Punitive Damages in Car Accidents

Punitive damages are possible in some Wisconsin personal injury cases. However, not everyone who can recover compensatory damages for things such as medical costs, lost income, and pain and suffering can recover punitive damages after a Wisconsin accident.

Instead, Wisconsin law limits when a plaintiff may recover punitive damages.

What Are Punitive Damages?

Punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant and discourage others from behaving similarly in the future. They are not meant to compensate the injury victim even though that will happen if the court awards punitive damages.

In Wisconsin, punitive damages typically may not exceed twice the amount of compensatory damages awarded by the court or $200,000—whichever is greater. In limited cases, however, punitive damages may exceed this limit. For example, people hurt in drunk driving crashes may seek more in punitive damages.

What Wisconsin Law Says About Punitive Damages

According to Wisconsin Statutes, Section 895.043, a plaintiff may receive punitive damages if the plaintiff can prove that the defendant acted “maliciously toward the plaintiff” or with “intentional disregard of the rights of the plaintiff.”

The plaintiff must prove the case for punitive damages to the court with evidence. The plaintiff may also provide evidence about the defendant’s wealth or ability to pay an award of punitive damages.

The decision about punitive damages will be made by the jury or the judge independently of the case for liability and compensatory damages.

Should You Seek Punitive Damages?

Not every person with a strong personal injury case should seek punitive damages. Before you decide whether to pursue punitive damages, we encourage you to talk to an experienced Wisconsin personal injury lawyer who has brought punitive damages cases before Wisconsin courts in previous cases and who knows how to protect all of your rights.

Please contact us any time to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation in our Milwaukee, Appleton, Green Bay, Madison, or Wausau office, in your home or hospital room, or by phone or video conference. Let’s meet to talk about what to do next and all of the damages that you can recover in a Wisconsin personal injury accident.


Jason F. Abraham
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Helping car accident and personal injury victims throughout Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa since 1993.