Penalties for driving without auto insurance in California

The state of California requires that all licensed drivers have proof of financial responsibility or liability insurance for all vehicles they own and drive. The easiest and least expensive way to maintain financial responsibility is to maintain liability auto insurance. If you are in an accident or stopped by a police officer and found to have no insurance or a suspended registration because you let your insurance expire, you face some costly consequences. In most cases, even the inability to provide proof of insurance if pulled over can lead to penalties.

Legal Requirements & Laws

Laws passed in 2006 require that all drivers prove they are financially able to pay for damages if they are involved in an accident. This includes property damage as well as personal injury or death involving the other party in the accident.  The state minimum requirements of financial responsibility are $15,000 for injury or death to one person, $30,000 for injury or death to more than one person, and $5,000 to cover property damage. If you choose not to purchase a liability policy through an insurance company, you have other options. You can deposit the amount of $35,000 with the DMV and they will provide you with a certificate that states you are self-insured. You can also go through a company that provides surety bonds, and obtain one for $35,000. They will also provide you with documentation of financial responsibility.

Penalties for no coverage

California also has some of the harshest penalties when it comes to being caught driving without insurance. If you are in an accident and do not have any insurance or financial responsibility documentation, your driver’s license could be suspended for four years. You may be able in some cases to get it back after a year, but you will have to pay all fees to have it reinstated, as well as carry an additional SR-22 policy on top of your regular insurance policy. If you do not have insurance, you run the risk of having your vehicle registration suspended as well. If your insurance has lapsed and your insurance company transmits their reports to the DMV, they will suspend your registration until you provide proof of insurance or financial responsibility.  If you are pulled over and cannot provide proof of insurance or financial responsibility, you will be issued a citation and more than likely your vehicle will be impounded as well.

Get liability insurance!

No matter what your reason is for not carrying liability insurance or proof of financial responsibility, the cost of driving without it is much greater. You will pay large fines if your license is suspended and your vehicle is impounded. You will also pay large fees to retrieve your vehicle as well as reinstate your driver’s license. If you are involved in an accident, you will lose your car, license, and registration as well as subject to a lawsuit for any personal injury, death or property damage that may occur. Although the monthly premium may be more expensive in California than in other states, it is a small price to pay compared to the cost of being involved in an accident uninsured.