As one of America's top dairy states, Wisconsin is home to a quarter of the nation's dairy farms and an expansive roadwork system built to transport the region's products. However, this system — five interstate highways, three auxiliary interstates, and more than 100,000 miles of public roads — regularly sees its fair share of car accidents.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, there were over 115,694 traffic crashes in the state in 2020, resulting in 32,373 injuries and 593 fatalities. When a car accident occurs, it can be a traumatic and overwhelming experience for those involved. In addition to dealing with physical, emotional, and financial losses, victims must understand their legal rights and options.
Wisconsin Reckless Driving Law
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on Wisconsin, with an increase in reckless driving-related crashes reported on its roads over the last two years. State and local officials have observed that risky driving behavior that began during the pandemic on less congested roads has persisted, despite the resurgence of traffic. This is despite the state’s reckless driving law, designed to protect public safety by prohibiting drivers from engaging in dangerous and careless behavior behind the wheel.
Under Wisconsin law, reckless driving includes speeding, weaving in and out of traffic, failing to stop at stop signs or red lights, and engaging in other reckless behaviors while driving.
Reckless driving is a misdemeanor offense that can result in fines, imprisonment, and driver's license suspension. A first reckless driving offense carries fines of $20 to $200, while a second or subsequent conviction within four years can cost up to $500. Additionally, if reckless driving causes bodily harm to another person, it may lead to felony charges and more severe penalties. The offense also adds six demerit points to the driver’s record.
Wisconsin Teen Driving Law
Due to the high number of teen deaths and injuries from auto accidents, Wisconsin implemented the Teen Driving Law, also known as the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) Law. It is intended to protect young drivers, passengers, and other motorists on the road.
Under this law, new drivers must first get a learner's permit, which requires passing a written test and a vision screening. Once they have held the learner's permit for at least six months and completed at least 30 hours of supervised driving, they can apply for a probationary license.
The GDL system sets restrictions on probationary license holders to help them gain experience and develop safe driving habits. For example, probationary license holders are prohibited from driving between midnight and 5 a.m., except in certain circumstances, such as going to or from work or school. Also, during the first nine months of a driver's probationary license, they can't transport more than one person under 18 who isn't a close family member.
If a probationary license holder violates these restrictions or commits other driving violations, they may sometimes face penalties such as suspension or revocation, fines, and even imprisonment.
Parents and guardians also play an important role in ensuring safe teen driving. They must complete a driver education course and supervise their teen's driving during the learner's permit phase. Children’s Wisconsin created a valuable resource for parents to guide teens as they learn how to drive.
Wisconsin Impaired Driving Law
In 2020, Wisconsin had 7,261 impaired driving-related car crashes, leading to 212 fatalities. The Wisconsin Impaired Driving Law is designed to address the problem of drunk or impaired driving on the state's roadways and is complemented by the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” initiative.
This law sets out the legal limits for blood alcohol content (BAC) for drivers and outlines the penalties for violating these limits. Operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.08 or higher is illegal. For drivers under 21, the legal limit is 0.02 BAC, and for commercial drivers, the limit is 0.04 BAC.
The penalties for violating the Wisconsin Impaired Driving Law can be severe, including fines, license suspension, and jail time. The exact penalties depend on a number of things, such as the driver's BAC level, any previous convictions, and whether or not the drunk driving caused any injuries or deaths.
For a first offense, an impaired driver can face fines of up to $300, a six- to nine-month license suspension, and a 24/7 sobriety program for one year. The punishments for a second offense or later are harsher, including longer license suspensions, higher fines, and longer jail time. DUI offenses that cause great bodily harm are considered Class H felonies with up to six years in prison, while those resulting in homicide are Class F felonies with a maximum of 12.5 years in jail.
Wisconsin also has a program called Ignition Interlock Device (IID) that requires people who break the law to install an IID in their car. This device checks the driver's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and won't let the car start if the driver's BAC is over the legal limit. IIDs are also required for first-time offenders with BACs of 0.15 or more and motorists who refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test or provide a blood sample during a traffic stop.
Wisconsin Hit and Run Law
Wisconsin’s Hit and Run Law makes drivers responsible for accidents where they leave the scene without giving information or helping the other people involved.
The law requires drivers to stop their vehicles, remain at the scene, and exchange information with others involved in the accident. A driver in an accident must give their name, address, and the vehicle's registration number. They must also show their driver's license if asked. If someone is hurt, the driver must provide reasonable assistance. If necessary, this means calling 911, taking the injured person with them, or ensuring they get to a hospital.
Any driver who fails to stop or provide the required information can be charged with hit-and-run, which is classified as a criminal offense. The severity of the penalties depends on the level of injury or damage caused by the accident. For example:
if the accident results in only property damage, the driver can be charged with a misdemeanor with fines of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail;
if the accident results in injury to another person, the driver can be charged with a felony with a maximum of $10,000 in fines and up to three years in prison; and
if the crash results in the death of another person, the driver can be charged with a Class D felony with fines of up to $100,000 and up to 25 years in prison.
If you are involved in an accident in Wisconsin, it is important to remain at the scene and provide the required information to all involved parties. A personal injury lawyer with a lot of experience can help you understand the legal process and make sure you get the money you deserve for your injuries and other damages.
Wisconsin Minimum Auto Insurance Requirements
In Wisconsin, drivers must have a minimum amount of car insurance in order to drive legally on public roads. This law makes sure that they have enough insurance to cover damages and injuries caused by car accidents.
