Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Attorney Blog
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When it comes to auto insurance policies, too many Florida motorists purchase only the bare minimum required, so as to keep their monthly premiums low. A quarter of Florida drivers don’t have any insurance at all. bicycle6

The trouble with this is two-fold. First, if you are involved in a crash with someone who is uninsured or underinsured, you will not be able to collect from them or the insurer the amount necessary to compensate you for your losses. And if you also have limited insurance – or no UM/UIM coverage – it may be extremely difficult to collect damages.

The good news is that while drivers aren’t required to carry UM/UIM coverage, insurance companies have to get a written waiver from drivers in order to drop it from the policy. Most drivers don’t do this, and that means most have UM/UIM coverage.

This coverage can be used in the event you are struck by a hit-and-run driver who is never identified or by a driver who has no insurance or not nearly enough insurance. It can also be used in the event you are struck by a car while walking or riding a bicycle.

If the UM/UIM coverage is stacked, Palm Beach car accident victims can receive a higher payment than they would otherwise because the policy will allow for broader, higher coverage in many cases. However, insureds need to read their policies carefully because there could be language in it that bars stacked coverage – and Florida courts have upheld these policies so long as the language is clear.

In the recent case of Midwestern Indem. Co. v. Brooks, a bicyclist struck by a vehicle in Missouri appealed trial court’s decision to dismiss her request to stack her UIM insurance coverage. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled the policy language was clear, and thus the policy as written was valid.

According to court records, plaintiff was riding her bicycle on a public road in September 2011 when she was struck by a negligent motor vehicle driver. (He later died of unrelated causes.)

Cyclist and her husband filed a lawsuit against driver’s estate, and soon settled for his insurance policy limit of $50,000. They retained the right to seek UIM coverage from her own auto insurance company. Even though she was on a bicycle, UM/UIM coverage can still be secured. Her single UIM policy covered multiple vehicles, and indicated the UIM bodily injury limits were $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident. The couple had five vehicles insured – for which they paid five UIM premiums. They sought to recover $500,000 from their insurance company through stacking.

However, insurer countered by paying plaintiff $100,000, indicating that was the per-person limit for a single application of the policy’s UIM coverage.

The insurer then sought a judicial declaration that the UIM coverage limits for multiple vehicles don’t stack to multiply the per-person limit.

The court granted summary judgment in the insurer’s favor, indicating the plain language of the policy made it “quite clear” that intra-policy stacking is barred, and the per-person maximum for any single accident is $100,000.

Had that provision not been included – or not been clear – it’s possible plaintiff could have received as much as $500,000 from her insurer under the circumstances.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Midwestern Indem. Co. v. Brooks, March 2, 2015, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

More Blog Entries:

Report: Older Drivers Are Among the Safest, Although With Higher Injury Risk, Feb. 26, 2015, Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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A number of recent bicycle deaths underscore the unfortunate truth here in Florida: That this is the most lethal place in the country for cyclists, and that South Florida in particular is especially dangerous. bicyclists1

One recent case occurred in Danie Beach earlier this month, when a 46-year-old cyclist was struck and killed around 3 a.m. The driver who hit him fled the scene, leaving behind the vehicle’s fog light cover. Emergency crews arrived and pronounced the rider dead at the scene.

The driver was on-the-run until a man in Hollywood contacted authorities after seeing a news report on the case, and notifying them of his neighbor’s vehicle, which was under a tarp in the back yard. Authorities determined the vehicle matched the description of the one involved in the crash, and damage to the windshield and passenger side – plus the missing fog light cover – confirmed these suspicions.

The car was being rented to a 26-year-old, who was arrested on charges of leaving the scene of a fatal accident and evidence tampering.

In another recent local bicycle fatality case, a widow in Miami is suing the 21-year-old driver who allegedly struck her husband and another man on Rickenbacker Causeway. Also named in the suit is the suspect’s father, who owned the vehicle he was driving. Decedent shared two daughters with his wife, who says their lives have been a struggle in his absence. Her husband had been bicycling with a friend when the pair were struck by a car that drifted into the bicycle lane. Police allege the driver had been out drinking at a club on Miami Beach earlier in the evening.

