Keep reading for information on required auto insurance coverage in Wisconsin, penalties for driving uninsured, important coverage decisions, how your smartphone can help you at traffic stops, and more.
Wisconsin is a “tort” state where state law requires all drivers to have insurance.
Wisconsin law has certain standards for car insurance policies. Those standards require every policy to include a minimum amount of liability and uninsured motorist coverage. The following table breaks down the requirements.
|Required coverage types||Minimum amount of coverage|
|Bodily injury liability||$25,000 for each person’s injuries in an accident
$50,000 total for all injuries in an accident
|Property damage liability||$10,000 total per accident|
|Uninsured motorist (UM) bodily injury||$25,000 for each person’s injuries in an accident
$50,000 total for all injuries in an accident
When someone driving your car causes an accident, it pays for victims’ medical and repair bills. However, it only pays up to a certain amount. Minimum policies include $50,000 worth of coverage for medical bills and $10,000 for property damages. If you get the minimum amount of liability insurance, you may see it referred to as 25/50/10 coverage. You can buy more than the minimums to be better protected.
Remember, liability doesn’t cover the driver’s medical bills or car repairs. It only covers those expenses for victims of an accident.
It helps pay your medical bills and the medical bills of your family and passengers after an accident. It does so when the driver who caused the accident either:
Minimum policies have $50,000 worth of UM coverage total.
In Wisconsin, you can prove you have car insurance electronically. That means a copy of your insurance ID card displayed on a smartphone or tablet works as proof. Many major insurers will already provide an electronic proof of insurance card, which the industry calls an “e-card.”
Electronic proof of insurance in Wisconsin got legalized in the summer of 2013. For the electronic document to be valid proof of insurance, it should clearly state at least the following:
If you break the law and don’t buy coverage, it could cost you. You could get stuck having to pay other people’s medical and repair bills if someone crashes your car. On top of that, you could have to pay hundreds of dollars in fines and fees.
|No. of offenses||Fine|
+ $10 fine for not having proof of coverage
In addition to liability and uninsured motorist, there are optional coverages you can add. They’ll raise the cost of your insurance, but they’ll also provide greater protection. The following are the most widely available coverage add-ons in the state.
It pays for repairing or replacing the insured car if it’s damaged by something other than a collision. Some examples of this type of damage are vandalism, hail damage, and theft. In 2011, more than 3 out of every 4 drivers in Wisconsin bought this coverage, according to data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).
It pays for repairing or replacing the insured vehicle after an accident. It covers you regardless of fault. It also covers you if your car is damaged by a hit-and-run driver. In 2011, more than 4 out of every 5 drivers in Wisconsin bought this coverage, according to the NAIC.
It pays your medical bills and the medical bills of your family and passengers after an accident. It does so when the accident was caused by a driver who has insurance, but not enough to cover all your medical bills.
By law, Wisconsin auto insurers have to tell you UIM coverage is available. But it’s still up to you if you want to buy it.
Stacking: Wisconsin law allows drivers to increase their uninsured motorist coverage through stacking. Stacking provides extra protection, but it may also increase your premium.
You may be able to stack coverage if you have multiple cars on your policy or are insured through multiple policies. Stacking basically lets you combine the coverage from all those cars or policies when you file a large claim.
Stacking options differ from insurer to insurer. So check with your agent or company to find out your options.
It pays for the medical and funeral bills of people covered by your policy. Typically, this coverage only applies to costs you have within a year of your accident, according to the Office of the Insurance Commissioner.
By law, Wisconsin auto insurers have to offer medical payments coverage to you, but it’s still optional. The minimum amount of medical payments coverage in Wisconsin is $1,000.
Statewide, about 15% of drivers are uninsured, according to the Insurance Research Council. If there’s an accident with another driver, you have about a 1-in-6 chance that he or she doesn’t have insurance. That means they won’t be able to pay for your damages from an accident.
If someone who injures you in an accident doesn’t have insurance, you may need to rely on your own policy. Wisconsin requires uninsured motorist coverage. That will provide up to $50,000 in coverage total in these situations for medical bills. If you want more protection, you can increase your limits. You can also buy medical payments coverage, which will also help you with medical bills.
Your policy doesn’t automatically include coverage for repairing your car if an uninsured motorist damages it. If you want coverage for that, you need to buy collision coverage.
How claims work in Wisconsin
Wisconsin uses a “tort” system for car insurance claims. That means if someone injures you or wrecks your car, their liability insurance pays your medical and repair bills.
But in some cases, the other driver won’t be 100% responsible for the accident. Your actions could have contributed to the accident, and you could be partially responsible. This makes things a little more complicated.
If you’re partially responsible, it reduces the amount you can get from the other driver’s insurer. Wisconsin uses “modified comparative fault” to sort this out. Here are the details:
If you’re more than 50% responsible for the accident: The other driver’s insurer doesn’t pay any of your bills. You have to completely rely on your own policy.
If you’re 50% or less responsible for the accident: The other driver’s insurer will pay your bills. But the amount they pay will be reduced by your percentage of fault. For example, if you’re 20% responsible for an accident, the other driver’s insurer doesn’t pay 100% of your bills. Instead, it pays only 80%, since you were 20% responsible. So in this example, if you have $10,000 in bills from an accident, the other driver’s insurer has to pay only $8,000.
So what if the other driver’s insurer doesn’t pay your bills? You use your own policy. Medical payments will help pay your medical bills. Collision will help pay your repair bills. But both of those coverages are optional. You’ll be on your own if you didn’t add them to your policy.
Car insurance premiums in Wisconsin are some of the cheapest in the U.S. The average cost of a policy in the state was more than 26% lower than the 2011 national average, according to data from the NAIC. That makes Wisconsin the 5th-cheapest state in the U.S. for car insurance.
Wisconsin’s average premiums are pretty low compared with the rest of the country. But in one city, insurance costs are exceptionally cheap.
Green Bay had the 4th-cheapest premiums of any city in the U.S. in 2012, according to a Runzheimer International study.
If you drive safely, infrequently, or both, you may want to look into a usage-based discount program. These programs use a device you install in your car to track how far it’s driven and/or if it’s driven safely. Depending on how you drive, you could potentially get a discount of up to 30%.
The following major insurers offer usage-based discounts in the Badger State:
If you’re buying from a small insurance company or agent you’ve never heard of before, you may want to make sure it’s licensed to do business in your state. If you buy a policy from an unlicensed agent or company, your coverage may be worthless.
The state’s insurance regulator lists details about complaints from consumers, so you’ll be able to know the complaint background of a company.
Also, consumers can file a complaint if they want regulators to follow up on a problem they have with their Wisconsin car insurance company.
Wisconsin’s average premiums are pretty low compared with the rest of the country, but Green Bay's rates are exceptionally affordable, according to a Runzheimer International study. Green Bay had the 4th-cheapest premiums of any city in the country in the 2012 study.