California Car Insurance Requirements
In California car owners and drivers must maintain some sort of financial responsibility in order to legally register and drive a vehicle. However, they have four options for meeting the statutory requirements. The most common among California drivers is to simply purchase a car insurance policy. The other three options include:
- leaving a $35,000 deposit with the DMV
- obtaining a $35,000 surety bond from a California licensed bonding company
- obtaining a self insurance certificate from the DMV (available only to fleet owners and car dealers)
Since the car insurance policy is the most common for California drivers we will focus our attention there. Insurance companies licensed to sell policies in the state must provide minimum coverage as follows:
- $5,000 per accident to pay for property damage
- $15,000 per accident to pay for a single victim’s injuries or death
- $30,000 per accident to pay for deaths or injuries of multiple victims
The law does not require drivers to purchase collision or comprehensive insurance. However, your bank may require it as a condition of loaning you money for a car purchase. Other optional coverages you can choose include medical payments (also known as personal injury protection) coverage and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
Insurance Violation Penalties in California
Even though California is a bit more lenient in allowing four different options for financial responsibility, they are one of the more severe in terms of the penalties they impose on violators. For example:
- If you’re unable to provide proof of insurance during a traffic stop, you will at least receive a citation from the officer. You can have the ticket excused in court if you’re able to prove you had insurance in force at the time of the traffic stop. Otherwise, you’ll face the fine from the original citation, an additional fine for operating a vehicle without insurance, and the possible suspension of your registration and license.
- If you’re involved in an accident without insurance you can expect a fine and a registration suspension at minimum. A court may additionally decide to suspend your license as well. If that’s the case you will need to wait out the suspension period and then provide proof of insurance, along with any reinstatement fees, in order to get your license and registration back.
- Lastly, you are subject to the same fines and penalties if you allow someone else to drive your car without insurance. In other words, you are responsible for maintaining insurance regardless of who drives your car. If your friend is caught driving it in violation of the mandatory insurance law you will both be fined and subject to possible registration and license suspension.