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Negligence Archives

What is Negligence in Wisconsin Accident Law

In Wisconsin, negligence is when a person fails to exercise ordinary care.  Ordinary care is the care, which a reasonable person would use in similar circumstances.  A person is not using ordinary care and is negligent, if the person, without intending to do harm, does something (or fails to do something) that a reasonable person would recognize as creating an unreasonable risk of injury or damage to a person or property. This is from Wisconsin jury instruction 1005. It's easy to think of negligence as the breaking of a rule. Once you know what the rule is, simply compare the defendant's conduct or driving to what the rule says. For example, the rule is that one must come to a complete stop at a stop sign before proceeding; if a driver does a rolling stop, he is negligent. If his negligence causes or contributes to an accident and injuries, then that negligent driver is responsible for his share of causing the accident. When we try to imagine generally what 'reasonable' conduct is, it becomes a rather cloudy exercise, which the defense layers with confusion, complexity and ambiguity. In order for the plaintiff to carry his burden of proof, to convince the judge or jury that the defendant was negligent, we need clarity, simplicity and a degree of certainty. In essence, the plaintiff must show that the defendant had at a crucial decision point a binary choice to make, a yes or no, a right or wrong, in computer terms, a 1 or 0. By making the wrong choice, he was negligent. In fact, Wisconsin law clearly explains this rationale in another jury instruction:

Car Accident Negligence

In Wisconsin negligence car accident cases, the injured person's contributory or comparative negligence functions as the key factor between accident causation responsibility and recovering money damages for injuries. After they jury or judge decides factual liability questions about how much each driver contributed to the accident and how much the damages are, then comparative negligence rules and principles are applied to those findings to determine whether a claimant is entitled to recover from a particular person and, if so, the amount of that recovery. The comparative negligence rules affect all types of damages for conduct that is caused by negligence.

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