Insurance Minimums Drop as Wisconsin Changes Coverage Requirements
By Rick Schroeder
With the change in the Governor's office in Wisconsin, come changes in insurance laws. Wisconsin residents have new reasons to contact their insurance agent immediately. And if you are driving in Wisconsin, you need to be aware of these changes. While it may seem like the cost of your policy is less (but I seriously doubt it), so is the minimum coverage carried by every Wisconsin driver.
Last I checked, having an accident hasn't become a cheaper proposition in the past few years. Accidents cause great financial and emotional hardship on families, and these new anti-consumer laws make safe and defensive driving all the more important. But even then, there are still bad drivers out there, so you need to make sure you and your family are protected. Here are the "highlights":
New lower minimum requirements:
- New policies convert back to the old minimum liability coverage of $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident, and $10,000 for property damage.
- The previous law required minimums of nearly twice these amounts, thereby establishing a realistic coverage against likely accident claims.
- As a departure from the old law, coverage for medical payments is now optional. If written into the policy, it must cover at least $1,000. (Everyone should have this ? and as much as your company will write!)
Underinsured motorist coverage. This is the biggest change ? for the worse!
- This is no longer a mandatory component of an insurance policy.
- Everyone should have this coverage. However, the new minimum coverage is $50,000 per person, and $100,000 per accident. (You will want way more than this.)
- The previous law meant you got what you paid for. Not anymore. This coverage is now illusory at best, as the new law allows insurance companies to limit underinsured motorist coverage by amounts paid by any person or organization that may be legally responsible for the bodily injury or death. This includes payments resulting from worker's compensation or disability benefits. In other words, you will never get what you paid for, and you need to increase these amounts as much as you can afford.
- This is the most important coverage you can purchase for you and your family. And yet the Legislature stripped it of its effectiveness.
Uninsured motorist coverage:
- This has remained a mandatory component of auto insurance policies written for Wisconsin residents, but at alarmingly lower levels.
- New policies only need to have uninsured coverage of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident.
- You need to have as much coverage here as you can afford. Recent studies show 1 in 3 drivers have no insurance at all.
Stacked policies (coverage from multiple vehicles):
- You are no longer allowed to stack policies on multiple vehicles to increase coverage (this has been an option when one policy's limits are insufficient to cover your losses).
Unrelated to coverage requirements, but still in the ballpark, insurance companies can once again deem a driver "high-risk" if he/she has not previously held motor vehicle insurance.
Recent Wisconsin legislative action rolled back coverage increases that had been put into place in 2009. The bottom line is that insurance policies will still be a big item in a household budget, but now leave you with less coverage in the event of an accident. And the new law does not require your agent to tell you this.
Call your agent right away to discuss these new changes. And then call your State Representative and Senator and ask how/why they voted the way they did on this anti-consumer legislation that does nothing but put more money in the insurance company's pockets, and provides you with less protection. Wall Street wins again - this time in Wisconsin.
Rick Schroeder is an attorney and life-long motorcycle rider. Learn more about his firm at www.theminnesotamotorcycleaccidentlawyer.com.