Every year, more than 200,000 car crashes resulting in injuries or death occur in the state of California. The figure itself highlights the importance of having auto insurance. However, under the current Californian law, vehicle operators, owners, or car owners that hire employees to transport passengers from one location to another but are not regulated by the Public Utility Commissions are required to maintain a minimum insurance coverage of :
- $15,000 for the death or bodily injury of a person
- $30,000 for the death or physical injuries of all persons involved
- $5000 for property damage of other parties involved in the crash
These insurance coverage policies should be under the names of vehicle owners and anyone authorized to use the vehicle. The law requires the owners or operators to provide proof of financial responsibilities in the above-mentioned amounts. The other option is to deposit an amount of $35,000 with the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles).
The law applies to:
- Taxi and for-hire vehicle drivers
- Delivery drivers
Construction contractors and subcontractors
- Delivery contractors and subcontractors (not including food delivery)
Farm labor contractors
- Plumbers, electricians, heating and cooling installers, sheet metal workers, and other construction tradespeople who work on roads or highways
However, these laws were introduced over 55 years ago, in 1967. At that time, the average cost of a home was approximately $14,250, with a car costing less than $3000.
During this period, when you could get a gallon of gas for just 33 cents, the president of the United States, Lyndon Johnson, set these minimum requirements for auto vehicle coverage.
But today, as we progress into 2022, these limits aren’t sufficient. Most drivers in California today are underinsured without even knowing about it. In the modern world, medical bills have skyrocketed. An ambulance ride costs around $1200, and visits to the emergency room can go as high as $3000. The insurance amount isn’t sufficient for covering medical bills, let alone compensate for property damage or loss of life.
That’s where the new Protect California Drivers Act comes in. The California Senate Bill 1107 aims to protect all crash victims and improve liability coverage for drivers in California.
What is the New Protect
California Drivers Act
The new Protect California Drivers Act first came forward in February 2022. After passing several hearings, the bill was given to the Appropriations Committee after over three months, in June 2022.
The new bill has updated the minimum coverage requirements of auto insurance to:
- $30,000 for the death or injury of a single person
$60,000 for each accident
$25,000 for property damage
- These changes would increase the cash deposit to the DMV to $75,000.
The newly proposed changes keep up with the increased medical bills, repairs, and emergency care costs. The gap between the past and current prices, with a difference of over 50 years, can be bridged with this amendment.
Besides modernizing the insurance laws, the new bills also ensure that all car accident victims get the financial support they need to fully recover from injuries, property damage, or the loss of a loved one.
Many groups that represent the consumers and seniors of California are in support of the new bill.
The new law will become effective on January 1st, 2025. The delay in the enforcement of the new act was deemed necessary to give insurers enough time to apply and receive the new rates as per the bill with the Department of Insurance.
By January 1st, 2035, the insurance limits are expected to further increase to the following amounts:
- $50,000 for the death or injury of a single person
- $100,000 for each accident
- $25,000 for property damage
As per the new limits, the deposit to the DMV would increase to $50,000.
The drastic change in insurance coverage in the future is expected to ensure the laws stay updated and keep up with the times. Consequently, this will make California the highest in terms of mandatory limits for financial responsibilities in the United States of America.
The bill further requires the Insurance Commissioner to implore the new rate applications by distributing a bulletin by February 1st, 2023. The rate applications are to be put forward by July 1st, 2023. However, the effective date of the new rates would remain January 1st, 2025.
For the proposed changes for the year 2035, the Insurance Commissioner would again be required to distribute a bulletin to ask for the new rate application. This must be done by July 1st, 2033.
What are the Requirements for Getting Auto Insurance in California?
In the state of California, insurance and financial responsibilities are used interchangeably. Regarding auto insurance, all vehicles being used in California, be it under the ownership of a resident or non-resident, must have insurance.
The proof of insurance should be carried with the driver whenever the vehicle is used. It must be produced when:
- A law enforcement officer requests it
- The car gets into an accident
- The vehicle registration is being renewed
So, to get auto insurance in California, there are several options you can opt for. The first and most obvious choice would be to get motor vehicle liability insurance. In this case, as mentioned earlier, you must maintain at least the minimum limit per the law.
The second option would be to opt for a cash deposit with the DMV. Currently, the deposit is $35,000, which would increase to $75,000 in 2025, according to the proposed changes.
You can also get self-insured. In this case, you will require a DMV-issued certificate that shows proof of self-insurance.
The last option is to get surety bonds worth $35,000 (and $75,000 as of 2025) from any company with the licensing to function legally within California.
