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Auto Insurance Requirements in California

Plenty of conditions affect auto insurance costs in California, from insurance fraud and accident rates to state coverage requirements. Here is some information about state insurance-related issues to help consumers navigate California's streets and auto insurance products.

California Auto Insurance Requirements

At a minimum, California requires the following for automobile and motor vehicle owners:

Bodily Injury Liability

  • $15,000 death or injury for one person in any single accident
  • $30,000 for all people in a single accident

Property Damage Liability

  • $5,000 per accident

The state recognizes four types of establishing financial responsibility

  • Automobile or motor vehicle liability insurance policy
  • Make a $35,000 cash deposit with the California DMV
  • Obtain a DMV-issued certificate of self-insurance for owners of 25-plus vehicle fleets
  • Obtain a $35,000 surety bond from a California-licensed insurance company

California does not require

  • Uninsured motorist coverage
  • Comprehensive coverage other than collision
  • Medical payments coverage

Insurance Fraud in California

Auto insurance fraud and suspected fraud in California potentially cost $149,224,681. These potential losses, estimated by the State of California's Auto Insurance Fraud Division, include nearly 17,000 suspected fraudulent claims. The most common fraud claims fall into two categories: auto property and engineered auto collisions such as "swoop and squats" and "sudden stops." The California Department of Insurancegrants more than $15 million to California counties to investigate and prosecute insurance fraud cases, leading to about 1,241 arrests and 908 convictions annually. In one year, more than $2.7 million in restitution was ordered by California courts. Insurance Fraud is a felony punishable by up to five years in state prison and a $50,000 fine.

Alcohol-Related Accidents in California

More than 24,000 people are injured in alcohol-related traffic accidents each year, 3,074 of them fatally, according to the California Office of Traffic and Safety. Law enforcement officers made 172,893 arrests for driving while under the influence (DUI) in 2012. California courts hand down about 142,121 convictions in alcohol-related reckless driving cases each year, according to the California DMV. The California DMV reports that a 2013 law removed the option of suspected DUI drivers to take a urine test; DUI suspects are now required to take blood tests.

Unique to California

The California DMV reports that a 2013 law removed the option of suspected DUI drivers to take a urine test; DUI suspects are now required to take blood tests. Here are some additional California driving rules, as explained in the California DMV Handbook: In many metropolitan areas of California, busy freeways have high occupancy vehicle lanes (HOVs). Drivers usually may use these lanes if there are two or more people in the vehicle or if driving a motorcycle or low-emission vehicle with a special DMV sticker.

Signs with each carpool lane's specific requirements are posted frequently along the affected freeways. Drivers may talk on a cell phone while driving only if using a hands-free device. It is illegal to text while driving in California. Drivers may not smoke in a vehicle if a minor is present. While on the freeway, motorists are required to move over or slow down when passing CalTrans and emergency vehicles with flashing lights on the freeway's shoulder.

Did You Know?

California's DMV offers a few interesting facts about the state:

  • Photographs were not used on California driver's licenses until 1958; color photos debuted in 1972.
  • The one millionth personalized license plate was issued in 1982, just 10 years after the licenses were first issued.

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