Surprising Application of Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM) Crash Coverage for Florida Insureds

puzzle2.jpgUnderstanding Florida motor vehicle insurance law can be puzzling. The various coverage options include Personal Injury Protection (PIP), Bodily Injury (BI), Comprehensive/Collision, Property Damage Liability, and Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM). Presently, only PIP and Property Damage Liability are mandatory in Florida. Neither of these coverages compensates the victim of an accident for non-economic damages like pain and suffering arising from a bad injury. Only two of the coverages do: BI and UM.

UM is typically thought of as coverage purchased for the benefit of the named insured or insureds and resident relatives (see definition at Florida Statute 627.732(6)). It takes the place of BI where BI is not available (UM) or not adequate (UIM) because the loss exceeds available coverage limits. UM/UIM are not thought of as providing coverage to those other than named insureds and resident relatives. This thinking is incorrect.

We recently represented a young woman who was involved in a serious accident while driving a friend’s car. The first thing we did was obtain insurance coverage information on (1) the owner and driver of the negligently operated vehicle, (2) our client’s friend, and (3) our client (who owned a car). We learned that the owner and the driver of the negligently operated vehicle did not have BI coverage, or that our client’s friend had UM. Why was it important to determine if the friend had UM? Florida Statute 627.727(9)(b) provides as follows:

(b) If at the time of the accident the injured person is occupying a motor vehicle, the uninsured motorist coverage available to her or him is the coverage available as to that motor vehicle.

Surprisingly, this statute makes the UM/UIM of the occupied vehicle primary over the injured person’s own UM/UIM coverage. Since the insured owner of the occupied vehicle did nothing wrong, it is somewhat counter-intuitive to think of this carrier being primarily responsible for the loss.

This twist in the law is just one of many examples of the puzzling nature of Florida’s insurance law, and why good lawyers must always be familiar with the statutes and case law to be able to piece it together.

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Jeffrey P. Gale, P.A. is a South Florida based law firm committed to the judicial system and to representing and obtaining justice for individuals – the poor, the injured, the forgotten, the voiceless, the defenseless and the damned, and to protecting the rights of such people from corporate and government oppression. We do not represent government, corporations or large business interests.

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