Many states, including California, require drivers to carry automobile insurance when operating a motor vehicle. Although coverage options may vary, auto insurance is available to protect your finances in the event of an accident. Driving without insurance can be extremely detrimental to your finances in the event of an accident, and because of this, driving without insurance can carry heavy penalties.
If you’re caught driving without insurance in the golden state, you’ll likely get a ticket and pay a fine. however, you can also lose your license or risk having your vehicle impounded. We provide an overview of the risks and penalties you face if you choose to drive without insurance in California.
california auto insurance laws
First, let’s take a second to understand what it means to drive without insurance in California. in this state, you only meet the legally required amount of coverage when you have:
- $15,000 bodily injury liability coverage per person
- $30,000 bodily injury liability coverage per accident
- $5,000 property damage liability coverage
- penal code 1464: $10 for every $10 or part of $10 of your fine (so if your fine was $25, you could receive a $30 fine assessment here)
- government code 7600: $7 for every $10 of portion of $10
- government code 70372: $5 for every $10 or part of $10
- government code 76104.6: $1 for every $10 or part of $10
- government code 76104.7: $4 for every $10 or part of $10
- government code 76000.5: $2 for every $10 or part of $10
Your policy might list these limits as 15/30/5.
Ultimately, having this much liability coverage gives you something to fall back on. If you cause an accident or hit a person or object with your car, you can rely on your liability coverage to pay for damages up to the limits listed above (or more, if you opt for higher coverage limits).
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In California, driving without insurance means not having the above amounts of liability coverage. But that is not all. under the state vehicle code, you must also show proof of that coverage to a law enforcement officer upon request. you can show a printout of your insurance card or open it on your phone. however, either way, to avoid a penalty for not having insurance, you will need to show proof of insurance when asked.
There are alternatives to having an insurance policy. In California, you have a couple of other ways to prove financial responsibility. One way to ensure that you may be financially responsible for an accident is to deposit $35,000 in cash with the DMV or get a $35,000 bond. But in most cases, buying an insurance policy is the cheapest and easiest way to get the proof of financial responsibility you need to legally drive in the state.
However, just because you can prove financial responsibility, it is important to note that if you are responsible for causing an accident, damages could easily exceed $35,000.
penalties for driving without insurance in california
California is a state that takes uninsured driving very seriously. Although the initial fines for driving without insurance in California may not seem too high at first glance, it will still cost you in the long run and is not worth the risk. The associated fines can add up quickly, especially if California fine assessments are added to your violation. Furthermore, the penalties are even more severe if you are a repeat offender or if you have an accident while driving without insurance.
in california, getting caught driving without insurance once probably won’t break the bank financially. You will potentially be fined between $100 and $200. Penalty assessments may be added to this fine. the real risk is that the court could also decide to impound your vehicle, even if it’s the first time you’ve been caught driving without insurance.
If you’re caught driving without car insurance in California a second time, your fine increases significantly to between $200 and $500, plus any penalties the court adds to your total. again, you will also face the possibility of having your vehicle impounded.
california fine assessments
Ultimately, the penalties for driving without insurance in California are not too high. however, where the costs really add up is through penalty assessments. In California, a penalty assessment is a dollar amount added to the original reference fine that you are charged for any legal violation. there are several penalty assessment codes on the books that relate to driving without your license, which means your $200 fine could quickly double or triple. Depending on where you live and what your local officials decide to apply, you could be subject to all additional fine assessments:
again, for some of these penalties to be imposed, your local official would have to opt in. but if you are subject to all of these penalty assessments, every $10 of your fine receives an additional $29. so your $100 fine quickly turns into $390, for example. and if you get hit with the maximum fine of $500 plus all fine assessments, you could be looking at $1,950 out of pocket. And that doesn’t even take into account the costs if you’ve damaged your own vehicle or someone else’s while driving without insurance.
have an accident without insurance
If you’re in California driving without insurance, an accident means a lot more trouble for you. if you caused the accident, you are obligated to pay for damages. That means you’ll have to pay for repairs to the other person’s vehicle and their medical expenses out of your own pocket.
In California, driving without insurance and causing an accident could leave you with so many expenses to cover that it could change your life, and not in a good way. Even if he can’t pay the money right away, the other driver could sue him and garnish his wages until he gets the full amount he owes.
Also, having an accident without insurance or the ability to provide evidence of financial responsibility means license suspension. Typically, you will be without your license for a year, at which point you can have your license reinstated if your insurance company files an SR-22 on your behalf. You will need to keep that SR-22 in place for three years. And when you need an SR-22, your auto insurance gets more expensive, so be prepared.
Even if you were not the at-fault driver, driving without insurance in California limits your recourse after an accident. The other driver’s liability policy can pay for your car repairs and medical bills, up to the policy limits. But because California is a “no pay, no play” state, you cannot seek money for non-economic damages. so, for example, you couldn’t sue for money for pain and suffering.