The driver fled the scene, but reportedly returned 20 minutes later, where he claimed responsibility. Authorities say he appeared intoxicated and was crying hysterically at the scene. He would later say he was changing a song on his iPhone and looked away from the road momentarily. That’s when the crash happened.

The criminal trial is set for May, but the family’s wrongful death lawsuit seeks compensation for the immense loss they suffered when their husband/father was killed.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in 2012, 726 cyclists were killed and nearly 50,000 injured in collisions with motor vehicles. That figure represents a 6 percent increase from what we saw in 2011.

In Florida, the problem is particularly bad. A recent report by a South Florida news outlet indicated there were 120 people killed while riding bicycles in the sunshine state last year alone.

Broward County ranked No. 2 in the state for number of bicycle accidents and fatalities in 2014 (852 crashes, 9 fatalities). Miami ranked No. 1, with 985 bicycle crashes last year and 15 deaths.

The report dispelled a number of misconceptions many people have about bicycle accidents and fatalities in Florida. Among those issues addressed:

  • The most common offending driver wasn’t elderly, but more likely in their early 20s or mid-40s;
  • In the majority of fatal crashes, it was the motor vehicle driver – not the cyclist – who was to blame;
  • While some pickup truck drivers are road bullies, the most common vehicle involved in bicycle-car accidents were compact cars;
  • The fine for a moving violation resulting in the death of a motorist is just $1,000, plus court costs.

Our compassionate, experienced legal team is dedicating to fighting for the rights of victims and families.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Wrongful death suit filed by widow of bicyclist killed on Rickenbacker Causeway, Feb. 27, 2015, By Amanda Batchelor, WPLG Local 10

More Blog Entries:

Hilyer v. Fortier – $550k Teen Car Accident Injury Judgment Reversed, March 10, 2015, Broward Bicycle Accident Lawyer Blog

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Plaintiffs in a teen car accident injury case will have to prepare for trial, after the Alabama Supreme Court reversed a default judgment against defendant. loggingtruck1

In most cases, default judgments are not preferred in injury cases. Whereas a summary judgment may be granted prior to trial as a matter of law, default judgments are granted typically when a defendant(s) fails to timely respond to a complaint or appear in court.

Default judgments are often overturned if a defendant can show good cause why he or she did not respond/appear in court. In the case of Hilyer v. Fortier, the issue came down to a misunderstanding between the defendant and two insurance agents – each of whom though the other was handling the claim and civil defense in the case.

According to court records, a teen was seriously injured in a car accident with a logging truck driven by defendant as the truck was being backed into defendant’s private driveway. It was night. It was dark. The truck was reportedly taking up both lanes of traffic on the rural road as he maneuvered the vehicle into his driveway.

However, defendant insisted he had his hazard lights flashing. There was also, he contends, a reflective strip that ran the length of the truck. A street light was just on the other side of the truck.

When he saw plaintiff’s vehicle approaching, he reportedly began honking the horn and flashing his headlights. However, the teen driver did not stop or even apparently slow down before striking the logging truck.

The teen, who was driving with three other youths in the car, was seriously injured. (The other passengers were not a party to the case.)

The teen’s mother, on behalf of her daughter, filed a lawsuit against defendant alleging negligence by violating state traffic laws and failing to adequately warn approaching passengers.

The crash happened in October 2013. The following month, plaintiff filed a lawsuit against defendant, and he was served within a few days. However, defendant never responded. Two months later, plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment. Defendant did not appear in court at the hearing, and judge granted default judgment to plaintiff.

However, soon after defendant filed a motion to set aside default judgment. In making this request, he asserted, per the “Kirtland Analysis,” he had a meritorious defense, plaintiff would not be unfairly prejudiced if the default judgment were reversed and finally, it was not his own wrongful conduct that had resulted in the default judgment being issued.

On the first point, he argued he had provided adequate warning and further, plaintiff was contributorily negligent because, as his expert witness opined, someone traveling the speed limit of 35 mph would have seen the truck and had ample time to stop. The fact that she did not even slow down, he asserts, suggests she was distracted.

He stated plaintiff would not be unduly prejudiced by reversing default judgment because the lawsuit had only been filed a few months earlier.

Lastly, he said he believed the insurance company was providing for his defense in the case and that they would notify him of the need to appear or respond. Insurance agents backed him on this point, with one agent noting he believed the other was handling the claim. A misunderstanding within the company led to the oversight.

Thus, the court reversed the default judgment and remanded the case back for trial.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Hilyer v. Fortier, Feb. 20, 2015, Alabama Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

Report: Older Drivers are Among the Safest, Although With Higher Injury Risk, Feb. 26, 2015, Boynton Beach Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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It was a horrific scene on I-75 northbound, on Florida’s east coast, near Winter Haven. That’s where authorities say a 24-year-old woman behind the wheel of a sport utility vehicle carrying nine children – ages 6 months to 10 years – plus one other adult, veered off the road, became airborne, rolled over numerous times and struck several trees.crack

A 2-year-old boy was killed after he was ejected from the vehicle. The other children also were ejected, and suffered injuries ranging from minor to serious. The 6-month-old is in serious condition, as is the other adult passenger, 44.

While the adult passenger wore her seat belt, authorities say none of the children wore seat belts or were properly belted in with size-appropriate restraints. There was one car seat in the vehicle, however authorities say it was not in use at the time of the crash.

Additionally the driver – mother of five of those children – is alleged to have been drunk at the time of the crash.

The driver, who was also injured, is now facing charges of DUI manslaughter, DUI causing injury, nine counts of DUI causing injury and child neglect.

While losing a child is likely the worst punishment any parent can receive, criminal penalties for these offenses are severe, and could lead to life imprisonment.

In many ways, this case would be much simpler from a civil litigation perspective if it was not the mother/aunt of these children behind the wheel.

It is likely medical expenses for the driver’s children would be covered under the mother’s insurance policy.

As far as the other children are concerned, their mother was the passenger. The passenger and driver were sisters. The passenger and her children could file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver and her insurance company for damages.

It’s always tough when injured persons are faced with the possibility of filing a lawsuit against a loved one. This is especially true in cases when a person hasn’t so clearly crossed the line. People often drive with relatives, and sometimes those drivers may be impaired, distracted or just make a mistake behind the wheel. What’s important to remember is that usually, these claims are not personal. They are against the insurance company, and it’s not as if victims are seeking to hurt their relatives or loved ones. The goal is to ensure the victims’ medical bills and other expenses will be covered.

Often, that may not even take filing a lawsuit. With the help of a lawyer, sometimes a claim can be filed and a just settlement reached before it ever gets to that point. But having solid legal representation can help victims determine all possible avenues, and to approach them in the most sensitive way possible.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Woman charged with DUI after child killed on I-75, March 1, 2015, By Kim Kuizon, FOX 13 News

More Blog Entries:

Villaneuva v. RS&H Inc. – Negligent Roadway Construction Claim Weighed, Feb. 15, 2015, Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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There is an erroneous stereotype that holds old drivers are bad drivers.carcrash9

The reality, however, is quite the opposite. A new report issued by the Insurance Institute for Traffic Safety indicates drivers over the age of 65, when compared to other age groups, are less likely to text and drive, more likely wear to their seat belts and rarely drink and drive.

That makes them among the safest drivers on the road. However, they are more likely to be killed if involved in a crash. The reasons for that are nuanced and individual circumstances often have much to do with it. It’s worth analyzing though, particularly as we consider that within the next decade, 25 percent of all drivers in the U.S. will be 65 or older.

Elder safety advocates note that not only are people living longer, they are healthier, more mobile and we can expect to see the number of aging drivers increase steadily in the coming years. That means we need to have a better understanding of the challenges they face, the benefits they pose and how we can best protect them and others who share the road.

In the next few months, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is kicking off one of the biggest interdisciplinary studies on aging drivers every conducted in the U.S. A collaborative effort with five universities across the country, the study is going to track 3,000 older motorists (between the ages of 65 and 79) over the course of five years.

The foundation is investing $12 million for the unprecedented project in an effort to better grasp the transportation needs of older Americans.

