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How Much Auto Insurance Do I Need?

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Nearly every state requires drivers to carry a minimum amount of auto insurance coverage. Auto insurance kicks in whenever there is an accident. Most people cannot afford to pay for the damages caused by an accident out-of-pocket, especially if someone gets hurt; medical bills are prohibitively expensive. California law requires drivers on California roads to carry a certain amount of auto insurance, and drivers who operate without that minimum coverage can face stiff legal penalties. Read on to learn about the car insurance requirements in California, and call a knowledgeable Lancaster car accident lawyer if you or a loved one has been hurt by a negligent driver in the Antelope Valley.

Minimum Auto Insurance Requirements in California

California law requires drivers to carry insurance. Insurance is required for registered passenger vehicles, even if they are not being actively used, unless the owner submits a special form to the DMV. Auto insurance covers the driver’s liabilities to other parties if that driver causes a wreck.

The minimum liability insurance coverage under California law is as follows:

  • $15,000 for injury/death to one person
  • $30,000 for injury/death to more than one person in a given accident
  • $5,000 for property damage

We strongly recommend carrying more than the minimum 15/30/5 required insurance. Injury costs are likely to reach the tens of thousands, and it’s simply not worth the risk to keep your premium lower. Most experts recommend at least 100/300/100 coverage ($100,000 for injury per person, $300,000 for injury per accident, and $100,000 for property damage) if you can afford it. Additionally, uninsured motorist/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage is worth purchasing as it protects you if you are in a crash caused by another driver who lacks insurance.

What if My Insurance Coverage Lapses?

The DMV requires proof of insurance coverage to register your vehicle. If you stop paying your premiums and you are past the grace period offered by your insurer for missed payments, then your insurer can cancel your coverage. The insurer might then notify the DMV, who can suspend your vehicle registration and require you to pay a fee for reinstatement. If you drive without insurance coverage, you can face a fine of between $100 and $250 plus additional fees, and the court might even impound your vehicle.

Moreover, if your insurance coverage lapses, your insurer is likely to jack up your rates when you do start coverage again. Industry experts estimate that drivers whose coverage lapses for less than 30 days see an increase of eight percent to their premiums on average, while drivers whose coverage lapses for more than 30 days see an average premium increase of a whopping 35 percent.

If you do not need insurance because you are not planning to drive a particular vehicle, such as if you are going to be out of the country for an extended period of time, you can choose to cancel your insurance but keep your registration. Before canceling your coverage, you can file a “Planned Non-Operation” (PNO) with the DMV, which lets you avoid paying the next registration renewal fee while the vehicle is non-operational. The form lets the DMV know you will not be operating your vehicle for the next renewal year. You can also file an “Affidavit of Non-Use” (ANU) with the DMV, which notifies them that you wish to keep your registration but that you will be canceling your liability coverage. With an ANU, you’ll still owe registration renewal fees. In either situation, you must not operate or park your car on any California roadway during the period of non-use.

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed by a negligent driver in Southern California, talk to a seasoned and effective Lancaster car crash attorney about pursuing a claim for damages by calling the Kistler Law Firm at 661-206-6990.

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