America’s dairy land is home to greener pastures for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life. But your experience in this idyllic state could turn sour in an instant if you’re caught driving without car insurance. Wisconsin’s traffic code takes a strict stance against errant drivers, strapping the uninsured with severe penalties for breaking the law.
Much like most other states, Wisconsin’s Department of Transport requires you to purchase and maintain an insurance policy up to certain minimum liability limits. In Wisconsin, it’s mandatory to purchase at least:
- $50,000 for bodily injuries caused in one accident
- $50,000 per accident for bodily injuries caused by an uninsured driver
- $25,000 per person for bodily injuries caused by an uninsured driver
- $25,000 for bodily injuries to one individual in a crash
- $10,000 for damage to property
Keep in the mind that while a basic policy will cover minor injuries and property damage, the coverage amounts will fall short if you are involved in a more serious accident. Many drivers elect to purchase additional features – such as comprehensive coverage – and invest in lower deductibles to mitigate financial loss in the event of a collision.
In this article, we will discuss:
- The penalties for driving without auto insurance coverage in Wisconsin
- The penalties for being involved in an accident while you are uninsured
- SR-22 filing requirements
- Differences between “Fault” and “No Fault” states
- Mandatory uninsured motorist protection coverage
- High-risk driving categories
- Filing an insurance claim in Wisconsin
If you are ever pulled over while driving on Wisconsin roads, authorities can request that you present proof that you are covered up the state’s mandated minimum liability limits. Authorities will accept either printed or electronic evidence. If you fail to do so or if you have not purchased the appropriate auto insurance policy, you could be strapped with the penalties outlined below.
Penalties for Driving Without Auto Insurance in Wisconsin
If you are insured up to the state’s minimum liability limits but cannot provide authorities with proof of insurance, you could be cited and fined $10. However, the Department of Transport (DoT) takes a lenient approach in these cases, making concessions for drivers who may have mislaid or forgotten their auto insurance policy documents. As a result, you can contest the citation by later providing evidence that you were carrying adequate coverage at the time of the citation. We recommend keeping a digital copy of your insurance documents on your cell phone and stashing a printed version in your glove compartment to avoid the hassle of contesting your citation down the line.
If authorities discover you are uninsured, you can expect to pay additional fines totaling $500. Your license will also be suspended until you fulfill SR-22 filing requirements with the state DoT. You will also have to fork over $60 in reinstatement fees before your driving privileges are restored.
Penalties for Driving Without Car Insurance and Causing an Accident in Wisconsin
The consequences for driving with no insurance only get worse in the event of an accident. Unless you are able to pay a security deposit to cover the cost of claims made by the other drivers, submit a lease of liability proving that you settled these claims with the other parties, or enter into an installment agreement to pay for claims, your license and vehicle registration will be suspended.
Restoring your driving privileges is a complex and arduous process. You can opt to stay off the road for a full year and then apply to have your license reinstated, or as most drivers do in this situation, you can fulfill SR-22 filing requirements for three years. In either situation, you would have to pay $110 in reinstatement fees.
More About Driving Without Auto Insurance in Wisconsin
What Are SR-22 Certificate Filing Requirements?
Motorists who are convicted of certain traffic violations will often have to fulfill SR-22 requirements for three years to retain their driving privileges. The SR-22 is a form/certificate stating that you are insured up to the state’s mandated minimum liability limits. Typically, your insurer will file this document for you. Not only will this added service result in increases to your policy premium, but you may also be classed as a high-risk driver and have to pay more than the average motorist for basic policy features.
If you let your policy lapse for any reason – for example, you may have missed a payment or terminated your policy – your insurer is required, by law, to inform the DoT that you are no longer carrying insurance. Your license and registration will be suspended, and you will have to restart the SR-22 filing process from scratch.
Is Wisconsin a “Fault” or “No Fault” Insurance State?
States in the U.S. are divided into either “Fault” or “No-Fault” states. In “Fault” states, the motorist who is responsible for causing the accident can be held liable for damages and injuries sustained by the other drivers involved. For example, if a reckless motorist makes an illegal turn and causes a wreck, he or she would be responsible for compensating the other driver(s) for their medical bill and repair costs.
However, it not uncommon for claims adjusters to argue that multiple parties share liability for a single crash. For instance, if the claims adjuster concludes that one driver is 25% responsible for the accident, that driver would have to pay 25% of their damages out of pocket or from their own insurance policy.
Take note: There are several ways for drivers in Wisconsin to pursue compensation for their accident-related expenses, including:
- Filing a claim with their own insurance company;
- Pursuing a lawsuit against the at-fault driver; or
- Filing a claim with the at-fault driver’s auto insurance provider.
