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California Auto Insurance Requirements and Explanations

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Not all insurance coverages are the same.  You need to know exactly what is covered and up to how much. A personal injury attorney can help you determine your coverage in order to assist with the beginning of your road to recovery.  I can help read your policy to determine your limits and tell you what is covered and up to how much.  If you don’t have a copy of your policy, I can assist with obtaining it when I order the police report for the accident.

Do I need insurance to drive in California?

Yes, California law states, “All drivers and all owners of a motor vehicle shall at all times be able to establish financial responsibility and shall at all times carry in the vehicle evidence of the form of financial responsibility in effect for the vehicle.”  California law requires all drivers and motorcyclists who operate a vehicle on public roads to have at least liability insurance coverage based on pre-determined amounts.  It’s $5,000 for property damage, $15,000 for injury or death to one person and a total of $30,000 for any single accident, regardless of the number of people injured.

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What is an insurance premium?

An insurance premium is the fee for obtaining insurance coverage.  It can be paid monthly, quarterly, semiannually or annually.  Look at it as your insurance bill.  It’s what you pay to have insurance.

What is an insurance limit or coverage limit?

An insurance limit is the maximum amount your insurance will pay for a particular coverage.  For example, if the limit for bodily injury is $15,000, the insurance will not pay more than $15,000 for injuries.

What is liability insurance or what is a liability coverage?

Liability insurance is coverage for the other people which may have been injured and/or sustained property damage as a result of your fault. It’s coverage for you being “liable for the accident.”  That’s why it’s called liability insurance.  We pay for insurance ahead of time so that if we are ever at fault for an accident, they cover the huge bills instead of us going bankrupt.

Does liability insurance coverage cover me and my family?

No, liability coverage is only coverage for damages and injuries to the other party, not yourself or anyone in your family.  You will need medical coverage for that.

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How much insurance do I need to drive in California–what is the minimum insurance coverage?

  • Minimum Bodily Injury Limits is $15,000 for death or injury of one person, a total of $30,000 if 2 or more people are injured or die
  • Minimum Property Damage Liability Limit is $5,000
    • Pays for damage you caused to someone else’s car, objects or structures

What happens if I cause an accident with more damages than my insurance coverage?

The other party or their insurance carrier could try to come after your personal assets such as bank accounts, house, airplanes, boats or jewelry.

What is a deductible for insurance?

A deductible is the agreed amount which you will have to pay first before the insurance starts paying for a particular coverage.  Deductibles usually apply to coverages which pertain to the insured, not the other party.  There is usually no deductible for liability coverage.

What are the different types of insurance coverage for auto and motorcycles?

  • Medical Payments
  • Physical Damage
  • Underinsured/uninsured Motorist
  • Comprehensive
  • Collision
  • Towing
  • Rental Car
  • Gap – covers the difference between what is owed on the car loan and what it’s current value may be

What is Medical Payments Coverage?

Medical Payments covers the cost of medical expenses if you or your passenger(s) are injured. This coverage can pay for immediate medical care. Fault does not matter–you are covered even if you were at fault for the accident.

What is Physical Damage Coverage Coverage?

Both Comprehensive and Collision coverages fall in this category.  Physical Damage coverage pays the cost of repairs or replacement of your car, minus any deductible.

What is underinsured/uninsured Motorist Coverage?

Uninsured/underinsured coverage is for accidents when the other driver is at fault but does not have insurance or doesn’t have sufficient insurance limit to cover your injuries or damages.

This coverage should be offered to you when you purchase insurance. It usually requires a “waiver” if you choose not to get it.

  • Uninsured motorist bodily injury (UMBI) pays for injuries to you and any person in your car when there is an accident with an uninsured driver who is at fault. The limits are the same as your liability coverage limits.
  • Underinsured motorist (UIM):This covers limited costs for bodily injury if you are in an accident with a driver who does not have enough insurance to pay for damage
  • Uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD) pays for the damage to your car from an accident with an uninsured driver who is at fault. The limit is $3,500. This only pays if the uninsured driver is identified.  Collision coverage may pay if you didn’t get uninsured party identified.

What is comprehensive insurance coverage?

Comprehensive covers your (the insured’s) vehicle as a result of damages from anything except an accident due to driving.  Comprehensive covers things like fire damage, vandalism, flood, wind or falling objects like a tree which cause damage to your vehicle.

What is collision insurance coverage?

Collision covers your vehicle when it sustains damage from colliding with another vehicle or stationary object while it was being driven.  The means collision doesn’t cover a parked car in a garage which gets burned with the house during a fire.

What else can be covered by auto insurance?

  • Towing – not required but could be added for extra cost
  • Car Rental – not required but could be added for extra cost

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