Auto Insurance Requirements in Wisconsin

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All drivers in Wisconsin must have an active auto insurance policy in effect that meets the requirements of the Wisconsin Financial Responsibility Law whenever they drive in the state. A valid WI policy should at least include liability insurance and uninsured motorist coverage, in the limits of 25k/50k/10k.

There are several occasions when you'll need to show proof of insurance. The most common ones are when you are pulled over, or involved in an accident. Usually, your insurance ID card will suffice. In the event you are asked to file an SR-22 form (the proof of financial responsibility), you have several alternatives to a policy.

Wisconsin Required Car Insurance Coverage

MN Required Min. Limits

Bodily Injury (BI)

$25,000 per person / $50,000 per accident

Property Damage (PD)

$10,000 per accident

Uninsured Motorist BI (UMBI)

$25,000 per person / $50,000 per accident

Wisconsin Car Insurance Minimum Requirements

Your Wisconsin car insurance policy will always include: bodily injury, property damage, and uninsured motorists coverage. These mean that your insurer will cover you whenever you cause an accident resulting in harm or damage, either for medical care or property damage. The WI DMV also requires drivers to carry uninsured motorist coverage in case they run into uninsured motorists, who may not have the financial ability to compensate you for your costs. Below are all of the minimum requirements, as well as their required coverage amount (limits):

Bodily Injury (BI): up to $25,000 per person injured, to a total of $50,000 when there are two or more persons injured in the same accident. Whenever there are bodily injuries to other people in an accident you cause, BI pays for their medical care. This may include bills for ambulances, hospital stays, surgeries and etc. If unfortunately the other party decides to sue you, your legal defense fees will also be covered under BI.

Property Damage (PD): up to $10,000 for other people's property damage in each accident you are at fault for. Some of the costs may include the other driver’s car repair, collateral damages to public properties or other people’s residences.

Uninsured Motorists Bodily Injury (UMBI): for you and your passengers – or anyone covered under your policy – up to $25,000 per person injured, to a total of $50,000 for two or more persons injured in one accident. UMBI is your protection against the odds of running into one of the 11.7% WI uninsured drivers on the road (as of 2012) who likely lack the ability to pay for your medical care. Lastly, under no circumstances can you purchase UMBI limits higher than your BI limits of the same policy.

Optional Car Insurance Coverage in Wisconsin

Under the Wisconsin Insurance Law, all licensed WI insurers are obligated to offer you at least two optional coverages: underinsured motorist and medical payments coverage. You may see your insurance agent (or online electronic quote) automatically including these two. You have the right to reject them in writing – but before you do, understand what they do for you:

Underinsured Motorist Bodily Injury (UIMBI): in Wisconsin, if you wish to carry UIMBI, the minimum limits you need to purchase are $50,000 per person and a total of $100,000 coverage for each accident. This coverage kicks in to cover you when the other driver is at fault, and if he or she is considered underinsured when compared to you. The comparison is between the other driver’s BI and your UIMBI limits. For example, when your UIMBI limits are $50k/$100k, a driver with the state minimum BI limits – $25k/$50k – would be an underinsured driver. However, note that depending on the insurer, you may or may not be able to purchase UIMBI without raising at least buying BI in the higher 50/100 limits; we know that GEICO asks you to raise your BI limits, whereas neither State Farm nor Progressive does in Wisconsin.

Medical Payments (MED): in Wisconsin, if you agree to add MED onto your car insurance policy, the minimum limits you may purchase is $1,000 per accident. This coverage is sometimes called no-fault coverage, and it reimburses your medical costs from an accident, whether or not you caused it. It also includes funeral expenses in case someone covered under your policy dies from the accident. While this coverage may overlap with health insurance, one advantage to getting MED in Wisconsin is to lighten your the load of your health insurance plan's deductibles and copays.

Alternative Proof of Financial Responsibility

A proof of financial responsibility shows that you have car insurance that meets the WI mandated limits. Whenever you are involved in an accident that results in certain damage or personal injuries, you may be requested by the Secretary of State to provide proof. While the most common proof is an SR-22 form filed by your insurer, if you do not have an insurance policy, here are the three acceptable alternatives that may prevent your license and vehicle registration from being suspended:

Surety Bond: you can fulfill the liability requirements by having a licensed surety company issue you a surety bond good for at least $60,000 in payments. Give the Secretary a copy of this bond as your proof of financial responsibility. This bond needs to be good for the same payment limits under similar conditions as an auto insurance company would make under a minimum policy ($25k/$50k bodily injury and $10k property damage). When you cannot fulfill the judgements against you, the surety company promises to pay for you and then ask you for the money later. Note that surety bonds only satisfy your liability obligation, and do not protect your own risks.

Real Estate Bond: by finding two other individuals, both of whom own real estate in WI and a combined $120,000 in stocks, you may produce a real estate bond as your proof. A valid bond will have the real estates listed in lien of at least $60,000 in payments (how much an insurance company will pay under a minimum policy), and will be approved by a court judge of the county where the real estate is located. You will need the court clerk to record it and send a copy to the Secretary of State. In case you cannot fulfill the payments you are responsible for in an accident, the two individuals listed will pay in your place, or have their real estate taken to fulfill the debt.

Cash Deposit: the final alternative is to make at least a $60,000 cash deposit with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT). This pool of money will be used to satisfy a court judgement against you for the accident you have caused. In the event the deposit is insufficient, you may be asked to make additional deposits.

Mark is a Senior Research Analyst for ValuePenguin focusing on the insurance industry, primarily auto insurance. He previously worked in financial risk management at State Street Corporation.

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