Meeting the Minimum
Minimum policy limits for auto insurance vary greatly from state to state. In California, you can be fined if you drive without sufficient insurance, also called proof of financial responsibility. Thus, it helps to know what those minimum policy limit requirements are so you can purchase the correct amount of insurance and avoid fines.
Auto Insurance Standards
By nation-wide standards, California's minimum auto insurance requirements are relatively low, but that doesn't make the consequences for not meeting those requirements any less severe. A first offense can result in several hundred dollars in fines, fees, and penalty assessments, and you could end up paying several thousand in total if you rack up repeat offenses. To ensure this doesn't happen to you, you need minimum liability coverage, which includes the following policy limit minimums:
- $15,000 bodily injury (death or injury) to one person
- $30,000 bodily injury to two or more people (i.e., per accident), and
- $5,000 in property damage coverage
If you purchase an auto insurance policy that meets these requirements and cause an accident, your policy may pay out $15,000 to one person injured, a maximum of $30,000 if two or more people are injured, and up to $5,000 for property damage, which can include damage caused to cars, structures, or someone's property. Note that these limits might be not sufficient to fully coverage damages resulting from a serious accident. Your insurance carrier will represent you if a claim is filed against your policy, but the policy limits are strictly enforced.
Keep in mind that these minimum insurance policy limits do not equate to “full coverage” insurance. These are the minimum policy limits for liability insurance, which covers you if you are found liable in an accident. The State of California requires all drivers carry this level of coverage primarily to those other than the driver in the event of an accident.
Carrying an auto insurance policy isn't the only way you can meet California's financial responsibility requirement. You can also hold a cash deposit of $35,000 at the California DMV, obtain a California DMV-issued self-insurance certificate, or obtain a surety bond of $35,000 from a company licensed to do business with the State of California. For most people, purchasing a liability insurance policy is the most reasonable way to meet the financial responsibility requirement, but these other options may work better for some people, depending on their circumstances.
Getting in an auto accident is a stressful and sometimes painful experience. And if you are found liable for the damages, you have the extra burden of figuring out how to compensate the other party, not to mention cover your own expenses. There are a few other forms of coverage you might want to consider adding to your policy to give you greater peace of mind.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Your insurance company must offer this form of coverage in California, but you may opt out. But consider this before you do: it's estimated that up to 15% of drivers in California are uninsured. If they hit you, you would have to sue them to recover your damages. The costs of the suit are on you, at least up front, and a judgment doesn't necessarily mean you will see all of that money. It could trickle in or never come at all. The bottom line is suing someone for money in court is not a sure thing. Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage can protect you from this fate. And, given the statistics, there is a chance you will be hit by an uninsured driver at some point in your life.
Comprehensive and Collision
Comprehensive and collision insurance cover the car in the event it is damaged, no matter who is at fault. If you hit someone and are found at fault, collision coverage could cover the damage to your car. Comprehensive coverage would even cover your car if it were damaged by something like a falling tree, a theft, or vandalism.
Medical payments, or Med Pay, coverage covers your immediate medical costs to you or your passengers, no matter who is at fault.
Buying the right auto insurance for you takes understanding the coverage options and knowing the minimum policy limits required in the State of California. Consult with an experienced California personal injury attorney if you need help with an insurance claim resulting from an accident. Dealing with insurance policy fine print and getting the compensation you need can be much easier and simpler when an attorney assists you with the process.
Do you need help receiving fair compensation? Fresno area personal injury attorney Christopher Martens can help you protect your interests and rights while settling your claim. Attorney Christopher Martens has the skills and knowledge needed to help ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. Serving the Visalia and Fresno areas, The Law Offices of Christopher Martens can provide knowledgeable personal injury claim guidance. Call our office at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.