California drivers need to have liability insurance or an applicable alternative. If you don’t have insurance, it could spell trouble.
Penalties for driving without car insurance could result in a fine ranging from $100 to $200 or more. If you’re a repeat offender, you could have your car impounded or your license suspended.
That said, there are alternatives to driving insurance that could prevent you from being penalized. Such as:
- Proof of a $35,000 cash deposit with the DMV
- A self-insurance certificate issued by the DMV
- A $35,000 surety bond from a company licensed for business in California
To better understand the consequences of driving without car insurance in California, read on.
Penalties For Driving Without Proof Of Financial Responsibility In California
Your penalty for driving without car insurance in California will depend on whether you’re a repeat offender.
The first time you’re caught driving uninsured, you’ll often be fined $100 to $200. State costs and penalty assessments could increase this fine to $400 or more. While atypical, sometimes first offenders can have their cars impounded.
If you’re caught driving uninsured in California more than once, penalties become more severe. Your fine will increase to around $200 to $500 and penalty assessments drastically increase. In total, you could pay anywhere between $1,000 to $1,900.
Repeat offenders also face a greater risk of vehicle impoundment.
California Penalty Assessment Fees
If you are caught driving without liability insurance in California, you will be fined and subject to penalty assessment fees. You may be subject to the following penalty assessment fees, depending on your location and what local officials choose to apply:
- California Penal Code 1464: A $10 fee for every $10 of your fine, or every part of $10. Thus, a $35 fine would be subject to a $40 penalty assessment fee.
- California Government Code 70372: $5 for every $10 of your fine, or every part of $10.
- California Government Code 76000: $7 for every $10 of your fine, or every part of $10.
- California Government Code 76000.5: $2 for every $10 of your fine, or part of $10.
- California Government Code 76104.6: $1 for every $10 of your fine, or every part of $10.
- California Government Code 76104.7: $4 for every $10 of your fine, or every part of $10.
Those subject to every single one of these penalty assessment fees will see $29 in fees added for every $10 or part of $10 of their fine.
Thus, if you are subject to a $200 fine, you will end up owing $780, and if you are subject to the maximum fine of $500 for a second conviction for driving without proof of car insurance in three years, you will end up owing $1,950.
Penalties for Driving Without Insurance in a Car Accident
If you’re in an auto accident without liability insurance, California will suspend your driver’s license for a year. You’ll also be fined accordingly and could have your vehicle impounded. For second and subsequent convictions of getting in an accident without proof of car insurance, you will be subject to a license suspension of up to four years. You may receive a license reinstatement during the last three years of your suspension if you maintain an SR-22 form.
While you might not have auto insurance, you’re still financially responsible for a car accident if you’re at fault. You may need to cover the other driver’s medical bills and car repairs out of pocket.
According to data from the National Safety Council, the average cost of a car accident with property damage only is $5,700. That said if your accident caused someone a permanent disability, that average cost increases to $155,000.
And those are just averages. The truth is, in the worst-case scenario, you could end up paying much more.
Other Consequences For Driving Without Insurance In California
Fines, vehicle impoundment, penalty assessment fees and driver’s license suspensions are not the only consequences for driving without proof of financial responsibility in California:
Your Ability To Recover Damages Is Reduced If You Don’t Have Car Insurance
Most drivers are eligible to recover economic and non-economic damages from any party whose negligence causes an auto accident in California, thanks to California Civil Code 1714. Negligence is the failure to be reasonably careful to prevent harm. Economic damages are objectively calculable damages such as medical bills and property damage, and non-economic damages are subjective damages such as pain and suffering.
California Civil Code 3333.4 states that those who are driving without proof of financial responsibility and are subsequently involved in an accident may not recover non-economic damages such as compensation for pain, suffering, disfigurement, physical impairment or inconvenience. Proposition 213 declared that the reason for this was to prevent criminals from being rewarded for their lawbreaking.
There is, however, one exception to this: uninsured drivers who are injured by drivers operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol are still allowed to recover non-economic damages.
Your Vehicle Registration May Be Suspended If You Don’t Have Insurance
California’s DMV may suspend your vehicle registration if:
- They are notified you canceled your auto insurance and you don’t replace it within 45 days
- You fail to provide the DMV with your liability insurance information within 30 days of transfer of ownership or initial registration
- You register your vehicle with false proof of auto insurance
California Car Insurance Laws And Requirements
If you, like most drivers, choose to go with proof of auto insurance as your proof of financial responsibility for your vehicle, you must carry insurance with liability coverage minimums established by California Vehicle Code 16056. Those minimums are:
- $15,000 to cover death or bodily injury to one person in an accident
- $30,000 to cover death or bodily injury to two or more people in an accident
- $5,000 to cover any property damage that is the result of an accident
Liability coverage is coverage providing compensation to people other than the policyholder for property damage or personal injury. Collision or comprehensive auto insurance coverage does not meet the requirements for vehicle financial responsibility.
Injured from an Accident? Call an Attorney Today
If you’ve been in a car accident and the other driver doesn’t have car insurance, you may want to contact our legal team. An auto accident attorney can help you navigate the legal process and secure the financial compensation you’re entitled to. Fill out our contact form or call us at (800) 718-4658 for a free case evaluation today.