This measure would limit the ability of certain people to sue to recover losses suffered in accidents.
Under existing law, someone who has suffered an injury in a car accident may sue the person, business, or government at fault for the injury in order to recover related losses. These losses can include both economic losses (such as lost wages, medical expenses, and property damage) and noneconomic losses (such as pain and suffering).
This measure would prohibit the recovery of noneconomic losses in certain car accidents. Specifically, an uninsured driver or a driver subsequently convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs ("drunk drivers") at the time of an accident could not sue someone at fault for the accident for noneconomic losses. (These drivers could still sue for economic losses.) If, however, an uninsured motorist is injured by a drunk driver in an accident, the uninsured motorist could still sue to recover noneconomic losses from the drunk driver.
Currently, in certain cases a person who is injured while breaking the law may sue on the basis of another person's negligence to recover any losses resulting from the injury. For example, a person convicted of a robbery who was injured because he or she slipped and fell while fleeing the scene of the crime can sue to recover losses resulting from the injury.
This measure prohibits a person convicted of a felony from suing to recover any losses suffered while committing the crime or fleeing from the crime scene if these losses resulted from another person's negligence. Convicted felons, however, would still be able to sue to recover losses for some injuries suffered while committing or fleeing a crime--for instance those resulting from the use of "excessive force" during an arrest.
Restricting the ability of people to sue for injury losses in the above situations would reduce the number of lawsuits handled by the courts. This would reduce annual court-related costs to state and local governments by an unknown but probably minor amount. These restrictions would also result in fewer lawsuits filed against state and local governments. Thus, there would be an unknown savings to state and local governments as a result of avoiding these lawsuits.
In addition, the restrictions placed on uninsured motorists and drunk drivers could result in somewhat lower costs, or "premiums," for auto insurance. Under current law, insurance companies doing business in California pay a tax of 2.35 percent of "gross premiums." This tax is called the gross premiums tax and its revenues are deposited in the state's General Fund. Any reduction in insurance premiums would also reduce gross premiums tax revenue to the state. We estimate that any revenue loss would probably be less than $5 million annually.
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