It’s the most recent phase of the organizations Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers (LongROAD) project. Some of the risk factors researchers will explore include:

  • Deteriorating vision and hearing
  • Prescription drug use
  • Decreased strength and physical mobility

The five study sites are in New York, Michigan, Maryland, Colorado and California. Those sites will begin recruiting drivers, whose vehicles will be outfitted with devices that will allow study authors to assess driving patterns in real time. The data will include information on where and when seniors drive, what kind of maneuvers they make, how fast or slow they travel and what kinds of traffic accidents they are most likely to be involved in. Those who participate will agree to undergo annual medical exams that will weigh cognitive and physical functions.

One of the goals of the study is to get a better sense of when it may be time for drivers to retire the keys. Right now, there isn’t much information on the relationship between driving safety and old age. Many family members and doctors tend to rely largely on anecdotal evidence when considering whether to urge a loved one or patient to limit or stop driving.

Another important aspect is determining how certain technologies can benefit aging drivers. Things like crash warning signals, navigation systems and cameras can all potentially help protect older drivers – but to what extent? This is key because the reason older drivers are more likely to die in a crash is because their bodies are more fragile. They need to be better shielded.

Additionally, it will be important to weigh the impact of certain medications on driving ability.

Researchers say they want to help seniors remain mobile for longer periods of time. In the U.S., mobility means independence, and that’s something seniors both want and deserve.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

AAA invests $12 million in study of older drivers’ needs, Jan. 20, 2015, By Randi Belisomo, Reuters

More Blog Entries:

Smith v. Maryland Casualty Co. – Auto Insurance Carrier Fights Coverage Claim, Feb. 6, 2015, Boca Raton Car Accident Lawyer Blog

 

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Car manufacturers have been under fire in recent months, for everything from faulty ignition switches to exploding air bags to malfunctioning accelerators. In fact, 2014 had the most auto industry recalls in history. This indicates firstly there are many problems with vehicle design resulting in injury. Secondly, it tell us regulators are getting better at calling the industry out. airbag1

But a mere allegation of product liability is not enough to prove causation. Of course, it is easier if there are a host of prior similar cases, but even then, success isn’t a given. What will be necessary in almost each of these cases is expert witness testimony.

Usually, expert witness testimony isn’t necessary in car accident claims. But every case is different, and when a crash is the result of a dangerous or defective vehicle part, expert witness testimony bolsters the claim of causation and can help a case get passed the summary judgment phase and on to trial.

The imperative nature of expert witness testimony in certain cases became apparent in the recent defective airbag claim made by plaintiffs in Piltch v. Ford Motor Co., et al., before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

According to court records, plaintiffs were involved in a car accident in 2007 while driving a vehicle manufactured by defendant(s). The couple reportedly hit a patch of black ice (this was in Indiana) and even though the vehicle slid off the road and into a wall, none of the vehicle’s airbags deployed. As a result, plaintiffs sustained severe injuries. Husband sustained several broken vertebrae and wife suffered neurological injuries.

It’s necessary to note that one year prior to this, the couple was involved in a different crash and, in that case too, the vehicle’s air bags did not deploy. When they had the vehicle repaired, they did not make sure the restraint control module, which monitors a crash and determines whether airbags need to be deployed, were reset after the repairs. However, plaintiffs explained it was there understanding whatever needed to be reset was reset.

After the second crash, the couple had the vehicle repaired at the same shop as before and then sold the vehicle and the black box data on the vehicle was erased.

The following year, the couple filed an action against the vehicle manufacturer, alleging the vehicle was defective under state law. Defendant removed the action to federal court and then sought summary judgment.Defense asserted without expert testimony, plaintiffs could not prove their injuries were more severe than they would have been had the alleged defect not existed. Plaintiffs countered the circumstantial evidence was sufficient, and no expert witness testimony was necessary.

District court granted the summary judgment motion on grounds plaintiffs had not submitted expert witness testimony necessary for them to create an issue of fact regarding proximate cause.

