Damage Caps for Wisconsin Personal Injury Cases

You may be surprised to learn that some types of personal injury lawsuits in Wisconsin have limits on the amount of damages that can be recovered. Generally speaking, the goal in any personal injury lawsuit is to recover an amount of money that fully and fairly compensates the injured party. In cases where the conduct of the responsible party is intentional or especially egregious, punitive damages may also be applicable to deter conduct of a similar nature in the future.

However, in some cases, the maximum compensation available is limited by Wisconsin law.

Wrongful Death

In many states there is no cap on recovery in wrongful death cases.  However, in Wisconsin there are strict limitations.

In Wisconsin a claim for loss of society and companionship is generally limited to $350,000.00.  There is an exception to this general rule.  If the person who died in the accident is a minor, the claim for loss of society and companionship is capped at $500,000.00.

There may be other damages available in a wrongful death action over and above loss of society and companionship.  However, the cap on loss of society and companionship in a wrongful death action has been challenged and found to be constitutional.

Damage Caps in Wisconsin

A personal injury lawsuit may seek to recover many types of damages, including lost wages, past and future medical bills, property damage, loss of earning potential, pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of companionship, and in some cases, punitive damages. While types of damages vary, damages are generally either economic or non-economic in nature, and that distinction is important when discussing damage caps in Wisconsin.

Economic damages are considered any amount of money that will compensate you for money you’ve lost or will lose in the future. These are your common damages in personal injury cases, like lost wages, property damages, and medical bills. Generally speaking, there is no cap on economic damages, as personal injury lawsuits exist to fully compensate an injured person for what they have lost.

Non-economic damages are amounts of money that compensate you for injuries that aren’t monetary in nature, such as pain and suffering, emotional damages, and loss of companionship. Punitive damages, while often considered to be their own category, are also non-economic in nature. Wisconsin law places damage caps on non-economic damages and punitive damages only in certain types of personal injury cases.

Damage Caps in Medical Malpractice Cases

In Wisconsin, non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases are capped at $750,000. As previously stated, non-economic damages are generally emotional damages, such as pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment. In medical malpractice cases, non-economic damages can be substantial, as disfigurement and loss of enjoyment can stem from many severe medical malpractice cases.

Claims Against State and Local Government

Generally speaking, it is difficult to sue the government at any level, as the government is generally immune from suit except in certain types of cases. In Wisconsin, damage caps apply to all types of damages in lawsuits against the government. In suits against the state government, damages are capped at $250,000, and in suits against local and municipal governments, damages are capped at $50,000. These damage caps apply to economic and non-economic damages, and punitive damages are completely disallowed in any suit against the government.

Wisconsin Punitive Damages Caps

As previously stated, punitive damages apply in some cases where a wrongdoer’s conduct might be particularly egregious. Punitive damages are designed to deter future misconduct from others and punish the wrongdoer in the case at hand. In Wisconsin, all personal injury cases have a cap on punitive damages of $200,000 or twice the award of other damages – whichever is larger.

All in all, Wisconsin’s damage caps provide important considerations when deciding whether to seek a settlement or take a case to trial. An experienced personal injury lawyer can explain damage caps to you in detail and ensure that you’re fully and fairly compensated to the maximum extent possible under the law.