Articles Posted in Car Accident

A Florida appellate court recently issued an opinion considering whether an insurance company acted in bad faith towards its policyholder when it failed to settle a claim. The claim arose when the insured slammed into another driver’s vehicle while driving drunk, pushing it in front of an oncoming train. The driver’s eight-year-old son was killed in the accident, and the driver suffered permanent injuries. After two years of criminal proceedings, the insured pleaded guilty, and the court sentenced him to 12 years in prison.

Following the accident, the insurance company tried to settle the claim with the victim and tender the entire policy limits to the woman and her son’s estate. The woman’s attorney stated that they were not ready to accept the payment and would await the culmination of the insured’s criminal proceeding. After the insured’s guilty plea, the woman’s new attorney advised the insurance company that they were ready to accept the settlement so long as it strictly complied with several provisions. Most relevant was that acceptance of the settlement would only release the insured and prohibited any indemnity provisions. The insurance company issued a check and stated that they satisfied all conditions. However, the woman’s attorney disagreed, and the insurance company responded that the attorney could strike any conditions they did not agree with. The attorney did not respond, and the woman filed a lawsuit against the driver in state court and won a judgment exceeding $10 million. The woman then filed a third-party bad faith lawsuit against the insurance company.

Under Florida law, insurance companies owe a good faith duty to their insureds in handling their claims. While the duty typically governs the relationship between the company and the insured, Florida law permits causes of action by the victim against the insurance company for its bad-faith failure to settle. The primary inquiry in these cases is whether the insurer diligently worked to settle the claim as if the victim were in the insured’s shoes. In this case, the victim argued that the company acted in bad faith by including overly broad release language. Although overbroad language can create a jury question, the court reasoned that it does not automatically amount to bad faith. Further, looking at the totality of the circumstances, it is clear that the insurance company attempted to settle the claim in a timely and fair manner. Ultimately, the court found that while the company’s action may have been negligent, it did not amount to bad faith.

After a Florida car accident, injury victims and their loved ones may face a daunting road ahead of them. These accidents can leave victims with significant injuries that may impact their livelihood and daily activities. In addition to complex substantive rules, Florida courts maintain a series of procedural rules that can make a recovery difficult. These challenges become more evident when the at-fault party dies during the accident or during proceedings. Cases in which the at-fault party dies require a comprehensive understanding of the intersection between Florida tort and probate laws. It is essential that injury victims contact an attorney to discuss how the death of a defendant may impact their claim.

A recent Florida car accident highlights a situation where a family may need to file a claim against a deceased defendant’s estate. A local news report described a fiery Florida head-on collision involving an Infiniti traveling the wrong way. The wrong-way driver slammed into a Chevy that was carrying a pregnant mother and her five children. The collision caused the Infiniti to burst into flames. Two people inside the Infiniti died upon impact; however, the pregnant mother and her children survived the accident.

In cases like this, Florida’s law clarifies that a cause of action does not die with the person. However, the cause of action may be inadvertently extinguished if the party seeking recovery does not comply with the state’s procedural rules. The statute governs situations where the party dies pending litigation and before litigation begins.

Losing a loved one is often one of the most painful and traumatic events in an individual’s life. When your loved ones are taken from you suddenly and without warning, however, it can often be even more heart-wrenching. When the loss of a loved one was fully preventable and was the result of another party’s negligence or recklessness, those who are responsible must be held accountable. In these tragic situations, grieving family members can pursue a Florida wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault party for compensation.

According to a recent news report, a head-on collision killed two people and left two others injured. Florida Highway Patrol reported that two cars were traveling in opposite directions when a third car got between the other drivers. A Toyota, which was traveling east while a Honda was traveling west were interrupted by a Camaro when it tried to pass the Honda by entering the eastbound lane. To avoid the oncoming Camaro, the Toyota swerved right and landed in the grass shoulder before getting back into the eastbound lane, but it overcorrected and traveled into the westbound lane, where it crashed into the Honda. The driver of the Toyota was pronounced dead at the scene and her passenger was transported to the hospital with significant injuries. The driver of the Honda also suffered significant injuries and was in critical condition following the accident, and her passenger died at the scene.

In Florida, wrongful death claims are governed by the state’s “Right to Action” statute, which states that “when the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach of contract or warranty of any person,” the estate, family members, or personal representative of the deceased individual can file a civil suit in court.

An appeals court recently issued an opinion stemming from a Florida car accident between an insured and an uninsured motorist. The insured purchased non-stacking uninsured motorist coverage from their insurance company. After suffering injuries in an accident with an uninsured motorist, the insured sought to receive benefits of a stacking coverage policy. The woman filed a lawsuit against the insurance company after the company refused to cover the woman under the more comprehensive policy.

