Don’t drive a car unless you have insurance. It’s never worth the risk.
Yes, auto insurance can be expensive and you might feel like you don’t get a “benefit” from having it — until you do. Because that’s what insurance is... it hangs in the background of our lives, only relevant when we need to pay the premium. But then if you’re in a car accident, it suddenly becomes very, very important.
And most folks will be in a car accident eventually.
It’s not a lot, and most accidents don’t result in severe injuries.
However, even a “minor” accident with minimal personal injuries and damage to vehicles can cost a lot of money for medical treatment, vehicle repairs, and related expenses.
Importantly, though, even if you’re not concerned about the possibility of paying out of pocket for those costs, there are penalties for not having the required amount of insurance.
Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about Wisconsin car insurance laws and requirements.
These are the minimums for car insurance in Wisconsin:
|Type of coverage||Minimum amount||What it covers|
|Liability coverage for 1 person||$25,000||Bodily injury or death of 1 person in an accident caused by the owner of the insured vehicle. This includes medical expenses, property damage, and other costs up to the limit of your coverage.|
|Liability coverage for more than 1 person||$50,000||Total bodily injury or death for an accident caused by the owner of the insured vehicle|
|Liability coverage for property damage||$10,000||Property damage per accident caused by the owner of the insured vehicle|
|Bodily injury of a driver or their passengers if injured in an accident with an uninsured driver or in a hit-and-run.|
Certain auto insurance is required by law, but you usually have the option to add components to your policy or be insured for a higher amount than the minimum.
Liability insurance and uninsured motorist insurance are required by law at certain minimum amounts. You can choose to purchase higher policy amounts if you wish.
Bodily injury liability insurance covers claims for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other costs related to the accident. The insurance company will pay this coverage for an accident involving the insured vehicle that is caused by you, a member of your family who lives with you, or for a person who drove your car with your permission.
Property damage liability insurance covers property damage like a broken fence, mailbox, wall, etc. It does not cover damage to your own vehicle.
Uninsured motorist coverage covers you if you are injured by the fault of another person who does not have sufficient insurance for your damages. It would also apply if you’re the victim of a hit-and-run accident (or any accident where the at-fault individual does not provide accurate information to cover the costs of your injuries).
You’re required to have $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident in uninsured motorist insurance, but you can elect to have more if you would prefer greater protection. Uninsured motorist insurance does not cover your property damage, only your bodily injuries.
Medical or funeral expenses for yourself or others can be covered by medical payments insurance. This can include medical costs for treatments like hospital stays, surgery, x-rays and diagnostics, prosthetics, rehabilitation, ongoing therapies, prescription medication, and other items.
Usually, this covers expenses that are not covered by your regular health insurance plan. It could cover copays or deductibles, but often coverage only lasts for 1 year after the accident. This is not required, but must be offered to you when you purchase car insurance.
If your car was purchased with a loan, the lender likely requires you to purchase damage coverage for the car. Even if you own the car flat-out, damage coverage is a good idea. It would mean that if you’re in an accident, any damage to your car would need to be paid out-of-pocket.
If your car becomes a total loss, you’d have to pay down the remainder of what you owe to the lender, plus purchase or lease a new car (if you need one).
Collision and comprehensive insurance coverages would pay for the actual cash value of your car regardless of who is at fault.
In rare situations, a driver could request to prove they have financial means to cover liability without insurance.
You can avoid purchasing auto insurance if you can show that you have:
If you’re in an accident, the first question is going to be who was at fault.
If you’re NOT at fault, these are your options for recovering damages (costs) for a Wisconsin accident:
Insurance is your first approach to receiving compensation for your losses. A plaintiff files a lawsuit if the insurance companies can’t settle on an agreeable amount or if the amount of your financial losses is greater than the amount of the relevant insurance policies.
In other words, if you were injured because of someone else’s fault, you are entitled to be restored to the financial condition you would be in if the accident hadn’t happened.
Insurance (or a lawsuit) may be for an amount that would cover costs related to:
The state of Wisconsin follows the 51% Rule, which means a plaintiff must be less than 51% liable for the injury in order to recover damages.
Even if you didn’t cause an accident, the court (or insurance company) will try to determine if your actions contributed to it in some way.
For instance, if Driver A caused the accident by failing to stop at a red light, and Driver B had the right-of-way BUT was texting at the time of the crash, Driver B will be held partially responsible. The theory is that if Driver B had been driving carefully and not distracted by their phone, they would have been able to react quickly enough to avoid the accident.
The court or insurance company would then determine the percentage of Driver B’s liability. If Driver B is found to be more than 50% liable, they cannot recover any damages. If they are 50% or less liable, they can recover damages that are reduced by the percentage of their liability. If they were awarded $100,000 in damages but were 20% liable, the award would be reduced to $80,000.
You must report the accident to the insurance company as soon as possible after it happens. Many insurance companies won’t cover an accident if the insured has waited too long to report it. But a report is not the same as a claim. Even if you haven’t yet decided how you want to proceed, if the other driver says they want to pay out of pocket, or for any other reason you’re not ready to file a claim, that’s okay. Report the accident so you don’t lose your ability to make a claim.
Reporting the accident provides the insurance company with basic facts, like who was involved, the location of the accident, and other specifics. You don’t have to make a statement of fault. You can contact an attorney who will work with you to evaluate how the accident happened, who is at fault, and how to minimize your liability in order to maximize your insurance payout.
You can ask your lawyer to be the point of contact for the insurance company so you don’t make mistakes, and so that the claim is handled properly.