If you were uninsured at the time of a car or motorcycle accident, California law severely limits the amount and types of monetary relief available to you, even if the other driver was totally at fault for the collision that caused your injuries. Proposition 213, or Prop 213, which was passed by voters in 1996, created two (2) new statutes that were enacted into the California Civil Code. The first statute, Civil Code Section 3333.3, bars recovery of any monetary relief if a person’s injuries are caused in part by the person’s own commission of a felony and the person is convicted of the felony. The second statute, Civil Code Section 3333.4, bars recovery of an “non-economic” damages relating to a vehicle collision if the person was an uninsured driver, the owner of the uninsured vehicle, or if they were convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs during the accident. Prop 213 relates to both car and motorcycle accidents.
Prop 213 Limits Recovery for Uninsured Drivers and Owners, or DUI Cases
Under Civil Code Section 3333.4 (which will be hereafter referred to as Prop 213), both uninsured drivers and owners of automobiles (and potentially to their spouses) involved in a car accident may not recover non-economic damages, which are losses for pain and suffering, inconvenience, loss of companionship, disfigurement, and other types of losses that are not based on loss of money. Also, a person who is found to be guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs may not recover non-economic damages. If Prop 213 applies to your case, the statute will completely bar you from recovering any non-economic damages. These rules apply with equal force to motorcyclists who are uninsured and involved in a motorcycle accident.
The term “damages” refers to a loss that you have suffered and for which the law provides a right to financial recovery. The term “non-economic” refers damages that are not based on loss of money, as opposed to “economic” damages, which are based on a loss of money. For example, your right to obtain a financial recovery for the pain and suffering that you are experiencing as a result of your injuries would be characterized as a type of non-economic damage. In contrast, your right to obtain a financial recovery for your medical bills and lost wages because your injuries prevented you from being able to work are economic damages. Prop 213 does not limit your ability to recover economic damages.
Spouses of Uninsured Drivers
If you were involved in an accident with a car that is owned solely by your husband or wife, and your spouse did not have automobile insurance for the vehicle, then you may have a very difficult time recovering economic damages. Insurance companies will typically take the position that Prop 213 applies to you as the husband or wife of the vehicle owner pursuant to California community property law. This assumes that the vehicle was purchased during marriage and with community property funds. If the insurance company takes this position, they will offer you nothing as far as non-economic damages. Based on the facts and circumstances of your case, an experienced personal injury attorney will either recommend that you take the case to trial and litigate the Prop 213 issue, or concede to the application of Prop 213 if it indisputably applies to your case.
You Will Need an Experienced Attorney
If you were an uninsured driver or the owner of an uninsured car or motorcycle that was involved in an accident, or if you were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and are convicted of a DUI violation, you should expect to have a stiff opposition to any claim for the recovery of non-economic damages. You will need the help of an experienced personal injury attorney who has handled Prop 213 cases before. With vigorous legal representation by just such an attorney, you still may be able to obtain a partial recovery for both your economic and non-economic damages. Also, an experienced personal injury lawyer may be able to obtain full payment for all of your medical bills while settling your medical bills at a fraction of the total amount, resulting in some significant excess funds that could be paid to you.