What Are Wisconsin’s Contributory Negligence Laws?

On behalf of Peterson, Berk & Cross, S.C.

If another person or entity causes you to sustain harm, Wisconsin law provides you the opportunity to sue for damages on the premise of negligence. However, the party you sue has the opportunity to refute your claim by proving your own negligence played a role in the incident. This is thanks to the theory of contributory negligence.

According to Wisconsin State Legislature, Section 895.045, the state abides by a contributory negligence law. Though contributory negligence typically means that a person is barred from recovery if the defendant can prove that he or she was partially responsible for his or her accident, the Badger State takes contributory negligence to mean more or less what comparative negligence means.

Comparative negligence laws do not bar a person from recovery if the deciding parties determine the claimant’s negligence was equal to or less than the defendant’s. Instead, they require the reduction of the plaintiff’s recovery proportionate to the amount of negligence attributed to him or her. So, for instance, if you file a car accident claim for $100,000 in damages and the deciding parties determine you were 25 percent at fault for the incident, you would receive $75,000, or 75 percent of the full recovery.

Some states that abide by comparative negligence laws bar recovery if a claimant shares more than 49 percent of the blame. Others allow recovery up to 99 percent fault. Wisconsin, however, bars recovery at 51 percent. So long as a plaintiff’s percentage of fault does not exceed the defendant’s, he or she may recover damages. 

The content shared in this post is for educational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice.