California Driver’s Handbook

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Section 18 of 22

Section 10: Financial Responsibility, Insurance Requirements, and Collisions

You must have your proof of financial responsibility (insurance) when you drive and for a drive test. If you get into a collision, you must show proof to the other drivers involved in the collision.

Insurance Requirements

Your insurance must cover at least:

  • $15,000 for a single death or injury.
  • $30,000 for death or injury to more than one person.
  • $5,000 for property damage.

Parents or guardians take on financial responsibility for drivers younger than 18 years old and pay for damages if the driver is involved in a collision. Drivers who are 18 years old and older take on their own financial responsibility.

Before you buy insurance, make sure that the agent, broker, or insurance provider is licensed by the California Department of Insurance. For more information, visit

Low-cost Insurance

If you cannot afford liability insurance, you may be eligible for the California Low Cost Automobile Insurance Program. For more information, visit or call 1-866-602-8861.


Understand factors that lead to collisions so you can try to avoid them.

Causes of Collisions

The most common causes of collisions are:

  • Driver distractions.
  • Unsafe speed.
  • Improper turns.
  • Not following the right-of-way rules.
  • Not following stop signals and signs.
  • Driving on the wrong side of the road.
  • A vehicle traveling faster or slower than the flow of traffic.

If you see a vehicle’s emergency flashers ahead, slow down. There may be a collision or other road emergency. Pass carefully.

Avoid driving near collisions, if possible. If anyone is injured, they will get help faster if other vehicles are not blocking the road.

What to Do if You Are in a Collision

  • If you are in a collision:
  • You must stop. Someone could be injured and need your help. Failing to stop or leaving the scene of an accident is called a hit-and-run. The punishment is severe if you are convicted of a hit-and-run.
  • Call 911 right away if anyone is hurt.
  • Move your vehicle out of traffic if no one is hurt. Then call 911.
  • Show your driver’s license, vehicle registration card, insurance information, and current address to the other driver, law enforcement officer, and anyone else involved in the collision.
  • You must make a report to law enforcement within 24 hours of the collision if anyone is injured or killed. Your insurance agent, broker, or legal representative can also file the report.
  • Try to find the owner if your vehicle hits or rolls into a parked car or other property. If you cannot find the owner, leave a note with your name, phone number, and address. Securely attach the note to the vehicle or property. Report the collision to law enforcement.
  • If you kill or injure an animal, call the nearest humane society or law enforcement. Do not try to move an injured animal.

Reporting a Collision

If you are in a collision, you must report it to DMV within 10 days if:

  • The collision caused more than $1,000 in damage to property.
  • Anyone was injured or killed. This applies even if the injuries were minor.

Each driver must file a Report of Traffic Accident Occurring in California (SR 1) with DMV at You (or your representative) must file a report whether or not you caused the collision. This applies even if the collision happened on private property.

Your driving privilege will be suspended if you fail to file a report. Law enforcement will not make a report for you.

Driving Without Insurance

Your driving privilege will be suspended for up to four years if you are in a collision and do not have proper insurance coverage. It does not matter who was at fault.

You can get your driver’s license back during the last three years of the suspension if you provide a California Insurance Proof Certificate (SR 22/SR 1P) and maintain it during the three-year period.

Collisions on Your Driver’s Record

If you are involved in a collision resulting in $1,000 in damage, or where anyone is injured or dies, it is your responsibility to report the collision to DMV. DMV will add it to your driver’s record. It does not matter who caused the collision.