Under California law, all motor vehicle operators must carry the proper amounts of insurance in case they are involved in a car accident. California follows a fault-based car insurance system, making at-fault drivers financially liable for any collisions they cause. If an at-fault driver does not carry the right insurance coverage, not only could he or she face penalties like fines and license suspensions—he or she may need to pay for the damages of his or her victims out of pocket.
California Car Insurance Requirements
When it comes to pursuing compensation after a car accident in California, victims typically have two options. They can file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company, or they can file a personal injury lawsuit in civil court. If they have optional forms of insurance such as uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, victims can pursue a claim against their own insurance policy as well.
To uphold this financial responsibility, California requires all drivers to hold the following minimum amounts of car insurance.
- $15,000 for injury or death to one person per accident
- $30,000 for injury or death to all people per accident
- $5,000 for property damage per accident
Drivers can choose to purchase higher amounts of insurance if they choose. Victims have the right to recover compensation up to the driver’s policy limits and may choose to file a lawsuit against the driver if the claim is unsuccessful or yields an insufficient settlement.
California’s Penalties for Driving Without Insurance
If a driver is caught driving without insurance in California, he or she could face strict consequences. Penalties for driving without insurance depend on the number of previous offenses and whether a collision occurs.
- For a first offense, a driver could face fines between $100–$200 plus penalty assessments between $260–$520. The police officer may impound his or her vehicle.
- For a second and subsequent offense, a driver could face between $200–$500 in fines plus penalty assessments between $520–$1,300. His or her vehicle may also be impounded.
- For a first offense after a collision, the driver could face fines between $100–$200 plus penalty assessments between $260–$520. The driver will also face a one-year driver’s license suspension and will need to supply an SR-22 form, which proves financial responsibility and insurance coverage, to reinstate his or her license. The court may order a vehicle impoundment as well.
- For a second and subsequent offense after a collision, a driver could face between $200–$500 in fines plus penalty assessments between $520–$1,300. The driver could also face up to a four-year driver’s license suspension and will need to supply an SR-22 form to reinstate driving privileges. The court may order a vehicle impoundment.
Liability Challenges for Uninsured California Drivers
After an accident, a driver may need to pay for a victim’s damages if he or she does not have insurance coverage. The victim can choose to file an uninsured/underinsured motorist claim after the accident, but not everyone holds this coverage. In these situations, the victim may file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver—and the uninsured driver will be financially responsible for paying the settlement.
To avoid these penalties and protect your finances, it is important to comply with California’s insurance laws. If you are in an accident with an uninsured driver, speak with a California car accident lawyer as soon as possible. Your attorney can evaluate your case and help you recover the compensation you deserve.