Car insurance coverage helps people recover financially when an unexpected incident causes injuries or property damage. Insurance coverage comes into play no matter who caused the accident. California law requires drivers to carry a certain level of insurance coverage before they get on the roads. Unfortunately, thousands of uninsured motorists use California roads every day. A 2021 Insurance Research Council (IRC) study reported that approximately 16.6% of motorists in California are uninsured.
If an uninsured driver suffers injuries in a car accident caused by another driver, they can still recover some losses through a personal injury claim. If an uninsured driver causes an accident, anyone injured can seek compensation through their own insurance companies. In either scenario, the uninsured driver can face criminal penalties for their lack of coverage.
Insurance Requirements in California
California requires drivers to maintain a certain level of insurance coverage to cover potential injuries or property damage. The minimum liability insurance limits in California include:
- $15,000 in bodily injury coverage for a single person injury;
- $30,000 in bodily injury coverage for multiple people’s injuries; and
- $5,000 in property damage coverage.
The state outlines the absolute minimum level of coverage you need to avoid criminal penalties. Drivers can purchase additional coverage that offers more protection if an accident occurs.
Who Is Liable for a Car Accident Without Insurance?
California uses a fault-based tort system for car accident claims. That means the person who is responsible for the car accident is liable for damages caused in the collision. Typically, the individual will still need to pay the settlement. When a party has insurance coverage, their insurance pays for the losses caused by their client up to their policy limits. Insurance companies can offer a larger settlement than most individuals, but they make more money when settling claims for as little as possible. A lawyer can negotiate with the insurance company on their client’s behalf to secure a fair settlement offer.
How to Determine Who Caused the Accident
There are several different methods to determine who caused a car accident. Examples of actions by a driver that can cause a collision include:
- Running a red light;
- Running a stop sign;
- Texting while driving;
- Driving recklessly; or
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
An attorney can recover evidence about the crash that demonstrates who is responsible. Evidence that will illustrate the details of the crash include things like the car accident report, eyewitness statements, and surveillance footage. Responding officers may include their opinion of who caused the accident in the police report.
What If I Caused an Accident While Driving Without Insurance?
If you cause a car accident without insurance coverage, the injured parties can sue you directly to recover compensation for their losses. In some scenarios, you may be covered by someone else’s insurance, even if you do not realize it. For example, if you cause an accident in someone else’s car, the vehicle owner’s insurance policy will cover the accident.
What If an Uninsured Driver Crashed Into Me?
If the at-fault driver lacks insurance or their policy is too small to cover your damages, you may seek compensation from your own insurance policy through uninsured motorist coverage. Uninsured motorist coverage provides policyholders with protection when they suffer injuries in an accident with an uninsured driver or in a hit-and-run.
Even though uninsured motorist coverage is not required, it is always better to have excess insurance coverage than not enough. With approximately one in eight drivers lacking insurance, purchasing uninsured motorist coverage can give you peace of mind on the road.
What If Both Parties Caused the Accident?
It is not uncommon for both drivers in a car accident to bear some responsibility for the collision. California uses the rule of modified comparative negligence to reduce an involved party’s recovery by their percentage of blame. Modified comparative negligence means a party can file a personal injury claim if they were less than 50% responsible for the accident.
Consider that you are awarded $100,000 in a personal injury claim. The judge determines you were 30% responsible for the accident that caused your injuries. That means your $100,000 award is reduced by your percentage of blame, resulting in a final award of $70,000.
Penalties for Driving Without Insurance
California imposes civil penalties for individuals who drive without insurance. If you suffer injuries in an accident caused by someone else but were driving without insurance, you cannot recover noneconomic damages in a personal injury claim. Noneconomic damages include things like mental anguish, emotional distress, pain and suffering, or loss of quality of life. Although you can still recover economic losses, missing out on noneconomic losses can decrease your recovery by thousands of dollars.
California can suspend your driving privileges for up to four years if you do not have the minimum level of insurance the state requires. Additionally, you can face a fine of up to $200 for the first offense and up to $500 for subsequent violations.
Do You Need to Know What Happens If You Crash Without Insurance in California? Our Team at The Law Offices of Ali Yousefi, P.C., Can Help
Our team at the Law Offices of Ali Yousefi, P.C., knows what it takes to recover compensation for clients injured in car accidents. Our founding attorney, Ali Yousefi, was named one of the 10 Best Lawyers in California by The American Institute and earned an impressive 9.4 rating on AVVO, an online rating site for attorneys.A member of our team will meet with you to gather the facts about your car accident. We will start by investigating the circumstances of the accident and determining whether the opposing party has insurance coverage. A car accident lawyer will keep you updated through each step of the process. Our skilled personal injury attorneys can recover a settlement to reimburse you for the losses you sustained in the accident. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment.