California Law Requires you to have Auto Liability Insurance
If you drive in California then you must have auto liability insurance with bodily injury limits of at least $15,000/$30,000 and property damage limits of at least $5,000 per accident. Please see our recent blog post explaining the various types of car insurance coverage.
Pursuant to California Vehicle Code Section 16028, operators of vehicles in California must provide proof of liability insurance when lawfully asked by law enforcement.
Subject to California Vehicle Code Section 16029, if you do not have liability insurance then you may be fined $100 to $200 for your first violation and $200 to $500 for any subsequent violations. Other penalties include having your driver’s license suspended and the car you were driving (even if it isn’t your car!) can be impounded. In order to get the car out of impound, the owner of the car will be required to pay any towing and storage fees.
You should have more than the Minimum Insurance Limits
Depending on your financial situation, you should consider purchasing more than minimum required limits. Even seemingly minor accidents can require accident victims to go to the emergency room where medical expenses can be significant.
You should have Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage
We strongly encourage you to purchase uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance coverage in the event that you are injured by an uninsured or underinsured driver. You will not be able to recover any money to pay for your medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering if the at-fault driver does not have any insurance and you do not have Uninsured Motorist coverage.
Accident Victims must have Liability Insurance to Recover Pain and Suffering Damages
If you are injured in a car accident and you do not have any car insurance then you may be unable to recover any money from the at-fault driver or their insurance company for your pain and suffering damages. You can still recover for your actual medical expenses and property damage.
California Civil Code Section 3333.4 restricts owners and operators of motor vehicles injured in a motor vehicle accident from recovering for their pain, suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, disfigurement, and other non-pecuniary damages if the injured person did not have liability insurance as required by the Financial Responsibility Laws of the State of California.
Exceptions to California Vehicle Code Section 3333.4
There are two exceptions to Civil Code Section 3333.4 that allow injured people who do not have insurance to recover such damages. You may still be able to collect for your pain and suffering if your injuries were caused by a fleeing felon or by a drunk driver.