Wisconsin Personal Injury and Property Damage Lawsuits Show Decline

While it seems as if tort lawsuits and jury verdicts for wrongs as diverse as personal injuries, premises liability and medical device and drug defects are becoming commonplace across America, some corners of the nation are actually seeing fewer tort lawsuits, for a variety of reasons.

As the Wisconsin Law Journal reports, Wisconsin is one of those areas. The Wisconsin Director of State Courts office has released new data that shows personal injury and property damage lawsuit filings steadily dropping over the past five years. Here's a snapshot peek of the tort statistics:

  • 2003 - 8,174 lawsuits;
  • 2004 - 7,602 lawsuits;
  • 2005 - 7,402 lawsuits;
  • 2006 - 7,062 lawsuits; and
  • 2007 - 6,808 lawsuits.

As you can see, the drop hasn't been drastic, but there is a clear downward trend of several hundred cases less per year.

Why the Drop in Tort Lawsuits in Wisconsin?

Of course, the natural question from this obvious trend is: what is happening to the legal system in Wisconsin?

Typically, a drop in lawsuits means either that consumers are agreeing to settlements or are being prevented from bringing lawsuits by legal provisions. And settlements, as we've written lately, can be either bad or good, depending on the state of your personal injury case and the chances of your case at trial in the opinion of your personal injury attorney.

Settlements do seem to be a more frequent occurrence, according to Christine Bremer Muggli, the president of the Wisconsin Association for Justice and a trial attorney. Bremer Muggli cites the same study that we at Total Injury cited in our coverage of settlements showing that a majority of plaintiffs bringing tort lawsuits to trial end up with less money than they would have received if they would have settled early.

Lawyers in Wisconsin seem to be responding to a similar experience in their practices, Bremer Muggli suggests.

As the lawsuit filings decrease, those who do go to trial and get a verdict are seeing the value of their personal injury case decrease as well. U.S. Department of Justice statistics demonstrate that the average jury award fell from $64,000 in 1992 to $28,000 in 2001.

Wisconsin's largest jury verdicts are typically medical malpractice verdicts, though the state does have a cap on non-economic damages of $750,000. Despite that, one verdict in 2007 reached $812,000 in damages. However, fewer medical malpractice lawsuits receive jury awards: in 2007, only 5 out of 30 total malpractice cases were awarded damages. The prior year saw 13 malpractice trials and only 2 awards.

However, despite the statistical drop in lawsuit filings, plaintiffs with personal injuries shouldn't hesitate to seek compensation with a Wisconsin injury lawyer. Lawyers still reach successful compensation amounts for clients on a daily basis, and can also negotiate settlements if that course is in your best interest. In any case, speaking directly to a personal injury lawyer can clarify your options.

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