California car insurance laws require the following minimum liability coverages -- 15/30/5:
- bodily injury for $15,000 for death or injury of any one person, any one accident and $30,000 for all persons in any one accident
- property damage of $5,000 for any one accident
Bodily injury liability car insurance pays the medical bills for those you have injured with your car, while property damage liability pays to fix or replace cars or property that you hit with your car.
Policy terms vary but typically bodily injury liability coverage will pay, up to your policy limits, for:
- medical expenses
- funeral expenses
- loss of income
- pain and suffering
- legal defense if a lawsuit results from the auto accident
Property damage liability pays, up to your policy limits, for damages to another car, and also covers damages you cause to someone’s house, tree, fence, guardrail, pole, etc. Property damage liability does not cover damages to your own vehicle. For that you would need collision and comprehensive insurance, which are optional.
California's minimum liability limits are low compared to most other states, and a minor accident could easily exceed these limits, leaving you to pay out-of-pocket for any damages not covered. Consider adding more coverage once you buy a house, start a family or have savings to protect.
All California drivers and owners must have at least the statutory limits of minimum liability insurance or an approved alternative way to pay for injury or property damage they may cause. Penalties are very severe for non-compliance with this section of the vehicle code.
The Department of Insurance for California says that if you have an accident and aren't covered by insurance, then your license may be suspended, beyond fines that the court may hand out.