Auto Insurance Changes Mean Reevaluating What You Need

“Understanding Auto Insurance” Brochure Can Help

By Mike End, President
Wisconsin Association for Justice

November 2011

Less than two years after the Wisconsin Legislature passed a consumer-friendly automobile insurance law, a new legislature repealed it.  As a result, state requirements will change for
auto policies issued or renewed after November 1, 2011.

The new law could result in a net loss to Wisconsin residents, who may receive less coverage for the same cost.  People injured in automobile accidents when the person causing the accident has inadequate insurance may be harmed.

The Wisconsin Association for Justice (WAJ) offers a brochure, Understanding Auto Insurance, that helps you evaluate what coverage you may need, and the benefits of optional coverage.  It also explains the changes in the law and what you should ask your insurance agent when you buy or renew a policy.  It is available at www.wisjustice.org, under “Consumer Resources.”

The new law allows drivers to carry as little as $25,000 per person for liability coverage; $10,000 for property damage; and $25,000 per person for uninsured motorist coverage (UM).  And although insurers must tell consumers it’s available, underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) is no longer required. 

The new law also:

  • Eliminates the definition of “underinsured motor vehicle” from the statute, allowing the insurance company to define that coverage in the insurance policy.
     
  • Gives insurance companies authority to reduce the UM or UIM limits of coverage by the amount received from other sources, including the other driver's insurance, workers' compensation benefits or disability benefits.  This is coverage that you paid to receive from your insurance company if you were ever injured in an automobile crash and the other driver didn't have insurance or had inadequate insurance to cover your damages.
     
  • Allows insurers to include anti-stacking clauses.  "Stacking" allows the combining of two or more UM or UIM coverages purchased for different automobiles in a household.  Separate premiums are paid for each coverage.  The new law limits coverage to only one UM and/or one UIM policy, no matter how many vehicles the person owns and how many policies have been purchased.


Our brochure also explains a “phantom motor vehicle” that may, for example, run someone off the road.  This is a vehicle that makes no physical contact with the insured or with a vehicle the insured is occupying, and the identity of neither the operator nor the owner of the vehicle is known.   Download the brochure to learn what you need to do to recover your expenses due to an incident of this nature.

The WAJ brochure includes a series of suggested steps you need to take to minimize the severe hardships from the changes in the law, including questions for insurance agents.  Most importantly, you should first take a close look at your insurance policy.  Then talk with your insurance agent to determine what you need to do to protect yourself and your family against the potential harsh consequences of these new laws.

It is likely that many consumers will not recognize the reduced coverage of the insurance they purchase and, as a result, will suffer financially if they are seriously injured in an automobile  accident.  WAJ members hope this new brochure will reduce that risk.

For more, see WAJ’s website at www.wisjustice.org, or call 608-257-5741.

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J. Michael End is president of the Wisconsin Association for Justice, and a partner at End, Hierseman and Crain, LLC, in Milwaukee.
 

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