A number of our blog posts have touched upon the subject of prospective clients being injured by the actions of an uninsured motorist. This post will talk about individuals who are uninsured, that happen to get injured by an insured party in a motor vehicle accident.
Back in 1996, California voters passed Proposition 213. The purpose of the proposition: remedy an imbalance in the justice system that resulted in unfairness when an accident occurred between two motorists -- one insured and the other not. The law wanted to encourage insurance, and legal, compliance. So, it precluded uninsured motorists, and drunk drivers, from pursuing noneconomic damages in a lawsuit. Noneconomic damages include, pain and suffering, physical impairment, and disfigurement.
Prior to litigation, when there is a claim open with an insurance company, Proposition 213 can have a serious impact on negotiating a settlement. If a party is uninsured, but bringing a claim, the value of his or her damages are limited. Typically, adjusters will calculate noneconomic, or general damages, in their evaluations. But they will also calculate Proposition 213 if the claimant is uninsured -- they have an incentive to settle it for far less.
Initially, plaintiffs attempted to challenge the constitutionality of Proposition 213. The Equal Protection Clause, First Amendment, and Due Process Clause were all cited as grounds for invalidating Proposition 213. The claims all failed and Proposition 213 was upheld by the California Supreme Court.
Since 1996, the law has been expanded and interpreted broadly -- sometimes unjustly. Of course there are exceptions in place. For example, an uninsured employee driving an employers vehicle, which is not insured, can still recover if they are injured by a third party. A decedent's estate may also pursue general damages if the decedent was uninsured. Nevertheless, Proposition 213 is still applicable today, and important in evaluating a potential personal injury case.
The important take away: make sure you are insured! It is not only the law, it is also in your financial interest. And like our office has stated in other posts, you may as well add "uninsured / underinsured motorist coverage" and "med pay coverage." As always, we would be happy to speak with prospective clients to discuss your potential case in more depth.