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The term “California SR22″ refers to California DMV form number SR22 (or SR-22).
It is a legal document (see sample below of a paper one) submitted by an insurance company to the DMV stating that you have insurance. These days the insurance company submits most SR22s electronically but it is still a good idea to have a paper one. This insurance form is used by the DMV to track insurance on your license, not your car. Normally the DMV tracks your insurance through your car registration. It is a California State Law that all cars registered in California carry a minimum amount of liability insurance to pay the other guy if you hit them and you are at fault. The insurance ID card that you keep in your car shows the insurance information and the vehicle identification number and description of your car. The insurance follows the car.
However with an SR22 the DMV is tracking insurance against your driver license. The SR22 is usually required by the DMV if your license is suspended for something serious like a Drunk Driving (DUI) or an Accident Without Insurance or Negligent Operator or other major DMV offense.
SAMPLE SR 22 FORM
If the DMV is requiring that you obtain an SR22 it means that your license is or soon will be suspended and you cannot get your license back until you get the SR22. There may be other requirements to reinstate your license, too, like completing Alcohol Awareness classes or paying fines. The person needing the SR22 buys insurance from a company that will issue the SR22 (not all companies will).
The SR22 form is a legal document from the insurance company to the DMV, swearing that you have insurance and promising the DMV that if you let your insurance cancel, the insurance company will then send a notice (form SR26 ) to the DMV telling them that your insurance is canceled so that the DMV can, then, re-suspend your license. See? It’s all very bureaucratically complex and employs lots of paper-pushers who make money off the system. Perfect.
The short answer to “Do I Need One?” is “If you don’t know what it is, you probably don’t.” Then again, if you have recently been notified that you need one by the DMV but didn’t understand the notice, then you can assume your are in some hot water with the DMV and your license is probably suspended or soon will be.
Normally the requirement to maintain the SR22 lasts three years. If at any time you let the insurance lapse, the insurance company will notify the DMV that you no longer have insurance and the DMV will suspend your license until you get the insurance and SR22 once again.
“What if I don’t have a car but I still need my license, how do I get insurance?”
Non-Owned Auto Insurance or Non-Owners Insurance is a form of insurance that can be purchased to supply your SR22 to meet the DMV requirement if you don’t own a vehicle. It is just what it says: It is for people who don’t own a car. It does NOT cover you while driving your car if you own one. “Non-owner” means for folks who do not own a car. There are usually a lot of restrictions to Non-Owner policies so it is generally safe to assume that you are getting the policy for the SR22, to satisfy the DMV requirement for your license. Don’t count on it to provide insurance coverage. There are far more circumstances under which it will NOT provide coverage than it will. Non-Owner policies are generally cheaper than regular car owner policies. Non-Owner policies are tricky and you should consult an insurance person, not a salesman, to get an explanation.