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Wisconsin Car Accident Compensation Laws

Wisconsin visitors and residents alike delight in the Badger State's delicious cheese. But while America's Dairyland is home to a fair share of cows, deer remain high up on the list of creatures responsible for car accidents in this Midwestern state. If your car accident on the way to Madison left you with physical injuries, mental distress, or damage to your vehicle, take a deep breath and look over these Wisconsin car accident compensation laws.

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 is “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% fault bars recovery by the injured party.

So how exactly does the 51% Bar Rule play out? 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.

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

Other Limits

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

Damage Types

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 which 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 of 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.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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