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Wisconsin Car Accident Laws

Wisconsin Auto Accident Laws & Resources

“America’s Dairyland” offers drivers 112,362 miles of public roadways. Millions of drivers take to these roads each year to explore all that Wisconsin has to offer. Unfortunately, Wisconsin’s roads can prove dangerous. Whether you live in the state or just traveling through Wisconsin, you may need to know about Wisconsin auto accident laws. In the event of an accident, you will want to protect your rights and know what steps to take.

In 2019, there were 145,288 total crashes in Wisconsin. Of these, 28,791 resulted in 39,723 people suffering injuries. Another 511 crashes resulted in 551 deaths. More than 1/3 of these crashes (57,601) occurred on urban city streets. 7,129 occurred on rural city streets and 23,455 on rural state highways.

Lawsuit Info Center is here to cover what you need to know about Wisconsin’s car accident laws. If you have more questions or need to discuss the details of your claim, get in touch with an experienced car accident attorney today.

Wisconsin is an “At-Fault” State

Wisconsin follows an at-fault system, meaning that the driver responsible for the car crash is also the person who must pay for any damages. This is why most drivers carry insurance – the insurance company pays out a settlement so the driver isn’t personally liable for it. But there are other factors to consider when it comes to how much a settlement will be in the end.

Comparative Negligence in Wisconsin Auto Accident Cases

Wisconsin, like some other states, follows a modified comparative negligence standard. Wisconsin Statutes Section 895.045 details how liability affects the amount that a person can collect in damages if they share fault in an accident. Under the statute you can recover damages for your injuries and losses from the crash. But if you are more than 51% at-fault for the car accident, you are barred from collecting. If you are less than 51% at-fault the court may decide to lower your total payout. The reduction is usually equal to your percentage of fault for the accident.

For example, suppose you get into a crash on I-39 in Wisconsin. You suffer serious injuries. The insurance company refuses to settle. You file a lawsuit against the other driver and his insurance company. At trial, you prove that the other party was negligent. The jury determines that your total damages are $100,000. But the jury also finds that you were 30% at-fault for the car accident. You will receive $70,000 ($100,000 – 30%).

Wisconsin Auto Accident Laws Statute of Limitations

In the state of Wisconsin, you have a specific amount of time in which you can file a lawsuit. A statute of limitations dictates what that timeline is. The type of claim or suit that you are filing affects which statute of limitations is applicable.

Wisconsin Statutes Section 893.54 gives accident victims three years to file a lawsuit to collect for personal injuries. The statute of limitations begins at the date of the accident. The timeline for wrongful death claims is also three years. But the 3-year period begins on the day that the victim died. A wrongful death lawsuit is typically brought up by the survivors or estate of the deceased.

If you are seeking compensation for property damage, Wisconsin Statutes Section 893.52 allows three years to file a suit from the date of the accident.

Keep in mind that these limitations apply to filing lawsuits, not insurance claims. That said, it is still wise not to wait too long to file a claim and establish your demands. If the claims process with the insurance company exceeds the window of time permitted by the statute of limitations, your leverage diminishes. This is because the insurance companies know that you will no longer be able to sue them to get a larger settlement.

Wisconsin’s Minimum Insurance Liability Coverage Amounts

Anyone that owns or operates a vehicle in Wisconsin must carry at least the minimum amount of insurance. Liability insurance covers bodily injury and property damage. It only covers damages that you cause in a car accident. The minimum required limits are:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury or the death of one person caused by the owner or driver of the vehicle;
  • $10,000 for property damage per accident caused by the owner or driver of the insured vehicle; and
  • $50,000 for total bodily injury or death liability caused by the owner or driver of the vehicle.

Suppose the jury determines that you were 60% at-fault for the car accident. Since you were more than 51% at-fault for the car accident, you will not recover damages.
Wisconsin’s comparative negligence standard does not apply to the insurance company. But the insurance adjuster will still make a fault determination. The insurance company will use the determination to calculate an adequate settlement.

