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According to the Insurance Research Council (IRC), approximately one in every eight drivers is uninsured. If you’ve ever been in an accident with one of these drivers, you know the effects of this reality all too well. This is not a new problem. In fact, automotive insurance has been mandatory in most states for many years now. All but one of the states in the United States (New Hampshire) require minimal amounts of coverage for its drivers. Despite this fact, many choose to drive illegally for a variety of reasons.
Most of the time, uninsured drivers claim they simply can’t afford the proper coverage. Regardless, they feel they must operate their vehicles in order to get to work, school, and other locations. This can have a huge financial impact on the drivers who abide by the law by properly insuring their vehicles. For instance, if an uninsured driver happens to hit someone who is insured, the latter will usually end up taking the brunt of the burden. They will likely have to take the uninsured driver to court in order to get any kind of compensation for the accident. Unfortunately, however, if the driver is uninsured because of financial hardship, the plaintiff will have a difficult time getting any money from them at all.
In addition, a person without insurance could sue the person with insurance if they were liable. As a result of so many insured drivers understandably complaining about this issue, California lawmakers attempted to amend the existing laws. California Proposition 213 is one such amendment.
What is Prop 213?
Prop 213 was passed by California voters in 1996. Its purpose was to further define the minimal requirements for car insurance in the state, and the original intent was to limit the rights of “uninsured motorists, drunk drivers, and felons to sue and recover damages from law-abiding citizens.” In other words, Prop 213 can be seen as a way to punish drivers who do not take responsibility for their driving by not obeying the laws. It is also intended to be a measure to restore justice to people who do obey the law.
California law requires drivers to have a minimum amount of auto coverage, including at least $5,000 for property damage, and $15,000 for bodily injury liability coverage per person (or $30,000 for more than one person). In addition to these requirements, the rights of drivers who do not have car insurance will be greatly diminished with the inclusion of Prop 213.
The bill strictly limits the uninsured driver’s right to sue for damages in a car accident, even if it was not their fault. In addition, if a person is committing a felony while driving the vehicle, then they also lose their right to sue the other driver.
Prop 213 California Exemptions
Though Prop 213 is covers a wide range of situations, there are still exemptions that you should be aware of. First, an uninsured driver will still be able to recover compensation for things like property damage, lost earnings, economic damages, and medical expenses. In addition, the restrictions will not apply if the person identified as the responsible driver was also convicted of a felony being committed while driving or under the influence.
There are a few other situations in which Prop 213 does not apply. For example, it doesn’t apply if the driver was driving an employer’s uninsured vehicle, or if the accident happened on private property. It also doesn’t apply to a driver who was driving a borrowed uninsured car, yet actually carried insurance on his or her own vehicle.
It should also be noted that the restrictions presented in Prop 213 do not affect a person who is declaring an injury due to a product liability claim. The restriction also cannot be used to stop a wrongful death claim from either a loved one or an heir. Prop 213 does not prevent workers’ compensation requests either.
Shortcomings of California Proposition 213
Because of the strict limitations of Prop 213, many people with potential claims are denied due process. In other words, their cases are not even allowed to be tried in a court of law. The reasoning is that there’s no reason to give every uninsured driver a hearing “because uninsured motorists that choose to drive can easily avoid the penalty of not being entitled to non-economic damages…”
While this may be a good ruling in many cases, there are others that unavoidably fall through the system. One such case occurred when an uninsured driver tried to sue a county transportation department after its bus hit the door of his parked car, which he was getting out of. He received the bare minimum compensation, but his suit for further damages was automatically denied because of his lack of insurance—even though he was not driving his car when the accident happened.
Cases such as this have raised many questions as to the intent of the proposition. Many feel that such instances should be reviewed on a case by case basis, and that every plaintiff deserves due process.
Protecting Yourself and Your Vehicle
The best way to protect yourself is to carry the appropriate amount of automobile insurance required by your state. Don’t think you can avoid accidents just by being a good driver, as these risks seldom pay off. In fact, there are approximately six million car accidents in the United States every single year, and more than ninety people die as a result every day.
Many of these drivers who are uninsured are shocked to find out that many of their expenses aren’t covered due to Prop 213, and they are even more surprised to learn that they can’t even sue to recover damages.
How Prop 213 Affected Insurance Rates
When Prop 213 was implemented, California residents and state officials hoped it would help reduce insurance rates. For more than 10 years, automobile insurance has been on the rise. Most policy-makers attribute this to the growing number of lawsuits resulting from car accidents. These lawsuits have pushed insurance companies to the limit with sky-high claims of both economic and non-economic losses. There were previously no limits set on how much a victim could request for less immediately tangible impacts, such as emotional damages. This resulted in millions of dollars of claims, leaving insurance companies with no choice but to raise their rates.
The limitations for such claims proposed in Prop 213 was expected to serve as assurance for insurance companies that they wouldn’t have to pay out as much in damages. This, in turn, would allow them to lower their rates for consumers. However, this change has been gradual, resulting in roughly just a five percent drop in premiums on average.
Know Your Rights in Regard to Accidents and Prop 213
Knowing your rights is crucial when it comes to securing what is rightfully yours. Every moment you wait for professional clarification after a car accident, you are putting this freedom on the line. If you are on the receiving end of Proposition 213, then you are not entitled to certain reimbursements for pain and suffering, or general damages. Unfortunately, this is true even if the accident was not your fault. This can result in some fairly large losses, especially if your injuries were severe.
If you are the victim in a Prop 213 case, or need to know how Prop 213 might otherwise affect an accident you were in, expert advice is just a call away: we offer free consultations for personal injury cases and can help you understand your legal footing. Contact us today – with over $1 Billion recovered in more than 10,000 cases, Avrek Law is here to help!