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Wisconsin car insurance laws

Freeway Interchange, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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According to the United States Census Bureau, Wisconsin had a population of more than 5.8 million people in 2019. The same year, Wisconsin reported nearly 4.3 million licensed drivers. With so many drivers on Wisconsin roads, accidents are bound to happen. In 2019, Wisconsin statistics revealed that:

  • 145,288 traffic accidents occurred
  • 511 people died in traffic accidents
  • 28,791 people sustained injuries in traffic accidents
  • 6,058 accidents involved alcohol impairment
  • 140 fatalities involved alcohol impairment
  • 21,813 accidents involved speeding
  • 163 fatalities involved speeding

You can help avoid crashes and serious injuries by owning an automobile equipped with safety equipment such as airbags, anti lock brakes and electronic stability control. You can also protect your assets by purchasing a car insurance policy. Wisconsin requires all motorists to carry certain types of auto insurance. If you don’t carry mandated coverage, you could be subject to a hefty fine.

Car insurance laws in Wisconsin

Every state requires its motorists to purchase minimum levels of auto insurance. According to the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance, automobile owners must only carry bodily injury liability, property damage liability and uninsured motorist coverages, including:

  • Bodily injury liability per person: $25,000
  • Bodily injury liability per accident: $50,000
  • Property damage liability per accident: $10,000
  • Uninsured motorist bodily injury per person: $25,000
  • Uninsured motorist bodily injury per accident: $50,000

Liability insurance in Wisconsin

Wisconsin law only requires drivers to carry barebones liability coverage that is designed to pay for someone else’s damages if you get into an accident.

Many drivers choose to purchase more than the minimum because the liability coverage you purchase will only pay up to the limit. If you total another driver’s 2021 Honda Accord, it may cost up to $26,000 to replace it, $16,000 more than Wisconsin’s $10,000 property damage liability minimum. A hospital stay can cost $10,000 or more per day. If you are at fault for an accident that injures the other driver, Wisconsin’s $25,000 minimum bodily injury liability coverage likely won’t cover all medical costs. If injury or damage costs exceed your insurance limits, you are on the hook to pay the remainder of the expenses.

Financial advisors recommend carrying more liability coverage than the minimum. If you have a high net worth, you may need liability coverage with even higher limits. A personal umbrella policy is a good option. If you are at fault for an auto accident and exhaust your liability limits, the umbrella policy will kick in to pay the remaining costs.

Is Wisconsin a no-fault state?

A handful of states have passed no-fault laws, which require all motorists to carry personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. No-fault auto insurance laws require drivers to file claims with their own insurance company, regardless of who is at fault for an accident. They also limit lawsuits involving traffic accidents.

Wisconsin is not a no-fault state, so Badger State drivers are not required to carry PIP, which means its automobile owners do not have the litigation protections of a no-fault law. When insuring a vehicle in Wisconsin, always purchase enough liability coverage to protect all your assets and also consider the added protection of an umbrella policy.

Penalties for driving without insurance in Wisconsin

The penalty for driving in Wisconsin without insurance is a $500 fine. If you cannot produce proof of insurance when a police officer requests it, you could receive a $10 fine. If you can later prove that you were insured at the time of the incident, by presenting either a digital or paper insurance ID, the violation will be withdrawn. Wisconsin law recognizes digital insurance ID cards, which many insurance companies provide in their mobile apps. Presenting a false or counterfeit proof of an insurance ID card can lead to a $5,000 fine.

Although Wisconsin law allows police officers to request proof of insurance when they pull you over for a traffic stop, it does not allow them to pull you over for the sole purpose of determining insurance compliance.

Additional auto insurance coverage options in Wisconsin

Coverages required by Wisconsin law provide barebones protection, but you can add optional coverages for your own peace of mind. You may also be required to purchase additional coverage if you loan or lease your vehicle. Some of the most common additional coverages include the following:

  • Collision: Collision coverage covers your automobile and can help repair or replace it following a covered accident. Typically, leasing companies and lenders require collision coverage whenever you finance or lease a vehicle. Besides covering your car when it collides with another automobile, collision coverage may also pay to repair or replace your vehicle if you collide with a stationary object, like a telephone pole, or if you are the victim of a hit-and-run driver.
  • Comprehensive: Comprehensive coverage pays to repair or replace your car if it suffers a covered loss caused by a non-collision event. For example, comprehensive coverage will pay for broken windshields, fire damage, storm damage or stolen vehicles. Usually, leasing companies and lenders require you to buy comprehensive coverage for financed or leased automobiles.
  • Medical payments (MedPay): Although not required by Wisconsin law, MedPay coverage is affordable and offers great protection. It helps pay the medical costs of you and your passengers following a covered accident. Expenses covered by MedPay may include health insurance copayments and deductibles, hospital costs, professional nursing care, prosthetics and surgery. MedPay can also pay funeral costs if you or a passenger dies in a covered accident, and it may also cover you and members of your household when injured while riding in another person’s car.

Car insurance companies offer many other optional coverages that you might want to consider. Optional coverages vary by provider but may include:

  • Accidental death and dismemberment coverage
  • Gap insurance
  • Rental car reimbursement coverage
  • Roadside assistance coverage

Frequently asked questions

What is the best car insurance company in Wisconsin?

Based on Bankrate’s research, the best insurance companies in Wisconsin in 2021 include Allstate, Auto-Owners, Geico, Travelers and USAA, but the best provider depends on your needs and quoted rates. Research which companies offer the options you want at the best price.

What is the cheapest car insurance in Wisconsin?

According to Bankrate’s research of 2021 rates, Erie, Geico, Progressive, State Farm and USAA offer the cheapest car insurance in Wisconsin. However, insurers use several personal factors when determining your auto insurance premium. For the most accurate rate, request insurance quotes from several carriers.

Does Wisconsin require proof of insurance when registering an automobile?

According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, you do not need to provide proof of insurance when registering a vehicle. However, you must carry proof of insurance when you drive your car. Failure to provide proof of insurance to a police officer can lead to a $10 fine.

Written by
Michael Evans
Former Personal Finance Contributor
Michael Evans is a former contributor to Bankrate and has worked in numerous industries, including education, finance, government, insurance and journalism. He began writing professionally while working for the world's first online mortgage brokerage in San Francisco, California. His writings have appeared in print and online publications, including Fox Business, International Living, Motley Fool and Yahoo Finance. He and his family divide their time between residences in Northern California and Colombia. When Michael is not writing, he enjoys working in his photography business and playing with his cat, Cyndi Lou.
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