GENERAL PROVISIONS
344.01 344.01 Words and phrases defined.
344.01(1)(1)Words and phrases defined in ss. 340.01 and 343.01 are used in the same sense in this chapter unless a different definition is specifically provided.
344.01(2) (2)In this chapter the following words and phrases have the designated meanings:
344.01(2)(a) (a) “Judgment" means a judgment for damages rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction of any state or of the United States upon a cause of action arising out of the ownership, maintenance or use of any motor vehicle, including damages for care and for loss of services because of bodily injury to or death of any person and damages because of injury to or destruction of property and the consequent loss of use thereof, which judgment has become final by expiration without appeal of the time within which an appeal might have been taken or by final affirmation on appeal. “Judgment" also includes a judgment rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction upon a cause of action on an agreement of settlement for damages of the type specified in this paragraph, which judgment has become final within the meaning of this paragraph.
344.01(2)(b) (b) “Motor vehicle" means a self-propelled vehicle and also includes trailers and semitrailers designed for use with such vehicles, except that “motor vehicle" does not include farm tractors, well drillers, road machinery or snowmobiles.
344.01(2)(c) (c) “Operator" means a person who is in actual or constructive physical control of a motor vehicle. It includes a person who has parked a motor vehicle. It includes the driver of a vehicle being pushed or towed and, in case there is no person actually doing the driving, the person who is doing the pushing or towing.
344.01(2)(cm) (cm) Notwithstanding s. 340.01 (42), “owner" means, with respect to a vehicle that is registered, or is required to be registered, by a lessee of the vehicle under ch. 341, the lessee of the vehicle.
344.01(2)(d) (d) “Proof of financial responsibility" or “proof of financial responsibility for the future" means proof of ability to respond in damages for liability on account of accidents occurring subsequent to the effective date of such proof, arising out of the maintenance or use of a motor vehicle in the amount of $25,000 because of bodily injury to or death of one person in any one accident and, subject to that limit for one person, in the amount of $50,000 because of bodily injury to or death of 2 or more persons in any one accident and in the amount of $10,000 because of injury to or destruction of property of others in any one accident.
344.01(2)(e) (e) “Registration" means, in the case of a person whose vehicle is registered under ch. 341, the registration so issued; in the case of a person whose vehicle is not so registered, it means the privilege to register a vehicle in Wisconsin and the reciprocal privilege granted a nonresident to operate in Wisconsin a vehicle not registered in Wisconsin.
344.01(2)(f) (f) “State" means any state, territory or possession of the United States, the District of Columbia, or any province of the Dominion of Canada.
344.01(2)(g) (g) “Vehicle" means every device in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, except vehicles used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks and except electric scooters, electric personal assistive mobility devices, and personal delivery devices.
344.01 History History: 1971 c. 277; 1973 c. 90; 1977 c. 293; 1981 c. 284; 1985 a. 187; Sup. Ct. Order, 146 Wis. 2d xiii (1988); 1997 a. 27; 2001 a. 90; 2009 a. 28; 2011 a. 14; 2017 a. 13; 2019 a. 11.
344.02 344.02 Hearing on suspension or impoundment.
344.02(1)(1)Whenever the department under s. 344.13 gives notice of the amount of security required to be deposited and that an order of suspension or impoundment will be made if such security is not deposited, it shall afford the person so notified an opportunity for a hearing on the proposed action, if written request for a hearing is received by the department prior to the date specified in the notice, or prior to the postponed effective date of suspension if postponement has been granted under s. 344.14 (1). Upon receipt of timely request for hearing, the department shall fix the time and place of the hearing and give notice thereof to such person by regular mail. The scope of the hearing is limited to the matter set forth in s. 344.14 (2) (k) and, subject to s. 344.14 (2m), to whether or not the person is the owner of the motor vehicle to be impounded. Any person who fails without reasonable cause to appear at the time and place specified in the notice shall forfeit the right to a hearing.
344.02(2) (2)No law enforcement officer or other witness called by the person who has requested a hearing to testify on his or her behalf may be paid a witness fee by the department. No law enforcement officer called as a witness for the department may be paid any witness fee.
344.02(3) (3)Upon completion of the hearing, the department shall make findings of fact, conclusions of law, and a decision, and shall either proceed to order suspension of the person's operating privilege, or registrations, or both, and may also order the impoundment of the person's motor vehicle, in accordance with s. 344.14, or upon good cause appearing therefor, shall terminate the proceedings.
