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The Ultimate Guide to Auto Insurance Legalities in California

In 2006, Californian auto insurance legislation for privately owned vehicles was modified, and the local Department of Motor Vehicles now verifies liability issues differently. Since the changes in legislation were made, every motor vehicle used on Californian state roads and highways must carry liability auto insurance so that financial responsibilities can be met for damage to property or personal injuries sustained by third party motorists in road traffic accidents. The new laws also give the Californian Department of Motor Vehicles the right to remove uninsured vehicles from the road.

Under the new legislation, auto insurance companies with a license to trade in California are legally obliged to provide up-to-date information regarding private vehicle use throughout the state. This information is relayed to the Californian Department of Motor Vehicles and provides an accurate database that clearly indicates which cars have auto insurance, and which cars don’t. Californian state laws only relate the new legislation to privately owned vehicles, and auto insurance companies are under no obligation to provide information regarding commercial or business-related policies.

By compiling a detailed database, the Department of Motor Vehicles can monitor auto insurance coverage throughout the state more accurately, and this allows them to take appropriate action that penalizes road users who fail to take out sufficient coverage on their vehicles. The database is also accessible to law enforcement and court personnel. Any motorist who continues to use their vehicle without the minimum mandatory state auto insurance requirements in place now face a series of increasingly harsh penalties which can ultimately result in the loss of driving privileges.

Proof of financial responsibility must be carried at all times, irrespective of whether the vehicle is being used, or is simply being parked on Californian roadways. Auto insurance documentation must be presented on request from a law enforcement officer, whenever a vehicle registration is renewed or when a car is involved in a road traffic accident.

Evidence of financial responsibility can be provided in several ways. Most commonly, this can be presented in the form of documentation or an identification card issued by an auto insurance company. However, the California Department of Motor Vehicles may also provide proof of financial responsibility in the form of an authorization letter if a motorist is a cash deposit or self-insured driver. Road users with a less-than-perfect driving history may be required to produce an SR-22 Californian Proof of Auto Insurance certificate and vehicles owned or leased by a public entity will need supporting documentation from stipulated government codes. A Notification of Alternative Forms of Financial Responsibility is deemed acceptable, and a Statement of Facts filed with the Public Utilities Commission will also suffice.

Californian road users who choose to meet their responsibilities by purchasing an auto insurance policy must carry the minimum mandatory levels of financial liability. A basic policy must carry $15,000 worth of bodily injury liability per person, $30,000 worth of bodily injury liability per accident and $5000 worth of property damage liability. Naturally, vehicle owners are perfectly entitled to purchase a higher level of auto insurance coverage, and this is usually recommended by the California Department of Motor Vehicles so that all eventualities can be met.

The Department of Motor Vehicles reserves the right to suspend vehicle registrations if an auto insurance policy is cancelled, and sufficient proof of a replacement policy hasn’t been provided within a 45-day period. Suspension may also occur if auto insurance information isn’t provided within 30 days of an initial vehicle registration or transfer of ownership. Further suspensions may be applied if false documentation is used as proof of auto insurance coverage.

Road users who receive warning of a forthcoming vehicle registration suspension can take action by submitting proof of a valid auto insurance policy and paying the relevant reinstatement fee. If a vehicle remains the subject of a suspension order, the California Department of Motor Vehicles reserves the right to have a vehicle impounded. If an uninsured vehicle is involved in a road traffic accident, the owner will be made personally liable for any injuries or damage to property caused.

Any vehicle that is currently registered, but is no longer used or parked on Californian state roads and highways, should be filed with the Department of Motor Vehicles with an Affidavit of Non-Use. If the same vehicle is still off the road when a registration has to be renewed, the appropriate fees can still be paid but the vehicle will be placed in a permanent State of Non-Operation. This can only be removed, and the vehicle can only be driven again, once proof of auto insurance has been provided.

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