At the center of every motor vehicle accident is this question of fault. Who is at fault? Who is liable? Where does the fault lie? Fault – in a very basic sense – is the legal responsibility for an accident. In Wisconsin, fault is a complicated topic because we have what is known as a modified comparative fault system.
How does modified comparative fault work?
Comparative fault is the theory that more than one driver can be partly at fault for an accident. In a “pure comparative fault” system, a driver 90% at fault may still receive some compensation for their injuries, although the court would reduce that award by 10%.
A modified comparative fault caps the “recoverability” of damages. In Wisconsin, anyone found 51% or more at fault for an accident cannot recover damages.
How do courts calculate how much a person is at fault?
Essentially, the percentage of fault is settled before the judge. It is an adversarial system where both sides argue for a smaller share of the fault in the accident. The court will look at:
- Each driver’s actions
- Any laws broken
- The state of the vehicle
- The state of the roads
- The weather
Any contributing factor to the accident deserves some investigation. Then it comes down to the judge to decide the attribution of fault.
What are damages?
Damages in a personal injury or motor vehicle accident help a person “recover.” In this way, the law attempts to find a number that will let you get back to the state you were before an accident.
In many ways, this number is easily calculable. It will include:
- Medical bills
- Repayment for missed time at work
- Reimbursement for property damage
However, if you suffer damage that isn’t so easily calculated, such as emotional distress or other suffering, you may be able to pursue further damages.