Wisconsin Negligence Laws
Maybe you got rear-ended on I-94, or maybe you slipped on that icy patch of sidewalk that your neighbor never shovels. In any case, if someone else's lack of care caused you injuries, you may have a legal claim based on negligence. But how do negligence cases work, and what laws does the Badger State have regarding who is responsible for your injuries?
Continue reading for a quick introduction to negligence laws in Wisconsin.
General Negligence Law
Negligence in the legal sense refers to whether a person has a duty of care to another, and whether they have failed in that duty. If so, that person may be liable for any resulting injuries. For example, if Debbie is speeding on the interstate and they collide with Patricia's car, they might be held liable to Patricia for negligence. Under certain negligence laws, the plaintiff can be partially at fault for their own injuries. This is called “contributory" negligence.
Taking the above example, if Patricia failed to signal before changing into Debbie's lane, Patricia might be found to have contributed to the accident. Wisconsin negligence law states that contributory negligence is only a bar to a claim if the plaintiff (Patricia) is more at fault for the accident than the defendant. This is referred to as "modified comparative negligence."
Negligence Laws in Wisconsin
States may have varying negligence laws depending on their civil lawsuit system and your specific circumstances. Wisconsin negligence laws are highlighted in the table below.
Modified Comparative Negligence
Under the legal theory of modified comparative negligence, the person bringing a claim of negligence will not be able to recover damages if they're found to be either equally responsible or more responsible for the injury for which they are seeking damages. For the person brining the claim to recover compensation, they must not be more than 50% at fault.
Contributory Negligence-Limit to Plaintiff's Recovery
Contributory negligence is not a bar on recovery if the percentage of fault that is assigned to the person bringing the claim of negligence is not greater than that of the defendant(s). The damages decrease in proportion to the percentage of fault that is assigned to the person that is bringing the claim. As was mentioned under "modified comparative negligence," if the person bringing the claim is found to be 60% at fault, for example, they are completely barred from recovery damages.
Contribution Among Tortfeasors
Yes, if more than one tortfeasor is a party to the lawsuit, each tortfeasor that is found liable must contribute to the payment of damages according to a pro rata assignment of liability and a corresponding pro rata amount. Under such circumstances, each tortfeasor is known as a joint tortfeasor.
In order to recover damages for your injuries, you must prove several elements of a negligence case:
- Duty: the other party owed you a duty of care,
- Breach of Duty: the other party failed to meet that duty to you,
- Cause in Fact: but for the other party's failure, you would not have been injured,
- Proximate Cause: the other party's failure (and not something else) caused your injury, and
- Damages: you have actually been injured and suffered some loss.
Negligence Laws: Related Resources
You can visit FindLaw's section on Negligence for additional information and resources on this topic.
Learn How Wisconsin Negligence Laws Apply to Your Case: Talk to a Lawyer
If you've been injured due to someone else's negligence, they may have a legal obligation to pay for your injuries. However, this often requires you to make a formal demand and file a lawsuit. Before you do, it's critical that you consult with a qualified personal injury attorney in Wisconsin who can advise you of your options and represent you in a lawsuit, if needed.
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