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What do Wisconsin personal injury lawyers mean by the term, “negligence"? Can the guy who plowed into my bike last week say he wasn’t at fault?

Negligence is related to the word “neglect.” As attorneys use it, negligence basically means failure to use the degree of care that a reasonably careful person would use in similar circumstances. This concept is really at the heart of civil law. The core of a personal injury lawsuit in Wisconsin—or anywhere else in the United States—is the claim by the plaintiff, or injured person, that the defendant was negligent in some way and thus responsible for the injuries that occurred. If this claim is held to be true, then the defendant will be required to compensate the plaintiff for those injuries.

When the subject turns to Wisconsin traffic accidents, the precise nature of negligence changes. Driving a motor vehicle is considered to be an inherently dangerous activity that can easily cause injury. Someone operating a motorcycle or car is therefore held to a higher standard of care: they must use a degree of care that a very careful person would use in similar circumstances.

Defenses against negligence

There are usually said to be four elements in a negligence claim. The personal injury lawyer for the plaintiff must establish:

  • Duty of care. It must be proved that the defendant had a particular duty to take a certain level of care to prevent foreseeable harm to others.
  • Breach of duty. It must be proved that the defendant did not live up to the expectations of careful behavior.
  • Causation. It must be shown that the defendant’s breach of duty led directly to specific harms done to the plaintiff.
  • Harms. The exact extent of injury done to the plaintiff must be shown and the cash value of those injuries established.

If an attorney fails to prove any one of these, he cannot win the case for the plaintiff. And that’s ultimately fair. Not all accidents are going to deserve compensation. If the driver of a midsize sedan was very careful on the road but still ended up crashing into your motorcycle, it’s quite likely he will not be found negligent, because he did not breach his obligation of duty.

Defense lawyers and Wisconsin insurance adjusters will often question the negligence issue of a motorcycle injury claim in order to avoid paying a larger settlement. They may argue that the rider understood and accepted the risky nature of motorcycle riding, thereby forfeiting the requirement that others take care to minimize risks. For example—and this is a common example—the defense lawyer may point out that the plaintiff failed to wear a helmet while riding his motorcycle, and interpret this behavior as showing the plaintiff didn’t attach much importance to personal safety.

More information

If you need more information on the legal principle of negligence, or if you want to arrange for a FREE case consultation about your traffic accident lawsuit, call 414-223-4800 (local) or 800-800-5678 (toll-free) today. A Wisconsin motorcycle wreck lawyer can meet with you to discuss how Hupy and Abraham can help you get the compensation you deserve from the negligent party in your Wisconsin traffic accident. If you ask, we will send you a FREE copy of our book, The Ultimate Guide for Motorcycle Accident Victims, which will be yours to keep as an introduction to our law firm.