In a Wisconsin car accident settlement, the damages reflect compensation for several different types of harms or losses caused by the negligent driver. Compensatory damages are awarded to compensate an injured person for the injuries he or she sustained and to make good or replace the loss caused by the wrong of another. Compensatory damages are given in an attempt to “make whole” the party sustaining the loss. White v. Benkowski, 37 Wis. 2d 285, 290 , 155 N.W.2d 74 (1967). Except as authorized by statute, attorney fees are not awarded in addition to the damages, this means the injured party must pay his or her attorney out of his or her recovery. In personal injury cases, this is one-third of the recovery. Compensatory damages are not to be awarded to punish the wrongdoer, that would be punitive damages, which are rarely awarded due to the higher burden of proof. The term compensatory damages means actual damages. The injured party must prove actual losses, be they for medical bills, loss of earnings and pain and suffering.
Compensatory damages are divided into two separate categories: general and special. In an automobile collision case, general damages are those awarded for pain and suffering. They are categorized as general because they are not subject to a precise calculation. Hence, general damages are defined as follows: “those losses which naturally, or necessarily, result from the defendant’s wrongful conduct and the type of injury the plaintiff sustained…. Stated otherwise, general damages are those damages which usually accompany the kind of wrongdoing alleged in the complaint.” Musa, 2001 WI 2, ¶ 29, 240 Wis. 2d 327. Medical bills and loss of earnings awards are special damages as they are reducible to a specific number. In contrast, special damages are defined as follows: “natural, but not the necessary result of an alleged wrong…. Special damages are those damages, the amount and nature of which are peculiar to each individual plaintiff…. Among the items often classified as special damages are: the cost of medical care, the amount of lost wages or impairment of earning capacity.” Musa, 2001 WI 2, ¶ 30, 240 Wis. 2d 327. The Musa court concluded, “[o]ur precedent thus clearly allows for the award of special damages in the absence of general damages.” Id. ¶ 32.
In Wisconsin MVA settlement cases damages can be given if: (1) defendant’s negligence was a substantial factor in bringing about the loss, and (2) public-policy considerations do not impede. See e.g., Rockweit v. Senecal, 197 Wis. 2d 409, 419-20, 541 N.W.2d 742 (1995). Foreseeability is not a component of cause in Wisconsin.
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