California Car Insurance Requirements
California is a "Fault" Car Accident State
California follows a "fault" system when it comes to liability for a car accident. That means drivers are financially responsible for the effects of any accident they cause.
There are very few restrictions on the options of anyone injured in an accident, when it comes to pursuing an insurance claim or lawsuit against whoever caused the crash. After a car accident in California, if you’ve suffered an injury as a driver, passenger, or pedestrian, you are usually free to take one or more of the following actions in trying to get compensation for your losses (medical bills, lost income, property damage, pain and suffering, etc.):
file a claim under your own insurance policy (if you have the right coverage, more on this later)pursue a third-party claim through the at-fault driver’s liability insurance coverage, orfile a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
Note: In a no-fault car insurance state, a driver who has been injured in an accident must usually turn to his or her own car insurance policy for payment of things like medical bills and lost income, regardless of who was at fault for the accident. In no-fault states, an injured person must meet certain threshold requirements in order to step outside the no-fault car insurance system and make a claim against the at-fault driver.
Minimum Liability Car Insurance Requirements in California
In order to comply with California's "financial responsibility" laws, most vehicle owners choose to purchase liability insurance coverage, and state law dictates the minimum amount that vehicle owners must carry.
This liability insurance is meant to compensate other drivers, passengers, or pedestrians who suffer property damage and/or personal injuries in a car accident caused by you (or caused by anyone covered under your liability policy). The minimum amounts of liability coverage required under California law are:
-$15,000 for injury or death to one person (another driver, passenger, pedestrian, etc.) in an accident you cause
-$30,000 for injury or death to more than one person in an accident you cause, and
-$5,000 for damage to property in an accident you cause.
Your liability coverage will kick in if any family member is driving your vehicle, or if you've given someone else permission to use it. It will likely also cover you if you get into an accident in a rental car in California.
Remember also that the liability coverage we discussed here doesn't apply to your own injuries or vehicle damage after a car accident. You'll need different (additional) coverage for that if you're involved in a car accident and no one else's coverage applies to your losses. For example, personal injury protection (PIP) or MedPay coverage can be used to pay your car accident medical bills, and collision coverage can pay for repairs to (or replacement of) your damaged vehicle after a car accident.
Finally, while California does not require drivers to buy uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, this kind of coverage can provide you with critical financial protection if you're in an accident with someone who has no car insurance, or whose coverage won't pay for your medical bills and other losses.