Understanding the State of California Car Insurance Verification Laws

January 27, 2012

If you drive in the state of California, car insurance verification laws are some of the strictest in the country and need to be closely complied with to avoid potentially costly penalties, fines or even jail time. In California, the Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law is the statute that governs car insurance verification laws and also provides for penalties under the statute. So, you should always be aware of the laws in the state of California in order to avoid problems and the possible suspension of your driver's license.

Minimum Requirements Under the Law

Under California's Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law, all drivers are required to maintain minimal amounts of liability car insurance. California law and California insurance code 11580.1B require that all California drivers maintain the following minimum liability insurance coverage:

  • $15,000 for injury or death to one person
  • $30,000 for injury or death to more than one person
  • $5000 for damage to property.

While California law does not require comprehensive and collision insurance, this type of coverage is always recommended and will offer additional protection in the event you're involved in a car accident.

How to Provide Proof of Insurance

In California, law enforcement or the Department of Motor Vehicles may occasionally require you to provide proof of insurance. In the event you're required to present proof of minimum liability car insurance coverage, the below types of documentation are the only accepted types of proof of:

  • An insurance identification card or certificate of insurance issued by a car insurance company that indicates the vehicle is insured;
  • If you are self-insured and have placed a cash deposit with the Department of Motor Vehicles, a DMV authorization letter will act as sufficient proof of insurance under the statute;
  • A Californian proof of insurance certificate, or SR 22 for broad coverage or an owner's policy. An SR 22 operator's policy does not meet the requirements under the law;
  • Documentation that shows the vehicle is owned or leased by a government agency

Failure to provide proof of registration and insurance to the Department of Motor Vehicles or a law enforcement official will usually results in penalties, fines or other administrative actions. For example, if the DMV is notified your policy has been canceled and is not made aware of a replacement policy within 45 days, the DMV will usually suspend the vehicle's registration and may suspend your driver's license.

When Planning Not to Drive Your Car

If for some reason, you are not driving a registered vehicle, you should contact the DMV immediately and inform them you are no longer operating the vehicle. You will be required to file an Affidavit of Non-Use to avoid registration cancellation, a suspension of your driver's license or other costly penalties. If you have already received a registration renewal notice for your vehicle, you will need to file a Certificate of Non-Operation / Planned Non-Operation Certification with the Department of Motor Vehicles rather than filing an Affidavit of Non-Use.