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Insurance Requirements in California

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Driving in California comes with certain legal requirements. One of the most well-known – and important – requirements is that of carrying adequate automobile insurance. State car insurance laws aim to protect all roadway users after traffic accidents. In California, the party not at fault for the collision will not be financially liable for damages. The state’s tort-based insurance system requires all drivers to maintain certain insurance amounts to cover victims’ losses if the driver causes an auto accident. Ignoring California’s insurance requirements could lead to significant consequences.

What Insurance Must You Carry in California?

Auto insurance requirements differ from state to state. It is important to research the insurance laws when you move or purchase a vehicle for the first time. Failing to meet at least the state’s minimum required amounts of insurance is against the law and could lead to consequences. In California, all drivers must carry three main types of coverage.

  • $5,000 in property damage liability insurance
  • $15,000 in bodily injury liability insurance per person
  • $30,000 in bodily injury liability insurance per collision

Drivers must waive uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage if they do not want this insurance in California. It is optional to carry additional types or amounts of insurance coverage for better protection in auto accidents. Drivers can purchase comprehensive insurance, collision coverage, medical payment insurance and personal injury protection coverage. The total amount of insurance carried is up to the driver as long as he or she at least meets the minimum.

Penalties for Driving Without Insurance in California

It is against the law to operate a motor vehicle without enough car insurance. If a police officer pulls you over and you cannot show proof of insurance, you may receive a fix-it ticket. You can avoid paying the fine if you appear in court and show proof that you did have auto insurance but simply did not have proof during your stop. If you did not have insurance at all, you could face more serious penalties.

  • $100 to $200 fine for a first offense (plus additional fees)
  • $200 to $500 fine for a second or subsequent offense (plus additional fees)
  • Vehicle impoundment with towing and storage fees
  • Temporary license suspension

The potential legal penalties should be enough to convince a driver to purchase the correct amounts of insurance before driving in California. If not, the possibility of having to pay for someone’s expenses out of pocket after an accident may be a stronger incentive.

What to Do After Collisions With Uninsured Drivers

Not all drivers in California take the state’s auto insurance requirements seriously. Unfortunately, hundreds of drivers take to the road while uninsured or not carrying enough insurance. If you get into a collision with one of these drivers, it may be difficult to know how to seek damage recovery. The at-fault driver should be legally responsible for your damages. Without adequate insurance, you may be unable to afford to pay your bills out of pocket.

If you get into a collision and discover the other driver does not have enough car insurance, call the police for an official report. The police can impose fines and other penalties on the uninsured/underinsured driver to force him or her to purchase insurance in the future. The police can also write up a report that could help you document your crash to your insurance provider. You will have to file a claim with your auto insurer if you have uninsured or underinsured motorist insurance.

If you do not carry this type of coverage, your other potential option for recovery may be a personal injury lawsuit. You could bring a suit against the at-fault driver or another party, such as a roadway maintenance crew or vehicle manufacturer, for contributing to your car crash. A lawsuit against one or more parties could help you recover compensation even if the guilty driver does not have insurance.