344.02(4) (4)The time during which enforcement of an order of suspension or impoundment is stayed pending completion of court review thereof shall not be included as part of the one-year period fixed by s. 344.18 (1) (d) for suspension or the period fixed under s. 344.185 (2) (a) or (b) for impoundment.
344.02 Annotation The hearing procedures under this section satisfy due process. A person's minimal property interest is balanced by the state's interest in the procedures, which carry little risk of an erroneous deprivation of property. Kopf v. State, 158 Wis. 2d 208, 461 N.W.2d 813 (Ct. App. 1990).
344.03 344.03 Judicial review.
344.03(1)(1)Any person aggrieved by a final decision of the department under this chapter may, at any time prior to 30 days after the entry of an order of suspension, revocation or impoundment, seek judicial review under ch. 227.
344.03(2) (2)If any person aggrieved by a decision of the department under this chapter fails to seek judicial review under ch. 227 within the time allowed in sub. (1), the circuit court may, upon the person's petition and notice to the department, and upon the terms and within a time as the court deems reasonable, but not later than one year after the act complained of or, in the case of an impoundment, after the vehicle has been ordered sold under s. 344.185 (2), allow a review with the same effect as though done within the time prescribed in sub. (1). This subsection does not authorize the court to stay suspension or revocation of an operator's license.
344.04 344.04 Power of court to stay suspension of registration or impoundment of vehicles.
344.04(1)(1)Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, the secretary shall not suspend the registration of a vehicle when ordered not to do so by the court wherein the judgment for damages was had or, in a case not involving a judgment, when ordered not to do so by a court under petition of the registrant in accordance with sub. (2).
344.04(2) (2)Upon receiving information, other than of a judgment for damages in a court of this state, that would be cause for suspension of registration or impoundment of the vehicle, the secretary shall notify the registrant of the intention to suspend such registration or impound the vehicle. The registrant may thereupon petition any court of record in the registrant's county for an order enjoining the secretary's contemplated action, whereupon the judge of such court shall grant an order restraining the secretary in the matter until the petition is finally determined by the court. If such petition and order are served upon the secretary within 10 days after the date of the secretary's notice or in any event before the secretary has suspended the registration or impounded the vehicle, the secretary shall await the final determination of the court. The secretary shall be given notice of the hearing. Upon a showing that it would result in undue hardship upon the petitioner to have any such registration suspended or the vehicle impounded, the court shall issue an order restraining the secretary from suspending the registration or impounding the vehicle.
344.04(3) (3)This section does not authorize a court to stay suspension or revocation of an operator's license.
344.05 344.05 Courts to report nonpayment of certain judgments.
344.05(1)(1)If a judgment of $500 or more for damages arising out of a motor vehicle accident is not satisfied within 30 days after its having become final by expiration without appeal of the time within which an appeal might have been taken or by final affirmation on appeal, the clerk of the court in which the judgment was rendered, or the judge if the court has no clerk, shall immediately forward to the secretary a certified copy of the judgment upon request of the judgment creditor or the attorney of record for the judgment creditor.
344.05(2) (2)If the defendant named in any certified copy of a judgment reported to the secretary is a nonresident, the secretary shall transmit a certified copy of the judgment to the official in charge of the issuance of licenses and registration certificates of the state of which the defendant is a resident.
344.05 History History: 1977 c. 29 s. 1654 (7) (c); 1981 c. 20; Sup. Ct. Order, 146 Wis. 2d xiii (1988); 1997 a. 84.
344.07 344.07 Responsibility law not to prevent other process. Nothing in this chapter shall be construed as preventing the plaintiff in any action at law from relying for relief upon the other processes provided by law.
344.08 344.08 Suspension for failure to report accident.
344.08(1)(1)The secretary may suspend the operating privilege or registration of any person who fails to report an accident as required by s. 346.70 or to give correctly the information requested by the secretary in connection with such report unless, in the judgment of the secretary, there was excusable cause for such failure or unless the accident did not result in injury or damage to the person or property of anyone other than the person so required to report.
344.08(2) (2)Any operating privilege suspended or revoked under this section, or suspended or revoked under any other section for failure to report an accident, shall be reinstated in accordance with s. 344.09 at the end of one year following the effective date of the suspension or revocation order if, during such one-year period, no notice of action has been filed with the department in the manner specified in s. 344.18 (1) (d).
