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Wisconsin Uninsured Motorists: A Look at the Safety Responsibility Law

In at least one respect, Wisconsin is nearly unique among the fifty states - every state except Wisconsin and New Hampshire requires drivers to have liability insurance coverage. Wisconsin prefers not to force its citizens to carry insurance; instead, the government relies on a system of incentives and penalties to convince drivers that buying insurance is advantageous.

This incentive system is far from perfect, as statistics show: 1 in every 7 Wisconsin drivers are uninsured and many of the rest are underinsured, the value of their liability insurance is too small to cover all the costs following a serious Wisconsin car accident. The auto accident lawyers at Hupy and Abraham provide information about Wisconsin's Safety Responsibility Law for your knowledge.

Enter the Safety Responsibility Law

In 1945, the Wisconsin legislature enacted the Safety Responsibility Law to encourage drivers to buy liability insurance. This law revokes the driving license and registration of uninsured drivers who cause accidents but do not pay for the injuries or damages they inflict.

How it works

The police file an accident report and send it to the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The DMV determines which of the drivers involved had insurance coverage. If the driver who was at fault had no insurance, the DMV calculates what the driver should owe for the damage they caused. This total includes repayment for injuries, property damage and legal costs. The DMV will then send a notice of suspension to the driver who was at fault. The driver will lose their license and registration unless they do at least one of these things:

  • Proves they had insurance coverage at the time of the accident,
  • Gives the DMV a security deposit or installment payments big enough to cover the calculated costs, or
  • Proves he and anyone else involved have settled any personal injury or property claims.

If a license is revoked under the Safety Responsibility Law, there are provisions for reinstatement. If no lawsuit is filed against the driver within a year, they may request that their driving privileges to be returned. The DMV will restore driving rights once the driver pays a $40 fee and shows they have purchased insurance for the next three years.

Where the Safety Responsibility Law Gets It Wrong

There are numerous shortcomings with the Wisconsin system, such as:

  • The DMV can punish you even if you aren’t the one driving. If your uninsured vehicle was involved in an accident, you are also liable and may have your license suspended.
  • The DMV makes its own judgment of who was at fault in the collision, regardless of who the police cited. However, if your Appleton car accident attorney proves in a civil lawsuit that someone else was liable, the DMV will reverse any decision that found you at fault.
  • The DMV uses its own formula to calculate damages. The DMV total amount does not always correspond with what the injured victim might have recovered in a lawsuit.

While the Safety Responsibility Law is helpful, it is not a perfect solution to the problem of uninsured motorists. If you have been injured in a serious Wisconsin car accident, you need the advice of a professional to tell you what to do next.

The car accident attorneys at Hupy and Abraham would like to send you a free copy of our book, The Ultimate Guide for Automobile Accident Victims. Call us today for a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation at 920-882-8382 or toll-free 800-800-5678. We will offer you an experienced evaluation on how to seek recovery for your injuries, medical bills or other losses.