How Long Do I Need SR-22 Insurance in California?

by Jackie Lohrey

SR-22 insurance, also known as a certificate of financial responsibility, isn’t an insurance policy in the traditional sense. Instead, it serves as a state-mandated proof of liability insurance form. California driving laws require that high-risk drivers in three categories looking to reinstate driving privileges have an SR-22 on file with the Department of Motor Vehicles and maintain it for 3 to 4 years. The requirement applies even if you don’t own a vehicle.

Affected Drivers and the Filing Period

In defining a high-risk driver, California includes

  • Any driver cited for a major violation such as driving under the influence or reckless driving
  • An uninsured driver involved in a car accident, regardless of fault
  • Any driver who collects too many demerit points within a specific period: the cutoff is four demerit points in one year, six points within two years or eight points within three years

Although filing requirements can vary, most drivers need to keep an SR-22 on file for three years. However, the filing requirement extends to four years for an uninsured driver involved in an accident.

Types of SR-22 Certificates

The type of certificate you’re required to file depends on whether you own a vehicle. The three types of certificates are:

  • An owner SR-22 certificate that covers a driver who owns a vehicle
  • An operator SR-22 certificate that covers a driver who does not own a vehicle
  • A broad coverage SR-22 certificate that covers a driver who owns a vehicle and drives one or more vehicles that he doesn’t own

Insurance Requirements

California driving laws require that all drivers maintain 15/30/5 insurance. This ratio includes $15,000 per person for bodily injury, $30,000 per accident for bodily injury and $5,000 for property damage per accident.

How It Works

Not every insurance company offers SR-22 insurance. Those that do may or may not charge an annual fee. The insurer may send the certificate to the California DMV, or send you the form to file with the DMV.

Once the SR-22 is filed, an insurer must notify the California DMV if the policy lapses. If this happens, the DMV will suspend your driver’s license until you reinstate the policy.

About the Author

Based in Green Bay, Wisc., Jackie Lohrey has been writing professionally since 2009. In addition to writing web content and training manuals for small business clients and nonprofit organizations, including ERA Realtors and the Bay Area Humane Society, Lohrey also works as a finance data analyst for a global business outsourcing company.