Liability Coverage and California Law
Liability coverage helps pay for injuries or damage to others when you are responsible. If you own and drive a vehicle, you must follow the financial responsibility laws in the state Vehicle Code. The most common way to do this is to buy auto liability coverage.Liability coverage does not pay for injuries to you or the people in your family. You can buy medical payments coverage for you and your family (see Other Kinds of Insurance, below).
Minimum Liability Coverage
By law, the limits below are the minimum insurance limits for a standard auto policy. You must have this much coverage.
Minimum Bodily Injury Liability Limits
$15,000 for the death or injury of any one person. If one person is injured in the accident, your coverage pays up to $15,000.
A total of $30,000 for the death or injury of more than one person in any one accident. If 2 or more people are injured, the coverage pays up to $30,000. The coverage will not pay more. The injured people share the money.
This coverage applies to injuries that you cause to someone else.
Minimum Property Damage Liability Limits
$5,000 for damage to the property of other people.
This pays for damage you cause to someone else's car, or to objects and structures that your car hits.
You must buy liability coverage
Driving without insurance is illegal. Also, you must have liability coverage to register your car. Your insurance company tells the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) if you buy auto insurance or if you stop paying your premium.
What happens if I do not have liability coverage?
If you do not show proof of insurance when asked, you will get a ticket. If you do not have any insurance, your license may be suspended and your vehicle could be impounded. Remember, driving is a privilege, not a right.
How do I prove that I have liability coverage?
Your insurance company will send you a card to show proof of insurance. It lists the insured vehicles and the name of the policy owner. It also shows the policy number and the dates the policy starts and ends. Keep this card in your car.
What if I cause an accident that costs more than my liability limit?
You can be sued for additional costs. It is possible that you could lose your savings and even your house.
Should I get higher limits than the law requires?
You may want higher liability limits than the law requires. In general, the more assets you have, the more you could lose in a lawsuit. You should discuss your situation with your agent, broker, insurance company, or financial advisor.
Are there other ways to show financial responsibility besides buying insurance?
Yes, there are several ways to show financial responsibility. For more information, go to the DMV website at www.dmv.ca.gov.
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