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Auto insurance requirements in the United States vary from one state to the next, and for residents of each state, it is important for them to know and understand the minimum auto insurance requirements.
Some states have made it a prerequisite for residents to purchase auto insurance before registering their vehicle and driving on the road legally.
Besides knowing your state’s minimum auto insurance requirement, reviewing your auto insurance policy can help you file claims following an accident. At Ehline Law, our auto insurance attorneys work closely with injured victims. They are constantly and aggressively defending the victim’s rights and obtaining restitution for losses on their behalf.
If you received injuries in an accident that was not your fault, contact Ehline Law and our personal injury attorneys today for a free case evaluation.
With so many insurance providers on the market, choosing one that best suits your needs can be confusing. The entire process can become further complicated by the constant insurance jargon used on their websites. Here are some of the most common car insurance terms we will discuss before heading on to the auto insurance requirements in California.
In basic terms, premiums roughly translate into payments. Insurance premiums are the monthly or annual payments you pay into the insurer’s account to stay insured. Failure to keep on top of your premiums will result in the cancellation of your insurance policy. This means you cannot file any personal injury claims if you get into an accident.
Premiums are also known as a “car insurance quote.” When you navigate to an insurer’s website that offers free online quotes, you add your details, your insurance requirements, and any additional coverage you wish to add. The quote you receive at the end of filing the form is your insurance premium, which you must pay each month or annually to enjoy the benefits of car insurance.
Underwriting is an insurance process that helps evaluate a potential policyholder’s risk before selling a policy to them. You may have heard that several factors affect insurance premiums, such as driving records, credit scores, vehicle conditions, etc. Insurance underwriting helps determine the risk and calculate the premiums.
When a policyholder is in an accident, they must reach out to the insurer for compensation. To do that, individuals must file claims that let the insurer know the details of the accident and the damage done. For example, if you receive injuries in an accident and start treatment, a claim with the insurer can help recover the money needed for your medical treatment.
This one is tricky terminology. Many policyholders don’t expect to technically pay to cover part of the insurance claim, which is why the term “deductible” may sound confusing. However, deductibles are part of the insurance policy, and these remain set amounts of money that a policyholder must pay to receive their claim.
For example, if you get into an accident causing $20,000 in damage with a $3,000 deductible, you will only receive $17,000. You can choose to reduce your deductibles before purchasing an insurance policy, but that would result in higher premiums.
These are types of coverage that pay for the damage due to an accident caused by you. If a court finds you negligent and you’re at fault for an accident, third-party liability coverage will take care of the damage and injuries from the accident. With some insurers, this type of coverage may also cover legal fees in the event of any legal action against you.
When you buy insurance, an insurance company will protect itself and its investors by limiting the amount of payout they can process in each case. To do that, insurers have policy limits.
For example, suppose you have a policy limit of a million dollars. In that case, an insurer will not pay any amount above that, even if the damage exceeds the policy limit. However, working with an expert car accident attorney can help increase recoveries as attorneys can recover compensation from other sources.
You may be a careful driver and think twice before crossing an intersection. However, the other oncoming drivers may not be as cautious as you. There are more than 286 million cars in the United States and 5.25 million accidents annually, so there are high chances of getting into an accident.
A car accident can leave a victim with serious injuries, causing emotional trauma and physical pain and affecting their quality of life. Victims requiring hospitalization or medical treatment for their car accident injuries must pay for it from their own pocket unless they have auto insurance with reasonable coverage.
Auto insurance helps cover the cost of a car accident without the need for the victim to worry about financial responsibility. However, there are certain limits and coverages you should know about before purchasing an auto policy from an insurance provider.
In California, residents must take financial responsibility for any injuries to victims or damage to motor vehicles or their property due to their fault. According to California law, every driver must establish financial responsibility and have evidence of it in their vehicle at all times. To show financial responsibility, many residents prefer to buy an auto policy as it helps protect them from any financial repercussions of injuries or property damage.
Under California law, you may receive fines, suspend your license, or even have your vehicle impounded if you do not have car liability insurance.
