Personal Injury, Probate, Employment, & Complex Litigation


Limitations On Car Accident Recoveries

In 1996 California passed Proposition 213 which was subsequently codified in part by California Civil Code section 3333.4. What this Code provision states is that if you are a driver of a vehicle involved in an accident, and you suffer injuries due to that accident, you are barred from recovering any non-economic damages related to the accident.

That is a lot of legal jargon, I know, and to fully understand it you have to know what economic damages are and what non-economic damages are.

Economic damages is the provable financial hardship you have suffered as a result of the accident. This would include any past and future medical bills, any past and future loss of earnings, damage to your vehicle, etc.

Non-economic damages would be the loss you suffered that isn’t quantifiable by an objective economic loss. So, for example, if you lost an arm as a result of an accident, the economic damages that would result from that injury would be loss of income, medical expenses, and the like. But your pain and suffering that resulted from losing your arm is non-economic damages.

Both economic and non-economic damages fall under the broad category of compensatory damages.

Still with me? Good. So, because of Civil Code section 3333.4 you would be prevented from receiving pain and suffering damage award from the trier of fact if you didn’t have car insurance. Now, this may not sound like a big deal to you, but it is. A significant portion of any damage award is for pain and suffering. If this is cut-off from you, then you are looking at a sizeable reduction in your award, and you may be stuck with an award that does not accurately compensate you for your economic loss depending on the facts of the case and what the trier of fact decides.

As a result, if you are driving a car, make sure you have car insurance.

Another thing to keep in mind, that if you are simply a passenger in the vehicle that was involved in an accident, then this does not apply to you. The reason is because the legislature wants to ensure all drivers comply with the car insurance requirement, so if you aren’t the driver, then you aren’t the category of person this law is concerned about.

Keep in mind, even if you were an uninsured driver involved in a car accident, there are a few limited exceptions to this code provision that may apply to you, so it is important to reach out to an attorney to know your rights.