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Florida Court Discusses Liability When a Vehicle Owner Lets Another Use Their Car

Those who have experience dealing with a Florida insurance company, know the process can be a difficult one. Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in an insurance dispute case arising from a fatal Florida car accident. The case illustrates the difficulties that many accident victims face when attempting to recover for their injuries through either a Florida personal injury or a wrongful death lawsuit.

According to the court’s opinion, a driver caused a fatal accident while using his step-father’s vehicle. At the time of the accident, the driver had his step-father’s permission to use the vehicle. There were several insurance policies in effect at the time of the accident. Specifically, the driver had three policies with three different insurance companies, one of which was with Geico. In addition, the driver’s step-father had a policy with Allstate.

Allstate paid out $250,000 to the plaintiffs, which was the policy maximum. Pursuant to that agreement, the $250,000 was not an agreement to release the driver of all liability, but would offset any other recovery obtained by the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs then filed a wrongful death lawsuit against both the driver and his step-father, claiming that the $250,000 did not fully compensate them for their losses. Due to the assignment of claims, the plaintiffs ended up pursuing their claim against the step-father and Geico, which denied the claim. Geico’s position was that the driver had been gifted the vehicle by his step-father, removing the vehicle from the step-father’s insurance coverage.

The step-father argued that any liability he faced should be reduced by the $250,000 settlement that the plaintiff had already received. Essentially, he argued that his maximum liability was just $100,000 which was satisfied by the Allstate settlement.

The court looked to Florida Statutes section 324.021, which outlines the liability for situations where a permissive user causes an accident. Under section 324.021, the liability is capped at $100,000 per person or $300,000 per accident, unless the permissive driver does not have at least $500,000 in coverage. In such cases, the vehicle owner becomes liable to the injured party for an additional $500,000. In this case, the plaintiffs argued that the vehicle owner’s Allstate coverage of $250,000 could not be used to both satisfy the vehicle owner’s maximum liability and count towards the driver’s combined policy limits. However, the court rejected the plaintiff’s argument, finding that the vehicle owner’s several insurance policies exceeded the necessary amount of coverage, and that his liability under section 324.021 was limited to just $100,000.

Have You Been Involved in a Florida Car Accident?

If you or someone you love has recently been injured in a Florida car accident, contact the dedicated injury lawyers at Friedman Rodman & Frank, P.C. for immediate assistance. Our dedicated team of Florida wrongful death and personal injury lawyers have extensive experience handling all types of car accident claims, and routinely take on some of the largest insurance companies in the nation. To learn more about how we can help you pursue a claim for compensation, call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation. Calling is free, and we will not bill you unless we can help you recover for your injuries.

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