Wisconsin also requires uninsured motorist coverage (UM). UM covers damages that you incur from a driver that lacks adequate insurance. It also protects you in accidents involving a hit-and-run. Under Wisconsin auto accident laws, you must carry at least $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident in UM coverage.

If you are at-fault for the accident liability insurance will not cover your damages. You will need to rely on other insurance. For example, collision coverage will reimburse you for the costs of fixing your car.

Penalties for Driving Without Car Insurance in Wisconsin

If you choose to drive without insurance in the state of Wisconsin, you are risking large fines and punishment. If caught, you may be fined up to $500 under Wisconsin Statutes Section 344.65. The Wisconsin DMV may also suspend your driver’s license and/or registration.

However, if you are facing these penalties but can prove to the court that you did have insurance, the punishment will be waived. If you continue to drive without insurance, the penalties could increase. Should you cause an accident while driving without insurance, you will be personally liable to pay for any and all damages.

Reporting Requirements for Car Accidents in Wisconsin

Wisconsin Statutes Section 346.70 provides car accident reporting requirements. Under the statute, drivers must report an accident if:

  • The accident resulted in injury or death to any person;
  • The accident resulted in more than $200 in damages to state or government property; or
  • The accident resulted in property damages of $1,000 or more to any one person.

These requirements apply to all parties involved in the accident. Passengers, as well as drivers, have a legal obligation to ensure that the accident is reported if the aforementioned criteria is met. If an accident is serious, emergency services should be contacted immediately. If a person is injured, it is important to get them medical care as soon as possible. Having the police on the scene means that you can give a statement at the scene. If the police are not called, you can report the accident online by completing the form.

Types of Damages in Wisconsin Car Accident Cases

There are two main types of damages that car accident victims can recover: economic and non-economic. Economic damages are costs that can be proven, such as medical bills. Non-economic is harder to prove. These types of damages are things felt by the victim as a result of the car crash. This may include chronic pain from injuries. It may cover sleep issues that began after the accident. If a person’s life is negatively impacted by a car crash, they can claim non-economic damages.

There is as third type of damage, known as punitive damage. Punitive damages are a form of punishment that a judge can order against the at-fault party. It is typically used in an attempt to dissuade further negligence and deter others from acting similarly. Punitive damages are not awarded often and there is a cap to the amount that a defendant is charged and the plaintiff can receive. The cap is either $200,000 or double the amount of the economic and non-economic damages.

Recovering Damages in a Wisconsin Car Accident Case

There are different ways that you can go about recovering damages after a car crash.

Method 1: Reach out to your own insurance company and let them discuss the claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. They will work together to review the evidence of the accident, assign liability, and negotiate a settlement. If you are found to be at-fault, your insurance company will be the one paying you for any damages.

Method 2: File a claim with the other driver’s insurance company. If the other driver is responsible for the accident, you will be asking for a settlement from their insurance company. You can send a demand letter, clearly stating how the accident occured, what you suffered as a result, and what you expect to receive. Expect the insurance company to offer you a smaller settlement than you are asking for. They will do so in hopes you will accept and end the claims process. But if the settlement offer is not fair, do not accept it.

Method 3: File a lawsuit. You can do this immediately after the crash, or you can do so if claims negotiations fail. You can name the at-fault driver and their insurance company as the defendants. You may also have the option to name a third party, if there is another person or entity that holds some liability for the crash. A lawsuit may be necessary to push the settlement process along. However, lawsuits are lengthy and expensive. The insurance company may decide to settle on your terms to avoid a trial. If you do go to trial, fault and negligence will have to be proved. If you are found to hold more responsibility for the accident, you will lose your right to collect a settlement.

Consulting a car accident lawyer is a good way to make sure that you are pursuing the appropriate avenue for recovering damages. An attorney will help you total up your damages, talk to the insurance company on your behalf, file a lawsuit, and ensure that you get the compensation that you deserve.

Wisconsin Car Accident Settlement Calculator

Did you or someone that you know suffer an injury in a car accident in Wisconsin? Use our free online Injury Settlement Calculator to see what your case might be worth.

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