What To Do if You’re in a Car Accident in California With No Insurance

October 7, 2021 Posted In Car Accidents

If you are involved in a car accident in California without auto insurance, you are likely wondering how much trouble you are in and how you will pay for damages. Here’s what to do next. 

Do Not Leave the Scene

Although you don’t have insurance, remain at the scene of the accident. It is against the law to leave the scene of an accident in California. Running away from a collision that involves only property damage is a misdemeanor crime and carries a fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail. If someone is injured or killed, you can be charged with a felony and face up to $10,000 in fines and up to three years in prison. 

Check on the Other Driver

If anyone is injured and requires medical attention, call 911. Exchange contact information with the other driver and ask for their insurance information. They will likely ask for your insurance information. You can tell them you don’t have it, but you don’t have to interact with the driver any longer. Go back to your vehicle and wait for the police to arrive. 

Don’t Apologize or Admit Guilt

Whether you were at fault or not, it is very important to resist apologizing. It can be seen as an admission of guilt, even if you did cause the accident. From that point on, it will be up to the police, insurance company, and possibly the courts to decide who was at fault for the accident. 

Gather Evidence

If you were not at fault for the accident, make sure to take photos or video of the location, where the vehicles came to a stop and their damage, your injuries, any debris, and the road conditions. Look for witnesses and ask for their contact information and whether they are willing to make a brief recorded statement on your phone. Gathering this evidence is critical to obtaining compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Not having insurance does not automatically make you liable, but the insurer may attempt to place the blame on you. 

Seek Medical Attention

Your health is the highest priority. If you were not taken to the hospital, see a doctor as soon as possible. Some severe injuries can have delayed symptoms, and you must have medical documentation linking any injuries or potential injuries to your crash. 

Contact a Car Accident Attorney

Discuss your case with a Riverside Car Accident Attorney to determine what your legal options are.

If You Are Not at Fault

In California, the at-fault driver’s insurance company is responsible for paying any resulting damages from a car accident. A lawyer can help you notify and file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. They will protect your rights and ensure nothing is said that can hurt your claim. Because California is a “No Pay, No Play” state, you cannot get money for non-economic damages. So, for example, after a San Bernardino car accident, you couldn’t sue for pain and suffering money. 

If You Are at Fault

If the evidence clearly demonstrates that you were at fault or hold the majority of responsibility in causing the accident, you will be individually liable for any damages. The other driver may file a claim with their own auto insurer, but if they don’t have enough coverage for the damages, they may file a lawsuit against you. If you do not have any assets, it is less likely that the other driver will sue you due to the time and expense. However, if you have substantial assets, they may very well succeed in their case against you, and the court will likely order you to make payment in full or comply with a monthly payment program. It may be in your best interest to consult with an attorney and negotiate a settlement before the case makes it to court. There is a possibility you could end up going bankrupt for paying your own and the other driver’s expenses. 

Penalties for Driving Without Insurance in California

The penalties for driving without car insurance in California vary depending on whether it is your first or subsequent offense.

  • First offense: A fine between $100 and $200
  • Second (and subsequent) offense: A fine between $200 and $500
  • Filing of an SR-22 certificate
  • Possible suspension of the vehicle’s registration or license
  • Reinstatement fees 

Getting into an accident without insurance means you will lose your license for one year. After a year, you can get your license reinstated, but your insurance company must file an SR-22 on your behalf. This is a “Certificate of Financial Responsibility” that confirms you’re carrying the minimum amount of insurance in the state. You’ll need to keep SR-22 insurance for three years, which causes your car insurance to be much more expensive. 

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