California Car Accident Laws

Car accident laws can vary by state, so it is important to be familiar with the ones local to your area. Whether you just moved to California, or you’ve already had the unfortunate displeasure of dealing with your first accident, this guide will help you understand how the law applies to you.

There are a lot of busy highways across the state, from jam-packed Los Angeles freeways to busy city streets and intersections. Although we take driving for granted, hitting the road is anything but safe. In fact, in the US more than 6 million car accidents yearly, inuring over 3 million individuals.

Fact is, even if you are following all the rules of the road, other parties may not be, putting you and your family at risk.

This guide will help you better understand your rights and the laws that most commonly come into play as it relates to car accidents in California.

Responsibilities on the Road

Every driver has a few basic responsibilities:

  • Be familiar with the rules of the road
  • Drive in a safe manner
  • Do not recklessly endanger yourself or others
  • If involved in an accident, stay on the scene until officers have arrived. Check to make sure no one is injured.
  • State law requires that accidents be reported within 24 hours.
  • Accidents must be reported in written form to either the California Highway Patrol or local law enforcement officials.
  • Property damage over $1,000 also requires a written report to be turned in.
  • Accidents with injuries require that drivers exchange information.
  • You do not need to submit a written report if the police come to the scene of the accident, as the officer will create a report.

Knowing what you are responsible for can keep you from getting in trouble. It is not just the drivers and passengers of a vehicle that must be considered, but cyclists, pedestrians, and more.

Driver Negligence and Accidents

The most common cause of accidents comes down to driver negligence. This term simply means that the rules of the road were not followed, and, as a result, an accident involving another person and/or vehicle has occurred.

If you are involved in an accident where you are at fault, you may be responsible for resulting losses, which may include:

  • Vehicle repair
  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering charges
  • And more…

*Depending on your policy, your insurer may pick up the tab for these losses or any claims against you as a driver.

California law is set up to divide losses between all drivers considered at fault, in situations where more than one driver is involved. If more than one driver is at fault, the percentage they pay will be based on their violation.

Carrying Car Insurance

Every driver is required to carry car insurance. You must also have proof of insurance on you at all times. If an officer requests to see your proof of insurance, you must present it to the officer.

There are basic insurance requirements that must be satisfied.

Drivers must carry (at minimum):

  • $15,000 for injury or death to an individual
  • $30,000 for injury or death to multiple individuals
  • $5,000 in property damage

It may also be necessary to report the incident to your insurance company.

Reporting Accidents to Insurance Companies

As far as California state law is concerned, there is no legislation that requires you to report accidents to your insurance company. However, many insurance companies have the requirement to report an accident worked into their contracts.

Besides this, you need to report the accident as soon as possible so that your insurance will be aware of any claims that need to be made or defended against. If you fail to report your accident, claims related to the accident may be denied.

You may be tempted not to report a minor accident in order to avoid increases to your insurance premiums, but this is not a wise decision. If the other people involved do decide to file a claim, your insurance needs to be aware of the accident.

Statute of Limitations

California does have a statute of limitations regarding car accidents. This means that, after a certain amount of time has passed, no one can make any further claims regarding an accident.

Items that affect this statute are:

  • The type of case being filed
  • The injuries incurred in the accident
  • If government vehicles were involved

Understanding how the deadlines apply to you is essential to filing claims or protecting yourself.

The Importance of an Attorney

There are many reasons why having a car accident attorney can be extremely helpful when facing the results of a car accident.

An Attorney:

  • Can represent you in court if this becomes necessary
  • Can guide you through the process of submitting reports and paperwork
  • Knows the state law and local laws that will affect you
  • Is familiar with how different items affect the statute of limitations
  • Can often protect your driving record
  • Will make sure that you are compensated for any wrongdoing on the part of others
  • And more…

If you are involved in an accident, no matter how minor it seems, consider hiring an attorney to help you through the process. After an accident, you are stressed, tired, and confused. Do not let others take advantage of you.

Being familiar with California state law and local laws can be complicated. Let an attorney help you during this difficult time.


Disclaimer: This site contains general information only. It is not intended to provide legal advice, nor does it substitute for the professional judgment of The CAPITAL Law Firm concerning the facts and the laws that apply in your individual case.


This is for advertisement only and should not be intended for legal advice. For legal advice, please call The CAPITAL Law Firm (310) 363-0403.

Available 24/7 • Hablamos Español