It is important to note that this insurance is solely for compensating personal injury and property damage of people involved in a car accident besides the policyholder. In contrast, if you get collision insurance, it will not be counted as fulfilling your financial responsibilities as per the state laws.
Additionally, all insurance companies are required to provide insurance information electronically to the DMV for all privately used vehicles. However, these requirements are not applicable for vehicles operating under business or commercial insurance policies.
Suppose the Department of Motor Vehicles does not obtain evidence of financial responsibility for privately owned vehicles. In that case, their registration will be suspended until sufficient proof has been provided. During this time, the car is not allowed to operate or even be parked on the roads of California.
Sometimes, the DMV may ask for additional proof of your financial responsibilities. Some of these proofs can be:
- An ID card or document from the insurance company
- A DMV authorization letter for self-insured individuals and cash depositors
- California Proof of Insurance Certificate
- Proof that a vehicle is leased or owned by a business or public entity as per the state requirements
Penalty for Non-Enrollment
The Protect California Drivers Act penalizes drivers who choose not to enroll by imposing a fine. The exact penalty depends on which county you live in. Still, the law stipulates that each time a driver fails to register or update their information with the DMV, they will be subject to penalties that include:
- A fine ranging between $100 to $200, excluding state assessments and fees
- Seizure of vehicle upon several ticketing within three years of the first infraction. In this case, the fine can go up to $500.
- The driver must also pay the storage and towing fees.
While not having insurance may add to your expenses, the consequences will be much more severe if you are involved in a car crash without any insurance.
In such a scenario, the court can revoke your license for a specific period. During this period, you may be put out of work. Additionally, if you were at fault, the car crash victims can sue you to recover from personal injuries or property damage. Depending on the situation, you might have to pay thousands of dollars to reach a settlement.
However, any charges against you can be dismissed if you provide proof that you had insurance but did not have proof of insurance or financial responsibility with you at the time of the accident.
How Does Protect California Drivers Act Affect Me?
The new Protect California Drivers Act will increase the minimum insurance amount for drivers, which can make driving on the streets of California a little more expensive. However, these changes were necessary to ensure all victims get their rightful compensation to recover their losses.
How much will my premium increase?
It depends on your current insurance provider and how many vehicles are insured under your policy. The average increase is expected to be approximately 10%. Still, it could vary significantly depending on factors such as where you live and how much coverage you currently carry. In some cases, customers may see increases of up to 20% if they have multiple vehicles insured under their policy or if they still need to update their policies.
Everyone needs to understand how this new law affects their lives so that no one misses out on their rightful benefits due to ignorance or confusion about what is required of them at work sites across California.
What If I Can’t Afford Liability Insurance?
With the premiums increasing, low-income drivers might find themselves in a financial pickle. Fortunately, California’s Low-Cost Automobile Insurance Program lends a helping hand to such drivers. If a well-reputed but low-income driver enrolls in this program, they can get lower insurance rates.
What if I Want to Cancel My Insurance?
If you want to cancel your insurance, it is essential to notify the DMV beforehand to ensure your vehicle registration is not revoked.
An affidavit of non-use is submitted to the DMV. During the insurance cancellation, the vehicle is not authorized to operate or even be parked on the roadways of California.
The Bottom Line
The new Protect California Drivers Act will be enforced starting January 1st, 2025. The amendments to the previous bill passed nearly half a century ago have been made to prevent underinsurance and provide adequate compensation to crash victims.
With the rising costs of medical bills, the old law had become outdated many years ago. With the new amendments, the gap between the past and current fees can be bridged effectively.
The law requires all drivers operating a vehicle on the roads of California to get auto liability insurance. Failure to comply with these requirements will not only land you heavy fines but can also cause your license or vehicle to be suspended for some time. If a driver is found with repeat ticketing for being uninsured, it can significantly increase the fines imposed.
Additionally, if a driver is involved in a crash without insurance, they are open to civil litigation. Plus, the legal consequences can be severe.
All drivers in California need to maintain the required minimum insurance amount. However, the state extends a helping hand to low-income drivers to prevent cases of uninsurance. If the new amendments are too expensive, you can enroll in California’s Low-Cost Automobile Insurance Program.
The Protect California Drivers Act is a comprehensive bill with many important implications for all drivers in California. We hope this guide has helped you understand the Protect California Drivers Act, how it will affect your driving license, and the consequences of non-enrollment. If you have any questions or concerns about enrolling in auto liability insurance, contact us today so we can help with any issues!
If you have questions about personal injury law and need assistance Phoong Law is available to help. Often drivers misjudge appropriate insurance coverage. Contact us if you have questions about this new law coming to California in 2025.