Every vehicle that is operated or parked on California roadways must be insured. In California, this is called “financial responsibility.” Drivers must carry proof of their insurance in their vehicle at all times and present it when:
• Law enforcement requests it
• Renewing their vehicle registration
• The vehicle is in a car accident
What’s the minimum liability requirement for insurance in California?
Bodily injury coverage refers to coverage for things like medical bills and expenses and pain and suffering damages. In California, the minimum policy limits are $15,000/$30,000. This means there is a maximum of $15,000 for the injury or death of one person and $30,000 for the injury or death of two or more people in a car accident.
Property damage refers to damage to your vehicle. This is separate from bodily injury coverage. Drivers must carry a minimum of $5,000 property damage.
These are the bare minimum requirements in California. It is highly advisable to carry a policy with much higher limits. We typically recommend going no lower than a $100,000/$300,000 policy and the same limits on uninsured/underinsured coverage. The purpose of this is to make sure you and your loved ones are protected.
Why should I increase my policy limits for my car insurance?
There are many different reasons. But the main two are personal liability and protecting yourself and others. Bodily injury coverage covers when you’re at fault; uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is when someone else is at fault who is either uninsured or has low limits.
While it can be attractive to save money for your premium, the long term cost if you’re in an accident is much worse. If you’re at fault, a judgment could be taken against you for the difference your insurance doesn’t cover. If you’re not at fault and seriously injured, you could be left with compensation that doesn’t equal the extent of your injuries.
What are the different types of coverages?
The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) governs vehicle insurance and other types of insurance in the state of California. For more information visit their website here.
The following types of coverage are available in California:
• Liability – covers when you are at fault
• Collision – covers when your car strikes a physical object
• Comprehensive – covers damage to your vehicle from non-collision
• Medical Payments (MedPay) – pays limited medical expenses
• Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UMC/UIM) – covers when you’re not at fault and you’re hit by an uninsured driver or someone with insurance limits below yours
• Towing – also covers road service
• Rental Reimbursement – pays for a rental car while yours is being fixed after an accident
What if the other driver doesn’t have insurance?
Unfortunately, there are scenarios where there is nothing to recover. There are two ways to recover damages if you’ve been in an accident with an uninsured, at-fault driver. The first is to make a claim against your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (if you have it). The second would be to file suit against the other driver’s assets.
If you were in an accident with someone in your vehicle who has UMC coverage, you have your own UMC coverage, or you’re covered under a family member’s coverage, then there is a chance you’ll be able to make a claim. Most policies have a family member umbrella coverage allowance. You are able to ask the insurance company for a copy of the policy if this coverage is included. If none of these apply, then it’s likely there won’t be anything to make a claim against.
Unfortunately, there are many drivers who don’t carry insurance. This not only puts themselves in danger, but the other drivers on the road. If a person is driving without insurance, in most cases they won’t have any assets to make a claim against. For this reason, we recommend looking into additional coverages like uninsured/underinsured coverage to make sure you’re protected.
My name is Daniel Hanecak and I am a San Diego Car Accident Lawyer. I know from personal experience how stressful and time consuming a car accident can be. When you call Hanecak Law Inc., you will speak with me directly. It is my aim to provide you with free and friendly advice. Call me today at (858) 206-4326 for a free case evaluation.