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A person is negligent if he or she acts in an unreasonable manner. The person does not have to intentionally injure somebody-that would be a crime, not negligence. In Wisconsin, every person owes a duty of care to every other person. Ordinary care means what a reasonable person would exercise. For example, a reasonable person would not text behind the wheel of a car. If a driver is texting and injures someone, they are negligent because they did something unreasonable. They also violated a safety statute and would be held negligent per se for texting/violating the civil law.
Negligence cases involve a duty, breach, causation, and damages. A duty is owed to all. If a person breaches the duty with unreasonable conduct, then the injured person must prove that the unreasonable actions by the person caused their injuries/damages.
Examples of negligence include things like: smoking while gassing up a car, leaving a three year old home alone, carrying a stranger's bag onto an airplane, driving 65 mph in a fog storm with 10 ft viability, lending your car to a known drunk driver without a driver's license, passing a bicyclist without giving them three feet space, shooting a deer rifle across a known pedestrian path, driving through a red light without stopping, failing to slow down when a ball rolls into the road and you see a child running towards the ball....
In Wisconsin, both the defendant and plaintiff can be negligent. If the plaintiff (the injured person) is 51% or more negligent, then the plaintiff gets no money and has to pay costs to the defense for any lawsuit/trial. If the plaintiff/injured person is 50% or less at fault then the plaintiff/injured person's recovery is reduced by the amount of their own negligence. For example, say a person sees a car coming but runs quickly into the street thinking they can avoid it. Turns out the driver of the car is 100% blind and never even slows down and clips the person. A jury finds the injured person 40% at fault and the blind driver 60% at fault and includes $50,000 in the verdict for bills and to make up for what happened. The injured person would receive $30,000 ($50,000 less 40% for being at fault). If the jury said the injured person was 51% or more at fault, the injured person would get nothing and have to pay costs to the blind driver.
Negligence laws make us all safer. Even though people like to complain and pretend that all lawsuits are "frivolous," lawsuits help us by holding people accountable. In other countries that do not have a similar negligence/tort system, things are much less safe. People often get injured at work, roads are not properly signed, large buildings have preventable fires, trains, planes and other transportation are less safe, dogs and other animals attack people and the list goes on.
Personal responsibility is a two way street. In Wisconsin there is personal responsibility for both sides. If a person does something unreasonable, they are held accountable. If the person who was injured did not take proper precautions, there will be comparative fault and a reduction in recovery or no recovery at all.