Car Insurance Requirements in California

June 16, 2021 Posted In Car Accidents

California requires all drivers to carry liability auto insurance coverage before operating a vehicle. This is to cover the cost of damage or medical bills you may cause for another driver if you’re responsible for an accident. 

Minimally-Acceptable Car Insurance Coverage in California

The state has specific minimum insurance coverage requirements. California Vehicle Code §16056 mandates that all drivers must maintain a minimum of 15/30/5 coverage on all registered vehicles, which includes:

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

Drivers are always required to carry valid proof of insurance and must provide it when: 

  • Requested by law enforcement,
  • Renewing vehicle registration, and
  • Involved in an accident.

If you are involved in a car accident and fail to provide proof of financial responsibility, it can result in fines and license revocation. 

Underinsured and Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Car insurance providers are legally required (California Insurance Code §11580.2) to offer uninsured motorist bodily injury and underinsured motorist coverage. However, you are not required by law to purchase these types of coverage, but you must decline in writing. Uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage helps in the following scenarios: 

Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury Coverage

Pays for passengers or your damages if you are injured in an accident with an uninsured driver. Compensation is limited to the amount of your own liability coverage.

Underinsured Motorist Coverage

When you are involved in an accident with a driver whose policy limits are not enough to cover the total cost of your injuries or losses, this coverage can help make up the difference.

Other Suggested Car Insurance Coverage

Although California law only requires you to carry 15/30/5 insurance coverage, it may be wise to increase your policy limits. The minimum coverage amounts may be inadequate to cover a severe accident, making you accountable for the amount that exceeds them. If you cause a collision, the victim has the option of pursuing a personal injury claim against you for losses beyond your policy limits. 

Purchasing other types of insurance, such as medical payments coverage, comprehensive coverage, collision coverage, or theft coverage, can help you make sure that you or anyone else affected by a crash is fully covered. 

Alternative Methods of Establishing Financial Responsibility

Purchasing a minimally acceptable auto insurance policy is the simplest way to establish financial responsibility, but California Vehicle Code §16002 does offer alternative methods. Instead of carrying liability insurance, you have the option to show financial responsibility by: 

  • A cash deposit of $35,000 paid to the DMV;
  • Self-insurance certificate issued by the DMV; or,
  • A surety bond of at least $35,000 issued by a company licensed to do business in California. 

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.

Experienced Riverside Car Accident Attorneys

Our Riverside Car Accident Attorneys have in-depth knowledge of California’s car insurance requirements and how they may apply to your case. If you or someone you love has been severely injured in an accident, contact Hanson & Mouri. We offer free consultations; call (951) 688-0006 today.

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