What is Proposition 213?

In 1996, Californians voted Proposition 213 into law.  It it currently on the books as Civil Code 3333.3 and 3333.4.  It prevents people from recovering “General Damages” (AKA “Pain and Suffering” damages) from auto accidents when they are engaged in/fleeing from a felony, or (2) uninsured.

Full Text of Civil Code 3333.4

(a) Except as provided in subdivision (c), in any action to recover damages arising out of the operation or use of a motor vehicle, 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.

(b) Except as provided in subdivision (c), an insurer shall not be liable, directly or indirectly, under a policy of liability or uninsured motorist insurance to indemnify for non-economic losses of a person injured as described in subdivision (a).

(c) In the event a person described in paragraph (2) of subdivision (a) was injured by a motorist who at the time of the accident was operating his or her vehicle in violation of Section 23152 or 23153 of the Vehicle Code, and was convicted of that offense, the injured person shall not be barred from recovering non-economic losses to compensate for pain, suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, disfigurement, and other nonpecuniary damages.

What Happens If You Are Injured in a Car Accident in CA, and You Don’t Have Insurance?

Prop. 213 was supposedly designed to prevent criminals – fleeing felons and uninsured drivers – from being able to recover damages for “pain and suffering” when they are injured in an auto accident.  Unfortunately, the defense bar and the large insurance companies they serve often try to use it to deny coverage to innocent people, or people who had a momentary lapse in coverage.

If Prop. 213 applies to your case, you cannot recover money for “General” AKA “Pain and Suffering” damages from the crash.

What Are “Pain and Suffering” Damages?

When you are injured in a car crash, the at-fault party is responsible for compensating you for “Special Damages” and “General Damages”

  • “Special Damages” are things that have a specific value – things you can put a price tag on.  This includes medical bills, cost to repair your vehicle, and lost wages from work.
  • “General Damages” are also known as “Pain and Suffering” damages.  This includes things like pain, suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, disfigurement, etc.

Does Prop. 213 Affect “Special Damages”?

No:  Proposition 213 does NOT affect an injured person’s ability to recover for medical bills, lost wages, or damaged/broken property from an auto accident.

Are There Ways to Get Around Proposition 213?

YES, there are many way to avoid Prop 213 penalties.

Situations When Prop. 213 Does NOT Apply:

  1. Only Applies to Drivers/Owners of  Uninsured Vehicle – Prop. 213 is designed to punish people that violate the insurance laws of the state.  It does not apply to passengers, unless that passenger is also the owner of the uninsured car.  Even then, the owner can avoid Prop. 213 if the driver is insured. [Goodson v. Perfect Fit Enterprises, Inc. (1998) 67 Cal.App.4th 508]
  2. When The Defendant Was Convicted of a D.U.I. – Civil Code 3333.4 specifically exempts the application of Prop. 213 in cases where the defendant was (convicted of) driving under the influence.
  3. Show Some Other Negligence – Civil Code 3333.4 applies to “any action to recover damages arising out of the operation or use of a motor vehicle.”  Therefore, if the plaintiff can show that his harm was caused by some other form of negligence, Prop. 213 does not apply.
    1. Example: Product’s Liability (Dangerous/Defective Vehicle) –  [Allen v. Sully Miller Contracting (2002) 28 Cal.4th 222]
    2. Example:  Premises Liability (Dangerous/Defective Roadway) –  [Anaya v. Superior Court (2002) 96 Cal.App.4th 136]
  4. Does NOT Apply to Wrongful Death Heirs – Wrongful death heirs may still recover for the loss of “damages for loss of care, comfort, and society” etc. from their uninsured decedent. [Horwich v. Superior Court (1999) 21 Cal.4th 272]
  5. Does NOT Apply to Employer Owned Vehicles – Employees are not required to buy insurance for their employer’s vehicles.  That responsibility falls to the employer, so the innocent employee will not be punished for their employer’s failing.  [Vargas v. Athena Assurance Co. (2001) 95 Cal.App.4th 461].
  6. Show Some Unusual Circumstance – In my practice, I had a case where a plaintiff was operating an ATV on a private road.  The court agreed that this unusual circumstance did not require insurance, therefore Prop 213 did not apply.
  7. Make a Claim for Punitive Damages – The purpose of punitive damages it to punish, not to compensate.  Therefore, they appear to fall outside of Prop. 213.

 

This page is not legal advice, and there is no guarantee that this information is up to date.  If you need legal advice, you should contact a lawyer.

This page was created by and (c)  Noah Schwinghamer, a Sacramento Injury and Employment Lawyer.  If you would like to copy this information, please request permission.   Please feel free to link to this page.


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