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Are You Driving Without Insurance? With California’s Prop 213, You’ll Suffer the Consequences

In 1996, California voters passed The Personal Responsibility Act of 1996. Also known as “Prop 213,” the law limits the rights of uninsured California drivers to recover non-economic damages in motor vehicle accidents, even if the accident wasn’t their fault.

The intent of the legislation is to encourage drivers to carry proper insurance coverage, thereby reducing the number of uninsured motorists on the road. Supporters of Prop 213 have argued that uninsured drivers should not benefit from certain legal protections if they fail to fulfill their legal obligation to maintain auto insurance.

While Prop 213 is unique to California, the intent behind it is not. Driving without insurance is generally illegal in most states, and the consequences for doing so can vary depending on jurisdiction and circumstances.

What Happens if You Are the Victim of a Car Accident, but You Don’t Have Insurance in California?

If you were driving a vehicle that was not insured at the time of an accident, Prop 213 does apply — and it may limit the damages you can recover from your accident. As an uninsured driver, you may not recover non-economic damages.

However, there are some exceptions. Prop 213 may not apply if, for example, you were driving a work vehicle or the accident happened on private property.

Other exceptions for which Prop 213 does not apply and you can recover for your injuries in full:

  • If you were a passenger in a car that was not insured.
  •  If you were driving a car in California while you were fully insured.

What Are Non-Economic Damages?

Non-economic damages typically include compensation for pain and suffering, as well as other subjective losses that are not easily quantifiable in monetary terms, like disability or disfigurement.

If Prop 213 applies to you, you won’t be entitled to non-economic damages. However, hiring an experienced car accident attorney can help ensure you receive the maximum recovery allowed under the law. You may still be entitled to certain economic damages, such as lost wages and medical expenses.

Consequences for Driving Without Insurance in California

Consequences for driving without insurance may vary depending on the individual’s previous offenses and other circumstances. These consequences might include:

  • Fines
    You can be fined for driving without insurance. The amount of the fine varies based on local laws and whether you’re a repeat offender. Fines also vary based on whether the offense is charged as an infraction or a misdemeanor. For an infraction, the maximum penalty is a $250 court fine. For a misdemeanor, the maximum penalty is a $1,000 court fine (and/or six months in jail).  
  • License Suspension
    Your driver’s license or vehicle registration could be suspended or revoked for a period of time, typically one year.
  • Vehicle Impoundment
    If you are caught driving without insurance, the police may impound your vehicle. This means it will be towed to another location, and you will be responsible for the associated towing, storage, and administrative fees. Impounding is especially likely if you’re caught driving without insurance multiple times.
  • Legal Liability
    In case of an accident, if you’re at fault, you could be personally liable for damages, medical expenses, and other costs incurred by others involved in the accident. Without insurance, you might have to pay these costs out of pocket.
  • Higher Insurance Costs
    When you do get insurance, you might face higher premiums due to being classified as a high-risk driver. Insurance costs go up significantly when you are required to file an SR-22 form.
  • SR-22 Requirement
    California requires that individuals caught driving without insurance file an SR-22 form. An SR-22 is a certificate of financial responsibility required before you can reinstate your driving privileges. Filing a form SR-22 bears associated costs of roughly $350 per month in added insurance payments.

Driving without insurance carries heavy emotional, financial and lifestyle burdens. The consequences of being caught driving without the required minimum coverage limits set by the State of California can be severe. These consequences can affect your ability to get to work, take children to school, shop for necessities, and live your life as normal.  

What Are the California Auto Insurance Minimum Requirements?  

Even if you have auto coverage, you need to be sure that the auto coverage you have is adequate in California — or else, you could be subject to any of the consequences discussed above.  

No matter where you live in California, you’re required to have minimum auto insurance coverage limits.  You can think of these coverage requirements as being broken down into three main categories of auto insurance:

  • Bodily injury liability coverage per person (required $15,000 minimum coverage)
    Pays for bodily injuries for each victim of a car accident, individually, up to the policy’s coverage amount.
  • Bodily injury liability coverage per accident (required $30,000 minimum coverage)
    Pays for bodily injuries for any victim of a car accident, in the aggregate, up to the policy’s coverage amount.
  • Property damage liability coverage (required $5,000 minimum coverage)
    Pays for repairs due to damage caused to another person’s car or other property.

Because of their respective minimum coverage requirements, these auto insurance floors are commonly referred to collectively as “15/30/5” coverage. These coverage minimums can benefit you or any other victims of a car accident that you’re involved in.

It is worth noting that these coverage requirements will be changing on January 1, 2025, as a result of State Bill 1107 that passed in 2022. In regard to Prop 213, to be considered insured and not in violation of this law, your auto insurance policy liability will have to meet these new minimum thresholds in California. This is the first time since 1975 that these minimum thresholds have been adjusted.

The bill increases the current minimum requirements from $15,000 to $30,000 for bodily injury or death of one person, from $30,000 to $60,000 for bodily injury or death of all persons and from $5,000 to $15,000 for damage to the property of others as a result of any one accident.

Any time you’re driving, you are required by law to carry physical proof of your auto insurance. Most insurance companies will offer digital downloads of your insurance cards, which you can show as proof of insurance if you’re pulled over or involved in an accident.

If you’re in an accident, even if it was not your fault, you will be charged in California for driving without insurance. On the other hand, the consequences of being hit by a driver with no insurance can also be devastating.  

No matter what your situation, if you are involved in a car accident in California, your circumstances deserve the help and attention of an experienced car accident attorney.