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Big Changes in Wisconsin’s Car Insurance Laws

November 30, 2011

MADISON, Wis. - Wisconsin's car-insurance laws underwent big changes Nov. 1 - changes of which drivers may not yet be aware.

Many new policies have "reducing clauses" which lower the amount of coverage drivers have for collisions with under-insured motorists, and the new law also changes the definition of an under-insured motorist.

Milwaukee attorney Mike End says the changes could catch policyholders by surprise.

"The people who are injured, depending on the amount of liability coverage of the other driver, may have no under-insured motorist coverage at the end of the day. So, there are some very substantial differences that are being brought about by the legislation that became effective on Nov. 1."

Supporters of the new law say it will save consumers money. But End, who is president of the Wisconsin Association for Justice, says they may also be getting less coverage.

"The definition of under-insured motorist coverage; the 'reducing clause' issue - are very important if you are misfortunate enough to be involved in a serious auto accident and are injured in it. You may end up not getting the coverage that you think you have purchased."

End's group has assembled a brochure, "Understanding Auto Insurance," which explains the new law and helps motorists evaluate the coverage they may need. End says the brochure should help guide discussions with insurance agents.

"That brochure very effectively describes all of the coverages that people buy when they buy auto insurance, and it also tells people what they should do when their policy is coming up for renewal."

Most drivers, End says, probably are not aware that the new law means lower liability coverage, lower medical payment coverage and lower property damage coverage - using limits he says were in effect in the mid-1970s and early '80s.

"This new law that just took effect on Nov. 1 actually pushed us back into the Dark Ages, as far as the amounts of coverage that are required."

The brochure can be downloaded free at wisjustice.org under the tab "Consumer Resources."

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI