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What Happens if You Drive Without Insurance in California?

To say that the economy in California is difficult these days surely is an understatement. People are feeling the financial pinch throughout the state and the country, as well as across the entire income spectrum. And they are looking for new and creative ways to save a buck. Some folks might be tempted to cut costs by eliminating their auto insurance coverage while continuing to drive, risking the chance of penalties if they are caught.

Don’t you make this mistake!

The following describes the severe penalties and costs you could incur if you dare to drive in California without auto insurance.

Legal penalties for driving without insurance.

Oftentimes, California is seen as a leader when it comes to new and severe penalties for any number of criminal or civil violations. Not so in the area of uninsured drivers, however. Compared to the nation as a whole, California penalties are rather tame. But that does not mean that you won’t feel the sting.

Drivers caught operating a vehicle without valid insurance will be fined anywhere from $100 to $200 for a first offense, and between $200 and $500 for a second offense. Additionally, your vehicle may be impounded and towed away, in which case you will not be able to get it back until you obtain insurance and pay all towing and storage fees. And as we all know, those vehicle storage fees can be substantial.

An auto vehicle accident can be traumatic no matter how serious or whether you, or anyone else, are injured. If you are involved in an accident in California, you must stop, pull off of the road and immediately call 911 to report the accident to police or the CHP.

When the police arrive, you will be required to show them your driver’s license, vehicle registration card and proof of insurance.

That’s the problem: what happens if you do not have valid auto insurance? In California, your license will be suspended, possibly for up to four years. Bear in mind that this can happen whether or not you are at fault for the accident. You may be able to get your license reinstated after one year if you obtain valid insurance, provide proof of it

to the DMV and pay a reissuance fee. You will also be required to obtain an SR-22 Proof of Financial Responsibility certificate and carry an additional high-cost SR-22 insurance policy on top of your regular one.

Again, your vehicle may be impounded and towed from the scene. If that happens, you will be required to pay towing and storage fees before your vehicle is returned to you. The bottom line: the costs for getting into an accident without insurance in California are significant and will add up quickly.

Civil costs for an accident without insurance.

Legal penalties are one thing.

How about the cost of the accident itself? If you are the party at fault, then you are responsible for the cost of all resulting damage. And that means everything: damage to all vehicles involved; and all medical costs for injuries to yourself, the other driver and any third-parties. How about damage to other public and private property such as street signs and lights, bus stop fixtures, store fronts, etc? Yes, you are responsible for that damage, too.

California requires all drivers to carry uninsured motorist coverage. Uninsured motorist coverage means that if the other driver in your accident has it, his insurance company will compensate him for his losses even if the accident is your fault.

Don’t think for a moment that uninsured coverage means you will be off the hook. If you have assets, the other driver’s insurance company is likely to sue you to recover their costs. For example: suppose you get into an accident that is your fault resulting in tens of thousands of dollars in damage. If you have no vehicle insurance, but own a home with $100,000 in equity, the other party’s insurance company is likely to sue you to recover the thousands it paid out to their client. And you may lose your home.

The answer to driving in California without valid insurance is simple: Don’t do it! The risk is too great and the penalties too severe. Times may be tough right now, but if you are looking to save money, driving without insurance is not the way to do it.

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Category: Auto Insurance

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