When it comes to car accident liability, there are two types of states:
California is a fault-based state, which means that the drivers who are at fault must take financial responsibility for their negligence.
In California, you can take specific actions to protect yourself from the financial repercussions of an accident, such as medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and more.
These actions include the following:
So, how does the status of fault-based states affect the actions that you can take to protect yourself from the financial consequences of a car accident?
In no-fault states, regardless of who is responsible for the accident, a driver must file a claim against their own insurance provider to compensate for the damage. However, there are threshold requirements that the injured person must meet before they can proceed to file a claim against their insurance provider.
In fault-based states, the insurance adjusters determine the degree of fault, and compensation to each party gets awarded according to that. Even when you’re at fault, you might be eligible to receive some compensation if you or your car accident attorney provide evidence of negligence by the other driver.
You must comply with the bare minimum liability car insurance requirements when purchasing auto insurance. But why are there minimum liability requirements, and what are these in California?
Minimum liability requirements help financially compensate injured victims for their injuries, loss, and property damage. If there were no minimum requirements, insurance companies would barely cover any costs of an auto accident. The states limit the minimum requirements to protect an individual’s rights and financial status after an accident.
The minimum bodily coverage that every driver must have in California is as follows:
The minimum property damage coverage that every driver must have in California is as follows:
These are the minimum requirements for drivers in California to comply with. However, drivers can choose to carry more coverage by adding optional or extra coverage to their auto policy.
Although there are minimum requirements for car insurance to protect yourself in the event of a serious accident, additional coverage can kick in.
Minimum car insurance requirements in California may not be enough to cover your expenses from an auto accident. For example, the $5,000 property damage coverage may seem like a lot at first, but repairing your vehicle or replacing it can cost thousands of dollars.
Depending on the make and model of your vehicle, replacing a blown-out transmission can cost upwards of $5,000. Medical bills can exceed the minimum bodily injury coverage depending on the injuries. Treatment for a spinal cord injury can cost around $1 million in the first year following the accident.
You may run out of the policy limits in the case of such accidents, and to protect yourself, having different coverages is a great idea. Here are some options you can explore besides purchasing car insurance in California.
The minimum bodily injury coverage in California is $30,000 for injuries per accident (with more than one person injured) and $5,000 for property damage. But you can choose to purchase more coverage than just the state’s bare minimum. In situations where the damage from an accident exceeds your policy limits, you run the risk of a lawsuit and losing your assets.
According to the insurance information institute, in 2019, more than 16% of the motorists in California did not have any car insurance, putting California in the top 10 states with the highest number of uninsured motorists in the country.
If you end up in an accident with an uninsured motorist, their insurance will not cover medical costs or property damage since they do not have any insurance. You will have to look towards your insurer to bear the damage, but they will only consider covering the expenses if you have uninsured motorist coverage.
If you do not have this type of coverage, you will have to file legal action against the uninsured driver to receive financial compensation for your loss. However, you might be wasting your time and effort since uninsured motorists most likely do not have assets.
In states like Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, and more, uninsured motorist coverage is a requirement for all drivers to drive legally on the roads. But in California, this type of coverage is not mandatory.
As we explained earlier, minimum liability coverage is insufficient to cover severe injuries from an accident. Ending up in an accident with an underinsured motorist will leave you financially dry if the injuries you sustain exceed the negligent driver’s policy limits. Underinsured motorist coverage is additional coverage that kicks in when damage from the accident exhausts the negligent driver’s policy limits.
This type of coverage is not mandatory in California, but having this type of coverage can financially secure your assets in the event of a catastrophic accident.
Financial compensation for an accident can take some time, but medical expenses for the accident start as soon as the injured victim starts their treatment.
In tight cash flow, medical payments coverage is a great way to pay for your or your passenger’s medical bills and funeral costs. This type of coverage is not mandatory in California.
As mentioned earlier, minimum property damage coverage of $5,000 is not enough to cover significant repairs or replacement work for your vehicle, resulting in you paying the rest of the bill out of your pocket.