The record indicates that the woman’s boyfriend purchased an insurance policy that provided bodily injury and uninsured motorist coverage up to $25,000 per person. During the renewal period, the boyfriend rejected the non-stacking coverage, and the Office of Insurance Regulation approved the form. The policy states that there is no coverage for an insured who sustains bodily injury while occupying a vehicle owned by the policyholder or any resident relative if it is not in the policyholder’s car—the policy applied to the woman and her boyfriend and their Ford pickup truck. The two suffered injuries while operating a motorcycle that the insurance company did not insure.

On appeal, the court reviewed the insurance policy by looking at its plain language. Generally, exclusion provisions are more strictly construed than coverage provisions and tend to be interpreted in favor of the policyholder. However, courts cannot rewrite contracts or add intentions or meaning that are not present. Ambiguities exist when a provision is open to more than one reasonable interpretation. A court cannot deem a contract ambiguous just because it is complex or requires an in-depth analysis.

Self-driving cars undoubtedly provide the public with a sense of intrigue about the future of traveling in this country. Despite the potential benefits of these vehicles, self-driving vehicle technology is still its advent and poses many dangers to motorists and bystanders. These dangers are especially relevant in Florida, as the law no longer mandates that companies testing these vehicles ensure a human driver remain behind the wheel. Proponents of these vehicles and this law argue that it is necessary to promote innovative technology that may improve safety and travel. However, safety advocates continually cite the fundamental issues with allowing these vehicles on the road without an attentive driver.

Florida legislators have explained that this law only applies to autonomous vehicles equipped with technology to function safely without a human operator. While this caveat may prevent some of the inherent dangers of these cars, it does not address many concerns with allowing this novice technology on Florida roadways.

For example, a national news source described a harrowing accident involving a Tesla self-driving vehicle. The reports state that a self-driving car was involved in a fiery explosion after slamming into a tree. Authorities state that although the case is still under investigation, it seems that the car was traveling without a human driver behind the wheel. One of the passengers was in the front seat, and the other occupant was in the back passenger seat. The car was traveling at a high rate of speed when it slammed and wrapped around a tree. Responders worked for over four hours to put out the deadly flames. Tragically, both occupants died in the accident.

Under Florida’s no-fault insurance laws, drivers must carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. This coverage pays a portion of the insured’s medical bills without consideration of fault. However, this protection only covers about 80% of a Florida injury victim’s medical expenses and even less for lost wages. As such, after an accident, Floridians often face an uphill battle in their efforts to recover the damages they deserve. In addition to personal injury lawsuits against the at-fault driver, victims may face challenges dealing with their insurance company. Despite their claims, insurance companies standing hinges on protecting their financial interests. Thus, insurance carriers will often improperly deny or delay claims, leaving victims in a tenuous financial position. Florida injury victims who find themselves in these precarious positions should contact an attorney to resolve these bad faith claims.

Recently, a Florida district court issued an opinion stemming from a dispute between the personal representative of an accident victim and an insurance company. The case arose after the victim suffered fatal injuries in a car accident with a volunteer employee of a not-for-profit corporation. The Estate obtained a judgment against the company the driver worked for; however, the Estate sought additional coverage with the not-for-profit’s insurance carrier. The insurance company asserted an “escape clause” in their coverage where they would not be responsible for incidents where another similar policy covers the not-for-profit. In this instance, the company had a GEICO insurance policy that covered the entity for liability because of the acts or omissions of an insured, such as the employee involved in the accident.

In this insurance dispute, amongst several issues, the Estate argued that the trial court improperly determined that the GEICO policy insured the not-for-profit. Generally, Florida insurance disputes require the court to interpret contracts. There are some general premises that courts use during this process:

Insurance coverage is a critical resource to motorists and provides many financial protections to those who suffer injuries in a Florida car accident. While insurance companies tout the benefits of their plans to consumers, they simultaneously operate to protect their own financial interests. These for-profit companies have a vested interest in maintaining their financial standing, and they often do so by wrongfully denying personal injury claims. Florida accident victims may face an uphill battle with their dealings with insurance companies. Attorneys play a crucial role in ensuring that injury victims overcome these hurdles and recover the damages they deserve.

There are many ways that insurance companies avoid paying out rightfully due payments to consumers. Although Florida is a no-fault state and injury victims submit claims to their own insurance company, the payments rarely cover the extent of a policyholder’s losses. Typically, claimants only receive around 80% of the total cost of their medical expenses, and the coverage does not include pain and suffering damages. Further, insurance companies may focus on a victim’s pre-existing medical condition to show that the accident is not responsible for the claimant’s injuries. Insurance companies contesting coverage will go as far as to question the claimant’s credibility and elicit evidence to show that the victim is not suffering as much as they say they are.

