Vehicle owners in California must maintain car insurance coverage if they are involved in an accident in which they are at fault. The insurance coverage will be able to cater to the injured party's medical care, car repair, lost wages, and other damages that might result from the accident up to the limit of the at-fault party's policy. The coverage will also give you peace of mind, mostly because no one is ever prepared for an accident and the losses that come after.
If you are in Los Angeles, California, and are having issues with your auto insurance coverage, The LA Personal Injury Law Firm might help. We have experienced personal injury attorneys in place that could guide and advise you on all issues regarding auto instance in the state.
The Need for Car Insurance Coverage
Every state requires all drivers to have insurance to prove their ability to pay for damages if they cause an accident. California has laws in place to guide motorists on the kind of insurance coverage for which they should go. Some drivers pay for auto insurance to fulfil the legal requirements, and so, they only pay for the minimum required coverage. While this may save you some money every month, it comes with additional costs if you cause an accident whose damages exceed your policy limit. To make the right decision as far as auto insurance coverage is concerned, let us look into the benefits of having the cover in the first place:
Protection from Huge Expenses
No one foresees an accident, so when it happens, a person is expected to spend money, not budgeted to deal with medical expenses and other losses. Auto insurance helps you cater to such unexpected costs. Accidents are costly, and so you can expect to pay a lot more than you had anticipated. With insurance coverage, you pay a little amount of money at a time, to save yourself from the vast, unexpected expenditures that could come later in the event of an accident.
Protection for Self and Others
Auto insurance is also a form of protection for yourself, your family, and others, including passengers and other road users. You or your loved one could suffer severe injuries in an accident, and so you need the right insurance to ensure that your medical expenses and other losses are covered. The last thing you need is to suffer more while you are already suffering from bodily injuries.
Save Hassle and Time
Having the right insurance coverage will also save you time and stress. All you need to do is get in touch with your insurance provider immediately an accident occurs. You will have enough time to concentrate on your recovery as your insurance provider takes care of the matter. If another person has been injured in an accident you have caused, it is easy to sort them out if you have the right auto insurance coverage. In addition to taking care of their medical bills and lost earnings, the insurance company will cater to vehicle towing costs, car repairs/replacements, and other losses anyone else might have incurred in the accident.
Consequences of Driving Without Insurance
The law expects that all drivers will see the need to have insurance coverage as a form of protection for themselves and others. However, some motorists still drive without insurance in California. It is an offense that could come with grave consequences. Suppose a driver is not able to show proof of their insurance coverage in California. In that case, they will not be allowed to register their vehicle with the state's Department for Motor Vehicles (DMV). DMV may also suspend their driver's license.
Additionally, this is an offense that could attract criminal penalties. If you are charged in a California criminal court for driving without a license, you could face hefty penalties or have your vehicle impounded.
Uninsured motorists will also be required to carry SR 22 forms. These are particular documents that motorists must obtain if their driver's license was suspended for an offense, such as driving without insurance. The document will verify that you have auto insurance.
California Auto Insurance Liability Requirements
Financial responsibility laws in California require drivers to have at least 15/30/5 auto insurance coverage. The liability insurance is compulsory for all vehicle owners and drivers in the state. Car insurance coverage caters for all damages to people on the streets and in other cars when the policyholder causes an accident. The 15/30/5 is the minimum insurance coverage required by car owners and drivers by law, and it means that the policyholder will pay a maximum of the following:
- $15,000 for bodily injury or death of one person in the accident
- $30,000 for the bodily injury or death of all the injured parties in the accident
- $5,000 for all property damage, which may include damaged vehicles and fixed objects like fences
Note that you can get auto insurance in the state with more significant limits than those above, though the additional insurance protection is optional. If you need a higher limit, your policy will be more expensive, but it will protect you and others more. It is always advisable to pay more for auto insurance if you can afford it because no one knows the extent of damage that could occur if they caused an accident.
In the absence of auto insurance coverage, a person can still fulfill their financial responsibility requirement by doing the following:
- Depositing $35,000 with the state's Department of Motor Vehicles
- Getting a self-insurance certificate from DMV
- Maintaining a surety bond of $35,000 from a licensed company in California.
In addition to maintaining auto insurance coverage, drivers in California are required by law to have proof of insurance with them at all times whenever they are on the road. The good thing is that the State’s Vehicle Code allows the use of digital documents that can be kept on smartphones and other smart mobile devices, which could be used as proof of insurance.
