Articles Posted in Car, Truck & Motorcycle Accidents

motorwayFor the eighth year in a row, the Florida Legislature has considered but failed to make bodily injury (BI) insurance coverage mandatory for every owner or operator of a motor vehicle required to be registered in this state. The two bills proposed for this reason during the recently concluded legislative session failed to receive a committee hearing.

Florida and New Hampshire are the only two states in the Union that do not require all drivers to carry BI coverage.

What Florida does require is personal injury protection or PIP and property damage (PD) liability coverage in the amount of $10,000 because of damage or destruction to the property of others in a crash.

Three years ago, Florida’s Legislature passed a bipartisan bill that would have required BI coverage. Pressured by the insurance industry, Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed the bill. This year’s proposed bills addressed some of the concerns expressed by Gov. DeSantis when he vetoed the bill. Nevertheless, the insurance industry kept the bills from gaining traction.

Continue reading

scales-of-justice-300x203This blog is the second on recent efforts by Republican legislators with the consequence of making Florida’s roads and highways more dangerous. (The first blog: Jeffrey P. Gale, P.A. // Republican Legislators Work to Make Florida’s Roadways Less Safe.)

Section 768.28(5)(a), Florida Statutes limits the recovery against the state and its agencies and subdivisions for tort lawsuits to $200,000 per individual claim and $300,000 total for all claims arising out of the same incident or occurrence.

No matter how catastrophic and life-altering the injuries may be or whether death results from the negligence of the sovereign, this is the hard cap.
It does not matter what a judge or jury decides regarding the extent of the damages.

Section 768.28(5)(a) is the outgrowth of section 768.28(1), which is a limited waiver by the state of the doctrine commonly referred to as “Sovereign Immunity.” The doctrine is derived from English common law under which the King could not be sued on the theories that he could do no wrong, and that there could be no legal rights against the authority that makes the laws upon which the rights depend. See Miles McCann, Visiting Fellow, National Association of Attorneys General, State Sovereign Immunity, Nov. 11, 2017, https://www.naag.org/attorney-general-journal/state-sovereign-immunity/(last visited Jan. 23, 2024).

In Alden v. Maine, 527 U.S. 706, 728 (1999), the Supreme Court of the United States held that the doctrine was adopted by our country’s Founders in the Constitution itself rather than the Eleventh Amendment, solidifying its place in American jurisprudence. The doctrine is available to the federal government and every state.

Not every state chooses to hide behind sovereign immunity. California and New York, states with large populations and high costs of living and medical care like Florida, have no caps on suits against their state and local governments. Among the states using cap limits, Florida’s numbers are some of the lowest, making them a mere slap on the wrist to wrongdoers and failing to encourage safer practices and procedures.

Continue reading

motorway-300x224Florida motor vehicle insurance policies offer a variety of coverages. PIP and Property Damage — Liability are mandatory coverages. Others, like bodily injury and uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) are not.

An uninsured vehicle is one that does not maintain bodily injury coverage or, like a hit-and-run phantom vehicle, cannot be identified.

Interestingly, UM coverage may be available for injuries caused by road debris from an unknown source. However, the cases hold that the inference the debris came from another vehicle must be inescapable, or at least “outweigh all contrary inferences to such extent as to amount to a preponderance of all of the reasonable inferences that might be drawn from the same circumstances.” Voelker v. Combined Insurance Co. of America, 73 So.2d 403, 405 (Fla. 1954), citing King v. Weis-Patterson Lumber Co., 124 Fla. 272, 168 So. 858 (1936)See also Little v. Publix Supermarkets, Inc., 234 So.2d 132 (Fla. 4th DCA 1970).

In Allstate Insurance Company v. Bandiera, 512 So.2d 1082 (Fla. 4th DCA 1987), the appellate court denied coverage to a passenger injured by a cinder block from an unknown source. It felt that it was just as plausible that the cinder block was thrown at the car by pedestrians standing at the side of the road.

Continue reading

motorway-300x224Accidents happen. Being properly insured for motor vehicle crashes is good for the insured and for persons harmed through the insured’s negligence.

Florida is one of only three states that does not require owners of motor vehicles registered in the state to maintain bodily injury (BI) insurance. Bodily injury insurance covers losses for economic (e.g., lost wages and medical bills) and non-economic damages, also known as human damages, such as pain and suffering, disfigurement, mental anguish, and the loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life.

While BI coverage is not mandatory, it is available from every insurance carrier that sells motor vehicle insurance in the state. The first thing to keep in mind when securing BI insurance is the coverage limit under the policy. As with anything else, you get what you pay for. The minimum BI coverage limit in Florida is $10,000; the sky is the limit for how much coverage can be purchased. Individuals and companies with large assets subject to judgments are well-advised to maintain high coverage limits.