344.08 History History: 1977 c. 29 s. 1654 (7) (a), (c); 1979 c. 258; 1991 a. 269; 1997 a. 84.
344.09 344.09 Reinstatement of operating privilege and registration.
344.09(1)(1)Whenever the secretary is satisfied that the reason for suspending or revoking an operating privilege under this chapter has been removed, including satisfaction of any of the requirements of s. 344.18, the secretary shall order reinstatement of the operating privilege. The department shall give notice of the reinstatement to the person whose operating privilege was suspended or revoked in the manner it deems appropriate. The order reinstating a suspended operating privilege has the same effect as an automatic reinstatement under s. 343.39.
344.09(2) (2)Whenever an operating privilege suspended or revoked under this chapter is reinstated, any registration that was suspended or revoked along with the operating privilege is reinstated and the department shall return any surrendered and unexpired registration plate in its possession.
344.09(3) (3)Nothing in this section exempts a person from the applicable reinstatement fees under s. 341.36 or 343.21 or from complying with applicable provisions of s. 343.38.
subch. II of ch. 344 SUBCHAPTER II
SECURITY FOR PAST ACCIDENTS
344.12 344.12 Applicability of provisions relating to deposit of security for past accidents. Subject to the exceptions contained in s. 344.14, the provisions of this chapter requiring deposit of security and requiring suspension for failure to deposit security apply to the operator and owner of every motor vehicle which is in any manner involved in an accident in this state which has resulted in bodily injury to or death of any person or damage to property of any other person of $1,000 or more.
344.12 History History: 1981 c. 20; 1991 a. 269; 1995 a. 113; 1997 a. 84.
344.12 Annotation Wisconsin's safety responsibility law. FitzGerald. WBB Feb. 1984.
344.13 344.13 Secretary to determine amount of security required following accident and to give notice thereof.
344.13(1)(1)The secretary after receipt of a report of an accident of the type specified in s. 344.12 shall determine, with respect to such accident, the amount of security which is sufficient in the secretary's judgment to satisfy any judgment for damages resulting from such accident which may be recovered against either operator or owner of the vehicles involved in such accident. Such determination shall be based upon the total property damage suffered by other persons whose property was involved in the accident, not including the vehicle a person was operating when such operation was with the owner's permission, and on the extent of personal injuries, including deaths, involving other parties to the accident. The determination as to the amount of security required shall not be made with respect to operators or owners who are exempt from the requirements of security and suspension under s. 344.14 (2).
344.13(2) (2)The secretary shall determine the amount of security required to be deposited by each person on the basis of the accident reports or other information submitted. In addition to the accident reports required by law, the secretary may request from any of the persons, including passengers and pedestrians, involved in such accident such further information, sworn statements or other evidence relating to property damage, personal injury or death in motor vehicle accidents as deemed necessary to aid in determining the amount to be deposited as security under s. 344.14. Failure of a person to comply with such request is grounds for suspending such person's operating privilege but no suspension shall be made on such grounds until one follow-up request has been made and at least 20 days have elapsed since the mailing of the first request.
344.13(3) (3)The secretary within 90 days after receipt of a report of an accident of the type specified in s. 344.12 and upon determining the amount of security to be required of any person involved in such accident or to be required of the owner of any vehicle involved in such accident, shall give at least 10 days' written notice to every such person of the amount of security required to be deposited by the person. The notice also shall state that an order of suspension will be made as provided in s. 344.14, unless within such time security is deposited as required by the notice. The order of suspension may be made a part of the notice, with a provision that it will take effect on the date specified in this subsection unless security is deposited prior to that date.
344.13 Annotation The 90-day time limit under sub. (3) is directory, not mandatory. Warner v. DOT, 102 Wis. 2d 232, 306 N.W.2d 266 (Ct. App. 1981).
344.14 344.14 Suspension for failure to deposit security; impoundment of vehicle; exceptions.
344.14(1)(1)If a person who was given notice under s. 344.13 (3) fails to deposit security in the amount and by the time specified in the notice, the secretary shall immediately suspend the person's operating privilege if the person was the operator of a motor vehicle involved in the accident and all the person's registrations if the person was the owner of a motor vehicle involved in the accident unless the person furnishes proof satisfactory to the secretary that the person comes within one of the exceptions set forth in sub. (2). If the owner and operator are separate persons, only one of them need deposit security or the 2 persons may cooperate in depositing security. Upon request of the owner or operator in question, the secretary may postpone the effective date of a suspension under this section not to exceed 20 days.
