Wisconsin Personal Injury Law: How Much Car Insurance Do I Need?

Apr 5, 2012

If you are reading this from Wisconsin you know that recent changes in the minimum insurance that we are required to carry on our automobiles was changed by Governor Scott Walker.  A few years ago, the minimums were substantially increased under the promise that the additional insurance was needed to help compensate injured victims as the result of the negligence of others and the increase in the cost of premium was minimal.  One of Scott Walker’s first acts in office was to repeal that law and return to the old minimums.

Regardless of the minimums how much insurance you need depends on many factors that you should thoroughly consider.  Once you consider all of the coverages that you need you then have to have a conversation with your insurance agent to discuss the cost of the premium to meet those needs.  You can then make a decision but please do not make the mistake that many do by “pinching pennies” on insurance coverage.  Saving a few dollars a month in insurance premiums is much like the ad for the mechanic a few years ago that said, “you can pay me now or you can pay me later”.  I represent victims injured by the negligence of others and have often had to advise my clients that there simply is not enough insurance coverage to compensate them for their injuries and damages. 

There are three types of insurance coverage that come into play in an automobile accident.  One is your own liability coverage which means if you negligently operate your vehicle and it causes injury to another you have insurance coverage to compensate that injured victim for his or her injuries.  Remember, that insurance coverage has to be sufficient to cover their medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, out-of-pocket expenses, etc.  Medical expenses have and will continue to increase.  Depending upon how much time is lost from work and the type of work the person was doing the lost wages can be substantial.  Generally, $100,000 of coverage does not go very far toward paying a victim with serious injuries. 

Of course, nobody plans on getting in an accident and causing serious injuries.  Remember, you may not be planning the accident but you may allow someone to use your car who gets in an accident and the insurance for the car is always primary.  Again, consider and plan for the worst case scenario remembering that if the person’s damages exceed the amount of liability insurance coverage the injured victim can come after you.

Next is uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.  First, in Wisconsin and in most other states you are required to have uninsured motorist coverage.  That insurance coverage is to help compensate you and your passengers if injured by the negligence of an uninsured motorist.  This would also apply to you if you were a pedestrian or riding your bicycle and you were injured by an automobile without insurance.  Although most states require liability insurance there are many, many drivers without liability insurance leaving up vulnerable to being injured and having nowhere to turn to receive compensation. 

Again, the minimums for uninsured motorist coverage in Wisconsin is minimum and you need substantially more than the minimum.  The same issues apply to the amount of liability coverage which is what happens to you if you are seriously injured by the negligence of another.  What will your lost wages be?  What will your medical expenses be?  Of course, we do not hope to be in an accident and seriously injured but you do need to plan for the worst.

Finally, there is underinsured motorist coverage which is similar to uninsured but applies in situations when you are injured by somebody with not enough insurance to compensate you for your damages.  The definition of underinsured motorist was recently affected by Governor Walker’s modification of the law but should be thoroughly discussed with your agent and reviewed in your policy.  Sometimes, underinsured simply means somebody with less insurance than you carry.  In those situations, it is always better to have a substantial amount of liability insurance making sure that your underinsured motorist coverage kicks in.  Again, if a negligence drivers injures you or your family and has insurance then your uninsured motorist coverage does not apply but your underinsured would apply.  For the same reasons you need more than the minimum for uninsured you also need for underinsured.

Again, these issues are personal in nature and you need to look at your personal financial situation.  Compare costs by various companies and agents. 

Of course, we would like to be able to avoid being in or causing an accident.  Unfortunately, none of us can predict the future and control every situation.  The reality is that you may be in an accident.  Hopefully, if you are in an accident you are not seriously injured; however, if you are seriously injured, insurance coverages and how they apply to your case are difficult issues and you need to have those issues addressed by an experienced personal injury attorney.  I have been representing injured victims in automobile, motorcycle, bicycle, etc., accidents for 27 years.  Prior to law school I worked an insurance company and part of my job was assessing what coverages apply in different situations.  I can help you sort through the difficult task of determining insurance coverages, contacting and working with insurance companies, making sure your medical expenses are resolved and the bill collectors are not pounding on your door.  These cases are generally offered on a contingency fee which means you do not pay for our services unless and until there is a recovery.  All of my initial consultations are free and there is never an obligation for you or your family to come in and talk with me and explore your rights.  Again, make sure you have enough insurance coverage and in the unfortunate event of an accident please do not let your rights pass you by.  Call for a no cost, no obligation consultation.

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One Response to “Wisconsin Personal Injury Law: How Much Car Insurance Do I Need?”

  1. Will

    Good points in terms of what to look out for. Another thing to take into consideration would be insurance companies fighting tooth and nail in order to minimize how much they pay out..


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