Though many people believe that an SR22 is an actual insurance policy, it is not. “SR" is an acronym for Safety Responsibility. An SR22 is a certificate that proves that you carry enough insurance coverage to satisfy a California state requirement based on a driving violation or judgment levied against you.
This legal certificate is filed and certified electronically by your insurance carrier.
The certificate verifies that the insurance carrier will report to the California DMV if your coverage lapses for any reason. The SR22 is an attachment, also known as a “rider” in the insurance industry. This rider is attached to or associated with a specific standard insurance policy, but extends the policy to verify financial responsibility and continued coverage to ensure the driver remains in compliance with the judgment.
Any of the conditions below may result in a judgment for the SR22 requirement:
- Conviction for driving Under the Influence (DUI)
- Excessive number of tickets
- Prior to reinstatement of a suspended driver’s license
- Driver’s license suspension for driving an uninsured vehicle
- Failure to show proof of insurance during a traffic stop
- Judgments that remain unsatisfied
- Child support payment default
- Presenting falsified insurance documents
- Reckless operation of a motor vehicle, “drag-racing,” engaging in a speed contest
- Manslaughter, involuntary or voluntary
There may be additional reasons for an SR22 requirement to be imposed. You can check the California DMV website or visit your local DMV office for a complete listing.
The minimum coverage requirements for a California SR22 are designated as follows:
$15,000 - Death and bodily injury coverage for one individual
$30,000 - Death and bodily injury coverage for two or more individuals
$5,000 - Damage to property
The insurance industry expresses these limits as “15/30/5.” These limits are the bare minimum required by law for a California SR22 insurance policy, however, many people will opt to obtain coverage beyond these limits. For instance, the $5,000 limit for property damage is quite low. Consider if you are found to be at fault in an accident with a $100,000 vehicle! Only $5,000 would cover your obligations to the owner of the vehicle, and you would personally be responsible for the remaining balance.
Additionally, if you get into an accident that damages non-vehicular property and you are deemed to be at fault, you are responsible for compensating the property owner for the damage. For example, if you damage a park bench, lamppost or some other property owned by the municipality, rest assured that the city will demand repayment for the property. If you have had the foresight to expand property damage coverage limits on your insurance policy, your policy will cover the costs up to the policy’s limits. Discuss your options for coverage limits when you set up or change your policy with your insurance carrier.
Unfortunately, the SR22 certificate itself is not costly, however the premium increase can be quite expensive; generally three to five times the rates of a standard insurance policy. This means that if you paid a premium $60 per month for standard insurance, you can expect to pay from $180 to $300 per month for your auto insurance when you have an SR22 requirement. You may also be charged an additional SR22 filing fee by your insurance carrier.
This is one of the most frequently asked questions regarding the California SR22 insurance requirement. The short answer is three years from the date you were granted your restricted driver’s license for a first offense — with a caveat. You must never let your insurance coverage lapse during the designated period. You may be required to maintain an SR22 certification for a longer time depending on the severity of the offense. For example, you might have to have an SR22 filing for a five to ten year period, if you are convicted of more than one DUI, or if you were deemed at fault in an accident that resulted in the injury or death of another party.
If you fail to pay your insurance premiums and your insurance is canceled as a result, the CA DMV will send a letter to inform you that your drivers’ license has been revoked. To get your license reinstated, you will need to pay your premiums up to date, and then your insurance carrier must re-file the SR22 with the DMV. Once your SR22 is re-filed, you must visit a local DMV office and pay a reinstatement fee to regain your driving privileges.
The California DMV has established the restricted licensing program for drivers who qualify. If your license is suspended, you may qualify to receive a restricted license. Qualification depends on your age, the nature of the offense, and your past driving record. Check with the California DMV to see if your situation qualifies you for this provisional license.
If your driver’s license has been suspended or you have been convicted of a DUI, and you are required to maintain an SR22 certification in the state of California, discuss your specific situation with a Breathe Easy Insurance agent. If you have questions beyond the scope of this list of frequently asked questions for California SR22 insurance, your Breathe Easy agent will answer your questions and provide you with a free quote for SR22 coverage.