When Do You Need a Lawyer?
California has long required all car owners and drivers to carry liability insurance of at least $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident for bodily injury and $5,000 for property damage. Over time, the populace of the state was inflamed about the growing percentage of drivers and car owners who were uninsured.
In November, 1996, California voters passed an initiative, on the ballot as Proposition 213. The backers of the initiative submitted a package of bills which sought to greatly limit the possible recovery of damages from an car accident sought by a driver who was under the influence, a person who committed a felony while driving, or by an uninsured driver or owner of a car involved in the accident. This was proclaimed to be a way to restore a balance and fairness to automobile lawsuits, and a way to punish those drivers and car owners who did not take responsibility for their driving and did not comply with the mandatory insurance law.
Under California Civil Code section 3333.4, enacted by the passage of Proposition 213
- a driver who did not have effective coverage under a motor vehicle liability insurance policy at the time of the accident and
- an owner (a passenger in the vehicle) whose motor vehicle (car, motorcycle, truck) was not insured at the time of the accident
- cannot obtain compensation for pain, suffering, and disfigurement (“non-economic” damages) from the driver or owner responsible for the accident.
An uninsured driver or owner is still able to recover compensation for medical expenses, lost earnings, property damage, and other “out of pocket” or “economic” damages.
This restriction does not apply if the responsible driver was convicted of driving under the influence or was convicted of a felony committed at or about the time of the accident.
This restriction does not apply if the injured person is making a products liability claim for the existence of a dangerous defect in the car.
This restriction is not imposed against the wrongful death claims of the heirs and loved ones of a driver or owner who was killed as a result of the accident.
This restriction will not apply to a claim for Workers’ Compensation benefits for a work-related injury.
This restriction does apply in a lawsuit against a government entity for the condition of the roadway where the accident occurred.
What does that mean for you, if you are a driver or owner who was uninsured at the time you were injured in your accident?
- The amount of compensation you might recover in a claim — even if you are not at all responsible for the accident — is significantly less than what your claim would have been worth if you had insurance.
- Should you represent yourself against insurance adjusters, attorneys or both?
- Should you find a knowledgeable attorney who will represent you? It is a rare Prop. 213 case that makes economic sense to pursue. After attorney’s fees, costs and payment of medical expenses, there is usually very little money, if any, left for the innocently injured accident victim. Most attorneys do not want to take a case where there is very little actual benefit to the client.
It makes sense to hire an attorney on a Prop. 213 case is when there are very high medical expense to be paid and/or lost income to recover.