On appeal, the Seventh Circuit affirmed. Essentially, the only witnesses to the crash plaintiffs presented were themselves. They did not have the information contained in the black box of the vehicle that would have backed their allegations. They did not have any accident reconstructionist or other skilled witness that would have been able to assert the circumstances of the crash should have resulted in the air bags being deployed. Without that, the claim of causation was merely speculative.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Piltch v. Ford Motor Co., et al., Feb. 11, 2015, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

More Blog Entries:

Robinson v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth. – Bus Injury Litigated, Jan. 20, 2015, West Palm Beach Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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Errors in roadway design and construction can result in serious injuries to motorists. Because the costs incurred by injured victims is so significant, it often becomes necessary to pursue litigation in order to be compensated for those damages. roadsign

When a road or intersection is poorly designed or constructed, victims may have limited options for compensation per the Slavin doctrine. The doctrine holds that if the road owner (i.e., city, county or state) accepts the designs or construction work of the contractor, the contractor can no longer be held liable – even if the design or construction contained clear errors. Victims still have the option of taking action against the owner/overseer of the site.

In some cases, though, when injury occurs while the work is pending or underway – i.e., before it has been “accepted” – claims may still potentially be brought successfully against the contractor as well. This is what is at issue in Villaneuva v. RS&H Inc., before the Fla. 5th DCA.

According to court records, a Florida car accident at a rural intersection resulted in the death of decedent. The crash occurred in 2007, and it was the site of a county project for roadway expansion.

In 1999, defendant engineer firm RS&H entered into an agreement with county to perform the engineering design services for the project. Within in one year, the company turned over a set of design plans to the county, and all the paperwork bore the insignia of defendant as the professional engineer. Those plans included a provision for a 55-mph speed limit throughout the accident scene and approaching the intersection.

The county reviewed those plans and decided some modifications were necessary, and undertook those without the aid of defendant. In the meantime, there was some preliminary surveying and construction that took place in the meantime. County still used the original plans and tweaked some aspects of them. The suggested speed limit was one of those aspects altered, though the placement of advanced warning of the upcoming intersection was not altered. In 2002, county engineers submitted a final plan that was very similar to the one submitted by RS&H, and that plan bore the county engineer’s insignia.

It was never clear exactly how much work was conducted before the county submitted and accepted those final plans,and that became a primary question before the trial court. One witness testified the advance warning signs (a key issue in the crash case) likely weren’t installed until after the county submitted its final plan because that is generally one of the last things installed. A witness for plaintiff countered.

The lawsuit against RS&H alleged negligence design of the road based on improper placement of the advanced warning signs. RS&H sought summary judgment on grounds the plans it created were not the ones the county used, the county assumed full liability when created its own subsequent plans and further, the county assumed full liability under Slavin.

Trial court did not weigh on the Slavin issue, but instead ruled plaintiff had not presented enough substantial evidence to prove the advance warning signs were installed prior to the county’s submission of the final plan. Summary judgment was granted to defendant.

This was error, the 5th DCA ruled, not necessarily because there was enough evidence to prove plaintiff’s case, but because the judge took it upon himself to rule on a matter of fact, whereas only matter of law can pave the way for summary judgment. Matters of fact must be weighed and decided at trial.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Villaneuva v. RS&H Inc., Feb. 13, 2015, Fla. 5th DCA

More Blog Entries:

Analysis: Florida Worst State for Crash Victims, Jan. 30, 2015, Port St. Lucie Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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A woman who suffered serious injuries after a patrol car driven by an on-duty Delray Beach police officer slammed into her sedan at an intersection will receive nearly $540,000 in damages, per a South Florida jury’s recent decision. policecar1

According to reports, the 56-year-old victim, a fast-food worker, suffered a head injury, compression fracture of her spine and numerous other injuries when the officer struck her at the intersection of Federal Highway and Southeast 10th Street. She nearly died.

At the time, the officer was responding to a burglary-in-progress call. Problem was, he didn’t have his emergency lights or sirens activated when he sailed through a red light – and right into plaintiff’s car.

The officer would later claim the emergency lights were on, but his siren was not because he did not want to alert the alleged burglar at the scene to which he was responding. An agency internal investigation noted there were no other witnesses to the collision, but concluded the officer’s lights were in fact off.

Plaintiff in Miley v. City of Delray Beach might have been awarded a higher amount, but jury only found the officer to be 65 percent at fault.

Our Palm Beach accident lawyers know cases like this are tough because they involve making claims against the government. Emergency responders and police officers in particular are granted a wide degree of protection from liability when they are carrying out essential functions of the job. In certain cases, police agencies and officers are immune from liability. However, there is still a general expectation that officers will use a reasonable amount of care.