Collision coverage on top of your minimum car insurance covers the repairs or replacement cost of your vehicle after an accident.
This type of coverage is not mandatory in California.
Comprehensive coverage is a type of physical damage coverage for your car. It covers repair or replacement costs of your vehicle from events out of your control, such as theft, vandalism, storms, etc.
This type of coverage is not mandatory in California. Collision and comprehensive coverage are not required to drive in California, but your lender may need these if you’re leasing a car.
Sometimes, your policy limits may not be enough to cover serious or significant injuries and vehicle damage. For example, spinal cord injuries from an accident can cost millions of dollars in medical treatment. If you receive spinal injuries from an accident with a negligent party, it can exhaust the policy limits, leaving you on your own to cover the remaining costs. Higher insurance limits or additional coverage can help protect an injured victim in the case of a serious accident.
Since car accident insurance policies follow the car rather than the person, if your family member receives injuries while driving your vehicle, your auto policy will kick in and cover the damage. This can even extend to people outside your family circle if you permit them to drive your vehicle.
It is important to remember that the liability coverage we discussed here does not apply to you but to the third party. The same is true for them, as their liability coverage will apply to you rather than themselves. This is why, after an accident, an injured victim files a claim against the negligent party.
However, you can cover yourself with additional coverage since there may be situations where the other policy does not cover your losses or the other driver does not have an insurance policy. Personal Injury Protection, or PIP, in California, provides medical payment coverage to a specific limit. In contrast, additional collision coverage pays for the damage to your vehicle, whether it requires repair or replacement.
If you cause an accident resulting in injuries to the other party, your auto insurance coverage limits must be enough to cover their loss. In cases where the accident cost is higher than your limits, the third party can sue you. You could lose your savings or even your house if the third party decides to take legal action in the hope of recovering fair compensation. Depending on the assets you have, you should consider getting higher limits.
More coverage means higher premiums on your auto insurance. Typically, individuals set a certain percentage of their vehicle cost as a budget to purchase annual car insurance. A higher-value luxury car must have a higher insurance budget and additional coverage to secure your asset.
Another type of insurance that protects an injured victim is underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage, which differs from your regular car insurance. Typically, a car insurance policy covers damages done to an injured victim up to certain liability coverage limits, and exhausting those limits means the injured person has to pay from pocket for the remaining costs.
There may be a situation where you’re in an accident with an underinsured or uninsured person, which can seriously affect your financial situation if you don’t have the right coverage.
Although underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage is not mandatory for driving legally in California, they kick in if you’re in an accident with a person with bare minimum limits or no insurance.
You may not want to stick with the minimum insurance requirements in the state if you’re driving a luxury vehicle or have assets you want to protect in case of a disastrous accident.
Buying an insurance policy with additional coverage can pile on the premiums, leading to a substantial annual insurance expense. However, you can do things to ensure that you get the best insurance rates in California.
Your auto insurance premiums depend on many factors, but the major one is your driving skills. If your driving skills are excellent and you have a good driving record on your driver’s license, you may be eligible for a good driver discount.
Speeding tickets or DUIs can severely affect your insurance premiums as insurers consider such policyholders risky, and to compensate for that risk, they require higher premiums.
Having a good driving record is good when buying insurance at cheaper rates and helps during claims after a negligent driver gets into an accident with you.
Deductibles affect your insurance premiums, and removing some from your insurance policy can lead to manageable monthly payments. However, by doing so, you risk paying more if you cause an accident.
There are a lot of additional coverages that you can opt for, but that doesn’t mean that you need all of these coverages under your policy. Adding optional coverage can spike insurance premiums.
It is best to think about your insurance needs before purchasing a policy. Do you need comprehensive coverage? Are you more concerned about medical bills in the event of serious accidents?
Residents living in California must comply with the state’s financial responsibility laws, which means there are other options to show financial responsibility than purchasing an auto insurance policy.
In California, most drivers choose to go for auto insurance policies since they offer convenience and payment flexibility, unlike other options.