If you are stopped by the police and must show proof of insurance, you need a document that must demonstrate the following:
- The name and address of your insurance provider
- The period of your insurance coverage
- Your car insurance policy number
If you are stopped for getting involved in an accident or for traffic a violation and unable to prove that your vehicle is insured, the police officer will give you a ticket. It means that you will be required to pay the following fines:
- Between $100 and $200 for first offenders
- Between $200 and $500 for subsequent offenders, if all the offenses fall within three years.
If you have auto insurance coverage, you will have to submit the necessary documents in court to have your fine removed.
What is Covered By My Car Insurance Policy?
Auto insurance is most helpful in the event you cause an accident. When an accident happens, and you are at fault, your auto insurance policy will cater to all injured parties' medical expenses, property damage, and other costs incurred by innocent people. If your insurance policy is sufficient, you will not be required to pay an extra amount of money out of your pocket to cater to these damages.
However, your policy will not cater to your losses or the losses incurred by people who were traveling with you in your car. Auto insurance will only cover accidents where affected parties were not in the vehicle that caused the accident. Such accidents include:
- Motorcycle accidents
- Motorbike and bicycle accidents
- Pedestrian knockdown accidents
If you caused any of the above accidents, your insurance policy must be able to cater to all the losses incurred by the people who suffered injuries in the accident. The cause of the accident will have to be determined, and then the at-fault party. There are laws in place to decide what would happen if another party was partly at fault. If that is the case, your insurance company will only have to pay a certain percentage of the total damages. The kinds of damages you may be required to cater to include:
Anyone who has suffered physical injuries in the accident will require medical attention. Since the accident was your fault, your insurance company will have to pay the medical bills for all the affected people. The amount to be paid will depend on the type and extent of the injuries. If the injuries are catastrophic, the amount of money paid will be higher to cater to the victim/victims' life-long damages.
If an injured person misses work or cannot work because of the injuries sustained in an accident that was your fault, your insurance provider will have to pay them for the lost wages. The amount of money the victim/victims could have made for their recovery period will be determined. It will also be considered whether they will miss more time out of work to recover fully.
If any property were damaged in the accident, your insurance provider would have to pay for that. If your vehicle hit a bicyclist, for instance, their bicycle could have been damaged in the accident. The money paid for the damaged bicycle must be enough to repair or replace the bike, depending on the extent of the damage.
Pain and Suffering
Even though it is hard to evaluate the amount of pain and suffering a person suffers after an accident, the court will award a certain amount that it feels is right to compensate the victim for what they went through after the accident. This, too, will be paid by your insurance provider.
With that and more damages to pay after an accident, it is good to ensure that your auto insurance coverage will be sufficient to cater to all the unforeseeable damages if you cause an accident.
In many people's minds, the question is the amount of insurance coverage that is enough for their needs. As mentioned earlier, the California Vehicle Code requires every driver to have a minimum of 15/30/5 auto insurance, to ensure that at least much of the damages will be covered in an accident. However, there are instances that this minimum coverage will not be enough, mostly if the crash was severe or the number of injured people was high.
If that happens, the at-fault party will be held personally responsible for some of the damages that the insurance provider cannot cover. It means that even with an insurance policy, you will still be required to pay for some damages out of your pocket. It does not make sense to pay for an insurance policy every month, then still top up some more money when you cause an accident. That is why it is good to buy a more expensive insurance policy if you can afford it.
What if I Am Partly To Blame?
California has a shared-liability law in place, also called comparative negligence law. The law is only applied when an accident is caused by more than one party. If only one party is to blame for a crash, the matter about compensation payment is usually straightforward. It is not the case when more than one party is to blame. If therefore, you are partly to blame for the accident, it means that your insurance provider will only be required to pay part of the damages.
Insurance companies are in the business of making money, so they will want to grab any chance to save some money. In that case, your insurance provider will fight for you, as the policyholder, for the court to assign you the least percentage of liability. When this works, your insurer will save some money, and the other at-fault party will cater to his/her part of the blame.
What If I Was Injured In The Accident I Caused?
Most personal injury lawsuits are filed by other parties to receive compensation from the at-fault party. But, what happens if the at-fault party was also injured in the accident? From the discussions above, a driver or his/her passengers are not covered by his/her can insurance. It means that the driver will need extra protection for his/her physical injuries to be paid for by an insurance company. This is where the need for good health coverage comes in. Everyone needs health insurance to cater to their medical need in case of bodily injuries.
If the driver doesn’t have health coverage or his/her co-pays and deductibles are very expensive, he could buy a Med-Pay Insurance Coverage or the state's under-insured/uninsured motorist coverage. Both will be discussed at length in this article.
