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Claims against a municipality in Wisconsin

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There are some very strict rules and guidelines when it comes to making a personal injury claim against a governmental entity or body in Wisconsin. Let’s say a police car inadvertently rear ended your car while you were lawfully stopped at a red light. You injure your neck and have damage to your car. How do you go about having the city or village pay for the damage for your car, your medical expenses and pain and suffering? Chances are, the city or village is not going to pay for it voluntarily, and unless proper notice is received, may not be obligated to pay for it at all.

The first rule that must be followed is that you are required to provide written notice of claim within 120 days from the date of the occurrence, by personally serving the same on the appropriate governmental entity or body responsible. Failure to provide that written notice within 120 days will forever bar the claim. While there are some exceptions to the notice provision, where the agency or governmental entity had “actual notice” of the claim or demonstrates to the court that the failure to provide the notice timely did not prejudice the governmental body in question, I wouldn’t chance or risk it, and failure to properly file will result in the governmental entity or agency filing a motion to dismiss to have the lawsuit kicked out of court, for having failed to provide the proper notice within the statutory time line.

The next timeline rule to keep in mind is the notice of disallowance of claim. If formal notice is sent by registered or certified mail and served on the claimant, this shortens the time limit for filing a lawsuit for personal injury from three years from the date of the occurrence, to 6 months after notice of the disallowance is received. The notice of disallowance must contain the notice provision that the statute of limitations is reduced to 6 months after receipt. Failure of the governmental body to disallow a claim within 120 days after presentation of the written claim is a disallowance under the statute. However, it doesn’t shorten the 3 year statute of limitations, unless the notice was served formal notice of the disallowance is complied with, as mentioned above.

The other requirement to keep in mind, is that you cannot file a lawsuit for your injury until the claim is perfected. The initial notice of claim may involve the details of the name of the claimant, address, date of accident, some details of the damage or claim, but since the injured party may still be treating and all of their medical bills or wage loss not received, a second notice perfecting the claim also must be personally served on the governmental body. Once that is completed, that paves the way to file the lawsuit if the case cannot otherwise be settled. If you file the lawsuit without perfecting the claim, the lawyers for the governmental agency or department involved, will bring a motion to dismiss to have the case kicked out of court.

Since weaving through sec. 893.80 WI Stats., is a hornet’s nest of legal complexity and rules, when injured by an agent, servant or employee of a governmental agency or body, it is best advised to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer to pursue to your case for you, to make sure all of these rules and regulations are strictly adhered to.

For more information on this article, contact Karp & Iancu.

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