In November of 1996 California legislatures proposed a measure to be put on the ballot entitled Proposition 213. In the field of California Tort Law this will forever be known as Prop 213. Prop 213 was voted on, approved by the voters, and became law, codified as California Civil Code section 3333.4. The purpose of Prop 213 was to prohibit the personal injury recovery of general damages, also known as pain and suffering, if any one of three circumstances exist.
Those three circumstances are as follows:
- The driver of the vehicle was convicted of driving under the influence. Thus, if you choose to get behind the wheel of a motorized vehicle while intoxicated, are involved in a collision that was not of your fault (i.e. you were driving the speed limit, entered the intersection on a green light, and were viciously t-boned by a driver who ran a red light) and get convicted of driving under the influence, you are not entitled to receive any compensation for pain and suffering for the injuries sustained.
- You were operating a vehicle without complying with the financial responsibility law, in other words, you were driving without insurance. Much like scenario #1, even if you had no fault in the collision, your injuries are severe, permanent, and debilitating, you cannot recovery anything for pain and suffering.
- You were an owner of a vehicle involved in a motor vehicle collision that was not insured at the time. Many cases involve a passenger in the vehicle who was also an owner of the vehicle. Example; husband and wife in vehicle, both owners, wife driving, husband still cannot recover for pain and suffering despite the fact he wasn’t driving simply due to the fact he was an owner of the vehicle at the time of the auto accident.
The only exception to Prop 213 under the law is if the driver who caused the auto accident was convicted of driving under the influence at the time of the auto accident. If that occurs, then your status as an insured driver becomes irrelevant. The only other way to avoid the applicability of Prop 213 is under scenario #3 above by challenge status as an owner of the vehicle. California law states that all incidents of ownership, including legal title, must be considered in determining ownership. Savnik v. Hall (1999) 74 Cal.App.4th 733. This court essentially reasoned that the purpose of Prop 213 was to limit personal injury recovery of non-economic damages to those that knowingly break the law and that unless someone knows they are an owner of a vehicle, it is not possible for them to knowingly break the law and thus not just to deny them non-economic damage.
The circumstances in which possible to challenge status as owner are few and far between. It is a far, far, far better plan to carry proper motor vehicle liability insurance so if in the event a crash does occur, one in which you were injured, you could recover for the pain and suffering of those injuries.