However, if you’re one of those drivers who would prefer to explore other options that show financial responsibility, California offers the following to resident drivers:
In California, driving without any type of financial insurance is illegal, and you cannot register your vehicle without liability coverage. When a person is behind on their auto insurance premiums or buying one, the insurer informs the California DMV.
According to California law, car owners must show proof of financial responsibility, such as a cash deposit of $35,000 to the DMV, if they do not have standard insurance. Failing to do so can result in fines ranging between $100 and $200, not including state assessments or other fees. In total, these can reach up to $500 if you get caught driving without insurance for the first time in California.
Any subsequent offenses translate into higher fines. Getting caught in California for the second time without insurance can result in a fine of between $200 and $500, excluding state assessments and other fees. Fines can go up to $2,500 for subsequent offenses and a higher chance of license suspension.
The authorities can also impound your vehicle, suspend your vehicle registration, and more. You may have to pay storage and towing costs when authorities impound your vehicle.
The maximum penalty for getting caught driving uninsured in California may be $2,500. But this is just a fraction of the consequences you can face if you cause an accident while uninsured in the state. The court can suspend your driving license for a specific period, which can cause many inconveniences, especially if you have to drive to work or for a living.
Another significant consequence of an accident caused while driving without insurance is a civil lawsuit. Drivers in California can sue the negligent driver who was driving without insurance to recover damages from the accident. Depending on the accident’s seriousness, you may have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars if you’re at fault.
Understandably, not all households in California have the capacity or the excess income to pay for high insurance premiums. More than 16% of motorists in the state are without insurance, perhaps because they do not have enough income. This raises a serious and common question: if you don’t have sufficient income to pay for insurance, is it illegal for you to drive on the road then?
The answer to the question is not a straightforward one. Although it doesn’t make driving legal in California without insurance if you have a low income, there is an insurance policy aimed at these groups of people.
California has a particular low-cost automobile insurance program for eligible low-income individuals with excellent driving skills. Although the program does not have the minimum liability limits required in California, it does fulfill state financial responsibility law.
The minimum liability insurance requirements for CLCA or the California low-cost automobile insurance program are as follows:
However, to be eligible for the CLCA program, you must meet specific requirements.
Here are the minimum eligibility requirements to enroll yourself in the CLCA program:
Individuals eligible for the CLCA program have access to seven different payment plans to help them choose the best plan according to their financial situation.
Most cases in California get settled outside of court since insurance companies do not want bad publicity from lawsuits. However, without taking the proper steps, you might find that the insurance company’s offer is too low for the damage caused.
You can follow specific steps right after an accident to secure your position and negotiate a better settlement offer.
Here is what you should do following an accident in California:
Drivers who start to panic following an accident are the ones that flee the accident scene without thinking of the consequences it may have on their claims. Secondly, if you flee an accident in California, leaving the other driver injured or dead, it can make you vulnerable to criminal charges such as hit and run.
A felony charge can result in a $10,000 fine and maximum imprisonment of 4 years in state prison.
If you’re conscious after an accident and can move your vehicle to the side of the road or highway, do it as soon as possible since you don’t want any vehicles to collide with yours. Avoid further accidents by moving your vehicle to the roadside.
Now make sure you and your passengers are alright. Check for any bleeding or injuries and call the emergency services as soon as possible. You should contact the police to come down to the accident site and report the accident. Also, inform your insurance company immediately about the incident.
Once everything is fine, you can walk, head over to the other driver, exchange insurance details, and take down their valid California driver’s license number. These are essential details when filing an insurance company’s claim form.
Since California is a fault-based state, compensation depends on the degree of fault and establishes that insurance adjusters use the relevant evidence. Taking pictures of the accident scene and the vehicles involved in an accident are great pieces of evidence that can help establish fault.
Look around for witnesses and if there are any, take down relevant details such as names and contact numbers. Witness reports will add considerable weight to your case.
Local law enforcement authorities will take down the details when they reach the accident site. In the meantime, you should obtain the name and badge number of the officer taking down the report. A police report also records the officer’s opinion, which can add much weight to your insurance claim.
