California, and southern California in particular, is as well known for car culture as it is for swimming pools and movie stars. This is no surprise considering California is the third largest state and most major cities sprawl into miles upon miles of suburbs. In other words, it’s difficult to get by without personal transportation.
Unfortunately, our love of the open road has led to an overabundance of personal vehicles, resulting in epic daily congestion on major roadways, as well as frequent automobile accidents. As a result, auto insurance is an important topic for many Californians.
If you already read Part 1 of this series, you are aware of minimum standards for auto insurance coverage, as well as rules regarding teen drivers.
Part 2 of this series will focus on what happens when you break the law or you are involved in accidents and how these scenarios affect your auto insurance in the state of California. We’ll also discuss the penalties for those that are improperly insured or those that abuse their driving privileges.
Lack of Insurance Coverage
If you have a full-coverage insurance policy (as most drivers paying off an auto loan do as a condition of the loan contract), you have nothing to worry about. This type of policy provides the greatest level of coverage and is almost certain to meet and exceed minimum standards.
If your car loan is paid off, however, you can step your insurance coverage down to a liability policy, just for example. This is where you have to be careful. The onus is on you to make sure that you meet the minimum standards for coverage under California law.
Penalties for driving uninsured (or without meeting minimum requirements) include fines that increase the more times you are cited and potential fees for towing and impoundment. Such penalties could add up to hundreds of dollars that might be better spent on proper auto insurance.
Fault in an Accident
Unlike Florida, California is not a no-fault accident state. This means that if you are deemed to have caused an auto accident, you will be responsible for covering damages to property and medical bills for those injured during the accident. More to the point, your insurance company will have to pay.
When this happens, you’ll likely find yourself facing penalties. While some insurance providers offer accident forgiveness, levying no penalties for the first accident for which you are at fault, not all insurance companies or policies have this feature, and some do not offer it in California specifically.
As for the types of penalties you’ll face following an accident that is your fault, you’ll likely see an increase in premiums and your provider could even drop you. Don’t forget, tickets for moving violations (speeding, running red lights or stop signs, etc.) could also result in higher rates.
However, California has the option for drivers to attend traffic school as a way to dismiss a single citation for a traffic violation (in an 18-month period). So long as you don’t get another ticket in the following 18 months, your insurance provider will have no reason to increase your risk factor and your insurance premiums.
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal, and you will likely face penalties from both the state and your insurance provider when you receive a DUI. On the insurance side, you will be required to obtain an SR 22 form should the DMV suspend or revoke your license following a DUI arrest.
This certificate of insurance shows that you meet insurance liability coverage minimums for the state of California and it can only be obtained from your insurance provider, so there’s a good chance they’ll become aware of your DUI. This, in turn, could result in higher rates for coverage or the cancellation of your auto insurance policy. In other words, drinking and driving simply isn’t worth it.