California is a fault insurance state that requires drivers who are responsible for car accidents to pay for their victims’ damages. To uphold this financial responsibility and comply with state law, you must carry certain amounts of car insurance. However, not all drivers comply with this requirement—but failure to do so can lead to hefty fines and other penalties. Additionally, uninsured motorists may be solely responsible for their victims’ damages, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
California Insurance Requirements
Liability insurance pays for the medical expenses, vehicle repairs, lost wages, and other losses that other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians suffer in accidents you cause. All drivers in California must carry the following amounts of insurance.
- $15,000 for bodily injury or death per person per accident
- $30,000 for total bodily injury or death per accident
- $5,000 for property damage per accident
You can purchase higher amounts of coverage if you choose to do so. You can also purchase additional coverage, such as uninsured motorist and medical payments coverage, to pay for your own losses in an accident. Uninsured motorist coverage is especially important in cases where the at-fault driver does not have insurance.
If you do not want to purchase liability coverage, you can comply with California insurance laws using one of the following options.
- A self-insurance certificate from the California Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV)
- A cash deposit of $35,000 to the DMV
- A $35,000 surety bond from a California-licensed issuer
Penalties for Driving without Insurance
Failure to comply with California insurance laws can result in serious penalties. If you are caught for driving without insurance, you can receive a $100 to $200 fine for a first offense. For a second offense, the fine increases to $200 to $500. For third and subsequent offenses, your fine will continue to increase.
In addition to financial penalties, the state could impound your vehicle. You will not be able to obtain it until you provide proof of insurance and pay for the towing and storage fees. The state may also require you to obtain an SR-22 Proof of Financial Responsibility certificate and carry an additional SR-22 insurance policy, which can be expensive.
If you are at fault for the accident and do not have insurance, you will still be financially liable for the victims’ damages. Instead of the insurance company paying for expenses like medical care, vehicle repairs, and lost wages, you will need to pay for these losses out of pocket. Although car insurance may seem expensive, it is not as costly as paying for multiple high-value claims by yourself.
What to Do After a California Car Accident
If you are in a car accident, it is important to seek help, preserve evidence, and protect your health. First, call 911 and report the accident to law enforcement. Receive emergency medical attention as soon as possible and save all records related to your injuries. If you are able, take photographs of your injuries, the area around the crash, and your vehicle damage. Speak to the other driver and exchange insurance, license, and contact information, and ask any witnesses in the area for their contact details as well.
Once you receive treatment for your injuries, contact a California car accident lawyer. If another driver caused your accident, you could hold him or her accountable for your injuries through an insurance claim or lawsuit. If the at-fault driver does not have insurance, you could still recover compensation through an uninsured motorist claim. Speak to an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your optimal path to recovery.