California Proposition 213 (incorporated into California Civil Code 3333) denies non-economic damages to uninsured drivers who suffer injury in an auto accident that was not their fault. Other sections of the law deny damages to intoxicated drivers and certain felons. Many people believe that this law is unfair to uninsured motorists.
Economic Damages vs. Non-Economic Damages
Three types of damages (financial compensation) are available under California law:
- Economic damages such as medical bills, lost earnings, and other tangible losses. You can also recover for property damage, such as damage to your car.
- Non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, mental anguish, diminished quality of life, emotional distress, etc.
- Punitive damages (designed to punish the defendant for outrageous conduct). Courts only occasionally award punitive damages, even to victims who win economic and non-economic damages.
In many personal injury settlements and verdicts, non-economic damages are the largest component of damages. These “pain and suffering” damages often amount to three to five times the amount of compensation awarded for medical bills.
Proposition 213 in More Detail
Proposition 213 passed on November 6, 1996, by the popular vote of the California electorate. It contains two sections:
- California Civil Code Section 3333.3 denies all damages (both economic and non-economic) to people whose injuries arose from their commission of a felony or their immediate flight therefrom (while driving a bank robbery getaway car, for example).
- California Civil Code Section 3333.4 denies non-economic damages to uninsured drivers, and to people who were driving while intoxicated at the time of the accident and were later convicted for it.
For understandable reasons, the felon section and the DUI section are not particularly controversial. In fact, it was the popularity of these sections that facilitated the passage of the bill in the first place.
How Proposition 213 Affects Uninsured Drivers
As long as you were not committing a felony, in flight from committing a felony, or driving while intoxicated at the time of the accident, Proposition 213 works like this:
- If the vehicle you were driving at the time of the accident was properly insured, Proposition 213 does not apply to you; you can recover non-economic damages.
- If you were a passenger or a pedestrian at the time of the accident, Proposition 213 does not apply to you either.
- If you were driving your car without insurance at the time of the accident, Proposition 213 applies to you. You cannot recover non-economic damages, even if the accident wasn’t your fault unless an exception applies (see below). You can recover economic damages.
True, it is against the law in California to drive without proper insurance. Nevertheless, Proposition 213 can deny you non-economic damages even if you were not driving. Courts have applied it, for example, when the injured party was sitting in the driver’s seat of a parked (but uninsured) car with the engine shut off.
Exceptions to the Law
Courts have carved out three exceptions to the applicability of Proposition 213 to mitigate some of its harsher results. Proposition 213 does not limit your damages if:
- You were driving your employer’s uninsured vehicle,
- The accident occurred on private property (in a private driveway, for example), where auto insurance is not a legal requirement;
- You had proper insurance on your own car, but you were driving a car that you borrowed from an uninsured driver. In other words, you must be driving your own uninsured vehicle to lose non-economic damages under Proposition 213.
The primary effect of Proposition 213 is simple. Insurance companies have saved hundreds of millions of dollars at the expense of uninsured drivers who suffered an injury through someone else’s misconduct.
The Benefits of Hiring a California Personal Injury Attorney
If you suffered an injury in an auto accident, you might have a personal injury claim. If you are worried about losing compensation under Proposition 13, it is not a good idea to represent yourself. Contact a lawyer today for a free consultation to discuss your claim.
Contact Our Personal Injury Law Firm in Los Angeles, CA
If you were injured in an accident in Los Angeles, CA or you lost a loved one and you need legal assistance, please contact us to schedule a free consultation. One of our Los Angeles personal injury lawyers at M&Y Personal Injury Lawyers will get in touch with you soon.