assistance; you will want to make sure you get a copy of the police report or accident report
  • Collect contact information and driver's insurance information from the people who were driving any vehicles involved in the accident
  • Take pictures of the scene and get the contact information of any witnesses; also, check with nearby businesses or homeowners for a copy of their security camera footage, if applicable
  • Call your insurance adjuster and notify them of a possible car accident claim
  • Get checked out by a doctor

You can and should consider doing all of these steps before bringing a personal injury lawsuit.

Wisconsin Car Accident Compensation Laws: At a Glance

See the table below along with the accompanying explanations to learn more about Wisconsin car accident compensation laws.

Statute of Limitations

Damages Limits

Punitive damages are limited in some cases (Wis. Stat. § 895.043(6))

Other Limits

51% Modified Comparative Negligence (Wis. Stat. § 895.045)

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Wisconsin's “At Fault" and “51% Bar" Rules

To recover damages for the injuries you suffered in a car accident in Wisconsin, you will need to prove not only that another driver as "at fault" for your injuries, but you will also need to prove that you were not more at fault than the other driver. Another name for this type of modified comparative negligence is the "51% Bar Rule." As the name implies, 51% of fault bars recovery by the injured party.

The 51% Bar Rule means that if you suffered $10,000 in damages and the judge or jury decided that you were actually 50% at fault for your car accident, the judge could still award you damages. However, the 51% Bar Rule requires the court to reduce your damage award in proportion to your percentage of fault. As a result, the court would award you $5,000.

Damage Types Allowed in Wisconsin

Wisconsin courts typically award both economic and non-economic damages in car accident cases. These fall under the larger category of “compensatory damages," intended literally to "compensate" you for your injuries. Economic damages are the out-of-pocket expenses you suffered, including your medical bills and vehicle repair bills. Non-economic damages are the injuries you suffered that do not have a set price tag: any loss of enjoyment of life, disability or disfigurement, or mental distress.

If your car accident was the result of another driver's driving under the influence, the other driver acted with malice, or the other driver acted with intentional disregard for your rights, then you may be entitled to punitive damage for your injuries.

A typical car accident damage award includes compensation for:

  • Medication co-pays
  • Lost earnings
  • Doctor visits
  • Vehicle repair or replacement
  • Pain and suffering

Damage Limits in Wisconsin

Wisconsin, like all other states, has set time limits for how long an injured party can wait before filing a lawsuit to collect damages for car accident injuries. The legal system calls these time limits “statutes of limitations," and in Wisconsin, it matters whether the party at fault for your injuries works for the government or not.

If you were injured by a government agent, the accelerated six-month deadline may apply in your case. Otherwise, lawsuits must be filed within three years of a car accident, whether you were hurt or your car was. Finally, if your loved one died as a result of a car accident, you must file any wrongful death claim within two years of the car accident.

In the rare case that punitive damages are available, depending upon the circumstances, Wisconsin may limit those damages. Unless the driver at fault was under the influence of an intoxicant, the state imposes a cap of double the amount of the compensatory damages award or $200,000, whichever is greater.

Learn How Wisconsin Car Accident Compensation Laws Affect Your Case: Talk to a Lawyer

Are you worried that you can't afford to pay for physical therapy to recover from injuries you suffered in a car accident? In Wisconsin, you may be in luck, but with different time limits depending upon the type of claim you want to bring and who the defendant is, you won't want to wait around too long before deciding to file a lawsuit.

For advice on the strength and value of your claim, speak to an experienced car accident attorney in Wisconsin today.

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  • Car accident claims are complex and insurance carriers have lawyers on their side

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