California Bill Would Increase Auto Insurance Minimum Established 55 Years Ago, Better Protect Accident Victims
In 1967, the average cost of a house was $14,250, a car was under $3,000, and the price per gallon of gas was 33 cents.
Fifty-five years ago, back when Lyndon Johnson was president of the United States, was also when California set the current mandatory insurance minimum, requiring auto and motorcycle drivers to carry $15,000 in coverage for a single injury or death, up to $30,000 per accident, and $5,000 for property damage. Today, only four states have the same or lower limits than California.
Many drivers are under the impression that carrying the current minimum today would make them whole after a crash. It does not. In fact, the average cost of an ambulance ride today is about $1,200, and the average emergency room visit is $3,300.
California Senate Bill 1107 has been introduced as a way to improve liability coverage for drivers and protect people who are injured in crashes. It would update the minimum to $30,000 for a single injury or death, $60,000 per accident, and $25,000 for property damage, bringing it in line with increased costs over the past half-century on everything including vehicle repairs, medical care and emergency services.
“Californians have been underinsured for too long and it is costing them dearly,” said Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa), who introduced the bill, in a statement. “My bill ensures crash victims get the financial support they need while covering those who might be liable for soaring medical and property damage costs. It modernizes our insurance laws, bringing our state in line with what the rest of the country deems the right amount of coverage.”
The bill was first introduced in February 2022 and has passed several hearings. It was referred to the Appropriations Committee in June 2022. It is supported by groups representing California consumers and seniors, including Consumer Attorneys of California, of which Chain | Cohn | Clark is a part. The changes, proponents argue, would cost the same per month as one coffee drink.
For many, a car accident can plunge them deep into debt, and worse. Take this real-life story from Capitol Weekly:
“… Consider the plight of Estella Magallanes of Azusa. Her car was struck by a driver who carried the bare minimum auto insurance coverage required by law. The impact of the crash knocked her car into a storefront, sending shattered glass shards into her neck and tongue. The other driver was at fault and was insured, but the liability insurance coverage maxed out at $15,000. That meant Estella was on the hook to pay for thousands more to buy a new car and cover her medical bills. $15,000 might have gone a good way in 1967, but certainly not in 2022.”
“Also consider the tragic story of young Carla of West Covina, a minor whose last name I will protect. Carla lost both parents in a car crash caused by a negligent driver. She lost the most important two people in her life and her means of support. Somehow Carla must chart a course for her future with a financial cushion of only $30,000 – the maximum she was able to receive for the wrongful death of both parents.”
All motorists need to be protected in the event of a crash, said Matt Clark, senior partner and attorney at Chain | Cohn | Clark in Bakersfield, Calif.
“It’s time to bring California’s mandatory auto insurance laws into the 21st century,” Clark said. “It’s not right or fair that motor vehicle crashes often leave the victim with debt, simply because a 55-year-old state law doesn’t even come close to covering the victim’s medical costs, loss of income, or vehicle repairs. It’s time to finally modernize this outdated law, and this bill brings us one step closer to making sure crash victims won’t have to pay the price for someone else’s negligence.”
If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Clark by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form, text, or chat with us at chainlaw.com.