California Car Insurance Requirements

March 24, 2021 Posted In Car Accidents

Like most states, it is illegal to drive without car insurance in California. There is also a minimum requirement for car insurance policies that is set by the state. If you’ve been in a car accident recently, it’s important to understand how insurance works and the types that are acceptable. 

Types of Acceptable Insurance

In order to legally operate a vehicle in California, drivers must carry proof of their financial responsibility at all times. Financial responsibility means that you have the ability to pay for damages, in the event that you are responsible for causing a car accident that results in injuries and/or property damage for another person. The preferred method of financial responsibility that most drivers choose to carry is car insurance coverage. However, the state allows three other types of acceptable insurance: 

  • Cash deposit of $35,000 with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV);
  • A DMV-issued self-insurance certificate; or,
  • A $35,000 surety bond from a company licensed to do business in California.

What Are the California Car Insurance Requirements/Minimums? 

If your chosen form of financial responsibility is a car insurance policy, California insurance law dictates a minimum amount of liability coverage that you are required to maintain (California Insurance Code §11580.1b):  

  • $15,000 for the injury or death to one person
  • $30,000 for injury or death to more than one person
  • $5,000 for property damage

Liability insurance is basic coverage that will only cover the costs of another driver’s property and bodily injuries if you are found at fault for the accident. 

It will not pay to repair your vehicle or for injuries that you sustained. There are separate coverage options available to cover yourself and your vehicle in a crash. Those may include collision coverage, comprehensive coverage, medical payments coverage and uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.

Factors That Impact the Cost of Insurance

There are many different factors that can influence the cost of your insurance. Your insurance rate is determined by the type of car you drive, how often you drive it, and where it is kept. A car’s make and model help establish:

  • Expected repair costs in the event of an accident
  • If theft rates are higher for your type of vehicle
  • Types of safety features installed on the vehicle

A few other examples of factors, include: 

  • If you have a long, daily commute to work or school. Generally, the more time and miles you put on your vehicle, the higher your rate. Due to the increased chance that you may be involved in an accident.
  • How long you have been driving. 
  • Your driving record
  • Your claims history.

The coverages you choose can also affect the cost of your car insurance premium. Since there are optional protections you may want to consider such as comprehensive coverage, collision coverage, medical payments, uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, towing and labor costs, rental reimbursement and sound system coverage.

Penalties for Being Uninsured

Drivers can face penalties if they are caught operating a vehicle without valid insurance or a self-insurance certificate. The first offense will be a fine anywhere from $100 to $200, and between $200 and $500 for a second offense. 

While a $100 fine may not sound like much, with additional penalties and fees, that initial $100 penalty can end up costing you closer to $450. Additionally, your vehicle may be impounded and towed away. At that point, you will not be able to get it back until you obtain insurance and pay all towing and storage fees, which can be substantial.

If you are involved in a car accident and do not have valid insurance coverage or a self-insurance certificate, your license will be suspended for possibly for up to four years. If you need a car accident attorney, contact our experienced attorneys at Hanson & Mouri.

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