Auto insurance requirements in Wisconsin
In order to drive legally in the state of Wisconsin, you must maintain a certain level of car insurance coverage. You must also carry proof of insurance, which can be requested by any law enforcement official. In Wisconsin, the required forms of coverage are liability insurance and uninsured motorist coverage, which are discussed in detail below.
The following table shows the minimum insurance limits required in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin is a comparative fault state
Often referred to as comparative negligence, comparative fault means that drivers are assigned a certain percentage of fault in an accident. If your percentage of fault is less than that of the other driver, then you will receive compensation. However, your compensation is reduced based on what percentage of responsibility you share in the collision.
Liability coverage in Wisconsin
Liability insurance is what pays for damages that you cause in an accident. It is split up between bodily injury and property damage coverages. Bodily injury coverage goes towards medical expenses while property damage coverage goes toward paying off any damages you cause to another person’s property. It’s important to note that liability insurance never covers your injuries or damages to your vehicle.
What is uninsured motorist coverage?
Unfortunately, some drivers choose to forgo carrying insurance. Uninsured motorist coverage (UM) steps in to cover you when the at-fault driver cannot pay. This is a required coverage in Wisconsin. Similarly to liability insurance, this coverage is often split between bodily injury (UMBI) and property damage (UMPD) coverage. If a state requires UM coverage, it is almost always for bodily injury, as is the case in Wisconsin.
What are state-mandated car insurance limits in Wisconsin?
Most states require at least some form of car insurance. In addition to the commonly mandated liability coverage required by most states, Wisconsin also requires a certain amount of Med Pay and uninsured motorist coverage. Let’s break down what is required from each of these types of mandated coverage.
Liability coverage is usually written out with three different numbers, often referred to as split limits. For Wisconsin, those numbers are 25/50/10. Each of these corresponds to a different coverage type. The first two have to do with bodily injury, with the first number signifying the per-person limit and the second number signifying the per-accident limit. This means that if you cause an accident, your insurance company will pay up to $25,000 for any single person’s injuries, with a total amount of $50,000 available per accident.
The last number — $10,000 in the case of Wisconsin — shows the limit for liability property damage per collision. This is the limit of what your insurer will pay to cover any damages you inflict upon another person’s property, be it their vehicle or otherwise.
The limits for uninsured motorist coverage follow a similar pattern to liability coverage. In Wisconsin, those limits look like this: 25/50. This means that your insurer will pay up to $25,000 per person for bodily injuries, and up to $50,000 total per accident. If there is a third number in this sequence, it refers to UMPD, which covers property damage you may have sustained up to the listed limit.
Do Wisconsin’s required minimums provide enough auto insurance coverage?
While Wisconsin’s mandatory insurance level is higher than that of some states, the liability limits are still low enough to leave you at risk. Bodily injury limits per person are only $25,000, which could be exhausted quickly if you're found responsible for causing a serious injury. Similarly, the $50,000 for bodily injury per accident is the total amount that your insurer will pay, regardless of how many people you injure or how expensive their medical bills are.
Wisconsin’s property damage limit is substantially lower than most states, at only $10,000. For context, the average cost of a new car in the U.S. is nearly three times that. This means that if you total someone’s vehicle, your $10,000 minimum will be exceeded quickly, leaving you to foot the rest of the bill.
Luckily, liability minimums can be increased at a relatively low cost. For a small additional premium, you can bump these limits up to an amount that provides more protection for you and your family, such as 100/300/100.
Wisconsin’s penalties for driving without proof of insurance
If you are found driving in Wisconsin without car insurance, you can expect the following penalties:
Furthermore, if you cause an accident and are uninsured, you can run afoul of Wisconsin’s safety responsibility law. This means that your license will be suspended unless you do one of the following:
- Provide proof of insurance that shows liability coverage was in effect when the accident took place
- Pay a security deposit with WisDOT that will cover all claims costs
- Set up an installment agreement to pay for all damages
- Submit a release of liability proving the claim has been settled
- Request a hearing if you believe you were not at-fault
If your license or vehicle registration is suspended as a result of such an accident, you will also incur fees for reinstating them.
Optional car insurance coverage in Wisconsin
While liability and uninsured motorist coverage are required by Wisconsin law, there are many other coverage types available. Below is a list of some of the options typically available from most car insurance companies.
- Comprehensive coverage: This is a physical damage coverage that steps in to cover your vehicle in a number of non-collision circumstances. Examples are damages from weather, theft, or hitting an animal while driving.
- Collision coverage: This is another form of physical damage coverage that pays for damage sustained from another vehicle or object (excluding animals).
- Underinsured coverage: Whereas uninsured motorist coverage helps you when a driver with no insurance causes an accident, underinsured motorist coverage helps when a driver has insurance but doesn’t carry enough to fully cover injuries or damages. Wisconsin requires car insurance companies to offer underinsured motorist insurance, though drivers are not obligated to purchase it.
- Med Pay: Med Pay — or medical payments — coverage steps in to help cover medical or funeral expenses for you or anyone else in your automobile. Insurance companies in Wisconsin must offer medical payments coverage to drivers, but it is not a mandatory coverage.
- Roadside assistance: This coverage helps in the event of car trouble. Companies' roadside assistance offerings may differ in the scope of what they provide, but each plan usually includes some form of assistance with towing, fixing flats, and battery jumpstarts.
Why adhering to Wisconsin’s car insurance requirements is important
Maintaining an appropriate level of insurance coverage is incredibly important. Not only is it legally mandated, but it can also help you avoid sticky financial situations. Purchasing only the minimum amount of insurance required isn’t always the best route, as it can leave you exposed to financial risk. As such, it could be a good idea to increase your liability limits and add any coverages that could assist you in the event of an accident.
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