2022 Wisconsin Statutes & Annotations
Chapter 893 - Limitations of commencement of actions and proceedings; procedure for claims against governmental units.
893.54 - Injury to the person.

Universal Citation: WI Stat § 893.54 (2022)

893.54 Injury to the person.

(1m) Except as provided in sub. (2m), the following actions shall be commenced within 3 years or be barred:

(a) An action to recover damages for injuries to the person, including an action to recover damages for injuries to the person caused or sustained by or arising from an accident involving a motor vehicle.

(b) An action brought to recover damages for death caused by the wrongful act, neglect or default of another.

(2m) An action brought to recover damages for death caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another and arising from an accident involving a motor vehicle shall be commenced within 2 years after the cause of action accrues or be barred.

History: 1979 c. 323; 2015 a. 133.

Judicial Council Committee's Note, 1979: This section is derived from previous s. 893.205 but was amended to eliminate language now covered by newly created s. 893.07. (See note to s. 893.07). [Bill 326-A]

Because the parents' claim arising from an injury to their minor child was filed along with the child's claim within the time period for the child's claim under s. 893.18, the parents' claim was not barred by this section. Korth v. American Family Insurance Co., 115 Wis. 2d 326, 340 N.W.2d 494 (1983).

This section and s. 893.80 both apply to personal injury actions against governmental entities. Schwetz v. Employers Insurance of Wausau, 126 Wis. 2d 32, 374 N.W.2d 241 (Ct. App. 1985).

When a plaintiff's early subjective lay person's belief that a furnace caused the injury was contradicted by examining physicians, the cause of action against the furnace company did not accrue until the plaintiff's suspicion was confirmed by later medical diagnosis. Borello v. U.S. Oil Co., 130 Wis. 2d 397, 388 N.W.2d 140 (1986).

While adoptive parents were aware of the possibility that their child might develop a disease in the future, a cause of action did not accrue until the child was diagnosed as having the disease. Meracle v. Children's Service Society, 149 Wis. 2d 19, 437 N.W.2d 532 (1989).

When a doctor initially diagnosed a defective prosthesis, but advised surgery as the only way to determine what exactly was wrong, the plaintiff's cause of action against the prosthesis manufacturer accrued when the diagnosis was confirmed by surgery. S.J.D. v. Mentor Corp., 159 Wis. 2d 261, 463 N.W.2d 873 (Ct. App. 1990).

A brain damaged accident victim's cause of action accrued when the victim discovered, or when a person of the same degree of mental and physical handicap under the same or similar circumstances should have discovered, the injury, its cause and nature, and the defendants' identities. Carlson v. Pepin County, 167 Wis. 2d 345, 481 N.W.2d 498 (Ct. App. 1992).

Claimed ignorance of, and a blatant failure to follow, applicable regulations cannot be construed as reasonable diligence in discovering an injury when following the rule would have resulted in earlier discovery. Stroh Die Casting v. Monsanto Co., 177 Wis. 2d 91, 502 N.W.2d 132 (Ct. App. 1993).

The discovery rule does not allow a plaintiff to delay the statute of limitations until the extent of the injury is known. The statute begins to run when the plaintiff has sufficient evidence that a wrong has been committed by an identified person. Pritzlaff v. Archdiocese of Milwaukee, 194 Wis. 2d 302, 533 N.W.2d 780 (1995).

A claim of repressed memory does not indefinitely toll the statute of limitations nor delay the accrual of a cause of action, regardless of the victim's minority or the position of trust occupied by the alleged perpetrator. Doe v. Archdiocese of Milwaukee, 211 Wis. 2d 312, 565 N.W.2d 94 (1997), 94-0423.

Parents' claims for injury resulting from the sexual assault of their child accrue when the child's claims accrue, regardless of when the parents learn of their claims. Joseph W. v. Catholic Diocese of Madison, 212 Wis. 2d 925, 569 N.W.2d 795 (Ct. App. 1997), 96-2220.

Section 893.53 is the state's general and residual personal injury statute of limitations and is applicable to 42 USC 1983 actions. Hemberger v. Bitzer, 216 Wis. 2d 509, 574 N.W.2d 656 (1998), 96-2973.

The diagnosis of a non-malignant asbestos-related lung pathology does not trigger the statute of limitations with respect to a later-diagnosed, distinct malignant asbestos-related condition. Because the malignancy could not have been predicted when an earlier action relating to the non-malignant condition was dismissed on the merits, the doctrine of claims preclusion was not applied to bar the plaintiff's action. Sopha v. Owens-Corning Fiberglass Corp., 230 Wis. 2d 212, 601 N.W.2d 627 (1999), 98-1343.

The statute of limitations for subrogation claims is the statute of limitations on the underlying tort. Schwittay v. Sheboygan Falls Mutual Insurance Co., 2001 WI App 140, 246 Wis. 2d 385, 630 N.W.2d 772, 00-2445.

Even though a plaintiff might plead and testify to having suffered emotional distress on account of a lawyer's malpractice, that fact does not convert the claim into one seeking redress for injuries to the person. The underlying injuries in a legal malpractice claim are to rights and interests of a plaintiff that go beyond, or at least are different from, injuries to his or her person under this section. Hicks v. Nunnery, 2002 WI App 87, 253 Wis. 2d 721, 643 N.W.2d 809, 01-0751.

Knowing that a particular product caused an injury, an injured party cannot extend the accrual date for a cause of action against the product's manufacturer due to the subsequent discovery of possible connections between that product and another manufacturer's product in causing the injury. Baldwin v. Badger Mining Corp., 2003 WI App 95, 264 Wis. 2d 301, 663 N.W.2d 382, 02-1197.

Claims of negligent supervision made against an Archdiocese for injuries caused by sexual assaults by priests are derivative of the underlying sexual molestations by the priests. As claims for injuries resulting from sexual assault accrue by the time of the last incident of sexual assault, the derivative claims accrued, as a matter of law, by the time of the last incident of sexual assault. John Doe v. Archdiocese of Milwaukee, 2007 WI 95, 303 Wis. 2d 34, 734 N.W.2d 827, 05-1945.

A derivative claim for damages due to wrongful death is controlled by the specific statute of limitations for medical malpractice, s. 893.55, rather than the general wrongful death statute of limitations, s. 893.54, and accrues on the same date as the medical negligence action on which it is based—the date of injury, not the date of death. Estate of Genrich v. OHIC Insurance Co., 2009 WI 67, 318 Wis. 2d 553, 769 N.W.2d 481, 07-0541.

When an action to recover damages for injuries to the person is commenced as a counterclaim pursuant to s. 893.14, the statute of limitations established by this section applies. Donaldson v. West Bend Mutual Insurance Co., 2009 WI App 134, 321 Wis. 2d 244, 773 N.W.2d 470, 08-2289.

The discovery rule continues to apply to wrongful death claims in the only way in which it reasonably can: by permitting those claims to accrue on the date the injury is discovered or with reasonable diligence should be discovered by the wrongful death beneficiary, whichever occurs first. Christ v. Exxon Mobil Corp., 2015 WI 58, 362 Wis. 2d 668, 866 N.W.2d 602, 12-1493.

Federal civil rights actions under 42 USC 1983 are best characterized as personal injury actions. Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 105 S. Ct. 1938, 85 L. Ed. 2d 254 (1985).

The residual or general personal injury statute of limitations applies to 42 USC 1983 actions. Owens v. Okure, 488 U.S. 235, 109 S. Ct. 573, 102 L. Ed. 2d 594 (1989).

Cross-reference: See also the notes to s. 893.53 for additional treatments of 42 USC 1983.

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