In a personal injury case, the general concept is if you are involved in an accident and are not at fault. The other person is responsible for your “Special Damages” which includes medical bills and wage loss as well as pain and suffering which are referred to “General Damages.” Receiving General Damages for your pain and suffering is very important because otherwise if you only receive a settlement for your lost wages or medical bills. Once the medical providers are paid back for their services, you would end up with very little to show for the weeks, months, or years of pain you endured due to someone else’s negligence. Therefore generally, when you receive a settlement, the bulk of the compensation that goes in our pocket is the amount of the settlement meant to compensate you for your pain and suffering.
However, if you are not covered by active motor vehicle insurance at the time of the car accident, you are NOT entitled to general damages for your pain and suffering which can drastically reduce your final personal injury award. This is because of Proposition 213.(year enacted) This law states that a driver of a vehicle who was injured in an accident by another driver who was not covered by insurance is only entitled to special damages. This law was enacted in order to deter and “punish” those drivers on the road with no insurance coverage.
Therefore, it is extremely important to maintain a minimum of liability insurance coverage at all times and to prevent lapses in coverage. Otherwise, even if you were at a complete stop at a red light and someone rear ends you, but you have no insurance at the time of the accident. You are only entitled to special damages.
It is important to note that Prop 213 only applies to the driver of the vehicle at the time of the accident and not to any passengers in the car. Therefore, if you are a passenger in a vehicle where the driver does not have current motor vehicle insurance, you are still entitled to both special damages and general damages.
If you have any questions, have been involved in an accident, or would like to speak with an attorney. Please contact Gustavo Magana at (408)430-0411.