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California Motorcycle Insurance Law

Updated on November 2, 2010

California Motorcycle Insurance Requirements

The Golden State may diverge from other states' motorcycle laws in that it allows lane-splitting, but when it comes to motorcycle insurance, California bike owners are in the same boat as residents in most other states:  California motorcycle liability insurance coverage is the law.

That said, there are state-specific details that California motorcyclists should consider, including:

  • Minimum Liability Guidelines
  • Cost of Health Care and Recommended Liability
  • California's Uninsured and Underinsured Drivers

Let's look at each topic in more detail.

California Motorcycle Insurance Law - Liability Coverage

When insuring a motorcycle in California, the first thing you need to know is the state minimum guidelines for liability coverage. This is the absolute bare minimum coverage you must carry on any bike for it to be registered and ridden on the street.

Like all states, California has established minimum liability coverage amounts for bodily injury and for damage to property:

  1. Minimum Liability for Bodily Injury of a Single Person in an Accident: $15,000
  2. Minimum Liability for Bodily Injury of 2+ Persons (All) in an Accident:  $30,000
  3. Minimum Liability for Property Damage:  $5,000

Liability and The Cost of Medical Care

If you want the very cheapest coverage possible, you could opt to insure your bike only to the bare minimum liability requirements - no higher. HOWEVER, most insurance agents and industry experts argue against this practice.


Because cost of medical care has significantly outpaced CA Dept. of Insurance guidelines. When the cost of a single cut on the hand can top $3,000 (ER visit, complex stitches, Tetanus shot) and surgical treatment of a broken leg costs $17,000 to $35,000, fifteen grand worth of personal injury liability coverage does not seem like very much...because it's not.

Plus, you must keep in mind that you could be liable not only for a person's medical care, but wages lost as a result of injury, court fees, and lots of other costs.

For this reason, most insurance experts will advise you to insure your bike with 3X the state-mandated motorcycle liability coverage:  $45,000 for a single person injuries, $90,000 for all injuries per accident.

Protecting Yourself from Uninsured Motorists

According to a study published in Insurance Journal, the Insurance Research Council (IRC) estimates that 25% of California drivers are uninsured. Basically, that means if you are involved in an accident, there is a 1 in 4 chance that the other driver does not have liability insurance to cover damage to your bike, not to mention injuries you suffer.

Don't let the negligence of another driver ruin your financial well-being. You can get Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM/UIM) to protect you from such a scenario. It's really a smart option, given that in many motorcycle-related accidents, the automobile driver is found to be at fault.

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