If you have been in an automobile collision that was not your fault, and you were driving without car insurance at the time of the accident, there is a law in California that will prevent you from getting what would be the full value of your claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance had you been insured at the time of the collision. In this article, we discuss Prop 213, and how it can affect the injured victim of an automobile collision.
In 1996, California voters approved Proposition 213, also known as the Limitations on Recovery to Felons, Uninsured Motorists, and Drunk Drivers Initiative. This law prohibits recovery of anything beyond special damages for victims injured by the negligence of another driver if either (1) the victim was uninsured at the time of the accident; or (2) the victim was subsequently convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the accident.
“Special Damages” vs. “General Damages”
Special damages refers to economic injury suffered as the result of an accident. These injuries typically consist of medical costs as the result of the accident and loss of earnings (missing work) as the result of the injury suffered in the accident.
General damages, on the other hand, refer to non-economic loss as the result of the accident. Here, this usually involves what is commonly referred to as “pain and suffering”, which can and almost always is a large portion of a victim’s settlement or verdict stemming from an automobile collision.
What does this mean for me?
Although special damages such as medical expenses and loss of earnings are a part of your claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance, general damages for pain and suffering are typically the bulk of a claim when it is settled or in the event it goes to a jury for a verdict. If you were driving without insurance at the time of the accident, or were convicted of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident, you will not be able to recover general damages such as pain and suffering. Typically you will only be able to recover your medical expenses and your loss of earnings.
Why don’t the attorneys I’ve contacted seem to want to take my case?
If you have a Prop 213 claim, another problem you may encounter is finding an attorney to take your case. This isn’t because the attorney doesn’t care about you or your injury. Rather, it is because of the typical fee arrangement with personal injury cases. These attorneys operate on what are known as “contingency fees”, and they will be paid only a percentage of the money you actually recover–usually one-third of your settlement amount. When there are no general damages available in a claim, this drastically reduces the amount that the attorney will be able to recover for you, and therefore reduces the amount of their contingency fee.
However, there are certain experienced attorneys here in the Los Angeles area that will still take your case if the medical bills and loss of earnings claim is large.
Are their any exceptions to Prop 213?
Although we recommend that you always carry auto insurance, there are certain exceptions that apply to the strict laws under Prop 213.
*If you were the passenger in the car that was being driven without insurance, Prop 213 does not apply and you are still entitled to the full value of your claim for both special and general damages.
*If you were operating your employer’s automobile and the employer was not insured, Prop 213 does not apply.
*If the accident occurred on private property, Prop 213 does not apply.
*If the owner of the vehicle was not insured, but the driver who borrowed the vehicle was insured, Prop 213 does not apply.
*If you have no insurance but the at fault driver was determined to be under the influence of alcohol, Prop 213 does not apply.
It is important to find an experienced attorney that knows the law and will fight to get you every penny of what you are entitled, even if that recovery is only for medical expenses and loss of earnings under Prop 213.
For over 30 years, the Law Offices of Vann H. Slatter have been negotiating with insurance companies to get their clients the compensation they deserve. If you or someone you know has been injured as the result of another’s actions, please call us today for your free consultation at (310) 444-3010 or toll-free at (888) 293-0404.