What Happens If I Drive Without Insurance in California?

Is It Illegal to Drive Without Insurance In California? 

Auto insurance in California

In California, all drivers must carry the minimum amount of car insurance coverage. Driving without valid insurance can lead to serious penalties, ranging from a ticket to vehicle impoundment. If a police officer pulls you over, you must show proof of insurance, your driver’s license, and California vehicle registration.

If you were involved in an auto accident with an uninsured driver, reach out to an experienced car accident lawyer to explore your legal options. We can help you navigate the confusing insurance claims process to get you the compensation you deserve. 


California Car Insurance Laws

All California drivers must have liability insurance of 15/30/5 to drive legally, as per California Vehicle Code section 16029. The required liability insurance you must have in California is:

  • $15,000 for the injury or death of another person
  • $30,000 for the injury or death of two or more people
  • $5,000 in property damage

If you are in an accident, this liability coverage will pay for the other person’s damages up to the policy limits. Most insurance agents recommend carrying higher limits if you can afford it. 

It is important to know that the 15/30/5 limits in California will change beginning January 1, 2025:

  • $30,000 for the injury or death of one person
  • $60,000 for the injury or death of more than one person
  • $15,000 for property damage

If you are pulled over by a police officer, you are allowed to provide other types of acceptable insurance to prove financial responsibility, other than auto insurance. These include a cash deposit of $35,000 with the DMV, a DMV-issued self-insurance certificate, or a $35,000 surety bond. 


Auto Insurance in California: Why It’s Mandatory

In California, as in other states, car insurance protects you and your finances in case of an accident. Without insurance, you risk serious fines and potentially even jail time. You will also be responsible for paying the other driver’s expenses if you are at fault. This could amount to thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses, including medical expenses and property damage.

If you receive a ticket for driving without insurance, you will also pay more for auto insurance because you’re considered a higher-risk driver. 


Fines and Penalties for Driving Without Liability Insurance

First Offense: 

Driving without insurance is an infraction punishable by a fine, typically between $100 and $200. However, penalty assessment fees could result in fines of up to $400. The court can order the driver’s vehicle impounded, requiring the driver to pay towing and storage fees. California penalty assessments can add up quickly. 

Second or More Offenses: 

If the driver is ticketed again for driving without insurance within 3 years, the fine will be between $200 and $500. Penalty assessments also increase to between $520 and $1,300, bringing total fines to $1,020 and $1,800. You may also risk having your motor vehicle impounded.

If You Are Involved in a Car Accident

If you are in a collision and you do not carry insurance, you will face a mandatory one-year license suspension. After the year, you can have your license reinstated if you maintain an SR-22 and proof of financial responsibility for three years.

If you are involved in more than one collision without insurance, you may face up to four years of license suspension. During the last three years of suspension, you may be able to regain your privileges if you provide an SR-22. 


No Pay, No Play: What Does This Mean? 

In 1996, California passed Proposition 213, officially known as The Personal Responsibility Act, to limit the rights of uninsured motorists, drunk drivers, and felons to recover non-economic damages in car accidents, regardless of fault.

This means that if you are an uninsured driver who is not at fault, you would be unable to recover non-economic damages, including pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life. On the other hand, uninsured drivers can still pursue economic damages, which include medical costs, property damage, and lost wages. 

Prop 213 is meant to discourage drivers from forgoing car insurance and promote responsible driving. 


What Happens If I’m Hit By a Driver Without Car Insurance?

Insurance agent revoke driving privileges

Don’t feel discouraged if you are in an accident with an uninsured driver. There may still be options for you to recover damages from the other driver. Follow these steps to protect your well-being and legal rights:

  • Call the police: Ensure a police report is filed, documenting the details of the accident and the other driver’s lack of insurance. 
  • Gather information: Collect as much information as possible from the scene, including photos, witness statements, and contact information.
  • Seek medical attention: Even if you feel fine, it’s wise to get a medical check-up to rule out any injuries that might not be immediately apparent. 
  • Notify your insurance company: Inform your insurer about the accident immediately. Your policy may include uninsured motorist coverage that can help with expenses.
  • Consult an attorney: It is particularly beneficial to seek legal advice to understand your options and potentially negotiate a settlement.


Speak to a Car Accident Lawyer Today

Driving without insurance in California

On average, about 1 in 7 drivers (14%) do not have proper insurance coverage in the United States. California has some of the most costly car insurance in the country, leading many drivers to let their insurance expire or lapse. Undoubtedly, the legal penalties for not carrying insurance are very high. 

If you were in an accident and did not have car insurance, contact a car accident lawyer. A lawyer can help you navigate the complex legal process to obtain compensation from the other driver. If you were in an accident with an uninsured driver, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against that driver.

Arrowhead Accident Attorneys is a top personal injury law firm serving clients in San Bernardino County. We offer a free consultation to evaluate your case and determine the best course of action. Call our law firm today at (909) 453-2040 or message us online

Scroll to top