Dealing with shared liability in a Wisconsin car crash

Black-and-white situations are simpler to deal with, but how does the law deal with cases that are blurred with shades of grey?

After a Wisconsin car accident, when the immediate emergency concerns have been addressed, the question quickly comes up: who or what caused the crash?

Typically, the plaintiff files a claim against the party who is liable for the accident and, therefore, responsible for all the pain and suffering, medical expenses, loss of income and material damage. In fatal accidents, a claim can be filed for wrongful death. These are black-and-white cases.

What happens if your own actions contributed to the crash?

If you were partly responsible for what happened or if your actions aggravated the accident, the way the law treats these "grey" cases depends on the state where the accident took place. In Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin, the system used to award damages in a shared responsibility case is called Comparative Negligence, more precisely the Modified Comparative Fault - 51 Percent Rule. What does it mean?

  • The Comparative Negligence rule states that if you are the injured party but partially to blame for the accident, you can claim damages but your settlement is reduced by the percentage of fault attributed to you.
  • The 51 percent rule refines the system by stating that the injured party can only recover damages if his or her fault does not reach 51 percent. In other words, if the jury apportions 50 percent of the blame to you, you can still claim damages but you will recover the amount of the settled claim less 50 percent.

EXAMPLE: If you were entering an intersection through a green light riding 20 mph above the speed limit and were hit by a car that was coming in the opposite direction and suddenly turned left, cutting into your path, the jury might decide that the crash was caused by the turning car for 70% and by your own excessive speed for 30%. Any amount you may recover will be reduced by 30%, the amount accident liability attributed to you.

Have You Been Injured In A Wisconsin, Illinois or Iowa Car Accident?

If you've been injured in a car accident you should speak to an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible. You can contact us online or call our office directly at 800.800.5678 to schedule your free consultation with one of our car accident lawyers. We have been helping car accident victims since 1964 and service clients throughout Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa