All states require drivers to carry certain minimum auto insurance levels to legally operate motor vehicles. Auto insurance will provide monetary coverage in the event of a car accident. The types and amounts of coverage depend on the policy type the holder has purchased. Drivers can carry as much extra insurance as they wish, but all must at least maintain the minimum required coverage to avoid fees and penalties. Here’s a breakdown of the car insurance requirements –called “financial responsibility” by the state Department of Motor Vehicles – for drivers in California.
Liability Insurance Minimums
Every driver must carry liability auto insurance in California. Even if your vehicle is permanently parked and you don’t operate it, you need to carry insurance. Liability insurance covers others’ personal injury costs and/or property damage in the event of an accident (not the policyholder). Liability insurance prevents an at-fault driver from having to pay others’ damages out of pocket. Private motor vehicle owners must carry at least the following amounts of liability insurance in California:
- Injury or death to one person: $15,000
- Injury or death to more than one person: $30,000
- Property damage: $5,000
Your insurance company will cover damages up to the amount you’ve paid for. After that, you may have to pay for any additional costs out of pocket. Only carrying collision insurance or a comprehensive policy does not meet the requirements for liability insurance. As a driver, you must also purchase at least the minimum amounts of liability insurance to comply with state law.
Optional Auto Insurance
Aside from the minimum liability coverage listed above, drivers in California have the choice to purchase optional coverage for their own bodily injuries and property damages, as well as for uninsured motorist accidents, vandalism, acts of God, and for greater amounts of third-party damages. The optional insurance types available include:
- Comprehensive insurance. Comprehensive auto insurance covers injuries and damages that stem from things other than typical auto accidents, such as vandalism, fires, floods, windshield cracks, collisions with animals, and hail.
- Collision insurance. Collision insurance pays to repair or replace your vehicle if you collide with something such as another vehicle, fence post, or curb. Collision insurance also pays for vehicle repairs in single-vehicle accidents such as rollovers.
- Medical expenses. This type of optional insurance will cover the “reasonable and necessary” costs of medical treatment for your injuries arising out of an auto accident.
- Roadside assistance. Most insurance companies offer optional roadside assistance insurance, which provides emergency auto services such as tire replacements, tows, and locksmith services.
- GAP insurance. GAP insurance will make up the difference between the cash value of your vehicle and the balance you still owe on your lease or payment plan. Some financing companies require this type of insurance.
Optional coverage is not a legal requirement. You will not receive a penalty for only carrying the bare minimum liability insurance. Purchasing additional insurance, however, can come in handy in the event of a car accident – especially if you drive a high-value vehicle and wish to ensure its full value.
California’s Fault Car Accident Laws and Your Auto Insurance
You must carry evidence that you have the proper insurance at all times in the form of a paper insurance card and/or a digital version. You must be able to present proof of insurance if a law-enforcement officer asks you, if you wish to renew your vehicle registration, or if you’re involved in an accident. Failure to carry adequate car insurance and show proof of insurance could result in fines.
California is a fault state when it comes to car accident insurance. This means that the party at fault for the car accident will be the one liable for damages. If you don’t have enough insurance, the financial burden could fall on you. With at least the minimum insurance coverage, on the other hand, you will most likely not have to pay for others’ injuries or property damages out-of-pocket. Talk to your insurance provider to make sure you have the required coverage.