An estimated 16.6% of California motorists do not have car insurance. California ranks tenth in the United States for the percentage of uninsured drivers on the roads. (Insurance Research Council, Estimated Percentage of Uninsured Motorists).
To encourage drivers to carry insurance, there is the Personal Responsibility Act of 1996. Called California Prop 213 for short, the law limits the rights of uninsured motorists, drunk drivers and persons committing a felony to sue for non-economic damages when they are hurt in an accident.
Prop 213 is controversial. Our California car accident lawyers explain Prop 213 and how it may affect your accident claim.
Understanding California Prop 213
What is Prop 213?
Proposal 213 is a law passed by California voters. It says that a driver who is uninsured, intoxicated or committing a felony cannot recover non-economic damages from a motor vehicle accident. The prohibition applies even though the uninsured person is not at fault for the accident.
What is the law for Prop 213?
It says that a person may not recover non-economic losses for:
- Physical impairment
- Other nonpecuniary damages
if they fall into any category of persons listed by the law. The non-economic damages prohibition applies to anyone who is:
- A drunk driver in violation of California Code § 23152 or § 23153
- The owner of a vehicle in the accident that is not insured as required by California financial responsibility laws
- The operator of a vehicle who cannot show financial responsibility as required by California’s vehicle insurance laws
- In the commission of a felony at the time of the crash
How does Prop 213 work?
Usually, California uses a fault system to award compensation for motor vehicle accidents. The party responsible for the accident, by negligence or more serious conduct, pays the victims for their losses. However, Prop 213 works by limiting the rights of crash victims when the victim is in violation of the law themselves. If they don’t have car insurance, or if they were drunk driving or committing a felony at the time of the crash, an accident victim cannot claim non-economic compensation.
The victim can still recover something. They may still claim economic losses. Economic losses are strictly financial. Medical bills, lost income and property damage are common types of financial losses.
Pain, suffering, physical impairment and inconvenience typically comprise a significant part of compensation when a victim has moderate or severe injuries. However, these categories of compensation are blocked when Prop 213 applies.
Exceptions to California Prop 213
Are there any exceptions to California Prop 213?
Yes. There is an important exception in California’s Prop 213 law. If the victim is hurt by a drunk driver, then they may claim non-economic damages as well as other losses. For the exception to apply, the offender must be convicted under California drunk driving laws § 23152 or § 23153.
History of California Prop 213
When did Prop 213 pass?
California voters passed Prop 213 in 1996.
Is Proposition 213 a good law?
Those opposing Proposition 213 say that it prohibits accident victims from receiving justice for their injuries. They say that it punishes people without insurance for something that is completely unrelated to the causes of the accident.
Was Prop 213 challenged in court?
Yoshioka v. Los Angeles Superior Court, 58 Cal.App.4th 972 (1997), was a court case challenging the constitutionality of Prop 213. The petitioner was involved in a car accident. They did not have car insurance at the time. They were not at fault for the accident.
As the case proceeded to trial, the at-fault party moved to exclude evidence of general damages. The judge granted the request. The judge also allowed the party at fault to plead Prop 213 as an affirmative defense. The petitioner appealed.
Due process and equal protection of the law were the two grounds used to challenge Prop 213. The petitioner said it was not fair that they could not fully recover their losses. The court said that monetary awards truly never fully compensate a victim for what has happened. Monetary damages are an imperfect measure for personal loss. The court said that the injured party can still receive some compensation, but the state has a justifiable interest in the law as it encourages people to follow the state’s financial responsibility law and get car insurance.
Equal protection says that similarly situated people must be treated alike under the law. A law passes the equal protection test if it has a legitimate purpose and if the classification of people promotes the legitimate purpose. The court said that classifying uninsured people or drunk drivers as a group serves a state interest. The court said that they are all treated equally in that all members of that class are prohibited from seeking non-economic compensation for a motor vehicle crash.
Ultimately, the court upheld Prop 213. Litigants should be aware of the law and how it may impact a claim following a car accident.
What to know about Prop 213
If you are a car accident victim, it’s important to understand that Prop 213 may affect your case. If you are not at fault for the accident, know that Prop 213 may apply to limit the compensation you can receive if you fall into one of the categories named in the law. However, you may still deserve significant financial compensation for economic losses. If there are allegations of shared fault or a counterclaim, it’s important to know if you need to raise Prop 213 as a defense and when to raise the issue.
At Sargent Law Firm Injury Lawyers, we are an experienced law firm dedicated to helping injured people recover. Whatever your situation, we want to fight for the compensation you deserve. We understand Prop 213 and how it may impact your claim for compensation.
Contact us for a free initial case evaluation to see if you need a lawyer and how we can help. We can talk about Prop 213, how it may impact your case and how we can fight for your rights.
Call or message us now to talk about your case.