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Understanding the Statute of Limitations for Filing a Car Accident Lawsuit in Wisconsin


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The statute of limitations is a fundamental legal concept establishing when a legal claim must be filed. It serves to protect people from defending against stale claims while promoting fairness and efficiency in the legal system.

In Wisconsin, the statute of limitations varies depending on the type of case. However, once the specified period has expired, the right to bring a claim is generally lost forever. Fortunately, several exceptions can extend the deadline to file. The best strategy is to file your claim as soon as possible since there is no time limit once your case is filed.

For a free review of your case with our Wisconsin car accident lawyers, call Wruck Paupore today at (219) 322-1166.

Understanding the Statute of Limitations for Filing a Claim for a Car Accident in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, the statute of limitations determines the time limit for filing a legal claim. According to Wis. Stat. § 893.54, the statute of limitations in Wisconsin is usually three years. However, the starting point for the countdown can vary depending on the case. Fortunately, our Wisconsin car accident lawyers can review your case to determine the exact time limit you have to file your claim. Typically, the statute of limitations begins from the time of the injury or the time of discovering the injury, especially for injuries that were not immediately apparent.

If you are seeking compensation only for property damage related to a car accident, the law also requires you to file your claim within three years of the incident. Therefore, it is crucial to act quickly to get your claim started.

Are There Exceptions to the Statute of Limitations in Wisconsin?

Not all cases follow a straightforward timeline, and several exceptions exist to the three-year statute of limitations rule. The following are the main exceptions to the statute of limitations in Wisconsin:

Delayed Discovery

In Wisconsin, Hansen v. A.H. Robins (1983) established the “discovery rule,” an exception that says the statute of limitations cannot begin until the plaintiff discovers or reasonably could have discovered the injury or damage. This exception comes into play when the damage or injury is not immediately apparent or when it takes time for the plaintiff to reasonably establish a link between the injury and the actions of another party. This rule ensures that plaintiffs have a fair opportunity to file a claim and seek justice for their injuries. However, because this is the exception to the rule, it is wise not to depend on this as an extension of time to file a lawsuit unless it cannot be avoided.


According to Wis. Stat. § 893.16, individuals with “disabilities” at the time of the accident will usually have more time to file. In the event of an accident, if the victim is under the age of 18 or has a mental illness that stops them from being able to appreciate or understand their right to sue, they have the option to file a claim within two years of turning 18 years old or having the disability removed. In cases involving mental illness, the disability must have been present at the time of the accident, and the window to file might be extended for up to five years.

Wrongful Death

Suppose you have lost a family member to a motor vehicle accident because of someone else's negligence. In that case, it is important to understand the time limits for filing a wrongful death claim. According to Wis. Stat. § 893.54, you have only two years from the date of the victim's death to file your claim, although this might vary depending on the specific circumstances of your case.

Once you have filed your claim, the state might require you and the defendant to attend mediation to attempt to reach a settlement. During mediation, we will negotiate with the defendant to try to come to a reasonable agreement that will meet your compensatory needs. In some cases, it might be possible to reach a settlement without the need for a trial.

Defendant’s Absence from the State

Per Wis. Stat. § 893.19, the clock will also not begin to run on your case if the defendant has left Wisconsin. If the individual accountable for an accident or injuries departs from the state after the incident but before a case can be initiated, the duration of their absence from the state will not be included in the calculation of the deadline for the statute of limitations.

However, you will need to keep an eye out for the defendant’s return. The time will start running again once the defendant has returned to the state and you have had a reasonable opportunity to discover their presence.

Suing Government Entities

If you plan to file a claim against a government agency like the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, it is crucial to be aware of the notice requirement. You must provide a written notice to the agency within 120 days of the accident, informing them that you intend to file a claim.

This is known as "putting the agency on notice." Failing to comply with this requirement could result in losing the opportunity to seek damages from the government entity. Therefore, acting promptly and ensuring you meet the notice deadline is essential.

If you seek compensation for damages resulting from an accident involving a government official, it is important to provide as much detail as possible. This includes the exact time, date, and location of the incident and a thorough description of any injuries or property damage incurred.

The government will review your claim and make a determination on whether to provide compensation or deny it. If your claim is denied, you might take legal action by filing a case in civil court. However, it is important to note that before filing a claim against the government, you must first file a claim with the state to avoid having your case dismissed.

Fraudulent Concealment

In cases where the defendant has intentionally hidden vital information that would have enabled the plaintiff to uncover their claim, the time limit for filing a claim might be extended until the plaintiff becomes aware of the concealment or should have discovered it through reasonable diligence, as stated in Wis. Stat. § 893.15.

So, suppose the defendant fraudulently conceals information that would have allowed the plaintiff to discover their claim. In that case, the statute of limitations might be tolled until the plaintiff learns about the concealment or reasonably should have discovered it. This means that the plaintiff has a fair chance to pursue legal action against the defendant, despite the passage of time, as long as they were unaware of the concealment.

Our Wisconsin Car Accident Lawyers Are Here to Help

Contact Wruck Paupore at (219) 322-1166 for a free case assessment with our Wisconsin personal injury attorneys.

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Top-Rated Litigator.
Helping injury victims move forward.

Don is a founding partner and one of the nation’s top-ranked personal injury litigators. He is a member of the Multi-million Dollar Advocates Forum, which includes less than 1% of the nation’s trial lawyers, and awarded the highest ranking given by Martindale Hubbel and AVVO.

More importantly, Don understands representing personal injury victims is about more than recovering the best settlement: it’s about helping clients get back on their feet and supporting them in every aspect of their recovery.

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Understanding the Insurance Company:
Getting Results.

In nearly all cases, our clients seek compensation from the wrongdoer’s insurance company. Before forming Wruck Paupore, Jason worked for a prominent law firm representing some of the world’s largest insurers. This experience gives Jason a deep understanding of the insurance industry and the strategies it uses to pay injury victims as little as possible.

Jason -- and our entire team -- put this inside knowledge to work to force insurance companies to pay what is actually owed. Often, we use the insurance company’s own tactics against them as we fight for the full compensation our client deserves.

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More than 40 Years of Experience.
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For more than four decades, Keith has been fighting for injury victims. During that time, he’s watched the insurance industry change, with insurers now more interested in protecting their stock price than treating injury victims fairly.

Since the beginning, Keith has put people first. From his childhood in Gary, Indiana during the 1960’s and working his way through law school, Keith has risen to become one of the Midwest’s most respected trial lawyers. He has never forgotten that being a lawyer is about helping people -- and seeing injury victims through struggles in a way that could change their lives forever.

Over the decades, Keith, Don and Jason have fought relentlessly for clients, even when other lawyers have said the case was impossible to win.

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