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What is comparative negligence, and how does it affect my Wisconsin motorcycle accident case?

Let’s begin with the term “negligence” itself. In simplified terms, a negligent person is one who has failed to exercise reasonable and proper care for the results of his or her behavior. As a result of this negligence, bad things have happened — for instance, the “bad thing” could have been an Appleton or Green Bay traffic accident.

The person who negligently causes an accident is said to be “liable,” or legally responsible, for the costs and injuries that follow from the negligent behavior. Much of our civil justice system is devoted to determining exactly who is responsible for various incidents. Depending on the nature of the case, a judge or jury may be asked to make that determination.

Comparative negligence

Things get a little more complicated when more than one person made errors that caused the accident to happen. When more than one person is held to be negligent, they each may find themselves liable to pay a portion of the damages — the exact percentage guided by state laws and the determination of the judge or jury.

In some states, if you are even slightly at fault in an accident, you cannot recover anything at all — a principle called the pure contributory negligence. Because that rule often leads to harsh results, most states now follow a comparative negligence rule, under which the jury or judge determines how much fault to assign each person responsible for the accident.

Wisconsin follows a system called the “modified comparative negligence, 51 percent rule.” That means that a person may potentially recover damages as long as his share of the fault for the accident was 50 percent or less. The amount of his recovery would be reduced by the extent of his own fault. For example, if jury determined that the victim of a Wisconsin motorcycle accident suffered $15,000 worth of harm, but that she was 40 percent responsible for the collision, she could only collect $9,000 in damages — 60 percent of the whole value claim.

Even when there are several people liable in some degree for an accident, if one of the people is 51 percent or more at fault, then everyone who was injured can seek full recovery from him. On the other hand, it’s possible to imagine situations where nobody has majority liability: imagine a three-way collision in which each rider was equally negligent and bears one-third of the liability. In such a tangled case, each of the three would have a legal case against the other two riders.

Resolving the issue

If you have suffered a serious motorcycle injury due to an Appleton or Green Bay traffic accident, the insurance company may have said you cannot recover damages because you are partially at fault. That’s simply not true. Wisconsin’s comparative recovery rule may still allow you to be compensated for some of the injury done to you.

In any case, why should you accept the word of the insurance adjuster about whether you’re at fault? What you need is the professional judgment of an Appleton motorcycle crash lawyer from the law firm of Hupy and Abraham. Contact us today. Call 920-882-8382 (local) or (800) 800-5678 (toll-free) to arrange for a free, no-obligation evaluation of your legal case. Just for calling, we will send you a FREE copy of our book, The Ultimate Guide for Motorcycle Accident Victims, even if you do not hire us as your legal team.