Still, it’s important for victims to explore their options for compensation because the cost for medical expenses, lost wages and diminished earning capacity can be significant.

A recent report by The Boston Globe indicates 100 people a year in that state were injured in accidents caused by state troopers over the last 10 years, resulting in more than $3 million in settlements. That amount would likely be much larger if it weren’t for the fact that state caps damages for negligence claims against the government at $100,000. (The state of Florida  set at $200,000 per person and $300,000 cap per tort claim, effective Oct. 1, 2011. That amount would be applicable in the Miley case, as the police department is an agency under state jurisdiction.)

In Massachusetts, the Globe reported the total number of accidents involving officers to be roughly 1,800 over the course of the last five years. In Florida, which has a much higher population and many more officers, that figure is likely to be much higher.

For the officer in the Miley case, that crash represented his third on-duty accident in less than one year, according to the Sun-Sentinel. Following an internal investigation, the officer was found to have been in violation of a number of motor vehicle laws, obedience to laws, ordinances and standards. Investigators noted the burglary call to which he responded did not include reported violence or threats of violence and there was no indication a suspect had entered an occupied home – calling into question his decision to speed through a red light without lights or sirens. The final report indicated the officer’s emergency response “was not necessary.” He was suspended without pay for just 72 hours.

The city has not indicated whether it plans to appeal the Miley verdict.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Jury Awards Delray Beach worker $540k after crash with officer, Jan. 28, 2015, Daily Business Review

More Blog Entries:

Robinson v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth. – Bus Injury Litigated, Jan. 20, 2015, West Palm Beach Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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Auto insurance carriers are some of the most notoriously difficult to negotiate with following a crash resulting in injury. Often, they will extend low-ball settlement offers in lieu of policy limits, even when it seems clear full coverage is warranted.That’s if the carrier doesn’t deny the claim outright. road1

Policies are often drafted with many contingencies and exemptions, and the language can be extremely confusing to someone unfamiliar with contract and insurance law. Insurers bank on your lack of knowledge, which is why it’s so important to have an experienced lawyer advocating for you at the start.

In the recent case of Smith v. Maryland Casualty Co., before an appellate court in Missouri, an insurer dug in their heels to deny coverage to a crash victim under a commercial liability policy.

According to court records, plaintiff was a passenger in a commercial vehicle driven by an employee of a door-to-door sales company, insured by defendant carrier, when that vehicle was involved in an accident. Plaintiff alleged employee was acting as the sales company’s agent at the time of the crash.

The sales company had two auto insurance policies with defendant at the time of the crash: A commercial auto insurance policy worth $1 million and another commercial umbrella policy also with a limit of $1 million.

After plaintiff filed his lawsuit, a representative for the insurer sent employee driver a letter offering to defend him in the litigation (in which he was a named defendant). The company indicated it was not foregoing its right to later deny payment for any judgment against him. The insurer retained an attorney to represent employee defendant in that case.

That first lawsuit was later dismissed for failure to prosecute, but plaintiff soon filed a second lawsuit, this time naming employee as sole defendant. The attorney representing employee in the first case sent a letter to insurer indicating employee had authorized him to accept service of the case on his behalf, and seeking the insurer’s permission to accept. However, employee later indicated he believed the lawsuit was one continuous action, rather than a second separate lawsuit. While insurer told the attorney the defense would be provided in the second case under the same terms as the first, the insurer did not send a second reservation of rights letter directly to employee defendant.

Insurer then filed a petition for declaratory judgment in federal court, seeking a judgment regarding whether there was coverage for defendant employee under the policy issued to the sales company.

While that decision was pending, plaintiff and defendant employee reached a settlement agreement, which included a demand from defendant for insurer to indemnify him for defense and damages. Insurer refused, and defendant proceeded with a new lawyer. Trial court entered a judgment against defendant employee for $1.8 million in damages.

Plaintiff then filed a petition seeking to collect that money from the insurer. However, insurer countered defendant employee was not an insured under its policy exclusions and therefore refused to pay. Defendant employee then filed a cross-motion for bad faith refusal to settle within policy limits. Both plaintiff and defendant filed a motion for summary judgment against the insurer in which they noted the defense provided in the second case was done so without a formal reservation of rights. Further, they argued the vehicle driven by defendant employee was owned by the sales company and thus insured by the carrier.

