vehicle driving on an empty back country road in California

What are the consequences for driving with no insurance in California?

profile photo
By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

In California, all drivers are required to have auto insurance for any car that is driven on the road. The consequences for driving without insurance can be quite severe, varying based on whether it’s a first-time or repeat offense, but can range from a $100 to $500 fine, towing of the vehicle, and suspension of the driver’s license.

  1. First-Time Offense: If you are caught driving without insurance in California for the first time, you can expect a fine ranging from $100 to $200. Additionally, penalty assessments may increase this amount, potentially totaling around $450 after extra fees and assessments. Vehicle impoundment is also a possibility.
  2. Repeat Offenses: For a second offense, the fines increase to between $200 and $500, with penalty assessments potentially raising this to between $520 and $1,300. More severe penalties such as vehicle impoundment and suspension of driving privileges for up to four years can also apply, particularly for repeat offenders.
  3. Increased Insurance Costs: Beyond these immediate penalties, getting caught driving without insurance in California can also lead to a significant increase in your auto insurance premiums once you do obtain coverage.

It’s important to note that these fines and penalties can vary depending on specific circumstances and local regulations. Therefore, it’s crucial to maintain proper insurance coverage to avoid these consequences.

What laws pertain to car insurance in California?

In California, the laws pertaining to the requirement of having car insurance are primarily outlined in the California Vehicle Code and the California Insurance Code. These laws specify the obligations of drivers and vehicle owners regarding financial responsibility and insurance coverage:

  1. California Vehicle Code Section 16028(a): This section mandates that drivers in California must carry proof of financial responsibility, which typically means proof of automobile insurance. Drivers are required to present this documentation to law enforcement upon request.
  2. California Vehicle Code Section 16020: This section stipulates that every driver and owner of a motor vehicle must at all times be able to establish financial responsibility according to Section 16021, and must carry evidence of the form of financial responsibility in effect for their vehicle.
  3. California Vehicle Code Sections 16020–16033: These sections collectively dictate the auto insurance requirements in California, outlining the responsibilities of drivers in maintaining proper insurance or other forms of financial responsibility.
  4. California Insurance Code Section 11580.1: This section specifies that no policy of automobile liability insurance covering liability arising from the ownership, maintenance, or use of any motor vehicle shall be issued or delivered in California unless it meets certain criteria detailed in Section 16054 of the Vehicle Code.
  5. California Insurance Code 11580.1b: This section outlines the state’s minimum required amounts of liability insurance for private passenger vehicles, focusing on liability coverage for damages to other parties (not the policyholder) in a fault-based system.

These laws are designed to ensure that drivers and vehicle owners in California maintain a minimum level of financial responsibility, primarily through liability insurance, to cover potential damages or injuries caused to others in the event of an automobile accident. Compliance with these laws is essential to avoid legal penalties and ensure adequate protection in case of accidents.

What are the consequences if you get in a car accident in California without insurance?

If you are involved in a car accident in California without insurance, you could face several consequences:

  1. License Suspension and Fines: If you cannot show proof of car insurance after an accident, the state may suspend your driver’s license for one year. Additionally, you will be subject to a fine. For a first offense, the fine can be up to $200, and for subsequent offenses, it can go up to $500. With additional penalties and fees, you could end up paying much more.
  2. Vehicle Impoundment: Your vehicle may be impounded, and you will be responsible for any towing and storage fees. This can apply for both first and subsequent offenses.
  3. SR-22 Requirement: If involved in an accident, you may be required to obtain an SR-22 form, which is a certificate of financial responsibility. This requirement can last for three years and typically indicates to the DMV and insurers that you are a high-risk driver.
  4. Personal Liability for Damages and Medical Expenses: Without insurance, you may be personally liable for any damages and medical expenses resulting from the accident. This means that you could be responsible for covering these costs out of pocket.
  5. Limitations on Recovering Non-Economic Damages: In California, if you are uninsured and get into an accident, you may face limitations on recovering non-economic damages like pain and suffering, even if the accident was not your fault. However, there are exceptions to this rule, such as if the at-fault driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident.
  6. Ticket for Driving Without Adequate Coverage: Even if you are not at fault for the accident, you can still receive a ticket for driving without insurance. The fine for this violation could be substantial when additional penalties and fees are considered.

It is important to stay at the accident scene, as leaving can result in additional legal consequences. These penalties underscore the importance of maintaining proper car insurance coverage in California.

What should I do if someone with no insurance crashes into me in California?

If someone without insurance crashes into you in California, there are several steps you should take to handle the situation effectively:

  1. Ensure Safety: First, make sure everyone involved in the accident is safe. Move to a secure location if needed and call emergency services if there are any injuries.
  2. Call the Police: Report the accident to the police. A police report is crucial, especially when dealing with an uninsured driver. It provides an official record of the incident and can be important for insurance claims and legal purposes.
  3. Exchange Information: Exchange contact and vehicle information with the other driver. Even though the other driver doesn’t have insurance, getting their contact details is important.
  4. Document the Scene: Take photos of the accident scene, including damage to both vehicles and any relevant road conditions or signs. Documenting the scene can provide valuable evidence for your insurance claim or any legal action.
  5. Notify Your Insurance Company: Contact your insurance company as soon as possible to report the accident. If you have uninsured motorist coverage, this can help cover damages and injuries caused by an uninsured driver.
  6. Uninsured Motorist Coverage: If you have uninsured motorist coverage as part of your auto insurance policy, it can cover property damage and bodily injury caused by an uninsured driver. Check your policy or consult with your insurance agent to understand the coverage limits and process.
  7. Seek Medical Attention: If you or your passengers have any injuries, seek medical attention immediately. Some injuries might not be immediately apparent, so it’s important to get checked by a healthcare professional.
  8. Keep Records: Keep all records related to the accident, including medical bills, repair estimates, and any communication with your insurance company.
  9. Consider Legal Advice: Depending on the severity of the accident and the damages incurred, you may want to consult with an attorney, especially if there are significant injuries or disputes about fault.
  10.  Follow Up: Stay in communication with your insurance company and follow their guidance on the claims process. Keep track of the claim’s progress and provide any additional information required.

Remember, in California, driving without insurance is illegal, so dealing with an uninsured driver can be more complicated. Your insurance policy and the specific circumstances of the accident will guide your next steps.

Contact a Car Accident Attorney Today

If you have been injured in a car accident, you have a legal right to sue the responsible party to pay for medical costs, loss of income, pain and suffering, and other expenses that resulted from your injury. J&Y Law Firm in Los Angeles, CA has helped tens of thousands of car accident victims to get the justice that they deserve. Call our office today at (877) 862-4317 for a free consultation to learn about your legal options.

author photo
About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.