Who Pays for a Car Accident If You Don’t Have Insurance in California?
Car accidents are stressful and traumatic enough, even when everyone has insurance. Read on to find out what happens if you’re involved in a car accident in California and don’t have auto liability insurance, as well as what to do at the scene of the accident.
Who Pays for a Car Accident If You Don’t Have Insurance and You’re Not at Fault?
If you’re not at fault for an accident and don’t have insurance, you can expect to receive a ticket for driving without adequate coverage. Depending on whether you’ve been caught without insurance before, you could be fined up to $500. When you factor in additional penalties and fees, you could be paying up to $1,000.
In addition, you could face license suspension for up to four years and be required to file an SR-22 certificate. All of this will lead to paying a much higher premium than you would have paid if you already had an active policy at the time of the accident.
As far as paying for damages, if you’re not at fault, then it’s the other driver who pays for a car accident if you don’t have insurance. You’re entitled to make a claim with the other driver’s insurance company to cover your medical bills as well as repair costs for your car. Under California law, you can choose the body shop where the repairs are done.
Who Pays for a Car Accident If You Don’t Have Insurance and You’re at Fault?
If you do cause an accident and don’t have insurance, the consequences are even more serious. In addition to all of the fines and penalties above, you’re still legally responsible for covering medical bills and repair costs. But instead of making a claim with your insurance company, the other driver can sue you in court. That means you’ll also need to pay for an attorney, and you may be found liable for additional damages such as lost wages, emotional distress, and future medical bills.
The other driver may have uninsured motorist coverage (UMC). This type of coverage helps compensate the other driver when you’re at fault for an accident but don’t have any auto insurance. And after the other driver makes a claim with their UMC insurance company, the insurance company may decide to sue you for the money they had to pay! But keep in mind that UMC coverage is optional in California, and you can still be sued for the medical and repair costs that go beyond the UMC policy limits.
What to Do If You’re in a Car Accident and You Don’t Have Insurance
If you’re involved in a car accident in California and don’t have insurance, here are the steps you should take after the accident. Remember that your primary goal right after the accident is to make sure everyone is safe and that the police arrive to take over. Only later should you be thinking about who pays for a car accident if you don’t have insurance.
Don’t Leave the Scene
Even if you don’t have insurance and the accident wasn’t your fault, stay at the scene of the accident. California has tough hit-and-run laws, especially if you injure or kill another person. If you knowingly cause property damage and leave the scene, then you can be fined up to $1,000 and spend up to six months in jail. This is on top of paying for the damage you caused.
If you knowingly injure a person and leave the scene, the consequences are much more serious. You can face a fine of up to $10,000 and up to three years in prison. If you kill or seriously injure someone, then you’ll be charged with a felony hit-and-run, which can result in even more prison time.
Check for Injuries
The first thing you’ll want to do is to check yourself for injuries before checking on your other passengers. If you or another person are injured, dial 911 immediately.
Check on the Other Driver
If both you and your passengers are OK, get out of your car and walk over to the other car involved in the accident. Make sure the driver and other passengers aren’t injured. If anyone is injured, call an ambulance immediately. Then call the police and explain that there’s been an accident.
Give your name and current address to the other driver. Also, ask for the other driver’s name, contact, and insurance information. At this point, you don’t need to interact with the other driver anymore. Walk back to your car and wait for the police to arrive.
Don’t Admit Guilt
It’s in our nature to apologize even when we’ve done nothing wrong or when something happens that we can’t control. It’s really important to resist the urge to apologize to the other driver. From now on, it’s up to the police, insurance companies, and the courts to decide who is at fault for the accident. You don’t want to say or do anything that could be used against you.
Car Insurance in California Doesn’t Work Retroactively
That means that you can’t make a claim with your auto insurance company for something that happened before the first day of coverage. So if you buy new auto insurance that begins on January 1, your new policy can’t cover you for an accident that happened on December 31. Even a one-day gap in auto insurance coverage can expose you to hundreds or thousands of dollars in liability. This is why it’s so important to pay your premiums on time and make sure your auto insurance policy never expires!
Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late to Get Auto Insurance
The worst part about not having car insurance is that you can suffer the consequences — fines, license suspension, and higher insurance rates — even if the accident is someone else’s fault. Don’t put yourself at risk and get an online quote for auto insurance with Cost-U-Less. You can also visit one of our offices or call us at (800) 390-4071.