Florida’s Second District Reverses Over Trial Court’s Erroneous PIP Offset Ruling

In Moody v. Dorsett, a man was hurt in a motor vehicle collision that a jury determined was caused by another driver. As a result, jurors returned a verdict of about $11,000 against the negligent woman. Prior to trial, the man received approximately $5,500 in personal injury protection (“PIP”) benefits from his automobile insurer. After the jury returned its verdict, the negligent driver asked the court to offset the award by the amount of PIP benefits that were received by the injured man. The trial court refused, and the woman filed an appeal with Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal.

In the State of Florida, drivers must maintain $10,000 in PIP insurance protection. This coverage allows a motorist or other individual to collect up to $10,000 in order to pay for any immediate medical expenses regardless of fault. In order to recover under a PIP policy, current Florida law requires an individual who was injured in a motor vehicle collision to seek medical care within two weeks of the traffic wreck. A PIP policy will typically pay for 80 percent of an accident victim’s medical costs up to the policy’s limit of liability. A Florida motorist may increase that coverage to 100 percent of his or her accident-related medical expenses by purchasing an optional extended PIP policy.

According to the appeals court, the parties misunderstood whether the PIP offset procedure was a matter for jurors or the court. As a result of the disagreement, the injured man objected to the matter being handled after the jury’s verdict was returned. The trial court overruled the man’s objection and stated the issue would be dealt with post-verdict. As a result, the negligent driver offered no evidence to the jury regarding the PIP benefits that were already paid to the hurt driver.

After the jury returned its verdict, the woman asked the court to use the offset procedure to reduce the verdict by the amount of PIP benefits the plaintiff received prior to trial. The injured man objected and pointed to Florida Supreme Court precedent in Caruso that stated that evidence regarding PIP benefits must be presented to a jury absent a stipulation to the contrary. Since the parties failed to stipulate regarding the matter, the trial court entered judgment in the hurt man’s favor without including a PIP offset.

Although the Second District agreed that relevant case law required the parties to forgo a jury-determined reduction in the award, it reversed the trial court’s order denying a post-verdict PIP offset. Since the trial court stated the matter would be handled post-verdict, and the injured man did not mention the Supreme Court’s holding in Caruso until after the jury returned its verdict, the Court of Appeals held that the woman should not be penalized for reasonably relying on the trial court’s error.

In the end, Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s holding and remanded the case for a determination on the issue of the appropriate PIP benefits offset.

If you or someone close to you was seriously hurt in a South Florida car wreck that was caused by a negligent motorist, you need an experienced attorney on your side to help you protect your rights. To speak with a caring personal injury advocate about your motor vehicle accident injuries today, do not hesitate to call the dedicated lawyers at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. at (305) 448-8585 or contact us through our website.

Additional Resources:

Moody v. Dorsett, Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 2nd Dist. 2014

More Blog Posts:

Southern District of Florida Holds UIM Benefits Case Must be Adjudicated Before Bad Faith Insurance Claim May be Considered, January 22, 2015, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

Appellate Court Affirms Legal Fees Award for Plaintiffs in Florida Medical Malpractice Case, January 19, 2015, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

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