Every driver in the state of California is required to prove financial responsibility in order to operate a vehicle. Most drivers simply purchase an auto insurance policy and carry a proof of insurance card in their vehicle in the event they are ever stopped by a police officer or involved in an accident. Certain drivers, however, are required to provide proof to the state that they have and are maintaining their financial responsibility in order to keep their driving privileges and it must be kept current in order to prevent driver’s license suspension.
What is California SR22 Insurance?
An SR22 is actually a rider to your auto insurance policy, indicating proof of financial responsibility. It is issued when required by the state, typically for those drivers who have been convicted of certain driving related offenses. Your insurance carrier must submit this form to the state for you, and it must be kept current for the mandated period, which according to the Department of Motor Vehicles (www.dmv.ca.gov) is typically three years.
Reasons for SR22 Insurance
People who have been convicted of a vehicular-related crime are most often those that will be required to carry SR22 insurance. These crimes include, but are not limited to:
Driving under the influence
Driving without insurance or while under-insured
Driving on a suspended license
Accumulating excessive points on your driver’s license
Obtaining The Required Coverage
If you are notified by the state that you must submit an SR22, you should first speak with your current insurance agent to see if your insurance company will issue the form. Not all insurance providers are willing to do so. Even if your current insurer will file the paperwork, it will most likely result in a significant increase in your insurance premiums, as you are now classified as a high-risk driver. Because insurance companies rate the factors that determine your premiums differently, it is a good idea to get quotes from several different companies. You will need to do this as quickly as possible, as you will have a deadline for getting this form to the DMV. If you are unable to obtain the required coverage from any company, your agent can help you apply to the California Automobile Assigned Risk Plan (CAARP).
Failure to Obtain or Maintain
According to the California DMV, failure to either obtain or properly maintain SR22 insurance for the full three years will result in automatic suspension of your driver’s license. You will not be able to renew your license if it expires while suspended. If you are caught driving on a suspended license, you will be subject to immediate arrest and potential criminal charges.
Relocating With Your Current Insurance Policy
Relocating to another state will not relieve you of the need to carry an SR22 or it’s equivalent. Your new state may or may not require you to file, but California will require that you continue to provide proof that you are carrying at least the minimum coverage required by law, which is:
$15,000 bodily injury per person per incident
$30,000 bodily injury for all injured per incident
$5,000 property damage per incident
The same is true if you move from another state into California while under an SR22 filing requirement. You may not need to file for a new SR22, but you will need to ensure that you are maintaining the minimum insurance coverage required by your old state and that you are filing the necessary paperwork with that state.
Being classified as a high risk driver carries significant financial penalties, can cause a sharp decline in credit, and failure to comply with those rules can result in the loss of driving privileges and even incarceration. It is important that you obtain an SR22 as soon as possible after receiving notification and that you continue to maintain your policy throughout the required time period. Once that requirement has expired, you will be able to return to normal insurance coverage at much lower premiums.