What Is California Car Accident Law?

Drivers in California are required to carry auto insurance so that when someone is injured in a car accident their losses are covered. State laws in California affect everything from how and when you can file a claim for compensation after a car accident to how much money you are allowed to recover for medical bills, lost income, property damage, and your pain and suffering.

Insurance adjusters working for profit-driven insurance companies know these laws inside and out. When you are coping with a serious injury after what is most likely the first significant car accident in your life, you are at a big disadvantage trying to deal with insurers on your own.

At Sam & Ash Injury Law, we have built our law firm and our reputation on fighting for What’s Right for injured people. We make sure car accident victims have a knowledgeable lawyer on their side and don’t get taken advantage of by insurance companies. We are located in Orange County, CA, and we’re ready to fight for you.

Accident Reporting Requirements in California

Any driver involved in a car accident should stop and try to render aid to anyone who has been injured. Call 911 if there are injuries that need immediate medical assistance and summon police to the accident scene. If you don’t stop, you may be charged with a hit-and-run accident and could face serious consequences.

In California, a driver involved in a car accident is to report the crash in writing to the California Highway Patrol or to the local police department within 24 hours if the crash caused an injury or death. If a driver is too badly injured to report the accident, someone else may do it for them. If a law enforcement officer responds to the accident scene, their written report fulfills the driver’s obligation. That is typically the case with serious crashes.


Another California law requires anyone involved in a motor vehicle accident to report an accident to the state Department of Motor Vehicles by completing a Report of Traffic Accident Occurring in California (SR 1) within 10 days if the accident causes injury, death or property damage in excess of $1,000.

Your driving privilege will be suspended if you do not complete an SR 1 form or did not have the proper insurance coverage at the time of the vehicle collision.

Minimum Auto Insurance Requirements in California

California law requires drivers to prove they can be financially responsible for their actions whenever they drive. Typically, this is accomplished by obtaining automotive liability insurance, which pays if the policyholder is legally liable for an accident.

The minimum required amount that liability insurance must cover is:

  • $15,000 for a single death or injury

  • $30,000 for death or injury to more than one person

  • $5,000 for property damage caused by one accident

California law requires insurance companies to offer uninsured motorist bodily injury and underinsured motorist coverage. This type of insurance protects you if you are hit by someone driving without auto insurance. Your UM/UIM policy covers injuries and property damage caused by a motorist who did not have insurance or who did not have sufficient insurance. If you decline this coverage, you will need to sign a form saying so.

You may buy additional insurance coverage, including collision coverage, which pays if the policyholder is responsible for an accident that damages their vehicle. If you are leasing or financing your car, you’ll likely be required to maintain collision coverage.

Comparative Negligence

If you are injured and/or your vehicle is damaged in a car accident, you should report it to the responsible driver’s car insurance carrier. If another driver is at fault, you may make a claim against the other driver’s insurance. If you were at fault, you would have to have collision or comprehensive insurance coverage to obtain an insurance payout.

California operates under a “pure comparative negligence” system. Under this system, each driver may be found to share a portion of the blame for an accident. For example, a driver may have run a red light and hit you. They were negligent. But you were speeding, so you were also negligent. The other driver may be found to be 70% at fault while you are found to be 30% at fault. This means that if you had $100,000 in losses from the accident, any compensation you received would be reduced by 30% to $70,000. Further, your insurance would be liable for 30% of the other driver’s damages.

Because California has a pure comparative negligence system, either party may recover damages, regardless of their degree of fault. Even if you are 99% responsible for an accident, you can recover 1% of your losses. Most comparative negligence systems bar recovery of damages if you are 50% or 51% or more responsible for the accident.

A jury hearing a lawsuit would decide each driver’s degree of negligence in a car accident. Our attorneys at Sam & Ash resolve most car accident claims by presenting evidence of fault to the insurance company and negotiating an acceptable settlement. If the insurer refuses to agree to a reasonable settlement, the next step is to file a lawsuit and ask a judge and jury to settle the dispute. Our attorneys at Sam & Ash do What’s Right for the client.

Statutes of Limitations in California

A statute of limitations puts a deadline on legal action to address the harm done. In a car accident, it is a deadline for filing a personal injury lawsuit.

Apart from a few exceptions, the statute of limitations for a personal injury lawsuit in California is two years from the date of injury. In California, if the injury was not discovered right away, then it is one year from the date the injury was discovered.

Talk to Our Car Accident Attorneys in Orange County, CA

Car accidents happen every day, but they don’t happen to you every day. You shouldn’t have to know the ins and outs of car insurance or personal injury law to get a fair deal after a car accident. But if you were injured by another motorist in Orange County, you should seek the help of an experienced attorney to deal with the insurance companies on your behalf.

At Sam & Ash Injury Law, we work to build a strong case for the full compensation you deserve and to help you get your life back on track. We represent car accident victims throughout Nevada and California. And we’re here 24/7 to answer your legal questions. Let us review your case for free and talk to you about how we can help you. Contact us today.

Author: Ash Watkins

Ash started her legal career defending insurance companies against injury victims. She saw how insurance companies treated people who had legitimate injury claims. But she also saw how notoriously sleazy the personal injury lawyers were. Neither side was focused on the injured person, so she decided to do something about it.