auto accident policy limits in california

Getting into a car accident in California can leave you with mounting expenses and a lot of questions about insurance coverage. One critical aspect to understand is your insurance policy limits and whether it’s possible to claim compensation beyond these limits.


This blog aims to demystify car accident insurance policy limits, explore the potential for additional compensation, and highlight the factors and legal avenues that might justify such claims. We’ll also explore how a car accident attorney can play a pivotal role in helping victims secure the compensation they deserve.



Understanding Policy Limits in Car Accident Insurance

A policy limit is the maximum amount an insurance company will pay for a covered loss under a policy.


In the context of car insurance, this includes liability coverage, which is the amount the insurer will pay to cover damages for which you are responsible in an accident. California policy limits are typically divided into two categories:

Bodily Injury Liability

This covers medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering for the other party if you are at fault in an accident. It is usually expressed per person and per accident (e.g., $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident)

Property Damage Liability

This covers the cost of damage to the other party’s property, including vehicles, buildings, or other structures, resulting from an accident for which you are at fault.

What Do Auto Insurance Policy Limits Cover?

Auto accident policy limits in California generally cover:

  • Medical expenses for injuries sustained in the accident.
  • Rehabilitation costs.
  • Lost wages due to injury-related work absences.
  • Pain and suffering.
  • Property damage repairs or replacement.

California Policy Limits for Auto Accidents

In California, the minimum liability insurance requirements are governed by the California Insurance Code Section 11580.1b. The state mandates minimum coverage amounts as follows:

  • $15,000 for injury/death to one person.
  • $30,000 for injury/death to more than one person.
  • $5,000 for damage to property.

These minimum limits are often not enough to cover the total damages resulting from a serious accident. Auto injury victims may incur significant medical expenses, lost income, and other costs far exceeding these amounts.

Auto Accident Settlement: If Damages Exceed the Policy Limits, Can You Still File a Claim?

Yes, it is possible to claim compensation beyond the insurance coverage limits in certain circumstances. Here are some scenarios where accident settlements exceed the policy limits:

1. Personal Assets of the At-Fault Party

If the damages exceed the policy limits, the injured party can pursue a lawsuit against the at-fault driver for the remaining amount. This means that the at-fault driver’s personal assets could be used to cover the excess damages. However, this option is only viable if the at-fault driver has substantial assets.

2. Umbrella Policies

Some individuals carry umbrella insurance policies, which provide additional coverage beyond the limits of their standard auto insurance policy. These policies can provide an extra layer of financial protection and can be tapped into if the primary insurance limits are exceeded.

3. Multiple Insurance Policies

In some cases, there may be more than one insurance coverage policies that can be accessed. For example, if the at-fault driver was driving someone else’s car or a company car, both the driver’s personal insurance and the company’s automobile insurance might be liable for the damages.

4. Uninsured Motorist / Underinsured Motorist Coverage

If the at-fault driver’s insurance is insufficient to cover the damages, the injured party’s own insurance company may come into play if they have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. This type of coverage can pay for the excess damages up to the limits of the policy.

5. Product Liability Claims

If a defective vehicle or part contributed to the accident, the injured party might have a product liability claim against the manufacturer or seller of the defective product. This could provide another source of compensation beyond the at-fault driver’s insurance policy limits.

Factors That Justify Car Accident Settlements
that Exceed Policy Limits

Several factors can justify the pursuit of compensation beyond auto accident policy limits in California:

  • Severity of Injuries: Severe injuries that result in significant medical expenses, long-term rehabilitation, or permanent disability (and even wrongful death) often necessitate compensation beyond standard policy limits.
  • Long-Term Impact: If the accident results in long-term or permanent impairment affecting the victim’s ability to work or maintain their quality of life, additional compensation may be necessary.
  • Multiple Victims: Accidents involving multiple victims can quickly exceed policy limits, especially if each person requires extensive medical treatment.

How Bad Faith Claims Impact Compensation
Beyond Policy Limits

A bad faith claim arises when an insurance company does not honor its obligations under the insurance policy or engages in unfair practices. In this case, it may be liable for damages that exceed the original auto accident policy limits in California.


This can be particularly important in car accident cases where the damages are substantial. Here are several ways a bad faith claim can help you recover more compensation:

  • Compensatory Damages: Insurers found in bad faith must cover actual losses, including medical bills, property damage, and lost wages.
  • Consequential Damages: Losses indirectly caused by the insurer’s misconduct, like additional financial hardship from delayed payments, may also be recoverable.
  • Punitive Damages: In severe cases, courts may award damages to punish the insurer and deter future misconduct, potentially exceeding policy limits for substantial compensation.

How a Car Accident Attorney Can Help

how a car accident attorney can help

An experienced car accident lawyer in California can be invaluable in securing accident compensation beyond policy limits. Here are some ways an attorney can assist:

1. Assessing the Case

An attorney will evaluate the specifics of the accident, including the extent of damages and the available insurance coverage. They can determine whether pursuing additional compensation is warranted and feasible.

2. Negotiating with Insurance Companies

Insurance companies often aim to settle accident claims within policy limits to minimize their payouts. An experienced California car accident lawyer can negotiate with the insurers to seek a higher settlement that more accurately reflects the damages sustained.

3. Filing a Lawsuit

If negotiations with the insurance company are unsuccessful, an attorney can file a lawsuit against the at-fault party. This legal action can target the at-fault party’s personal assets or any other applicable insurance policies.

4. Exploring Additional Avenues for Compensation

An auto accident and injury lawyer can investigate other potential sources of compensation, such as the ones mentioned earlier. They can also help the victim understand and utilize their own uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage if applicable.

In court, a skilled personal injury attorney will present a compelling case to the judge and jury, aiming to secure a verdict that includes compensation beyond the policy limits. Their expertise in California law and evidence presentation is critical to achieving a favorable outcome. If the at-fault party refuses to settle, a lawyer’s help will be invaluable.

If Damages Exceed California Policy Limits,
Get Help From Our Skilled Car Accident Lawyers.
No Fees Until We Win.

Understanding auto accident policy limits in California and the potential for claiming compensation beyond these limits is crucial for victims. While policy limits provide a basic level of financial protection, severe accidents often result in damages that exceed these caps.


If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident and are facing expenses that exceed the policy limits, explore all your options for obtaining fair compensation.


Contact RTM Law Firm today to know how we can help you get the compensation you deserve. We don’t charge any fees until we win.




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