In Wisconsin, the minimum amount of liability insurance for a car is often called 25/50/10 coverage:
$25,000 liability coverage for bodily injury or death of one person;
$50,000 liability coverage for total personal injuries or death in an accident; and
$10,000 for property damage per accident.
It is also required to have uninsured motorist coverage with limits of at least $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. This coverage protects drivers if they get involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver.
These are just the minimum requirements. Drivers can buy more coverage, like collision, medical payments, and physical damage coverage, to protect themselves even more.
Drivers found to be driving without insurance may face penalties, including fines, license suspension, and the requirement to file an SR-22 form to provide proof of insurance.
If you are a driver in Wisconsin, you may consult with an insurance agent to determine the right coverage for your needs. The Wisconsin Automobile Insurance Plan is available for those who need help finding coverage from the usual market sources.
Wisconsin Is a Fault State for Insurance Claims
Wisconsin is a fault state for insurance claims, which means that in the event of a car accident, the driver determined to be at fault for the accident is responsible for paying for the resulting damages.
If you are in a car accident in Wisconsin, you usually file a claim with the insurance company of the driver who caused the accident to get paid for things like medical bills, lost wages, and damage to your property. If the at-fault driver's insurance company agrees to pay the claim, you will receive compensation for your damages up to the policy limit.
If the insurance company for the driver who caused the accident denies your claim or offers you a settlement that doesn't cover all of your losses, you may want to file a lawsuit to get the full amount of your losses back. In this case, it's important to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you navigate the insurance claim process.
Wisconsin Is a Modified Comparative State for Car Accident Lawsuits
Wisconsin is a modified comparative negligence state regarding car accident lawsuits. This means that when someone gets hurt in a car accident and sues for personal injury, the court looks at how much each person is to blame and divides the damages accordingly.
A plaintiff can receive payments in a car accident lawsuit as long as they are less than 51% at fault for the incident. If the plaintiff is found to be 51% or more at fault, they will not be able to recover compensation.
In cases where the plaintiff is less than 51% at fault, damages are allocated based on the percentage of fault attributed to each party. For example, if the plaintiff is found to be 20% at fault and the defendant is found to be 80% at fault, the plaintiff will be able to recover damages, but the payout will be reduced by 20% to account for their degree of responsibility.
Wisconsin Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents
The statute of limitations for personal injury in Wisconsin, including car accidents, is three years from the date of the crash. A car accident victim must file a claim for damages within three years of the accident date in order to preserve their right to compensation for injuries or property damage.
It is important to note that if the car accident involves a government entity, such as a state or local government agency or employee, the claim must be filed within 120 days of the incident. If the notice isn't filed within this time frame, the person may lose the right to file a claim.
If you want to file a lawsuit in Wisconsin because of a car accident, you should talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Your attorney can help you understand the statute of limitations and gather evidence for your case.
Average Settlement for Wisconsin Car Accident Lawsuits
The average settlement for a car accident lawsuit in Wisconsin can be very different from one case to the next. In a car accident lawsuit, the amount of compensation given will depend on things like how bad the injuries are, how careless each driver is, and how much insurance coverage is available.
It is important to note that the state has capped damages for noneconomic losses such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life at $445,775 as of 2021. This cap is adjusted annually for inflation. However, if the at-fault driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol or caused the accident intentionally or recklessly, this maximum does not apply.
There is no cap on economic damages like medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage. These damages are meant to compensate the injured party for their financial losses and are not subject to the same cap as noneconomic damages.
Legal Resources for Wisconsin Car Accident Victims
Wisconsin Lawyer Referral & Information Service
The State Bar of Wisconsin's “I Need a Lawyer” program is a free online service that connects car accident victims needing legal representation with experienced and qualified attorneys. It provides a directory of lawyers who practice in your area and are available to help you with your legal needs.
Wisconsin Car Accident Reporting Portal
According to Wisconsin Statute s. 346.70(1), crashes resulting in the injury of a person, over $1,000 in damages to another person’s property, or over $200 in damages to state and government-owned property should be reported. The Crash Reporting System from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation is a large database that collects and analyzes information about car accidents. People who are in car accidents can use the site to report them and look at crash data and reports.
Wisconsin Crash Report Request
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation's Crash Reporting System is an online tool allowing access to traffic crash reports for a fee. It can be used by law enforcement and government agencies, insurance companies, and individuals involved in a traffic crash. Crash reports can be searched by criteria, like date, location, and involved parties. Individuals may also contact the DOT at (608) 266-8753 or through PO Box 7919, Madison, WI 53707-7919.
Wisconsin Consumer’s Guide to Auto Insurance
The Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance created a guide for consumers regarding their rights and responsibilities when purchasing and owning automobile insurance in the state. It tackles minimum coverage requirements, types of coverage, and what to do in case of an accident.
511WI Wisconsin Traffic Commuter Information
511 Wisconsin is an online traveler information service with real-time traffic and travel information. It shows up-to-date data on traffic incidents, road conditions, construction projects, and weather-related issues that may affect travel throughout Wisconsin. Travelers can also access the service through the mobile app, social media, and phone system.
Wisconsin Motorists’ Handbook
The Wisconsin Motorists' Handbook is a comprehensive guidebook for drivers produced by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. It provides information on traffic laws, road signs, and safe driving practices. This resource also covers traffic signals, parking laws, driving under the influence, and defensive driving techniques.
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