This particular article will focus on three subsets:

  1. Comparative Fault;
  2. Statutes and Limitations; and
  3. Subrogation 

Comparative Fault

Comparative fault is a legal doctrine whereby the negligence of parties who contribute to injury are measured in terms of percentage. Any damages allowed are diminished in proportion to the amount of negligence attributed to the person for whom injury recovery is sought. Recovery is not barred provided the plaintiff’s percentage of fault does not exceed that of the defendants.

Both Minnesota and Wisconsin are considered Modified Comparative Fault states. In both states, the defendant’s assigned liability will be reduced in direct proportion to the plaintiff’s assigned liability.

Statute of Limitations

Statutes of limitations are laws defining the period of time available to bring a lawsuit or certain kinds of legal action.  The statutes of limitations vary between states, as do the laws that govern them. The limitations outlined below are general. Special circumstances require analysis, so it is recommended that you consult an attorney if you have questions regarding your unique case.

Personal Injury/Motor Vehicle Accidents: Minnesota – 6 years from date of injury; Wisconsin – 3 years from date of injury)

Wrongful Death: Minnesota – 3 years from the date of death, but no more than six years from the date of causation; Wisconsin 3 years from the date of death

Intentional Torts (assault and battery): Minnesota – 2 years; Wisconsin – 3 years

Property Damage: Minnesota & Wisconsin – 6 years from the date of damage.

UM/UIM Claims:  Minnesota & Wisconsin – 6 years from the date of injury

Medical Malpractice: Minnesota – 4 years from date of injury (3 years from date of death); Wisconsin – the lesser of 3 years from date of injury or 1 year from date of discovery

Premise Liability: Minnesota – 6 years; Wisconsin – 10 year statute of repose for completed structures.

Product Liability: Minnesota – 4 years for strict liability and warranty cases, 6 years for negligence, 2 years for defective design and construction; Wisconsin – 3 years, in personal injury cases. Claims Against State or Municipality: Minnesota – 180 days from incident to give notice of claim that caused injury, 1 year from incident to give notice of claim that caused death; Wisconsin – 120 days from incident to give notice of claim.

Subrogation

Subrogation is the substitution of a third person in place of a party having a claim against another party. Health Insurance companies generally have the right to step into the shoes of the party whom they compensate and sue any party whom the compensated party could have sued.

In many personal injury cases, a health insurer will issue payment on behalf of the injured party, in relation to medical expenses incurred as a result of their injury. Subrogation is the process in which the insurer, or other third party, seeks reimbursement for the expenses they have paid. However, each state has very specific laws that allow for when and how and insurer can collect.

A factor to consider in subrogation is the “Made Whole Doctrine”. All fifty states have some variation of the Made Whole Doctrine. While each state’s specific interpretation of this varies slightly, the generally accepted understanding of the term is that a person must be “made whole” before those parties with a subrogation interest in the claim are entitled to a recovery of their interests.

In Minnesota, this doctrine is referred to as Full Recovery Rule. The state’s application of this law is wide-sweeping and has led to much discussion and dispute. If the injured party is not made whole, subrogation is not allowed, regardless of whether the issue arises from equity or contract, unless specific and unambiguous terms within the contract speak to the contrary. Even then, however, it becomes increasingly difficult for an insurer to recover reimbursement if it is found that the insured has not been made whole.

Wisconsin’s implantation of the Made Whole Doctrine differs significantly from that of Minnesota. Considered a pioneer of the doctrine, Wisconsin cases have been cited as examples of how to best uphold this doctrine, by numerous other states. Like Minnesota, Wisconsin’s laws are intended to protect the injured party, making them the first and only party to collect from the settlement until such a time as they’ve been deemed “whole” or fully recovered.

While these are just some of the distinguishing differences between Minnesota and Wisconsin Tort Laws, others do exist. If you’ve been injured in an accident and have questions regarding your rights as a victim, contact the attorneys of Doar, Drill & Skow today. Licensed to practice in both Minnesota and Wisconsin, they are ready help. www.doardrill.com