California law says people can collect only limited damages in case of an accident if they don’t have auto insurance, so be sure to get liability insurance coverage. (Wikimedia Commons photo/William)
In California, if you don’t have automobile liability insurance you can collect only limited damages if you get in an accident, even if the other driver was negligent. No matter how much your pain and suffering, emotional distress and future damages, you can only collect on what the accident cost you, for example in medical bills and property damage.
Let’s say you’re driving safely and lawfully in every way except you don’t have insurance. You could, for example, be stopped at a stop sign and someone may rear-end you, causing severe whiplash. You can collect on auto damage and medical bills, but the intense, long-term pain and suffering that whiplash can cause? You can’t sue for it if you’re not covered by an insurance policy.
Not only is it the law to have auto insurance in California, it is one of the best things you can do to protect yourself legally and financially. In addition to allowing you to collect more if you ever need to bring a lawsuit, your own auto insurance also can pay some or all of your own medical bills and property damage. Plus if you’re insured, your insurance company will pay damages to other parties injured in a crash if you’re at fault. So you have protection for yourself in three ways when you are insured.
In 1996, California voters passed Proposition 2013, which denies non-economic damages to felons, drunken drivers and those without insurance. The law, which is in the California Civil Code, states in part:
“3333.4. (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 non-pecuniary damages if any of the following applies:
“(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.”
The law prohibits drunken drivers from obtaining non-economic damages even if they have insurance.
While attorneys have tried to overturn this proposition, it remains laws despite five separate judges ruling parts of the law unconstitutional.
An article on Findlaw.com states: “The above mentioned Superior Court rulings are only binding upon the parties involved in those lawsuits and are not binding in any other case filed in any jurisdiction in the State of California. The constitutionality of the statute will not be resolved until there has been a reported decision at the Appellate Court level.”
There is an exception to this law: If the driver who caused the accident was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, he is liable to pay non-economic damages to uninsured motorists.
What is Not Covered?
If you don’t have insurance, no matter how bad the other driver injured you, any of your future losses are not covered, including time off work or trips to the doctor.
Pain and suffering are not covered if you don’t have insurance. Say you have recurrent headaches because you banged your head in an accident. It’s not covered if you don’t have insurance. Attorneys can get insurance companies to pay for pain and suffering even if the defendant and his attorneys deny the plaintiff or injured party is suffering.
Another thing you can’t collect on is what the legal profession calls “loss of consortium.” Your injuries may make you unable to enjoy your spouse’s companionship or even intimate sexual relations. But if you’re not insured, that is an area where you can’t collect.
What is Covered?
You can still collect on reasonable and necessary medical expenses, automobile repair and income lost because of injuries.
California Insurance Coverages
The state requires every driver to have coverages of $15,000 in bodily injury and death per person, $30,0000 of total bodily damage and $5,000 for property damage. These are the minimum coverages provided by law, but you can buy policies that give you much more protection.
You can also get uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist coverage in minimum amounts of $30,000 per person and a total of $60,000 for bodily damage. Uninsured motorist coverage insures you get some compensation if another driver causes an accident but doesn’t have any insurance. Underinsured policies cover damages that the other driver’s policy isn’t enough to pay for.
Car accidents can cause broken bones, internal injuries, wreak havoc on a person’s ability to work or enjoy life and can even cause death. The minimum coverage of $15,000 per person won’t even come close to covering claims of even moderate severity.
If you’re in an Accident
Krasney Law firm attorneys in Inland Empire are experts in personal injury and auto accident law and can help you deal with insurance companies so you get the maximum compensation in your settlement. Or we can help drivers anywhere in California file a lawsuit or other legal action if the insurance company is treating you unfairly or trying to under-pay your claim.
Contact your auto-accident attorneys at Krasney Law, (909) 380-7200. We will charge you nothing for an initial consultation, and we may arrange payment on a contingency basis. That is, we don’t get paid unless you accept a settlement or we go to trial.