Although all of these tactics pose issues to clients, the most complex issues arise when insurance companies establish procedural mistakes that may reduce or eliminate a claimant’s damages. Florida Rules of Civil Procedure are a complicated set of procedural and substantive rules that require a thorough understanding of the law. Insurance companies may deny liability by pointing to the statute of limitations, jurisdiction and venue issues, and insufficient notice and pleadings. Courts may dismiss all or part of a victim’s claims because of a single error with any of these requirements.

After an accident, the at-fault party may be held liable for their role in the victim’s damages and losses. In many cases, these claims do not proceed to trial and instead get resolved through alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods. Some common forms of ADR are arbitration, mediation, and settlement discussions. Although similar to a trial, victims can proceed without counsel, the results in these situations tend to be less favorable towards claimants. Attorneys play a critical role during every stage of a Florida personal injury lawsuit and can help claimants recover the damages they deserve.

Settlement agreements occur when the claimant and opposing party agree to settle the claims for payment. These agreements usually require the claimant to halt all legal proceedings related to the incident in exchange for the opposing party’s payment. These agreements release the opposing party without the requirement that they admit fault. However, it is essential to note that a court may overturn the settlement agreement if it is defective. A defective settlement agreement is made under duress, fraud, mutual mistake, or misrepresentation. Further, in some situations, a judge may not accept a settlement agreement.

The binding and complex nature of these agreements elucidates the importance of a skilled and experienced attorney during settlement proceedings. In many situations, insurance companies draft and present settlement agreements. As such, these agreements inherently protect the opposing party or insurance company over the claimant. Additionally, the terms of the agreement may include clauses that prohibit the claimant from pursuing claims against third-parties. Settlement agreements require a thorough and comprehensive understanding of the interplay between various areas of the law.

Sometimes, when you are in a rush, you may find yourself impatiently following the car ahead of you closer than what you know is safe. In some states, such as Florida, this could get you a traffic citation if an accident takes place or you disrupt traffic. In Florida, it is recommended that drivers keep at least a two-vehicle length between their car and the vehicles ahead of them. This is to ensure that should the vehicles ahead of you stop suddenly or if debris falls onto the roadway and obscures your path, that you have ample time to avoid an auto accident.

For a somewhat harsh application of this rule, consider a recent article in which a couple who barely survived a terrifying accident on the freeway was issued a traffic ticket following the incident. While driving down the freeway, the couple was behind a truck when a couch fell off the truck and tumbled into their lane. When the couple swerved to avoid hitting the couch, they crashed into the median and their car flipped over. The vehicle was totaled and both individuals were transported to a local hospital. A Florida Highway Patrol trooper showed up to present them with a $166 traffic ticket for “failing to drive in a single lane.” Although it was a tough break for the couple, the Florida Highway Patrol claimed that troopers have discretion when issuing traffic citations. Fortunately, the couple walked away with only minor injuries, and a ticket—which some would argue is a small price to pay for surviving what could have been a tragic accident.

In Florida, the “Following Too Closely” statute states that drivers cannot follow vehicles ahead of them more closely than is “reasonable and prudent” and must keep the speed of other vehicles and the traffic and conditions of the highway in mind while operating their vehicles.

Currently, Florida follows the no-fault insurance system, requiring motorists to maintain personal injury protection (PIP) insurance coverage. However, Florida lawmakers proposed Senate Bill 54, which would eliminate the state’s no-fault insurance requirement. The current system allows a claimant’s insurance company to pay the insured’s bills, regardless of their fault. Critics of the no-fault system argue that the current framework evokes many fraudulent claims and the coverage limit is insufficient. On the other hand, critics of the change contend that the new system may leave injury victims in a precarious financial position, as insurance companies will not automatically pay out claims.

The new law would require motorists to carry bodily injury liability coverage, which would allow insurance companies to pay up to $25,000 for collision-related injuries or death or up to $50,000 for crashes involving two or more individuals. The new system would retain the current $10,000 financial responsibility requirement for property damage. However, it modifies the coverage limits for commercial motor vehicle coverage and garage liability. A critical change that may impact injury victims is that the repeal will eliminate the pain and suffering damage limitations.

In many cases, Florida accident victims need to seek compensation outside of the no-fault insurance system because their damages exceed policy limits. The change will have a more considerable impact on bad faith claims against Florida insurance companies. The new framework will include best practices standards for insurance companies to settle disputes. However, the bill also includes the condition precedents an insured must meet before asserting a claim.

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