Wisconsin Personal Injury Laws & Statutory Rules

Wisconsin laws on personal injury lawsuits. Learn about the time limits to file, compensation available, fault and liability rules, and more.

If you are a Wisconsin resident who is involved in an injury-related lawsuit or insurance claim, knowledge of some of the state laws that might apply to your case can help demystify the process. In this article, we'll provide an overview of key Wisconsin laws that come into play in personal injury cases.

Time Limits for Filing a Lawsuit in Wisconsin

All states have laws called "statutes of limitations," which set forth the time limits for filing a lawsuit after you've suffered some type of harm. For personal injury cases in Wisconsin, the time limit is three years. This means that your lawsuit must be filed in a Wisconsin state court within three years of the date of your accident, or it will not be heard at all, and you will be unable to seek recourse for your injuries. So, it is absolutely essential to be aware of -- and comply with -- this time limit.

Shared Fault Laws in Wisconsin

It is also important to be aware of Wisconsin laws relating to shared fault for an accident or injury. In some cases, a defendant will argue that you are partially at fault for your accident, which could impact your ability to recover compensation for your injuries.

Wisconsin follows a comparative fault system, which means that even if you are partially to blame for the accident, you can still recover for your injuries.

Under the comparative fault rule, the amount of compensation you can receive from other at-fault parties will be reduced by a percentage that equals for your share of fault. So, if your total losses resulting from your injuries (medical bills, lost income, and so forth) equal $5,000, but you're also 20 percent to blame for the accident, you would be able to collect $4,000 from the other parties ($5,000 less 20 percent equals $4,000).

"Strict" Liability for Dog Bite/Attack Cases

In many states, dog owners are protected (to some degree) from injury liability the first time their dog injures someone if they had no reason to believe the dog was dangerous. This is often called a "one bite" rule. In Wisconsin however, a specific statute (Wis. Stat. Ann. § 174.02) makes the owner "strictly liable", meaning no matter the circumstances, the dog owner is responsible for a personal injury caused by his/her dog. Specifically, the statute reads:

"Subject to s. 895.045 and except as provided in s. 895.57 (4), the owner of a dog is liable for the full amount of damages caused by the dog injuring or causing injury to a person, domestic animal or property."

Damage Caps in Wisconsin

A number of states have enacted laws that place a cap on the amount of damages available to an injured plaintiff in certain kinds of cases. Wisconsin has two main laws that may impact an injury case.

For medical malpractice cases only, Wisconsin caps non-economic damages (which includes compensation for pain and suffering and lost enjoyment of life) at $750,000.

In all injury cases, punitive damages in Wisconsin are limited to $200,000, or two times the award of compensatory damages, whichever is greater. Punitive damages are rarely recoverable in injury cases, and they require a showing of extreme or outrageous conduct on the part of the defendant. Learn more about punitive damages in injury cases.

Claims Against the Government in Wisconsin

If your injury was caused by a Wisconsin municipality or the State of Wisconsin, special time limits and other rules apply. The key rule to remember is that you only have 120 days in which to file a notice of claim against the city, town or state government. This does not necessarily mean that you must file a lawsuit within that time, but you must formally (in writing) put the government entity on notice of your claim before the 120 day limit expires.

Most states have administrative processes that precede litigation, but if you do not put the entity on notice of your claim as required by the rules in Wisconsin, you may not be able to file a lawsuit later on. Learn more about making an injury claim against the government.

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