Empowering California Drivers

To Maintain Their Driving Privilege

What is the Procedure Followed in a Financial Responsibility Case?

Once the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) learns that the owner or driver of a motor vehicle may was involved in a reportable traffic accident when they did not have a proper form of Financial Responsibility in place, the DMV will initiate an investigation to determine if good cause exists to suspend that person’s driver license.   Here is how the process works:

The DMV Learns of the Incident:

The DMV will learn that a reportable traffic accident occurred and that one of the involved parties did not have proper auto insurance through:

  • The filing of an SR-1 “Report of Traffic Collision in California” form that alleges one of the involved parties was not insured.
  • The filing of a notice from an insurance company that an accident occurred and one of the involved parties was not insured.
  • The filing of a law enforcement report alleging that an accident has occurred and one of the parties was not insured.

The DMV Issues a Courtesy Notice:

The involved owner or driver of the motor vehicle will receive a “Courtesy Notice” from the DMV indicating they are suspected of being involved in a reportable traffic accident and that they did not possess a valid form of Financial Responsibility at the time.  Mistakes do happen, so this notice provides the owner/driver the opportunity to prove that they were insured at the time of the accident.  If they do not act within 10 days to provide such proof, the DMV will then issue an order to suspend the driver license.

The DMV issues an Order of Suspension:

Ten days after mailing the Courtesy Notice to the affected owner/driver, the DMV will determine if that person has replied and has proven that they did have a valid form of Financial Responsibility in place at the time of the accident.  If no such information has been received, the DMV will immediately issue an Order of Suspension which notifies the owner/driver that the department has initiated the process to suspend their driver license.  This notice mandates that the affected owner/driver contact their local Driver Safety Office to request a hearing within 14 days, or suffer the automatic suspension of their driver license.

Scheduling a Financial Responsibility Hearing:

Within 14 days of receiving the DMV’s Order of Suspension, the affected owner/operator; or his representative, just contact the local Driver Safety Office to request the setting of a hearing date and an order to “stay” or stop the suspension until the outcome of the hearing.  If the hearing is not requested in a timely manner, the DMV will automatically suspend the affected person’s privilege to drive.

Conducting a Financial Responsibility Hearing:

If the affected owner/driver has made a timely request for a Financial Responsibility Hearing, the DMV must grant the request.  The department must also provide the affected owner/driver copies of any evidence they intend to use at the hearing and must notify the affected owner/driver of any witnesses the department intends to call for testimony.

Preparing for a Financial Responsibility requires knowledge of the Vehicle Code, the Administrative Procedures Act and the Evidence Code.  Rarely do average Californians possess the skill or the knowledge necessary to handle such a hearing on their own so it is highly advisable to seek out a DMV Defense Expert to assist you.

The Financial Responsibility Hearing is run much like a mini-trial.  Evidence is introduced, objections are waged, witnesses testify and arguments are heard.  The assigned DMV Hearing Officer must make findings on the following questions:

  • Was the accused person the owner or driver of a motor vehicle involved in a reportable traffic accident where another person was injured or killed?
  • Was the accused person the owner or driver of a motor vehicle involved in a reportable traffic accident where any damages exceeded $750?
  • At the time of the reportable traffic accident, did the accused owner or driver have evidence of current Financial Responsibility?

If the Hearing Officer decides that such an accident occurred and the accused owner/driver did not have valid insurance, the driver license will be suspended.

What is the penalty for violating the Financial Responsibility Laws?

If a driver does not request a Financial Responsibility Hearing in a timely manner; or if they do request the hearing but lose, the penalties are identical.

  • The driver license is suspended for a period of one year, however, in some instances the driver may immediately qualify for a restricted driver license.
  • The owner/driver must file an SR-22 Form (Proof of Financial Responsibility) with the DMV and keep it in effect for three years.

In all instances, a person who holds a commercial driver license is not eligible for a restricted license and must sit out the entire year of suspension.

CONTACT INFO

California Drivers Advocates
7900 Limonite Ave., Suite G-308
Jurupa Valley, CA 92509

Phone: 877-961-4-DMV

Phone: 877-961-4368