Can Driving Without Car Insurance Prevent You From Recovering Damages Even When You’re Not At Fault?

Updated: Dec 26, 2022

Under California’s Proposition 213, the failure to carry the minimum state mandated liability insurance will prevent an injured driver in a vehicle accident from recovering non-economic damages – even if the accident was the fault of the other driver.

California’s Minimum Liability Insurance

Liability insurance is designed to pay for injuries you cause in an accident to the other driver. Property damage insurance pays for the cost of repair, replacing a vehicle or other personal property. California law requires every driver to carry the following minimum liability and property insurance:

  • $15,000 for injury or death caused to one person,
  • $30,000 for injury or death per accident, and
  • $5,000 for property damage insurance per accident.

It is important to note that having comprehensive or collision coverage does not meet California’s mandated liability insurance requirement.

Penalty for Driving Without Liability Insurance

The consequences of not having liability insurance are dire. First, it is illegal to drive without car insurance in California and you will receive a $500 ticket for doing so. Second, under California law you may not recover damages for pain, suffering, inconvenience, disfigurement, loss of quality of life, and other non-monetary damages. However, you may still recover your medical and property damages.

So assume that a driver runs a red light and hits your car. In addition to your physical injuries and property damage you also experience emotional distress and anxiety – commonly referred to as pain and suffering. If you do not carry the minimum liability insurance mandated under California law, you will be unable to recover any damages for your emotional pain and suffering. Your recovery will be limited to paying for your medical expenses and repairing your car. Pain and suffering can often be substantial in a vehicle accident, thus the inability to be able to recover it could be devastating for your case.

It is important to note that you will still be able to recover damages to your car, lost wages due to your inability to work, future loss of earnings as a result of the collision, and medical bills which you incurred as a result of the accident.

Exceptions to Prop 213

The are some notable exceptions to California’s regulation requiring liability insurance:

  • If the accident was caused by a driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you may be able to recover for pain and suffering
  • Passengers in the vehicle without liability insurance may be able to recover for pain and suffering damages, while the driver cannot
  • The vehicle without insurance is owned by the employer
  • The car accident occurred on a private property
  • The owner of the car did not have insurance, but the driver who had borrowed the vehicle did have insurance on a different car
  • The accident was caused by a dangerous or defective road condition, such potholes or missing traffic signals
  • Wrongful death actions brought by the survivors may be able to recover pain and suffering

If you have been involved in a car accident in California, consult with an attorney as soon as possible to determine what you can do in order to protect your rights.

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