344.14(1g) (1g)The secretary shall refuse registration of any vehicle owned by a person whose registration has been suspended or revoked under sub. (1).
344.14(1m) (1m)In addition to the suspensions under sub. (1), the secretary may order the impoundment of any motor vehicle which is:
344.14(1m)(a) (a) Registered in the name of the owner of the motor vehicle involved in the accident.
344.14(1m)(b) (b) Registered in the name of the operator of the motor vehicle involved in the accident.
344.14(2) (2)Subsections (1) and (1m) do not apply:
344.14(2)(a) (a) To the owner of a motor vehicle involved in an accident if the owner had in effect at the time of the accident a policy or bond with respect to such motor vehicle, which policy or bond complies with the requirements of s. 344.15.
344.14(2)(b) (b) To the operator who is not the owner of the vehicle involved in the accident if either the owner had in effect a policy or bond applying to the operator's operation of the motor vehicle at the time of the accident or there was in effect at the time of the accident a policy or bond with respect to the operator's operation of motor vehicles not owned by the operator, which policy or bond meets the requirements of s. 344.15.
344.14(2)(c) (c) To the operator or owner whose liability for damages resulting from the accident is, in the judgment of the secretary, covered by any other form of liability insurance policy or bond meeting the requirements of s. 344.15.
344.14(2)(d) (d) To any person qualifying as a self-insurer under s. 344.16 or to any person operating a vehicle for such self-insurer.
344.14(2)(e) (e) To the operator or owner of a vehicle involved in an accident wherein no injury was caused to the person of anyone other than such operator or owner and wherein damage to property of any one person other than such operator or owner did not equal or exceed $1,000.
344.14(2)(f) (f) To the operator or owner of a vehicle legally parked at the time of the accident, provided that the operators of the other vehicles involved admit that such vehicle was legally parked or other proof establishing such fact to the secretary's satisfaction is filed.
344.14(2)(g) (g) To the owner of a vehicle if, at the time of the accident, the vehicle was being operated without the owner's permission, express or implied, or was parked by a person who had been operating such vehicle without such permission.
344.14(2)(h) (h) To any person who would otherwise have to deposit security if, prior to the date the secretary would otherwise suspend the person's operating privilege and registrations under sub. (1) or order the impoundment of the motor vehicle under sub. (1m), there is filed with the secretary evidence satisfactory to the secretary that the person has been released from liability or has been finally adjudicated not to be liable or has executed a duly acknowledged written agreement providing for the payment of an agreed amount in installments with respect to all claims for injuries or damage resulting from the accident. The secretary may accept a release from liability executed by a parent as natural guardian or by a guardian ad litem on behalf of a minor child with respect to property damage or personal injuries sustained by the minor.
344.14(2)(i) (i) To the owner of a vehicle insured as required by s. 121.53, 194.41 or 194.42 or to the operator of such vehicle if operating with the owner's permission at the time of the accident.
344.14(2)(j) (j) To the owner of a vehicle involved in an accident if at the time of the accident such vehicle was owned by or leased to the United States, this state or any county or municipality of this state, or to the operator of such vehicle if operating such vehicle with permission.
344.14(2)(k) (k) To the operator or the owner of a vehicle involved in an accident when it appears to the satisfaction of the secretary that there does not exist a reasonable possibility of a judgment in the amount claimed or in a lesser amount being rendered against such operator as a result of the accident.
344.14(2)(L) (L) To the operator or owner involved in an accident if, at the time of the accident, the operator was complying with s. 344.62 (1) or s. 344.63 (1) applies.
344.14(2m) (2m)A motor vehicle may not be impounded under sub. (1m) if the vehicle is registered, or is required to be registered, in the name of the lessee of the vehicle.
344.14(4) (4)
344.14(4)(a)(a) Before the impoundment of a motor vehicle under sub. (1m), the department shall conduct a reasonable search for the owner of the motor vehicle and any holder of a security interest, mortgage or other interest and notify the person so identified of the action.
344.14(4)(b) (b) Any person notified under par. (a) before the vehicle is impounded shall be given not less than 10 days to furnish sufficient proof to the secretary that one of the exceptions in sub. (2) applies.
344.15 344.15 Requirements as to policy or bond.
