What To Do If You’re In a Car Accident Without Insurance But Not At Fault In Wisconsin

Learn how Wisconsin's modified comparative negligence system assesses fault in a car accident and the legal & financial consequences of not having insurance.
Written by Drew Waterstreet
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Wisconsin uses a modified comparative negligence system for assessing blame in car accidents. This means you can still file a claim against the at-fault driver if you are found less than 50% at fault—even without insurance. But you’ll still have to pay out of pocket for your own damages and face the legal ramifications of driving without insurance.
In this article, we’ll elaborate on the modified comparative negligence system, discuss your options for claiming damages, cover the possible penalties for driving without insurance, and show you how to get cheap
Wisconsin car insurance
to avoid sky-high out-of-pocket costs after an accident.

What to do if you’re in a car accident without insurance in Wisconsin and not at fault?

Driving without car insurance in Wisconsin is a crime, but matters will only worsen (legally and financially) if you act irrationally at the scene of a car accident. So, let us help you stay calm and collected—here’s what to do if you’re in a car accident in Wisconsin and you don’t have insurance. 
First things first: do not leave the scene of the crash.
Even though your first instinct may be to leave, it is vital to remain at the crash’s location. Otherwise, you
may be convicted of a hit-and-run
. In Wisconsin, this crime is punishable by six months to 25 years of jail time, $300 to $100,000 in fines, and potentially a felony against your criminal record
Park your car in a safe location (still on the scene) if the end result of a collision puts you or others in danger. 
Then, access the health of yourself, your passengers, and other parties involved. This will be followed by a call to 911 (in most cases—continue reading for exceptions) to report the accident, initiate law enforcement response, and request an ambulance if needed.
Now it’s time to document—here is a checklist of things you need to accomplish in the aftermath of an accident:
  • Don’t apologize: Even if you feel you were at fault, do not say sorry. We know how hard this can be for Midwesterners, but this can be used against you when determining liability. Instead, only engage in the necessary conversations described next.
  • Obtain information from the other involved parties: Write down their name, address, phone number, make and model of vehicle, registration information, and insurance name & policy number.
  • Gather information from witnesses: Get their name, address, phone number, and a brief description of what they saw.
  • Take as many pictures as possible: Photos of the accident scene and all vehicles involved are crucial to determining fault.
  • Get the police report: Gather the on-scene officer's name, department name, and badge number so you can obtain their report for later use.
For drivers without insurance, this documentation process is even more critical.
Even though driving without insurance is illegal and irresponsible, you may still be able to file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company for any vehicle repairs or medical bills resulting from the crash if they are more than 50% liable.
While you may be off the hook for some out-of-pocket penalties if you are ruled majoritarily not at fault, you still will be facing the legal consequences for operating a vehicle without insurance and any leftover financial obligations not credited to the at-fault party (more on this next).

Who decides fault in a car accident in Wisconsin?

The police are tasked with gathering the evidence of a car accident, but the car insurance companies ultimately determine liability. 
As mentioned earlier, it’s essential to provide them with as much information as possible about the accident so they can accurately distribute fault—hopefully in your favor, for your wallet's sake.

Do you need to report a car accident in Wisconsin? 

Wisconsin's car accident laws
dictate that you “shall immediately by the quickest means of communication give notice of such accident to the police department” if one or more of these conditions are met:
  • Anyone is injured or killed
  • A deer or other animal is injured or killed
  • One or more vehicles needs a tow
  • There’s $1,000 or more in damage to someone’s property
  • There’s $200 or more in damage to government property
This doesn’t mean you can just leave the scene of a minor accident that doesn’t meet one of these conditions. Leaving without exchanging proper information for an insurance claim can be considered a hit-and-run, no matter how small the incident.

What if you’re at fault?

Because Wisconsin is a
modified comparative negligence state
, you’ll be financially responsible for your portion of the other driver’s damages if you are deemed more than 50% negligent for the accident.
If you don’t have insurance, the not-at-fault driver can file a lawsuit against you to recover these damages.
Let's look at an example: In Wisconsin, if the other driver is assigned 70% of the blame, they are responsible for paying up to 70% of your damages. On the other hand, even though you were assigned 30% fault, you won’t owe any money to the other party, since their level of fault exceeds 50%.

What if you’re hit by an uninsured driver in Wisconsin?

Let’s reverse roles for a moment, shall we? If the at-fault driver has no insurance, but you do, you’ll need to pursue them for damages directly. Unfortunately, these legal proceedings are often expensive, time-consuming, and often unrewarding. 
However, there are optional coverages you can add to your policy to serve as a potential safety net if you find yourself in this unfortunate situation—let’s take a look:
According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), about 13.3% of Wisconsin drivers were uninsured in 2019. With those odds, it’s better not to take your chances. We highly recommend adding these coverages to your policy for more comprehensive financial protection.

Penalties for driving without insurance in Wisconsin

Here is a breakdown of the upfront penalties for driving without insurance in Wisconsin:
  • Up to a $500 fine for operating a motor vehicle without insurance
  • Up to a $10 fine for failure to show proof of insurance at the time of the stop/accident
  • Up to a $5,000 fine for providing fraudulent proof of insurance
  • License suspension
    until you receive an SR-22
SR-22 certificate
proves to the state that you have minimum liability coverage. The negligent driver must hold this special certificate for a minimum of 36 months. However, the actual punishment is how high your insurance rates spike while you’re in this probationary period.
But things can get worse for you really fast. If you're at fault in a collision without insurance, the downstream penalties can be financially crippling.
Unless you are deemed 100% not at fault in Wisconsin’s modified comparative negligence system (which is uncommon), you will be potentially paying for expenses out of pocket—your own and your portion toward the affected parties. If you are unable to do so, you could be facing a lawsuit that may result in your wages being garnished or your assets liquidated.

Minimum required car insurance in Wisconsin

So how much insurance is enough insurance? Drivers must comply with
Wisconin's car insurance laws
to avoid all the negative consequences we’ve discussed so far:
However, the minimum is the minimum for a reason. It is enough to make you legally compliant, but not nearly enough coverage if you’re at fault in an accident causing serious damage to property or severe injuries to other parties.
Here's what we recommend: Buy a 100/300/100 policy, which is a massive upgrade from the 25/50/10 protection you receive with minimum coverage. But don’t worry—these more comprehensive policies are surprisingly affordable for the financial security you receive.

Driving without insurance can increase premiums

If you want to retain your driving privileges after a conviction for driving without insurance, you must obtain an SR-22 certificate. As we alluded to earlier, your insurance premiums can increase upwards of 5% while you are clearing your driving record.

How to find cheap car insurance in Wisconsin

What’s the #1 excuse for driving without insurance? It’s too expensive!
We get it. Insurance can be expensive. But as we’ve covered in this article, the financial consequences of driving without it are even more financially burdening. However, what if we told you we had a magic bullet solution for you?
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As a result, the average user reports they are matched with a quote that is $800 less than what they're used to paying for their annual coverage. 
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