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Proposition 213 and How It Limits Recovery

Posted by Justin R. Wilmers | May 23, 2022 | 1 Comment

Ah, Proposition 213, the draconian result of millions of dollars spent by insurance companies and their lobbyists. So what is it and how will it affect your motor vehicle accident case? 

What is Proposition 213?

Passed in 1996, Proposition 213 is now codified in California as Civil Code section 3333.3 and 3333.4. In short, Proposition 213 limits the amount certain Californians can recover in a car accident - even when the other driver was solely at fault for causing the accident. The relevant portion of Proposition 213 states in part, 

"(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).

In other words, if a person is injured in a car accident at the fault of another and the injured person does not maintain adequate automobile insurance, the injured driver is only permitted to recover economic damages and cannot recover non-economic damages whatsoever. 

Economic v. Non-Economic Damages

Damages in a lawsuit typically have one purpose - to make the injured whole and place them in as close to a position in life as the injury never occurred. In car accident lawsuits, damages are traditionally broken down into two categories - economic and non-economic. Economic damages include direct financial costs resulting from the accident - think, medical bills, lost wages due to missed work, and property damage. Though insurance companies like to believe these are the only damages that matter, non-economic damages are paramount to an injured persons recovery. Non-economic damages encompass the damages that are not directly linked to financial expenses - i.e. pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement, emotional distress, etc.

Thus, depending on the applicability of Proposition 213, a Californian innocently injured in a car accident may be completely precluded from recovering an entire category of damages which severely limits their ability to be made whole.

Proposition 213 - A Step-By-Step Explanation

If you are injured in a car accident, ask yourself the following questions:

(1) Was the vehicle you were in at the time of the accident insured? If yes, Proposition 213 does not apply.If no, see (2)

(2) Were you a passenger in the vehicle at the time of the accident? If yes, Proposition 213 does not apply. If no, see (3). 

(3) If you were the driver of the uninsured vehicle at the time of the accident, Proposition 213 applies unless:

(a) The vehicle you were driving was your employer's uninsured vehicle; or

(b) The accident occurred on private property; or 

(c) The vehicle was borrowed and the driver had insurance on another vehicle. 


It is crucial for every Californian to maintain valid automobile insurance or they may be unfairly limited in being made whole after an accident even if they were completely innocent regarding the accident. At the end of the day, even if Proposition 213 does apply, a skilled attorney from Miller Wilmers, APC can assist you in obtaining every penny of recovery you are entitled to after a car accident. CONTACT US TODAY if you have been injured in a car accident and would like to discuss your options. 

About the Author

Justin R. Wilmers

Justin R. Wilmers is the co-founder of Miller Wilmers, APC and former collegiate ice hockey national champion.


Kristina Reply

Posted Jun 09, 2022 at 19:46:22

Great job Justin! Very informative and useful. You and Caleb are about to kill the game! Keep it up!

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