Many clients come to us after a car accident only to hear some bad news – The value of their case is low because they didn’t have insurance.
In 1996, California voters approved Proposition 213. Since then, if you didn’t have valid insurance coverage at the time of your accident, you can’t recover “pain and suffering” for your accident.
There is no room for mistakes with Prop 213. Many clients come to me having meant to pay for their insurance coverage, but for whatever reason they have missed a payment. The day your insurance premium is late is the same day your coverage is suspended!
Of course, these potential clients did not cause their own accidents. Often they were minding their own business, and were rear-ended by another careless driver through no fault of their own. In these cases, your attorney can only cover what we call “special damages.” That basically means anything you can put a dollar value on, such as medical bills, lost wages, and damaged property.
Without the availability of pain and suffering, I often can’t pursue a Prop 213 case. This is because after paying back the doctors, and taking my attorney’s fees, my client would end up with little to no money in their pocket. The calculus changes if there is a major accident with bad injuries, so it is still best to ask a lawyer whether you should proceed.
The dirty truth is that Prop 213 only benefits insurance companies. As personal injury lawyers, we do not normally sue individuals, only their insurers. A person who causes an accident will still see a bump in their personal insurance premiums, so only the insurance carrier benefits from this law. RAND Corporation estimates that about 13% of all drivers in an accident are affected by Prop 213. Experts agree that across the board insurance premiums have hardly been affected by the law – however insurance companies have pocketed millions in profits that they have not passed on to their insureds.
Prop 213 has some other interesting twists to it related to alcohol. If you were convicted of DUI after your injury, you will be a Prop client even if you had valid insurance coverage! On the other hand, if you didn’t have insurance and the person who hit your car is convicted of DUI, these facts cancel out and your attorney can still recover for your pain and suffering.
The bottom line: you should stay sober and make sure your insurance coverage is valid if you are going to be on the road! In addition to protecting you if you are the cause of an accident, your insurance coverage will protect your right to recover for your pain and suffering.
Even if you have had an accident and you are afraid you might be subject to Prop 213, it’s still a great idea to consult an experience car accident attorney in Orange County to learn your options – especially if your accident involves a major impact and injuries, it is very possible that we can still help you.