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Proposition 213 and California Car Accidents

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How does Proposition 213 Affect You

Proposition 213 is a law enacted in California back in 1996, that has far ranging effects on California car accidents. This law has affected many clients of our San Diego car accident law firm.

The main body of the law says, if you are driving a car without proper insurance, you are limited to economic damages only if someone hits you and causes you injuries/bodily harm. Economic damages are those that you can actually count. California Civil Code Section 3333.4(a).

“a person shall not recover non-economic losses to compensate for pain, suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, disfigurement, and other nonpecuniary damages if any of the following applies: (1) The injured person was at the time of the accident operating the vehicle in violation of Section 23152 or 23153 of the Vehicle Code, and was convicted of that offense. (2) The injured person was the owner of a vehicle involved in the accident and the vehicle was not insured as required by the financial responsibility laws of this state. (3) The injured person was the operator of a vehicle involved in the accident and the operator can not establish his or her financial responsibility as required by the financial responsibility laws of this state.”

Medical bills, lost income from missing work, prescription co-pays, etc. Non-economic damages are monies paid for pain, suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, disfigurement, and other similar damages.

Normally, if you are in an accident caused by someone else, you are entitled to recover all damages you suffer. This includes actual medical bills, future medical bills, lost wages because you had to stay home from work, loss of earning ability (your injuries prevent you from a higher paying job), pain, suffering, inconvenience, etc. But if you were driving a vehicle which carried no proper insurance, and you yourself did not have proper coverage, you may be limited by Proposition 213.

What is proper insurance?

Proper insurance is a liability insurance policy valid on the day of the accident. The minimum insurance requirements in California is:

  • $15,000 for injury/death to one person.
  • $30,000 for injury/death to more than one person.
  • $5,000 for damage to property. California Vehicle Code Section 16056(a). “No policy or bond shall be effective under Section 16054 unless issued by an insurance company or surety company admitted to do business in this state by the Insurance Commissioner, except as provided in subdivision (b) of this section, nor unless the policy or bond is subject, if the accident has resulted in bodily injury or death, to a limit, exclusive of interest and costs, of not less than fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000) because of bodily injury to or death of one person in any one accident and, subject to that limit for one person, to a limit of not less than thirty thousand dollars ($30,000) because of bodily injury to or death of two or more persons in any one accident, and, if the accident has resulted in injury to, or destruction of property, to a limit of not less than five thousand dollars ($5,000) because of injury to or destruction of property of others in any one accident.

Please note that these are the minimum insurance policy limits requirements in California. You can certainly purchase more insurance, which is usually a good idea.

Exceptions to Proposition 213

If you were a passenger, in a car that did not have proper insurance, than you are not covered by this Proposition and may recover your damages like normal. Also, if the person at fault was under the influence of alcohol or drugs than Proposition 213 might not apply. The law does not apply to minors, or those making claims for wrongful death.

Proposition 213 is very tricky to navigate. Be sure to consult with a personal injury attorney right away.

Proposition 213 and Felonies

If you were in the process of committing a felony, or driving away from one, than Proposition 213 may apply to you and your recovery chances are limited.

Always have valid auto insurance when driving in California

Just another reason to always carry proper, valid auto insurance when operating a vehicle. If you don’t, you limit your recovery to economic damages only, which means you lose out on the chance to recover for pain and suffering. Often times, the pain and suffering damage amount is the highest.

There is no set formula for determining pain and suffering damages, but you will see values from 1x the economic damages all the way up to 10x-20x or more! That means, if your medical bills were $4,000, you give up at least $4,000 (1x), up to $40,000 (10x), and more!

Proposition 213 is UNFAIR!

Your pain, and suffering are real. Proposition 213 was passed to specifically limit your recovery in an accident caused by someone else.

Unfair right? Right! But the law is the law. The only way to avoid it’s teeth is to carry valid insurance. And that’s a good idea anyway. So don’t start the engine until you have insurance.

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