California Financial Responsibility Law – How Does it Work?
In California, the term “financial responsibility law” refers to the requirement that you carry proof of your ability to cover damages you may inflict in the event of a traffic accident. This usually means proof of auto insurance.
The law is largely found in Vehicle Code Sections 1600-16078 VC and is sometimes referred to as “California’s Compulsory Financial Responsibility Law.”
Under California law, the minimum amounts of insurance coverage for private passenger vehicles are:
$15,000 for personal injury/death to one person,
$30,000 for personal injury/death to more than one person, and
$5,000 for property damage.
If you violate state law and do not meet all financial responsibility requirements, then you:
3. What if I violate the financial responsibility law?
If you cannot provide a law enforcement agent with evidence of financial responsibility, then the agent will issue you a traffic ticket under Vehicle Code 16028a.
A 16028a ticket carries a $900 fine, but no DMV points. The $900 includes a base fine of $100 to $200 plus penalty assessments.4
Though if you can show you had automobile liability insurance at the time of the violation, the court should dismiss the case for a $25 administrative fee. Or if you get proper insurance information/coverage soon after the violation, prosecutors may be open to reducing the fine and may even dismiss the charge altogether.
Note that a subsequent 16028a ticket within three years is charged as an infraction, but the base penalty is $200 to $500. With penalty assessments, the total fine is around $1,200.5
Further, if no insurance information, the court does have the discretion to impound a vehicle “for good cause shown.” The registered owner can retrieve the car upon showing evidence of financial responsibility.6
California Insurance Code 11580.1b. See also California DMV Website, Financial Responsibility (Insurance).
California Vehicle Code 16029a VC.
California Vehicle Code 16029b VC.
California Vehicle Code 16029c VC.
About the Author
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.