California Car Insurance Minimums

California takes auto insurance seriously. You cannot legally drive in California or renew a vehicle registration without proof of a viable insurance policy with at least the required minimum coverage. If a driver doesn’t have insurance and causes an accident, they may be personally liable for the damages, including the victim’s medical expenses and lost wages as well as property damage to another vehicle.

Before you venture out on the California roadways, our Encino car accident lawyers remind you of the importance of knowing the state’s minimum requirement for insurance and ensuring you have an up-to-date policy.

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What Is the Minimum Insurance Requirement in California?

In order to drive legally in California, the state requires that you carry at least the minimum basic insurance coverage under California Insurance Code §11580.1b):. This coverage is the driver’s financial responsibility and must include the following:

  • $15,000 in bodily injury/death liability coverage per person
  • $30,000 total for two or more injury victims
  • $5,000 in property damage coverage per accident

This minimum required coverage does not provide compensation for the policyholder but for those injured in a car accident caused by the policyholder.

California has a low-cost insurance program for those eligible if they cannot afford their car insurance.

Does California’s Minimum Insurance Coverage Provide Uninsured Motorist Compensation?

It’s important for drivers who choose the basic insurance policy to understand that it exclusively provides coverage for others in an accident caused by the policyholder. If the policyholder suffers property damage and injuries in an accident caused by an uninsured motorist, they cannot file a claim against their own insurance policy if they’ve chosen the basic policy. However, many California drivers choose the standard coverage for an additional monthly premium. Standard coverage insurance policies in California provide increased limits including the following:

  • $100,000 in bodily injury/death liability coverage per person
  • $300,000 total bodily injury/death liability coverage per accident
  • $50,000 in property damage per accident
  • $5,000 in medical payments
  • $30,000 in Uninsured motorist coverage
  • $60,000 in underinsured motorist coverage

The standard coverage typically has deductibles for comprehensive and collision coverage if the driver chooses those additions to their policy.

Do I Need Insurance If I’m Not Driving and My Car Is Parked?

To have a valid vehicle registration in California, you must have proof of at least the minimum required coverage. If you plan to park your vehicle in a garage without driving it, you must notify the DMV and submit an affidavit of non-use. If you park your unused vehicle on the street, it must have insurance coverage.

Are There Alternatives to the Required Insurance Coverage in California?

California offers drivers two alternatives to carrying insurance. Instead of basic or standard insurance coverage, a driver may still register a vehicle and legally drive if they leave a $35,000 deposit with the DMV or have a $35,000 surety bond available to accident victims. The bond certificate states that you’ll pay property damage and injury costs up to that amount. If a DMV account holder or a surety bond holder is liable in an accident, accident victims may draw compensation from that account and the driver must replenish the account after every accident to ensure that it always contains $35,000.