In 1996, voters in California overwhelmingly passed California Proposition 213, also known as the Limitations on Recovery to Felons, Uninsured Motorists, and Drunk Drivers Initiative. Over 76% of the voting public voted in favor of Prop 213.
In short, the act prohibits an uninsured driver from recovering from an at-fault person for pain and suffering (“non-economic damages”) caused in a motorcycle/automobile accident. What does this mean to you? If you are riding a motorcycle in the State of California while uninsured, and you get hit, you cannot recover for your pain and suffering. Your recovery will be limited to reimbursement for damage to your motorcycle and/or your medical bills, lost wages and future medical bills.
The bill was designed to persuade drivers to obtain motorcycle or automobile insurance. What it really does is punish innocent victims of motorcycle accidents who are injured through no fault of their own and benefit the insurance industry by reducing insurance company liability/responsibility for accidents caused by their insureds.
The precise text of Prop 213 is found in California Civil Code Section 3333.4 which reads as follows:
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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.
Prop 213 also bars others from recovering for their injuries, including: felons who were injured during the course of committing a crime and persons injured in accidents who were convicted of driving under the influence at the time of the accident. Prop 213 does not apply to passengers on motorcycles involved in accidents.
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In addition to the inherent unfairness of Prop 213, there continue to be unintended consequences of the act. For example, someone who is late paying their motorcycle insurance might be considered uninsured – depending on the terms of their policy. If that person got in an accident, an insurance company might deny compensation for pain and suffering.
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Prop 213 has been ruled by California Courts to extend to accidents not caused by a car/motorcycle per se. In Chude v. Jack in the Box, Inc, an uninsured female drove her car into a Jack in the Box drive through to buy a cup of coffee. The attendant negligently spilled coffee on Chude causing second degree burns. The Court of Appeals held that the damages arose out of the operation of a motor vehicle and thereby denied Chude’s demand for compensation for her pain and suffering.
The bottom line is that if you’re riding a motorcycle in California (or anywhere for that matter), it’s critical that you have motorcycle insurance.
If you have been injured in a California motorcycle accident, contact the motorcycle accident lawyers at Kass & Moses for a free consultation.