Comparative Negligence in Wisconsin

Wisconsin is a partial/modified negligence law state, so you cannot collect damages if you have been assigned more than 50% of the blame for an accident.
Written by Jason Tushinski
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
is a partial/modified negligence law state, which means you cannot collect damages if you have been assigned more than 50% of the blame for the accident.
It may feel like a blur when experiencing an accident, but once everyone has been accounted for and attended to, insurance companies will begin the process of sorting out who is to blame. A state’s comparative negligence laws dictate how much you can claim.

What is comparative negligence?

Comparative negligence is a legal term used to explain how blame is assigned in an accident and how plaintiffs can recover damages proportionate to their level of fault.
Here’s an example: Say you’re involved in an accident, and you’re assigned 15% of the blame by insurers. This means you're responsible for paying 15% of the other driver’s damages. On the flip side, with the other driver being assigned 85% of the blame, they (or their insurer) are responsible for covering up to 85% of your damages and/or medical care.
Comparative negligence is applied to both personal injury lawsuits and to third-party insurance claims.
In a personal injury case, a judge or jury assigns blame. When an insurance claim is filed, the insurer will use comparative negligence theory to assign blame for the accident and to calculate how much in damages will be paid out.

Comparative negligence vs. contributory negligence

In the U.S., there are three types of comparative negligence law—pure comparative negligence, partial/modified comparative negligence, and contributory negligence. All are explained below:
  • Pure comparative negligence: Injured parties are entitled to collect damages according to their proportion of responsibility in an accident
  • Partial/modified comparative negligence: An injured party can collect damages so long as their proportion of fault does not exceed 50%
  • Contributory negligence: If at fault, an injured party cannot collect any damages
In the U.S., 12 states recognize pure comparative negligence while 5 recognize contributory negligence.

What is Wisconsin’s comparative negligence law?

Wisconsin recognizes partial/modified comparative negligence. This means that an injured party can be awarded damages proportionate to their level of fault in the accident, so long as that level of fault does not exceed 50%.
So if you’re involved in an accident in Wisconsin and the other driver is assigned 70% of the blame, they are responsible for paying up to 70% of your damages. On the other hand, even though you were assigned 30% fault, you won’t owe any money to the other party since their level of fault exceeds 50%.

What happens if there are more than two responsible parties?

If there is an accident with two or more responsible parties, damages are awarded based on each party’s level of fault, but any party assigned more than 50% of the blame is not entitled to damages.
In such a case, you’ll be able to file a claim with either or both insurers representing the at-fault parties.

How is fault decided in a comparative negligence case?

With evidence, insurance claims, and police reports, insurers hunker down and determine who is at fault when examining car accidents.
If you are ever involved in a car accident, you should do your best to document as much evidence as possible, including:
  • The make and model of all vehicles involved
  • The accident’s date and time
  • Weather conditions at the time
  • Witness statements
  • Photographs of any damages
If you need to call the police, follow up and make sure they file a police report, as well. All of this evidence plays a role in how insurers assign fault after an accident.

How does car insurance work with comparative negligence?

Since Wisconsin is a partial/modified comparative negligence state, you’ll be able to file a claim with the other driver’s insurance as long as your share of the blame is not equal to or higher than 50%.
For example, let’s say you’re driving in Wisconsin and you see another vehicle up ahead running a red light. You're going 15 miles per hour over the speed limit and can’t stop in time, and a collision takes place.
After insurers review the accident, they conclude that the other driver was surfing the internet on their phone and distracted from the road. Insurers assign 80% of the blame for this to the other driver.
On the other hand, they concluded you were speeding and assigned you 20% of the blame. You will be able to collect as much as 80% of your damages from the other driver’s insurance. The other driver? Not so lucky. They are unable to recover damages from your insurer because they were found to be more than 50% fault for the collision.

How to find affordable car insurance

Even if Wisconsin recognizes partial/modified comparative negligence, this doesn’t mean you’re fully protected while out on the road. For this to happen, you’ll need to get a robust car insurance policy at an affordable price by using
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Yes, your premium will go up after you are found at fault in an accident. Of course, your overall premium is determined by many factors, including your age, marital status, driving record, and history of accidents and traffic violations, amongst other factors. But an at fault accident will make your premium jump considerably.
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