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Written by: Benjamin Scott
| Read Time: 4 minutes

Riding a motorcycle in the Golden State is a great way to get around. Whether on a long ride or your daily commute. In 2020, California had the most motorcycle registrations of any state, with 785,424.

Of course, like any other vehicle transportation, riding a motorcycle is not without risk and anyone who owns or rides a motorcycle in California is required to follow all applicable laws and carry insurance. Carrying insurance will not prevent an accident, but it can protect you from significant financial hardship. 

If you or a loved one is in a motorcycle accident, it’s important to understand California’s motorcycle insurance laws. At Wells Call Injury Lawyers, our California personal injury lawyers have been serving the needs of injury victims for over 40 years.

We’re happy to provide guidance and insight into the legal process. We can also help ensure you are getting a fair insurance settlement and the compensation you need to heal and move forward. 

To get started, please contact us right away.

California Motorcycle Insurance Requirements

Just like cars require insurance, so do motorcycles. California is an “at-fault” insurance state, which means that the person or party who is responsible for causing the accident is also liable for damages.

All parties having insurance protects everyone. If one party fails to carry the legally required minimums, anyone they hit and cause damage to is left in a precarious and unenviable position. 

Therefore, California’s minimum motorcycle insurance requirements include the following amounts:

  • $15,000 for bodily injury or death of one person;
  • $30,000 for bodily injury or death incurred by multiple people involved in an accident; and 
  • $5,000 for all property damage caused by the collision.

It is important to understand that minimum insurance requirements are just as conveyed: the minimum. A policy that covers no more than the minimum may not compensate for all damages caused by the liable driver.

Therefore, if you are liable and cause an accident resulting in high losses for the other party and your insurance does not cover all the losses—you will be personally responsible for paying the additional losses.

Optional Motorcycle Insurance Coverage

Here are some of the other options to consider when purchasing motorcycle insurance or evaluating your current policy:

  • Comprehensive coverage. Not all damage is collision-related. Comprehensive insurance also covers damage in circumstances like weather-related incidents or theft.  
  • Medical payments. Medical expenses resulting from a collision can be significant. This type of coverage specifically addresses those expenses. 
  • Rental car reimbursement. After an accident, you likely still need transportation. This type of insurance covers a rental vehicle while you are waiting for your motorcycle to be repaired or replaced. 
  • Loan/lease payoff (gap coverage). If you still owe on a loan or lease for the motorcycle, this coverage will pay the difference between that and the bike’s cash value. 
  • Roadside assistance. If you have roadside assistance on your policy and need your motorcycle towed after an accident, your insurer will send a tow truck. 

Being involved in a motorcycle accident with someone who has no insurance can be very scary because they will have to come up with the funds to pay for your injuries and property damage out-of-pocket. If that person does not have the resources, you could be out of luck.

Therefore, many people choose to also purchase uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance to cover these costs if they arise.

Custom-Built Motorcycle Insurance Laws

Motorcycles come in all shapes and sizes, some of which may not be standard. Failing to disclose modifications can void a standard insurance policy. There are two different categories that most insurers use to define motorcycle modifications.

Changes to a Motorcycle’s Performance or Handling

Mechanical upgrades like system changes and custom add-ons like a turbo or nitrous oxide kit could change the way the bike performs. These are things that increase power or change the way the motorcycle handles on the road. 

Cosmetic or Safety Accessories

Accessories are modifications that are generally unrelated to the function of your motorcycle. This includes anything you add to your bike that was not on it when it left the factory, like bike bar ends and chain guards.

They increase protection but do not change how the bike handles. Decals, grips, new seats, and similar additions are generally not considered functional for insurance purposes. 

You Must Always Carry Proof of Insurance 

California motorcycle insurance laws require that every driver has proof of insurance with them any time they are driving. Fines for failing to provide proof of insurance can be as high as $500 for repeat offenses.

Additionally, a police officer may choose to impound your motorcycle for not having proof of insurance, in which case you are also responsible for any fees associated with the transport and release of the vehicle.

Many insurance companies now have apps that allow you to carry digital copies of your insurance. Under California law, this is an acceptable way to present proof of insurance. 

Knowingly providing an officer with false proof of motorcycle insurance can result in a fine of up to $750, driver’s license suspension, or imprisonment for up to 30 days.

In some cases, drivers may be permitted to drive to and from work so they can maintain employment while their license is suspended. The better option is just to make sure your policy is current. 

Do You Have to Report a Motorcycle Accident?

If you are involved in a motorcycle accident that causes injury or more than $750 in property damage, you must report the accident to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or your driver’s license could be suspended.

The California Highway Patrol (CHP) or police will not file the report on your behalf, but your insurance agent, broker, or legal representative may. 

The report must be made within 10 days on the Report of Traffic Accidents Occurring in California (SR1). The SR1 is also available on the DMV website at and at any DMV field office or CHP office.

Contact an Experienced California Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Today

The experienced motorcycle accident attorneys at Wells Call understand that motorcycle insurance laws can be confusing, especially if you are riding through multiple states. If you have questions or would like to speak with a California motorcycle lawyer, please contact us today.

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