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Wisconsin Wrongful Death Auto Accidents: What Survivors Need to Know

Fatal injuries after a Wisconsin car wreck may justify a wrongful death lawsuitIn 2014, there were 451 accidents on Wisconsin roads that resulted in 498 deaths. Since then, additional fatalities have been reported on our state roads. Each one of these lives mattered. Each one of these lives was cut short, and each death left many relatives and friends mourning the loss of their loved one.

Causes of Fatal Car Accidents

Often, fatal accidents are caused by the negligent actions of a driver. In 2014, some of the common causes of fatal car crashes in Wisconsin included:

  • Speeding.
  • Running red lights.
  • Drunk driving.
  • Distracted driving.

These actions resulted in many different types of car crashes, including collisions with more than one automobile, pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and trucks.

If Your Loved One Has Died, You May Have the Right to File a Wrongful Death Case

The family of someone who was killed due to the malice or negligence of another person or party can file a wrongful death lawsuit. When an auto-related death occurs, there are usually a few circumstances that can lead to a wrongful death lawsuit.

You may have a possible Wisconsin wrongful death lawsuit if the car accident was caused by:

  • A negligent driver. Driving comes with a certain amount of responsibility. If a driver is driving in a negligent manner that leads to the crash and death, there is a high probability that a wrongful death claim can be filed. The victim’s family must be able to prove the driver was behaving in a negligent manner.
  • A drunk or intoxicated driver. Drunk drivers are the cause of many fatal Wisconsin car accidents. If the driver is proven to be intoxicated from alcohol, prescription drugs, or illegal substances, there is a good case for a wrongful death suit.
  • A vehicle defect. There are instances when a faulty vehicle or part on a vehicle causes a crash. When these accidents lead to death, it puts the manufacturer at fault for the death of the victim. A wrongful death case can be filed against these companies.

Generally, you will have to prove negligence on the part of the driver, vehicle manufacturer, or other party. To do that you will need to prove:

  • The defendant owed your loved one a duty of care.
  • The defendant breached that duty of care by failing to act as a reasonable person would have acted in similar circumstances.
  • The defendant’s breach of duty of care caused your loved one’s death, which would not have happened but for the defendant’s actions (or inactions).
  • You have or your loved one’s estate has the right to recover legal damages.

If any one of these elements of a wrongful death case is not met, then your loved one may have died an accidental death but not a wrongful death.

Why Your Wrongful Death Case Is Important

The purpose of a wrongful death lawsuit is to compensate the families of wrongful death victims for their economic and emotional losses. These types of damages are called compensatory damages. On the other hand, punitive damages—sometimes called exemplary damages—are economic awards meant to punish the responsible party for the actions that caused the death.

Wisconsin is one of several states that allow punitive damages to be awarded in successful wrongful death lawsuits. Punitive damages are not available in all Wisconsin wrongful death lawsuits. To seek punitive damages, one must prove that the defendant acted with the intent to cause harm or with reckless disregard for the safety of others. Even if gross negligence is proven, a jury must determine if punitive damages are warranted in each individual situation. Punitive damages in Wisconsin are capped at $200,000 or twice the compensatory damages, whichever is greater. Compensatory damages are also important and may include compensation for past medical care incurred from the time of the accident until the time of death, funeral expenses, pain, suffering, and past, current and future lost income.

Money will never replace your loved one, but it may keep your family from suffering financially—and it may hold the person who killed your loved one accountable. If you would like to learn more about your rights before making a decision about whether or not to file a case, please schedule a free, no-obligation conference with our Milwaukee car accident lawyers today by starting a live chat or calling us at 1-800-800-5678.

Jason F. Abraham
Managing Partner, Hupy and Abraham