So what happens when you're in a car accident in California, you're injured badly, it's the other driver's fault and you have no liability insurance? Back in 1996, Californians passed Proposition 213 which then became California Civil Code Section 3333.4 which states "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." What does this actually mean? Well, to give an extreme example, let's say that you're driving along and someone makes an illegal left turn in front of your car. You can't avoid the collision and the collision is clearly not your fault. You break 7 ribs.
Under normal circumstances, there is nothing that a doctor can do to help speed the healing of broken ribs. It just takes time. As a result, your medical bills for this nasty, excruciating, debilitantingly painful injury are minimal -- maybe $2,000-3,000. Yes, you are entitled to be reimbursed for your medical bills. If you have liability insurance, you'll also be entitled to be compensated for the pain and suffering that you experience as a result of the broken ribs -- several thousand dollars in excess of the $2,000-3,000 in medical bills.
However, if you have no liability insurance covering you for the operation of the vehicle that you were driving at the time of this accident, you get no money, zero compensation or your pain and suffering. Not a penny more than your reasonable medical bills. Period. End of story. (The only exception to this hard and fast rule is if the at-fault driver was convicted of driving under the influence pursuant to California Vehicle Code Section 23152 or 23153).
To add insult to injury, driving without insurance will subject you to having your car impounded, temporarily losing your driver's license and paying a hefty fine. See California Vehicle Code Section 16029 for further details.
Bottom line: If you're going to drive in California, get auto insurance.