The Supreme Court of Colorado recently published an opinion reversing a lower court’s decision permitting the trial judge hearing an auto accident case to reduce the plaintiff’s award after the jury returned a verdict in his favor. The plaintiff was initially forced to sue his own insurance company after he was injured in an accident with an uninsured driver, and his claim for damages under his uninsured motorist coverage was denied.
After a jury found that the plaintiff was entitled to the relief he requested, his insurance company successfully asked the trial court to reduce the judgment by an amount he had received from the company through a different type of coverage. In reversing the lower court’s decisions, the court held that coverage for uninsured or underinsured motorists in that state cannot be reduced by a setoff from any other coverage. As a result of the recent ruling, the plaintiff will receive the entire amount that was awarded to him by the jury.
The Plaintiff Is Injured in an Accident with an Uninsured Motorist
The plaintiff in the case of Calderon v. American Family Insurance was involved in an auto accident with a negligent and uninsured motorist in August 2010. The plaintiff carried an auto insurance policy though the defendant insurance company, which included $5,000 in no-fault coverage for medical expenses as well as $300,000 in coverage for damages incurred in the event of an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver. After receiving medical treatment, the plaintiff had incurred over $40,000 in medical expenses. He then made a claim for those damages and others to his insurance company. The insurance company had previously paid out $5,000 directly to the medical providers pursuant to the no fault medical coverage, but it disputed the remaining amount of damages that the plaintiff requested.
The Jury Sides with the Plaintiff at Trial
After a jury trial was held on the plaintiff’s claim, he was awarded $68,000 for his medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering, as requested in his complaint. After losing the case at trial, the defendant requested the court reduce the judgment that was awarded by $5,000 to offset the amount that the insurance company had already paid to the medical providers under the plaintiff’s no fault coverage.
The trial court agreed with the defendant and subtracted $5,000 from the plaintiff’s award before ordering the defendant to pay the remaining amount. Importantly, Colorado state law has a provision that states that uninsured motorist coverage may not be set off by an award from any other coverage, but the trial court interpreted that language to allow the setoff in the plaintiff’s case.
The Plaintiff Is Finally Able To Enforce His Insurance Policy
On his second appeal, the plaintiff was able to convince the court to follow the plain language of the state’s laws concerning setoffs for uninsured motorist coverage from other types of coverage, convincing the court that the intention of the law was to prevent the exact type of setoff that was ordered by the trial court. The appellate court distinguished the plaintiff’s request from a scenario in which an insured party receives a “double payout” from overlapping coverages because the no fault coverage was only for medical expenses, while the jury’s award included other economic and noneconomic damages that would not be addressed by the no fault coverage. The court emphasized that the plaintiff paid separate premiums for each type of coverage, and it would not be in the interest of public policy or justice to prevent him from recovering the full award, especially when the state’s law reads quite plainly that such a setoff is prohibited.
Florida’s Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage Forbids Setoffs
Florida Statutes Chapter 37.627.727(1) contains a provision similar to the provision that was used by the Colorado Supreme Court to prevent a setoff from reducing the amount awarded to the plaintiff, which reads “The amount of coverage available under this section shall not be reduced by a setoff against any coverage, including liability insurance.”
Motorists who carry uninsured motorist protection in Florida should not have any awards or claims under that coverage reduced by an amount received from another party’s liability coverage, PIP coverage, or any other type of insurance like SSDI, disability, or workers’ compensation to which they may also be entitled after an injury. Although the language of the Florida law appears clear, so did the language of Colorado’s law, and the insurance company still refused to pay the full amount until they were forced to do so.
Have You Been Injured by an Uninsured Motorist?
If you or a loved one has been involved in a Florida auto accident with an underinsured or uninsured driver, you should be entitled to the full benefit of any uninsured/underinsured coverage. However, that doesn’t mean that your insurance company will actually pay out on your claim without a fight. The South Florida car accident attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank are experienced in dealing with insurance companies and are prepared to hold them to the promises of the policies they endorse. If you’re dealing with your insurance company on your own, the chances of being treated unfairly are much greater than with the help of a qualified South Florida accident attorney. You deserve the coverage that you paid to get. Contact us to discuss your case today, and we can make sure that you are treated fairly by your insurance company. Call 877-448-8585 or contact us online to schedule a no obligation consultation with a skilled attorney today.
More Blog Posts:
State Supreme Court Refuses to Enforce Arbitration Clause Against Young Injury Victim, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published November 3, 2016.
Court Sides with Plaintiff, Reversing Judgment for Defendant in Slip-and-Fall Case, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published November 17, 2016.