Auto Accident, Workers’ Comp and Slip & Fall Attorneys Dedicated to Fighting for Wisconsin Injury Victims
When people in the United States are injured due to the reckless or unsafe actions of another person or company, they are entitled to compensation. You should not have to shoulder the financial burden of health care or suffer the loss of wages because of someone else’s negligent actions.
Every state allows the collection of compensation in cases of injury or property damage caused by another person or company, but there are subtle differences in the laws that govern personal injury cases from state to state. Wisconsin is no different. There are unique rules about timelines and terminology that differ somewhat from other states and unique restrictions in terms of scope and party liabilities.
Personal Injury Time Limits – Statute of Limitation
Wisconsin law is more generous than many other states, allowing injured people to file injury suits for up to three years after the accident occurred or the injury was identified. Many states in the nation only offer a two-year statute of limitations.
This timeline is important for several reasons. If you ask any personal injury attorney if you should wait three years to file, they’ll tell you no, you should file as soon as possible. There are, however, situations where filing right away simply isn’t an option.
Suffering multiple severe injuries or a traumatic brain injury may result in prolonged hospital stays, and the true cost of the injuries may not be apparent right away. It’s also not always clear immediately after an accident that the insurance company will be uncooperative and a lawsuit will be necessary.
The Concept of Shared Fault – Wisconsin’s Modified Comparative Negligence Rules
Many states, including Wisconsin, have what are known as comparative negligence or contributory negligence laws. In many accidents, especially things like auto accidents or slip and falls, the insurance company and the defendant may argue that the injury victim – the plaintiff – shared some of the blame for the accident.
A driver who hit you may have run a red light but maybe you were speeding, or you turned in front of a car that you should have seen coming. The other driver is more at fault, but you may share some of the blame.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get compensation, but the insurance company will argue that your compensation should be reduced based on your portion of fault. For example, if the court decided your injuries warranted a verdict of $100,000 but they also came to the conclusion that you were 20 percent at fault for the accident, you would only be awarded $80,000.
One important aspect of this law to keep in mind is the 50 percent threshold. In some states, even if you are 80 percent at fault you can still recover some money for the 20 percent that wasn’t you fault. Wisconsin is not one of these states. If you were 49 percent at fault you could recover, but if you are 51 percent at fault you will not be able to recover compensation in Wisconsin.
You may have heard the advice that it’s important for drivers involved in accidents to take pictures of the scene, get contact information for witnesses and get the police report. These things are important because one of the insurance company’s favorite tactics is putting the blame for the accident on the plaintiff. If they can paint you as 20 percent to blame, they get a 20 percent discount on the settlement. If they can convince the court that you are more than half to blame, they are totally off the hook.
Accident victims can be their own best advocates in preventing this from happening by gathering evidence and working with their attorneys to make sure the truth of the accident is what is heard in the courtroom.
Are There Damage Caps in Wisconsin?
Damage caps are controversial laws that some states have put in place to limit the amount of damages a personal injury plaintiff can be awarded. These caps are sometimes applied to specific categories of damages, like punitive damages or pain and suffering damages.
Wisconsin does have a law on the books that that caps non-economic damages, such as lost enjoyment of life or pain and suffering, in medical malpractice cases. This cap was set at $750,000, but the constitutionality of the law was called in to question when a woman’s medical malpractice non-economic damage awarded was lowered from $21 million to $750,000. In 2018 the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled the medical malpractice cap was constitutional and would remain in effect.
There are also some procedural caps on punitive damages, which can’t be more than double your compensatory damages or $200,000, whichever of those numbers ends up being larger in your case.
Lastly, Wisconsin caps claims against the state government. If a government entity’s actions cause an injury or death, the victim or their family won’t be able to recover more than $250,000 (or $50,000 against municipal governments in most cases).
In most claims against the state, punitive damages are off the table. Filing a claim against a municipal or state government entity often requires jumping through quite a few hoops, so it’s likely in your best interest to speak with an attorney if you think you have a case against a state government agency.
Finding a Wisconsin Personal Injury Attorney to Fight for You
Suffering a serious injury due to the actions of someone else leaves people feeling confused and frustrated. If you’re in this situation you likely have a lot more questions than answers. Make sure to vet personal injury attorneys before making a choice. Get a feel for how committed they are to client communication and whether they will dedicate the necessary time to your case.
Kanner & Pintaluga’s personal injury attorneys in Wisconsin are committed to fighting for each client they serve. They treat each case like their legal reputation is on the line and enact ethical and aggressive strategies to ensure their clients are treated fairly.
250 E Wisconsin Ave.
Milwaukee WI 53202
* Available by Appointment