The shock from the accident can often be overwhelming, and you may not remember accurate details of the accident in the following days. Write it down or simply record it on your smartphone so that you can quickly revisit the details later when needed.
The moment you admit fault or say things that insurance adjusters can use against you, you risk losing your chance of receiving a fair settlement. Emotions are at an all-time high after an accident, and even apologizing can give the insurance company an indication that you’re feeling guilty and that perhaps the accident was all your fault.
You’re not liable to disclose any information to the insurance carriers. Speak to an attorney for guidance on how to deal with insurance companies.
Insurance companies would prefer to avoid compensation payouts, and any delays in medical treatment can create grounds for claim refusal. Insurers could easily argue that the injuries are due to the failure to receive medical treatment immediately rather than the accident itself.
Another tip to remember is never to mention that you’re not injured or hurt. Admitting that you’re not injured will lead to a downright claim rejection. Even if you don’t have any apparent injuries, it is important to note that some injuries take time to appear, and it is best to head to a medical center for medical evaluation and examination.
According to state law, drivers must report their accidents to the local DMV if they result in bodily injury, property damage, or death. A driver has ten days following an accident to file a report. Failure to comply with this law might result in the suspension of the driver’s license. To report your accident to the California DMV, complete the SR-1 accident reporting form.
The accident reporting form requires the following details:
When you buy an insurance policy, the underwriting might include clauses informing the insurer about the accident.
Failing to inform your insurer about the incident could mean that you’re breaking the law and could lead to serious repercussions. Failure to report the accident to your insurer could also result in canceling your insurance, making driving illegal in California.
Insurers need sufficient time to defend your claim, and informing them timely about the incident can work in your favor. If you’re unsure about the facts of the accident, obtain a copy of a police report and hand it in as evidence to your insurer.
Once you’ve informed the relevant parties of the car accident, you need to head to a medical center for medical treatment, as you may have injuries that require medical attention. In the case of serious injuries, it is essential to complete your medical treatment before filing a claim against the negligent party’s insurer.
However, there is a time limit in California for filing claims. According to the statute of limitations, injured victims have two years following the accident to file personal injury claims or lawsuits against the negligent parties. Two years may seem like much time, but with treatment going on and dealing with insurance companies, you should start the claim process as soon as possible.
One of the central questions for injured victims after an accident is whether they should reach out to an attorney to help them with their personal injury case. There is no harm in speaking to an attorney, and it can give you some reassurance you may require following an accident.
Regarding legal fees, some of the best attorneys in California will not charge you in advance and will offer you a free consultation. Hence, you’re not losing anything by speaking to a legal expert over the phone.
In many minor cases, you do not require the help of an attorney to help with the claim process. But there are situations where you may need an attorney. Here are some reasons you should contact a car insurance attorney in California for your car accident.
Establishing fault in some car accidents can be challenging, especially involving multiple parties. Since California is a fault-based state, these parties and their insurance companies will most likely pin the fault of the accident on you.
In such situations, you simply cannot let an insurance adjuster determine the fault of the accident since, chances are, without any legal help, you’ll be the one facing the financial consequences.
An expert car accident attorney can provide relevant evidence to the insurance adjuster and protect your rights. If you’re responsible for the accident, an experienced attorney can explore the facts of the personal injury case to reduce your fault since there might be situations where the other driver may partly be at fault.
Insurance companies in the United States are billion-dollar enterprises that solely operate for profits and make money for their investors. They’re not working in your best interests, which is why you’ve heard many news reports on how insurance companies conduct bad faith practices.
Insurance companies need minor reasons to deny claims, which can prolong the claims process. Hiring an attorney to represent you and your case can increase your chances of recovering compensation for your loss. An experienced attorney knows an injured victim’s rights and will stand to protect those rights.
After an accident, you need to focus on your recovery and not worry about the stress of dealing with the insurers. Injured victims often accept lowball offers and sign waivers to end the ordeal of dealing with insurers. However, they later realize that the settlement does not even cover part of the medical bills. An attorney can look into all these matters and deal with the insurer on your behalf while you take some time to recover from the injuries.
