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53 Years And Counting: Protect Against California's Low Auto Insurance Minimums

Posted by Renée Yvonne Gardner | Nov 30, 2020

November 30, 2020


California Has Had The Same Minimum Car Insurance Limits For The Last 53 Years

California is home to some of the most expensive cities in the entire country, like San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, San Diego, and Los Angeles [1]. Yet since 1967, California's minimum car insurance limits have not changed. From 1967 to 2020, the average annual inflation rate has been 3.88%.[2]  Despite the obvious need for change, the insurance industry does not want to increase the minimum auto insurance limits. Instead, it would rather enjoy its healthy profit margin, showing complete disregard for the fact that the cost of living increases with time. 


You Need $39,000 In The Year 2020 To Buy What $5,000 Got You In 1967


Using this conservative inflation rate of 3.88% per year, in 2020, a whopping $39,056.29 is what you need today, to enjoy the same buying power that $5,000 gave in 1967. Since 1967, the cost of cars, and medical care, and more, have gone through the roof.  As discussed below, California's car insurance minimums are in extreme need of updating, to keep up with the inflation rate and today's cost of living.


Assembly Bill 3311 Tried To Make A Change For The Better


In California, a recent piece of legislation tried to up these decades-old minimums. On February 21, 2020, Assemblypersons Timothy Grayson (Democrat-Concord) and Eloise Reyes (Democrat-San Bernardino) introduced Assembly Bill 3311, [3] to finally update the minimum limits and keep increasing them every 5 years:

Minimum Limits From 1967 To 2020:
• $15,000 for injury/death to one person
• $30,000 for injury/death to more than one person
• $5,000 for damage to property

Proposed New Minimum Limits Under AB 3311:
• $30,000 for injury/death to one person
• $60,000 for injury/death to more than one person
• $25,000 for damage to property

AB3311 was named: “An act to amend Sections 16430 and 16451 of the Vehicle Code, relating to vehicles.” If it passed, effective January 1, 2026, and every five years thereafter on January 1, the required minimum insurance limits would go up in an amount equal to any increase in the California Consumer Price Index, as determined by the California Department of Industrial Relations.  AB3311 was introduced in February 2020. It was referred to the committee on insurance in April 24.

Unlike California, Mississippi has the lowest cost of living of the 50 United States. [4]  Yet from 2006 to date, their minimum liability auto insurance requirements are: $25,000 per injury/death to one person, $50,000 per injury/death to more than one person, and $25,000 per accident for damage to property. [5]


Insurance Industry Lobbyists Exerted Intense Influence Over AB3311

The California State Legislature is bicameral, consisting of a lower house, the California State Assembly, which has 80 members; and the upper house, the California State Senate, which has 40 members. [6]

The insurance industry has nearly 40 government relations and lobbyists representing its interests in Sacramento. [7]  This means there is one lobbyist for each three legislators! The lobbyists fight every day for the insurance companies, and no one else. They sweet talk and wine and dine our legislators, making them offers they can't refuse. When the insurance lobby wields its convincing and powerful influence over the California Legislature, we Californians who suffer the consequences.


The Disappointing Demise Of AB3311

Raising the auto insurance minimum required limits, as proposed, would have been a starting point to helping accident victims receive compensation for more of the damages that they suffer in an accident.  A testament to the zealous advocacy of the insurance lobby, Assembly Bill 3311 died quietly in committee. Today, AB3311  was removed from committee, without further action, rendering it inactive and dead.


Protect Yourself Now Against The Real Danger Of California's Outdated Minimum Policy Limits

Accident victims often find out the hard way that there is not enough insurance to cover their damages, discovering that the responsible party only has a minimum policy of $15,000 per person/$30,000 per accident (regardless of how many people are in the accident). This lack of coverage frequently results in an accident victim not receiving adequate compensation for their medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering. Many times the $15,000 limit does not cover the cost of one California emergency room visit, essentially leaving the accident victim uncompensated for their loss. If the injured person only carries liability of $15,000, they have no safety net at all against the person with a $15,000 policy. But, there is something you can do to protect yourself from this risk.

All motorists in California must carry uninsured motorist insurance (UM for short) to the maximum limits they can afford. It doesn't cost all that much more to dramatically increase your auto insurance coverage and add significant UM limits to your policy.

UM can cover the difference between a person who has a minimum $15,000 liability policy, and UM the coverage you have in place on the date of the accident. For example, if you have a $50,000 uninsured motorist policy in place, and the other person has a $15,000 liability policy (liability is the insurance would cover your bodily injury claim), then your insurance company will provide you with $35,000 in underinsured motorist coverage, as if the person with the $15,000 policy actually had a $50,000 liability policy.


If you are the victim of a serious accident, please contact Gardner Law today at (408) 214-5555, to protect your rights and investigate what insurance may be available to cover your personal injury claim.






[6] "California Constitution Article IV § 3". California Office of Legislative Counsel


About the Author

Renée Yvonne Gardner

Gardner Law's attorney Renée Yvonne Gardner represents auto accident wrongful death cases, serious personal injuries from auto accidents, slip and falls and dog bites, and assists consumers with disputes (small claims court assistance $12,500 or less claims for goods or services).

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