Wisconsin Governor Gives Final OK on Auto Insurance Changes

Gov. Scott Walker signed legislation into law Tuesday that will slice the minimum amounts of auto insurance that Wisconsinites are required to carry. The rollback should take effect at the end of 2011.

Wisconsin auto insurance liability minimums

The bill will roll back changes that were pushed through in 2009, when Democrats held majorities in state government.

As a result of the 2009 changes, Wisconsin drivers currently must carry liability car insurance that will cover damages at least up to the $50,000 level for bodily injury to one person and up to $100,000 per accident. In addition, a policy must also cover for at least up to $15,000 worth of property damages caused by the policyholder.

The current levels of required coverage often get denoted as 50/100/15.

But once the bill takes effect, the minimum levels of liability coverage will be reduced to 25/50/10.

Also, the amounts that drivers must carry to protect themselves from damages sustained in an accident caused by an uninsured motorist or a hit-and-run driver will also be reduced. Wisconsinites currently have to carry uninsured motorist insurance that will pay for at least up to $100,000 in bodily injury damages per person and $300,000 per accident for these types of crashes. The proposal reduces those amounts to $25,000 and $50,000, respectively.

The same goes for medical payments coverage. Residents now have to purchase at least up to $10,000 in medical payments insurance if they opt to purchase that coverage, but that minimum amount will be reduced to $1,000.

Supporters of the bill say that all of these changes need to be made in order to make cheap car insurance prices more widely available in the state. They say the 2009 increases in minimum levels of financial protection drove up prices, reduced consumer choice and forced some to drop coverage altogether.

The jury, though, is out on the actual effects of the changes. The average premium hike caused by the 2009 increases have been estimated to be from less than 1 percent to more than 30 percent, and the state insurance commissioner has not weighed in with any objective numbers.

Final elements of the bill make changes to more esoteric parts of car insurance law.

One change it would make is to do away with “stacking,” a practice that allows consumers with multiple-car policies to transfer protection from one insured vehicle to the next.

[This is an updated version of the story "Wisconsin Senate Gives the Final OK to Auto Insurance Changes," published April 6]

About Ben Zitney
Benjamin Zitney has been covering the auto insurance industry for the past 2.5 years. Before coming to Online Auto Insurance News, he produced an extensive company history of the 30-year-old California Joint Powers Insurance Authority and worked at the Cal State Long Beach Daily Forty-Niner as a reporter, copy editor and news editor.

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