The insurance adjusters often resolve minor accidents and injuries within 30 days of the accident. However, accidents resulting in millions of dollars in damage, such as spinal injuries, make the personal injury case more challenging. Insurers now require more proof and solid evidence of the fault and will further scrutinize your insurance policy to avoid paying such amounts.
Remember, large payments affect the insurer’s bottom line.
You will need to hire a car accident attorney if:
California has many law firms offering legal services, so why should you consider going with Ehline Law? Ehline Law is a premier personal injury law firm, working closely with injured victims to protect their rights and help recover compensation for their losses.
When dealing with the aftermath of an accident, it is essential to have an attorney or law firm that is compassionate and understands your situation. Michael Ehline, the founder of Ehline Law, served the United States as a US Marine before receiving an honorable discharge for disability. Michael’s commitment to protecting the citizens of the United States followed him even after his service in the form of the Ehline Law firm.
Ehline Law understands how tragic an accident can be and how devastating the aftermath can be for the injured victim and their families. If you have received injuries from an accident that was not your fault, contact us at (213) 596 9642 for a free consultation on your personal injury case.
Ehline Law is a leading personal injury firm in California with many achievements and accomplishments over the last decade. Here are a few reasons why you should choose us over others.
Ehline Law has constantly won awards for the excellent service our attorneys provide. From Superlawyers’ Rising Star award to premier personal injury attorneys, best trial lawyers, and more, Ehline Law has a lot of legal awards to its name. This should give you enough confidence in our ability to protect our client’s interests and rights.
When choosing a law firm to provide you with legal representation, you must go for one with an excellent settlement history. Before negotiating, insurance companies conduct a background check on the attorneys representing a personal injury claim. Cases involving injured victims and experienced attorneys often get resolved in the victim’s best interests.
Ehline Law has helped over 3,000 injured victims recover over $150 million in settlements for their losses. Our attorneys understand that compensation goes beyond medical bills and ensure that our clients get the maximum settlement, including lost wages, pain and suffering, punitive damages, and more, where applicable.
Attorneys at Ehline Law also have trial experience, which is an added advantage since insurers are most likely to resolve cases outside of court. However, if there is no mutual agreement on the settlement, our attorneys are not afraid to take the insurers to court.
Ehline Law takes pride in working with some of the best qualified and experienced attorneys who contribute to the legal space. Our attorneys constantly raise awareness on different media platforms about legal issues and contribute to the California Bar Journal.
An attorney with such experience can be a force to reckon with for insurance companies, thus increasing your chances of getting a maximum settlement.
We understand how an accident can leave an injured victim financially dry, which is why our law firm works on a contingency fee basis. You don’t have to pay legal fees unless we win your personal injury case. Eliminate the stress of payments and fees by contacting us and discussing your individual injury case.
After an accident, the last thing you would want is to face complications from medical treatment due to malpractice. Besides the malpractice concern, medical treatments are expensive, and if you don’t have Medpay, you may have to settle the bills from your pocket.
Our law firm offers to locate a lien doctor to help with the medical treatment. The doctors on our list are some of the best in California, and you don’t have to worry about paying medical bills out of your pocket. The amount is simply deducted from the compensation recovery, helping alleviate the financial burden.
Whether in Los Angeles, Long Beach, Pasadena, or anywhere else in California, we have more than 15 locations across the state providing legal services to residents. You can visit our law offices and receive a free case review with one of our legal experts.
For more information on how we can help with your personal injury case, contact us on our landline number or visit any of our legal offices across California.
Michael is a managing partner at the nationwide Ehline Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC. He’s an inactive Marine and became a lawyer in the California State Bar Law Office Study Program, later receiving his J.D. from UWLA School of Law. Michael has won some of the world’s largest motorcycle accident settlements. He compassionately helps clients recover after serious injuries.
Michael is a managing partner at the nationwide Ehline Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC. He’s an inactive Marine and became a lawyer in the California State Bar Law Office Study Program, later receiving his J.D. from UWLA School of Law. Michael has won some of the world’s largest motorcycle accident settlements.