Often, people are under the mistaken belief that their minimum coverage auto insurance policy covers them for everything. Too late, people realize that just isn’t so. A minimum liability policy is just that, something that covers you for a minimum of cost for any damage you cause.

In California, minimum limits required by law are $15,000 in bodily injury coverage for an individual claim, $30,000 for total claims in one accident, and $5,000 of property damage liability coverage. Low Cost Auto Program policies are 10/20/3. For now, we will focus on the property damage liability portion.

Property damage coverage can help pay for other drivers’ and property owners’ expenses after you’re found at fault in an accident. This includes repairing damaged cars or fixing any other property involved. It is usually a good idea to purchase limits higher than the minimum set. If your insurance policy only offers up to $5,000 of coverage and the amount of damage you cause exceeds that, you have to pay the difference out of pocket. Having a higher limit of liability coverage may help you avoid having to pay out of pocket after an at-fault accident.

What liability insurance doesn’t cover damage to your own vehicle and other property. Those costs will typically be paid for with comprehensive and collision insurance, which are optional. Those coverages will allow you to recover any costs incurred, minus any deductible, for repairing any damage you may have caused to your own property.

As always, it’s best to discuss your coverage needs with your insurance professional. Be sure there will be no surprises when it comes to time to file a claim for yourself, or someone else files a claim against your insurance policy.