The penalties for driving without insurance in California include fines and impounding your car. You can avoid these consequences by meeting California’s proof of financial responsibility requirements. California requires that all drivers have at least $15,000 in bodily injury liability coverage, up to $30,000 per accident, along with $5,000 in liability coverage for property damage.
Purchasing California’s minimum liability car insurance coverage is the easiest way to satisfy the financial responsibility requirement. Drivers in California pay an average of $631 per year to maintain the minimum amount of coverage. That’s nothing compared to the consequences of driving without insurance, especially if you get into an accident.
Penalties for Driving Without Insurance in California
|Type of Offense ||License and/or Registration Suspended? ||Jail Time? ||SR-22 Required? ||Maximum Fines & Fees |
|No Proof of Insurance (Can Prove Coverage) ||No ||No ||No ||$360-$720 |
|1st Offense With No Coverage ||No ||No ||Yes, if you cause an accident ||$100 - $200 plus penalty assessments |
|Repeat Offense (No Coverage) ||No ||No ||Yes, if you cause an accident ||$200 - $500 plus penalty assessments |
Drivers in California can also have their car impounded for driving without insurance.
Not having car insurance and not being able to prove that you have it are two different violations. If you have insurance but cannot prove it when you get pulled over or at the scene of an accident, you are guilty of an “administrative violation,” similar to a seat-belt ticket. Your citation will not be dismissed even if you can provide the court with proof of valid insurance for the date of the citation. But you may be able to appeal to the court for a reduced fine.
Driving without car insurance at all is much more serious, and the penalties are more severe. In addition to the legal consequences, you can also expect your car insurance premium to go up. A single conviction for driving without insurance raises annual premiums by an average of 36%, or $647, in California.
What happens if you get into a car accident without insurance in California?
If you get into an accident while driving without insurance in California, you will be cited and all the penalties for driving without insurance will apply, no matter who is at fault. Driving uninsured can make it difficult to be compensated for damages if you are not at fault and can have long-lasting and life-changing consequences if you are at fault.
If the accident is your fault, you’ll have to pay for all the damages out of your own pocket. In addition to the legal consequences for driving without insurance, you could easily be responsible for tens of thousands of dollars or more in damage to your vehicle, the other driver’s repair and hospital bills, and your own medical care. Both the other driver and their insurance company can sue you and have future wages and savings garnished to pay for damages. You could face mounting debt or even bankruptcy, especially if the other driver doesn’t carry uninsured motorist coverage or personal injury protection.
Even if the accident is not your fault, driving without insurance leaves you vulnerable to expensive hospital and repair bills. California is an at-fault state. In at-fault states, the other driver is usually responsible for damage to your car and any medical treatment you may need—assuming the other driver is found completely at-fault. California uses a pure comparative negligence system, which means you may not be able to recover all the costs associated with the accident if you are found partially responsible for causing it.
Driving uninsured doesn’t negate the other driver’s fault entirely, but you’re almost certainly going to be penalized and unable to recover everything you would be entitled to if you had insurance.
You can get car insurance in California, even if you are…
Uninsured: Unless you’re a newly licensed driver, having a history of driving without insurance or lapses in coverage is a risk to insurers. To insurance companies, it’s similar to a bad driving record, which is why drivers who let their insurance lapse for 60 days pay about 6% more than the average premium in California.
USAA, State Farm, Nationwide, and Geico tend to have the lowest rates for drivers who want to regain coverage.
Driving someone else’s car: It’s not illegal to drive someone else’s car if you do not have insurance, but non-owner car insurance can protect you if you don’t have a car but still drive regularly. If you borrow a car from someone living in your own home, you should be listed on the car owner’s policy. But you may want to explore non-owner coverage if you need to reinstate a driver’s license, you rent or borrow cars frequently, or you want to maintain continuous auto coverage between vehicles.
Geico, State Farm, Nationwide, and The General good places to shop if you need non-driver car insurance.
High-Risk: If you’re a high-risk driver who has been denied coverage from traditional insurance companies, check out California’s assigned risk program. Whether you require an assigned risk program or still qualify for high-risk insurance from conventional providers, you’ll pay more. In California, drivers with just two speeding tickets pay an average of 97% more on their annual car insurance premiums, for example.
Depending on your driving record and the seriousness of your infractions, you could pay even more. Still, even though rates may be higher, at least you can drive legally and avoid more penalties.
Final Thoughts: How to avoid driving without insurance in California
To avoid the penalties of driving without insurance, shop around for at least $15,000 in bodily injury liability coverage, up to $30,000 per accident, along with $5,000 in liability coverage for property damage In California, you can find basic liability auto insurance for around $631 per year if you have a clean driving record. The consequences of driving without insurance are ultimately more costly than purchasing minimum auto insurance coverage.
No matter what your unique needs are, the best way to get accurate quotes and the best prices is to comparison shop.
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