344.15(1)(1)No policy or bond is effective under s. 344.14 unless issued by an insurer authorized to do an automobile liability or surety business in this state, except as provided in sub. (2), or unless the policy or bond is subject, if the accident has resulted in bodily injury or death, to a limit of not less than $25,000 because of bodily injury to or death of one person in any one accident and, subject to that limit for one person, to a limit of not less than $50,000 because of bodily injury to or death of 2 or more persons in any one accident and, if the accident has resulted in injury to or destruction of property, to a limit of not less than $10,000 because of injury to or destruction of property of others in any one accident.
344.15(2) (2)A policy or bond with respect to a vehicle which was not registered in this state or was registered elsewhere at the time of the effective date of the policy or bond or the most recent renewal thereof may be effective under s. 344.14 even though not issued by an insurer authorized to do an automobile liability or surety business in this state if the policy or bond either meets the liability limits specified in sub. (1) or meets the liability limits of the equivalent law of the state in which issued and such limits are, in the judgment of the secretary, adequate to cover any damage or injury involved in the accident in question.
344.15(3) (3)Where service of process is made on the secretary, the secretary shall forthwith mail by registered mail a copy of the process papers to the insurer at the address given. In all cases of such service, there shall be served 2 authenticated copies for the secretary and such additional number of authenticated copies as there are defendants so served in the action. One of the secretary's copies shall be retained for the secretary's record of service and the other copy shall be returned with proper certificate of service attached for filing in court as proof of service of the copies by having mailed them by registered mail to the defendants named therein. The service fee shall be $4 for each defendant so served.
344.15(4) (4)After receipt of the report of an accident of the type specified in s. 344.12, the secretary may forward to the insurer named therein, that portion of the report or other notice which pertains to an automobile liability policy or bond. The secretary shall assume that an automobile liability policy or bond as described in this section was in effect and applied to both the owner and operator with respect to the accident unless the insurer notifies the secretary otherwise within 30 days from the mailing to the insurer of that portion of the report or other notice pertaining to the automobile liability policy or bond. Upon receipt of notice from the insurer that an automobile liability policy or bond was in effect as to the owner only, the operator only or was not in effect as to either of them, the secretary shall within the remainder of the 90-day period specified in s. 344.13 (3) require the owner or operator or both, whichever is applicable, to deposit security pursuant to this chapter. As respects permission to operate the vehicle, the insurer may correct the report or other notice only if it files with the secretary within the 30-day period specified in this subsection an affidavit signed by the owner stating that the operator did not have the owner's permission to operate the vehicle. Where the insurer's failure to notify the secretary within 30 days of a correction in that portion of the report or other notice pertaining to an automobile liability policy or bond is caused by fraud, the insurer shall notify the secretary of the correction within 30 days of the time the fraud is discovered.
344.15(5) (5)Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to impose any obligation not otherwise assumed by the insurer in its automobile liability policy or bond except that if no correction is made in the report or other notice within 30 days after it is mailed to the insurer, the insurer, except in case of fraud, whenever such fraud may occur, is estopped from using as a defense to its liability the insured's failure to give permission to the operator or a violation of the purposes of use specified in the automobile liability policy or bond or the use of the vehicle beyond agreed geographical limits.
344.15 Annotation The failure to make a correction within the 30-day period under sub. (5) only estops an insurer from asserting one of the defenses listed in that subsection. Holmgren v. Strebig, 54 Wis. 2d 590, 196 N.W.2d 655 (1972).
344.15 Annotation The 30-day notice requirement in subs. (4) and (5) is mandatory. Substantial compliance was inapplicable. Midwest Mutual Insurance Co. v. Nicolazzi, 138 Wis. 2d 192, 405 N.W.2d 732 (Ct. App. 1987).
344.15 Annotation When the insured is also the operator, subs. (4) and (5) do not operate to estop an insurer from raising a “permission" defense. Nelson v. Zeimetz, 150 Wis. 2d 785, 442 N.W.2d 530 (Ct. App. 1989).
344.15 Annotation Coverage of automobile liability insurance is not mandatory in Wisconsin, and a liability policy issued in Oregon with limits of $10,000 per person is not in conflict with this statute. Schanche v. Estate of Alvarez, 368 F. Supp. 543.
Loading...
Loading...
2017-18 Wisconsin Statutes updated through 2019 Wis. Act 18 and through all Supreme Court and Controlled Substances Board Orders filed before and in effect on October 1, 2019. Published and certified under s. 35.18. Changes effective after October 1, 2019, are designated by NOTES. (Published 10-1-19)