What is the Car Accident Statute of Limitations in Wisconsin?

Question

What is the Car Accident Statute of Limitations in Wisconsin?

Answer

Before we get into the details of Wisconsin’s laws, let’s explain that a “statute of limitations” is simply a state law that sets a time limit on a potential plaintiff’s right to file a lawsuit in court. These deadlines vary depending on what type of loss or harm you have suffered, but the filing deadline is almost always expressed in years.

In Wisconsin, there are a few different statutes of limitations that could come into play after a vehicle accident.

First, if anyone was injured in the accident -- whether a driver, passenger, motorcycle rider, bicyclist, or pedestrian -- and they want to file a lawsuit against the person who caused the crash, Wisconsin Statutes section 893.54 dictates that the injury case be filed in Wisconsin’s civil court system within three years of the accident date.

The same statute of limitations applies if the car accident caused someone’s death, and their family or a representative wants to bring a wrongful death claim. The only difference is that for these cases, the three-year “clock” starts running on the day of the accident victim’s death, which could be later than the date of the accident itself. (Learn more about Wisconsin Wrongful Death Laws.)

Finally, if anyone had their vehicle or other property damaged as a result of a car accident in Wisconsin, Wisconsin Statutes section 893.52 sets a three-year deadline for the filing of any lawsuit over property damage that was caused by "an accident involving a motor vehicle." That includes vehicle damage as well as damage to "real" property, meaning a house, some other building, or physical land.

Whichever deadline applies, if you try to file your Wisconsin car accident lawsuit after the statute of limitations time limit has passed, you can count on the person you’re trying to sue (that’s the defendant) asking the court to dismiss the case, and the court granting the dismissal. That’s why it’s crucial to understand the statute of limitations and how it applies to your situation.

Finally, from a strategic standpoint, it’s always a good idea to leave yourself plenty of time to file a lawsuit, even if you are fairly certain that your case will be resolved through a car insurance settlement. At the very least, keeping all your options on the table will give you more leverage during settlement talks. So if the statute of limitations filing deadline is coming up, it may be time to talk with an experienced Wisconsin car accident attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

by: David Goguen, J.D.

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