The best course of action will depend on the facts surrounding the accident. For example, if you sustained severe injuries in a crash that led to thousands of dollars in lost wages, and the Personal Injury Protection component of your policy cannot cover these costs, you may benefit from suing the driver who caused the accident.
In “No Fault” states, drivers are required to carry insurance policies (Personal Injury Protection or Med Pay) that cover their damages regardless of who caused the crash. Although this can give drivers peace of mind, one downside to this system is if their no-fault insurance coverage is too low to pay for their losses, they will not be able to sue the at-fault driver unless certain criteria are met, such as suffering a disability.
What Is Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
To reduce their monthly expenses, many drivers in Wisconsin take the risk of operating their vehicles without insurance. It’s estimated that nearly 15% of the state’s drivers are using the roads without coverage. As a result, there’s a high chance that your next crash could involve someone who isn’t insured.
And when someone doesn’t have the means to cover your repair costs and medical bills, you’re in big trouble. Not only will you have to dip into your own policy or pockets to foot the bill, but your premium may also be increased. Fortunately, Wisconsin’s DoT requires all motorists to carry additional coverage for injuries sustained in an accident involving an uninsured motorist as part of a basic policy. While this will absorb the expenses of injuries sustained in the accident, you will still have to purchase Uninsured Motorist Property Damage Coverage (UMPD) to pay for property damage.
However, if you already carry collision coverage, it may not be worth investing in UMPD as the aforementioned policy covers most types of damage to your vehicle.
Am I a High-Risk Driver?
You’ve probably heard the term “high-risk driver,” but exactly what does it mean? This category is a black mark if you’re hoping to purchase an affordable policy. Typically, these drivers are motorists who have been convicted of committing severe traffic violations such as operating a vehicle without insurance or driving under the influence.
As a high-risk driver, you won’t just pay more for insurance than the average motorist, but you could also be denied lucrative discounts or policy features. Why? As a high-risk driver, you are statistically more likely than the average motorist to file a claim. The insurance industry stakes its fortune on probability, and your bad odds aren’t helping providers make a profit.
You can escape the doom and gloom of this kryptonite category by avoiding accidents for a few years, fulfilling and completing your SR-22 requirements, completing a driving safety course, and purchasing a car fitted with advanced safety features.
How Do I File an Auto Insurance Claim in Wisconsin?
Confused about what to do after a collision? Below, we’ve outlined the most important steps to take after an accident:
1. Call 911
If anyone has been injured, or your vehicle or any other vehicles involved in the accident are blocking traffic, you should call the authorities. Expediting medical relief will ensure those who were harmed in the crash receive immediate treatment for their injuries. A few seconds could mean the difference between life or death. Police will also compile a detailed report of the accident, which will be valuable evidence when you file a claim and may help you overcome liability disputes.
2. Collect Relevant Information
During negotiations with your insurer, rock-solid info is the most powerful tool in your arsenal. After a crash, you should always take note of the personal details of all the parties involved in the accident including their phone numbers, insurance information, names, personal addresses, and plate numbers.
3. Take Down Witness Statements
Whether you’re out in the middle of nowhere or in the center of the city, chances are someone saw the accident take place. If you are able to, you should take down the statements and contact details of any bystanders who witnessed the crash. If they consent, you can also use your phone to make recordings of your conversations.
4. Never Admit Fault
Countless motorists have been intimidated into making a crash site confession. However, admitting fault in the wake of an accident can sink your claim in an instant, even if it later emerges that the other motorist was responsible. One simple rule: Never admit fault.
5. Collect Evidence
Technological advances have turned our phones into far more than just a device to browse the Internet. Using your smartphone, take photographs of any property damage and/or injuries sustained by you or anyone else in the crash. You should also snap pictures of street signs, weather conditions, and other elements that could help you prove fault.
6. Seek Treatment
Crash forces can cause untold damage, leaving you nursing injuries that can take years, or sometimes decades, to heal. Even minor accidents have been shown to lead to spinal fractures, severe sprains, and slipped discs. While you may not be experiencing any pain in the wake of the crash, it always pays to visit your GP. Not only will you get an accurate assessment of your condition, but you will also find out whether you require further medical treatment. This will ensure you have a detailed report to present to your insurer.
High vs. Low Deductible
A deductible represents the portion of your repair costs or medical bills you will have to pay before your policy’s features kick in. Simply put: A high deductible will lower your premium but will result in you paying more out of pocket in the event of an accident. A low deductible nets you protection against severe financial loss at the cost of a higher monthly or annual policy rate.