Insurer denied these statements, but trial court granted summary judgment against the insurer, ordering it to pay the $1.8 million in compensation. No ruling was made on the bad faith claim.

However, the Missouri Court of Appeals later reversed the summary judgment order, reasoning that coverage is not created with the absence of a waiver (in this case, the reservation of rights letter).

This does not mean the insurer won’t have to pay. However, summary judgment as a matter of law was not deemed appropriate. Instead, plaintiff and defendant employee will have to seek a decision through a finding of fact at trial.

Our West Palm Beach accident attorneys recognize this kind of back-and-forth with an insurer is not uncommon, particularly when compensation is likely to reach in excess of six figures. In these situations, experienced legal counsel for victims is paramount.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Smith v. Maryland Casualty Co., Jan. 23, 2015, Missouri Court of appeals, Southern District Division Two

More Blog Entries:

Gonsalves v. Li – Test Drive Crash Injury, Jan. 25, 2015, West Palm Beach Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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It’s never desirable to be in a car accident, no matter where you are. But if it were going to happen anyway, drivers might want to avoid Florida, if WalletHub.com’s latest report is any indication. carsports

Researchers with the financial news source rated Florida dead last in terms of the economic damage a crash victim is likely to sustain.

It’s not so much that Florida crashes are comparatively worse than those occurring anywhere else.

Rather, the problem has to do with the huge number of uninsured drivers, combined with the state’s puny minimum liability coverage insurance requirements and limited additional coverage, such as medical payments and personal injury protection.

While Florida does require personal injury protection insurance for all drivers – something not every state demands – that’s about the only thing it has going for it. The minimum liability coverage is lower than the vast majority of states. It requires $10,000 in coverage for individuals hurt in a crash, $20,000 is the minimum per-crash coverage for all injured parties and $10,000 is the total amount needed to cover property damage.

As anyone who has ever been involved in a Fort Lauderdale car accident will tell you, this is nowhere near enough. Medical bills alone can easily tally tens of thousands of dollars, particularly if the injuries are longer-lasting.

By comparison, Alaska requires its drivers to carry $50,000 in minimum coverage for individuals injured, a minimum $100,000 in per-crash coverage and at least $25,000 to cover property damage.

Drivers can always elect to carry more coverage, though there is evidence to suggest many in Florida do not.

That’s because the number of uninsured drivers in this state is astronomical – nearly 24 percent. That is one out of every four drivers on the roadway who does not have any insurance whatsoever.

If those drivers or those with minimal insurance are involved in a crash, injured parties or decedent survivors are tasked with pursuing a claim against their own auto insurer through uninsured motorist/ underinsured motorist coverage. It allows accident victims the ability to at least have some recourse in the event a crash is caused by a driver without adequate coverage.

But here’s another problem: While many states require drivers to carry UM/UIM coverage for this very reason, Florida does not. The state does require auto insurers to offer the coverage. But consumers have the choice of turning it down with a signed release, usually in exchange for a lower premium.

As this data underscores, however, doing so comes at a tremendous risk to drivers and their loved ones.

All of this points to the fact that one of the biggest issues is the cost of auto insurance. Presumably, more people would secure insurance or increase their policy protections if it was more affordable.

It should perhaps come as little surprise Florida ranks among the 10 most expensive states for car insurance, according to research by CarInsuranceQuotes.com (an affiliate of financial news source Bankrate.com). With the requirement for personal injury protection, typical residents pay twice for medical coverage – once through health insurance and again through their car insurance.

In a typical year, the average Florida resident is going to spend about $1,800 in car insurance. That represents 3.6 percent of families’ collective household incomes.

PIP reforms initiated by Gov. Rick Scott took effect in 2012 and were intended to reduce fraud and bring down costs over time. That has yet to happen. In fact, is only placed further limits on the rights of victims to recover in the wake of a serious collision. WalletHub’s most recent statistics reveal the true cost we pay for unaffordable car insurance.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

2015’s Most and Least Risky States for Drivers’ Wallets, Jan. 15, 2015, By Richie Bernardo, WalletHub.com

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