California Car Insurance Requirements
All states require some form of proof of financial responsibility before a driver can operate a motor vehicle on public property. Financial responsibility is an assurance that the driver can pay for the bodily injuries and/or property damage caused by an auto accident. In most states, including California, proof of financial responsibility comes in the form of car insurance requirements.
California is a “Fault” Car Accident State
California is a fault car accident state, also known as a tort-based insurance state. After an auto accident in California, the driver at fault for causing the collision is financially responsible for injuries and losses.
Drivers in California must meet the state’s car insurance requirements to have the financial capability to pay for the damages caused by car accidents. A driver may become individually liable for paying these costs without insurance.
If a driver fails to purchase at least the minimum required amounts of insurance, that driver may not have enough money to pay out of pocket for victims’ medical bills and property repairs. Since this isn’t fair to the injured party, it is illegal for a person to drive without proof of financial responsibility.
Minimum Liability Car Insurance Requirements
To lawfully operate a motor vehicle in the State of California, a driver must purchase and maintain at least the state’s minimum required amounts of car insurance. Driving without enough insurance, such as driving during a gap in insurance coverage, is against the law. California requires three different types and amounts of auto insurance:
- Bodily injury or death to a single person: $15,000.
- Bodily injury or death to multiple parties (per accident): $30,000.
- Property damage liability insurance: $5,000
Liability insurance pays for someone other than the policyholder’s financial damages. If the policyholder wishes to have insurance to pay for his or her own medical bills and property repairs, the driver must purchase additional forms of insurance, such as collision or comprehensive insurance. Another optional type of insurance in California is uninsured or underinsured motorist insurance, which pays for accidents caused by uninsured drivers.
A driver may also provide the Department of Motor Vehicles with a cash deposit of $35,000, receive a self-insurance certificate or obtain a surety bond for $35,000 from a business licensed in California. These are acceptable alternatives to purchasing a traditional motor vehicle liability insurance policy.
Penalty for Driving Without Insurance
The fine for operating a vehicle without insurance in California ranges from $100 to $200 for a first offense and $200 to $500 for a second offense. A driver will also have his or her license suspended until he or she obtains insurance. Having proof of insurance readily available is also a legal requirement in California. If a driver gets pulled over without proof of insurance, he or she may have to pay a fee and/or go to the courthouse with proof at a later date.
Damage Caps on Uninsured Drivers
Driving without insurance can also put a driver at risk of giving up the right to seek compensation for noneconomic damages (pain and suffering) after a car accident. The Personal Responsibility Act of 1996 limits the amount of financial compensation available for an uninsured driver in a car accident claim.
According to this law, the owner of an uninsured vehicle is unable to recover noneconomic damages for an auto accident unless the crash was caused by a drunk driver. The drunk driver also cannot seek compensation for noneconomic damages. Furthermore, an uninsured driver is barred from recovering noneconomic damages for an auto accident in California.
Injured? Get Help From a Los Angeles Car Crash Lawyer
If you’ve been injured in a car accident in California, you may need an attorney’s assistance with the insurance process. Navigating an auto insurance claim can be challenging, especially with a complication such as a liability dispute, an uninsured driver or insurance bad faith. Contact a Los Angeles car accident lawyer as soon as possible after your collision for legal advice.