The Med Pay Cover
California Med Pay Cover also called the medical payment coverage, is a type of voluntary no-fault insurance coverage that could be added to a state's car insurance policy. The cover helps to pay medical expenses and funeral costs, up to the policy limit, for policyholders and his/her passengers. The cover will cater to all those expenses irrespective of who caused the accident. Policyholders and their families can also receive payments under this cover if they are injured under the following circumstances:
- As pedestrians, if they get injured by a car
- As passengers in another person’s car
- While riding in public transport
Note that Med Pay Cover does not cater to property damage, including damage to the policyholder’s vehicle
The cover is available in California, in limits of between $1000 and $25,000. Large insurance companies provide Med Pay policies for higher amounts. The advantage is that the premiums here are usually relatively low. Again, the insurance will also cover treatments not insured by most health insurance, including chiropractic and acupuncture.
Under-Insured/Uninsured Motorist Cover
This particular cover caters to all the injuries suffered by the policyholders that have resulted from accidents triggered by other motorists. The cover is essential when the responsible driver does not have liability insurance coverage, or in case he/she has coverage whose limit is insufficient and incapable of paying for all the victim’s medical bills.
This cover will cater to your medical expenses, funeral costs, and injuries to other people. However, it will not cater to property damage, including damage to the driver's vehicle.
California vehicle insurers must provide their policyholders with Under-Insured/Uninsured Motorist Cover with the same limit as the liability coverage on the minimum or with a 30/60 bodily injury liability. For example, if a driver has bought the minimum liability coverage of 15/30/5, they must also be given at least the same type of underinsured/uninsured coverage. A motorist with 50/100/25 liability coverage could also get an underinsured/uninsured coverage of, at best, 30/60 to cover their bodily injuries, though the cover could include more.
Note that this cover is not mandatory. A driver can decline it if offered by their insurance provider, though they must sign a waiver to confirm that it was offered, but they chose not to buy it. If you agree to purchase the cover, you will have to pay more in premium.
Collision & Comprehensive Coverage
In California, these two are generally offered together.
Collision insurance coverage will pay for the damage your car suffers if it collides with another thing while in motion. It could be another moving vehicle, parking divider, a fence, or a person.
On the other hand, comprehensive insurance coverage caters to damages your vehicle suffers, produced by something else out of the vehicle's control, other than the collisions mentioned above. Damage to your car could have been due to vandalism, theft, hail, fire, windstorm, falling objects, and floods.
The cost of your vehicle usually determines limits and costs in both types of coverage. Thus, it might not be wise to pay premiums for used, low-value cars. But if you are driving a new, expensive, or high-end vehicle, you may reap the benefits if you buy premiums for this coverage.
Note: California auto loan lenders will always require you to have comprehensive and collision insurance coverage before they can finance your car loan.
Miscellaneous California Auto Insurance
In addition to the regular auto insurance offered in California, car insurers also offer optional covers for extra services or valuable equipment as per their policyholders' needs. This type of coverage is provided as an add-on, or rider or endorsement, and may include the following:
- Cover for protection against damage or theft to costly equipment in the vehicle such as custom wheels, stereos and navigation systems
- Cover for towing and road services
- Compensation of a car for hire if you cannot use your vehicle at that time because, maybe, it has to be a repair shop.
- Guaranteed Auto Protection insurance, which covers the costs for paying off car lease/loan if your vehicle has been totaled and the market worth, is below the balance owed.
- Guaranteed Auto Protection insurance for Lyft and Uber drivers who have been involved in a ride-sharing accident in the state
Personal Umbrella Policy
Lastly, a policyholder can have a personal umbrella policy, but if they need more insurance coverage than what their insurer is offering as the maximum limit. This type of policy will pay the excesses of all the policyholder's policies in the same insurance company.
Example: One person may have insured more than one car and could also have insured their home with the same insurance company. If his/her policies are all at a maximum limit, the company could also offer an umbrella policy for overage coverage. In case a claim comes up in the future, and is more than one policy's limit, the umbrella policy will now cater to the extra damages.
Find The Los Angeles Personal Injury Law Firm Near Me
In California, buying car insurance is a legal requirement, and driving without insurance is a crime. Thus, it would be best if you took the time to understand what is available in the market and how beneficial it will be to you in the event of an accident. At The LA Personal Injury Law Firm, we have legal experts who understand car insurance coverage matters even better. Therefore, if you are in Los Angeles, CA, call us at 310-935-0089. Our help and advice may be all you need to make an informed decision.