Can I File a Claim in Wisconsin if I Share Some Responsibility for My Accident?
Every accident is the result of a chain of events. Untangling these actions and determining who is at fault can be complicated. You may even realize from the outset that you made a mistake that contributed to the accident. In these situations, you might worry that your actions will prevent you from recovering compensation for your injuries, even if you only share a small amount of responsibility for the accident.
If you were involved in a car accident or another type of accident that caused you a personal injury and you believe you may have been partially at fault, a knowledgeable Wisconsin personal injury lawyer can explain whether you may still have a valid claim based on state law. As with many aspects of the law, the answer depends greatly on the circumstances of your case. For legal advice tailored to your unique situation, call our office today for a free consultation.
How Does a State’s Fault System Affect an Accident Victim’s Ability to Recover Damages?
Every state has laws governing how the court awards damages in tort cases where more than one person is at fault.
These fault systems fall into four categories:
- Contributory negligence: Under this system, a victim can only bring a claim if they shared no fault whatsoever in their accident. This system is often criticized for being too harsh on victims.
- Pure comparative negligence: A victim in a pure comparative negligence state is eligible to file a claim against the other party as long as they are not 100% responsible for their own accident. The only catch is that the plaintiff’s compensation will be reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to them, so it may not be cost-effective to file a claim if they shoulder a large portion of the responsibility.
- Modified comparative negligence: Most states follow some variation of this system. Under modified comparative negligence, each party can be held responsible for damages in proportion to the fault assigned to them unless the plaintiff’s negligence surpasses a designated percentage. In some states, the cutoff is 50%, while in others, it is 51%.
- Slight/gross negligence: This rare system is only used in South Dakota. Under it, an individual cannot recover damages if they acted with more than “slight” negligence.
Which Fault System Does Wisconsin Use?
Wisconsin is one of the 23 states that follow a modified comparative negligence system with a 51% bar. This means that a plaintiff can seek damages if they are 50% or less at fault for the accident. However, they will be barred from recovering compensation if they are 51% or more at fault. Thanks to this system, Wisconsin accident victims are often still eligible to file a personal injury claim even if they share some responsibility for the incident.
What Impact Could the Percentage of Fault Assigned to You Have on Your Settlement?
Accurately determining fault is critical in a Wisconsin accident case because it directly affects not only your ability to file a claim but the total amount of your settlement. For example, imagine you were involved in a car accident and had $50,000 worth of damages. If the court decides you were 20% at fault for the crash because you were driving slightly above the speed limit, your settlement would be reduced proportionately to the percentage of fault assigned to you. After a 20% reduction, your total compensation would be $40,000.
Insurance companies are very aware of this fact and will attempt to shift blame onto victims to reduce the amount they have to pay. A skilled car accident lawyer can help you fight back against the insurance company’s accusations so you can get the settlement you deserve.
What Should You Do After an Accident Where You May Have Been Partially Responsible?
Accidents happen quickly, and the aftermath can be chaotic. While you may believe that your actions could have contributed to your injury, you should avoid voicing this opinion to others involved in the accident. You may find out later that you were incorrect in your assessment of the situation. Unfortunately, your admission of fault could still be used as evidence against your claim, which could negatively impact your chances of recovering compensation.
If you are questioned by the police or interviewed by an insurance adjuster:
- Do not discuss who was at fault for the accident.
- Be truthful with your answers, but do not provide more information than the question requires.
- Stick to facts, and don’t speculate about what may have happened.
- Remember that “I don’t know” is an acceptable answer if you are uncertain about a question.
Insurance adjusters are not on the victim’s side and are often skilled at getting them to say things that may harm their claim. Contact a knowledgeable Wisconsin personal injury lawyer who can ensure that your rights are being upheld and your claim is protected.
How Can a Personal Injury Lawyer Help You?
Determining fault in an accident can be challenging and involved. An experienced Madison personal injury lawyer has the skills and resources necessary to thoroughly investigate your case and help you get the recovery you deserve, even if you were partially at fault. A single percentage of fault can make all the difference in whether you are eligible to file a claim or not. Don’t let your opportunity to recover compensation slip away. Contact our office today to learn how we can assist you.