Wisconsin is an at-fault state, not a no-fault state. But what does that mean?

In personal injury law, ‘fault’ refers to someone’s failure to follow the law either negligibly or intentionally. If a person involved in an accident can be proved to be legally liable (or at fault), they’re responsible for compensating victims for their injuries or damage to any property caused by their negligence.

In car crashes, the at-fault driver’s insurance will typically cover the cost of these damages. However, that means insurers lose money, so they go to great lengths to deny, evade, or reduce their driver’s responsibility in crashes. Therefore, if you’ve been involved in a car crash, your ability to get compensation depends on you and your attorney’s ability to prove the other driver’s fault.

In this article, we’ll take a deeper dive into what you need to know about Wisconsin’s at-fault liability system.

Wisconsin Is an At-Fault State. What’s the Alternative?

As we established, Wisconsin is an at-fault state. However, understanding Wisconsin’s concept of fault when it comes to negligence requires us to take a brief look at the alternative: no-fault states.

If you were injured in a crash in a no-fault state, you’d file a claim with your own insurer, regardless of whether you were at fault or not. As a result, no-fault states have significantly less litigation. There are only 12 no-fault states, although a few other states have no-fault insurance requirements for drivers, and a few others give drivers the choice of whether they’ll be held to a no-fault system.

Comparatively, in Wisconsin, an at-fault state (also called a tort state), your losses and injuries resulting from a crash are the financial responsibility of the party responsible for the accident. If the other driver is found to be at fault, their insurance company will have to pay for your damages.

How Fault Influences Wisconsin’s Personal Injury Laws

You can get compensation from the other driver’s insurance if you can prove fault. But how do you prove fault? There are four elements that prove negligence or fault:

  1. The person at fault had the legal duty to ensure they did not cause harm: For example, a driver turning left should yield to oncoming traffic.
  2. They breached their legal duty through negligence: If the left-turning driver was distracted and didn’t yield to you in the oncoming lane, they’ve breached their duty.
  3. Their breach directly caused your injuries: They crashed into your vehicle because they weren’t paying attention, ultimately leaving you with injuries.
  4. You suffered actual damages and loss from their breach of duty: You were injured in the crash — or experienced additional losses, like lost income if you weren’t able to work while recovering from your injuries.

If you can prove these four elements, you have a much better chance of receiving compensation.

Comparative Negligence and Fault in Wisconsin

Wisconsin has a system called comparative negligence, which allows damages to be determined based on the percentage of each party’s fault. 

For example, if a left turning driver was distracted and turned into you in the oncoming lane, but you were also distracted, you’d both be partially at fault. If it were determined that you were 25% at fault, you’d only be able to recover 75% of the damages.

What to Do If You’ve Been Injured

If you’ve been in a crash or were injured due to someone else’s negligence, you should start filing a personal injury claim as soon as possible. Wisconsin has a statute of limitations that’s three years long for personal injury claims, but the earlier you start the better chance you and your attorney have to collect evidence that clearly proves the negligent party’s fault.

Attorneys Frank Pasternak and Jeff Zirgibel have over 50 years of combined experience representing victims of negligence. Whether you were hurt in a car crash, bit by a dog, or hurt in a slip-and-fall, Frank and Jeff know the tricks insurers will try to pull, and how to fight for the compensation you deserve. Plus, they’ll personally handle your case, ensuring that your claim gets the attention it deserves during a difficult time.

To schedule a free case evaluation, get in touch with Frank and Jeff today.