When it comes to personal injury matters where more than one party is responsible for damages, Wisconsin follows joint and several liability laws. Each defendant is held independently liable for damages, but if the plaintiff collects from only one jointly and severally liable defendant, they can seek contribution from the other responsible parties. To better understand this subject, below are answers to questions that personal injury lawyers often receive about joint and several liability.
Answers to Common Questions About Joint & Several Liability
Is each jointly and severally liable defendant responsible for 100% of the damages?
In states with pure joint and several liability laws, yes. Each defendant, no matter how small their contribution to the accident (even if it’s just 1% fault) can be ordered to pay 100% of the damages. But, Wisconsin’s laws on this subject are slightly modified; a defendant is jointly and severally liable only if their degree of fault is 51% or more.
What are the benefits of joint and several liability laws?
They help ensure that injured victims receive adequate compensation. In some personal injury cases involving more than one responsible party, one of the defendants may have no assets or financial resources, making them unable to pay their share of damages ordered by the court. Instead of the plaintiff having to assume this risk, the other responsible party assumes it by paying their own independent judgment of 100% of the damages.
How do they differ from joint liability laws?
With joint liability laws, each defendant is assigned a portion of the responsibility. They then must pay a damage amount commensurate with their share of liability. Joint and several liability laws, and variations on these, require each defendant to pay the same sum total of damages.
I’ve been injured in an accident caused by more than one person. What should I do?
These cases can be complex, so your first step should be to contact a personal injury lawyer. They will investigate the circumstances surrounding the accident, file the appropriate paperwork and legal motions, and negotiate with insurers, opposing counsel, and liable parties. If the case goes to court, a personal injury lawyer will represent you and advocate on your behalf. They will present a strong case that illustrates the need to hold multiple defendants jointly and severally liable.
The personal injury lawyers at Fitzpatrick, Skemp & Associates, LLC, are here for you. For more than 20 years, they have been representing clients throughout Western Wisconsin, the Coulee Region, and the Driftless Area. In addition to personal injury cases, they offer legal counsel in workers’ compensation and Social Security Disability issues. Call (877) 784-1230 or visit their website to schedule a free consultation.