Continue reading

crushed-vehicleIn 1958, Florida joined a handful of other states in adopting the evidentiary rule that a presumption of negligence arises against the trailing vehicle in motor vehicle crashes. See McNulty v. Cusack, 104 So.2d 785 (Fla. 2d DCA 1958) (Other jurisdictions limited the rear-end aspect of the collision to creating an inference of negligence.). Shortly thereafter, the rule was approved by the Florida Supreme Court in Bellere v. Madsen, 114 So.2d 619 (Fla. 1959). The usefulness of the rule was explained in Jefferies v. Amery Leasing, 698 So.2d 368 (Fla. 5th DCA 1997):

A plaintiff ordinarily bears the burden of proof of all four elements of negligence—duty of care, breach of that duty, causation and damages. See Turlington v. Tampa Elec. Co., 62 Fla. 398, 56 So. 696 (1911); Woodbury v. Tampa Waterworks Co., 57 Fla. 243, 49 So. 556 (1909). Yet, obtaining proof of two of those elements, breach and causation, is difficult when a plaintiff driver who has been rear-ended knows that the defendant driver rear-ended him but usually does not know why. Beginning with McNulty, therefore, the law presumed that the driver of the rear vehicle was negligent unless that driver provided a substantial and reasonable explanation as to why he was not negligent, in which case the presumption would vanish and the case could go to the jury on its merits. Gulle v. Boggs, 174 So.2d 26, 28-29 (Fla.1965)Brethauer v. Brassell, 347 So.2d 656, 657 (Fla. 4th DCA 1977). At the time when this rear-end collision rule was developed, Florida was still a contributory negligence state. Thus, if the presumption were not overcome, the following driver’s claim would be barred. Under contributory negligence, a negligent plaintiff could not recover against a negligent defendant. See Shayne v. Saunders, 129 Fla. 355, 362, 176 So. 495, 498 (1937). Stephens v. Dichtenmueller, 207 So.2d 718 (Fla. 4th DCA), quashed on other grounds, 216 So.2d 448 (Fla.1968).

As the court explained in Birge v. Charron, 107 So.3d 350, 361 (Fla. 2012), “the rear-end presumption has never been recognized as anything more than an evidentiary tool that facilitates a particular type of negligence case by filling an evidentiary void where the evidence is such that there is no relevant jury question on the issue of liability and causation.”

dollarsCompanies make billions of dollars leasing and renting their motor vehicles. You’d think they’d have some corresponding corporate responsibility to compensate individuals injured through no fault of their own by the negligent operation of their vehicles. They don’t.

The Florida Legislature once believed they did. They may still feel this way, but its will has been overridden by Federal law.

While section 324.021(9), Florida Statutes requires rental and leasing companies to maintain a substantial minimum amount of liability insurance on their vehicles operated in the state, it has been superseded by 49 U.S. Code Sec. 30106, also known as the Graves Amendment, which was enacted into law in 2005.

Continue reading

car-insurance-policyFlorida liability insurance policies often provide coverage to many individuals, including those not named in the policy. For example, the standard Florida motor vehicle policy will insure vehicle owners and unlisted permissive users. This was the scenario in Contreras v. U.S. Sec. Ins. Co., 927 So.2d 16 (Fla. 4th DCA 2006).

Insurance companies are obligated under Florida law to act in good faith and with due regard for every insured’s interests. Boston Old Colony Insurance Company v. Gutierrez, 386 So.2d 783 (Fla. 1980). Under this duty, carriers must give fair consideration of any settlement opportunity and settle the claim when it can and should do so. Powell v. Prudential Property & Casualty Ins. Co., 584 So. 2d 12, 13 (Fla. 3rd DCA 1991).

In Contreras, a permissive user struck and killed a pedestrian while driving at a high rate of speed after consuming alcohol. Both the owner of the vehicle and the permissive user were covered under a U.S. Security motor vehicle liability insurance policy. Coverage under the policy for wrongful death was limited to $10,000.

Continue reading

motorwayThe law disfavors windfall recoveries and insurance carriers are always seeking to be the beneficiaries of this public policy. One way carriers seek to benefit from this policy is by reducing jury verdicts by amounts recovered in damages from other sources. This is known as “Setoff.”

Uninsured and underinsured motor vehicle coverage is an optional form of insurance provided in motor vehicle insurance policies “for the protection of persons insured thereunder who are legally entitled to recover damages from owners or operators of uninsured motor vehicles because of bodily injury, sickness, or disease, including death, resulting therefrom.” Section 627.727(1), Florida Statutes.

The statutory section contains the following setoff language:

Uber-300x145Riders and operators of Uber and Lyft rides will be surprised to learn that they are barely covered by insurance or not covered at all for economic losses and personal injuries resulting from crashes caused by uninsured and underinsured motorists.

Florida Statute 627.748 outlines the insurance requirements for Transportation Network Companies (“TNC”) such as Uber and Lyft. When the TNC driver is logged on to the digital network but is not engaged in a prearranged ride, the insurance coverage requirements are:

  • $50,000 for death and bodily injury per person,
  • $100,000 for death and bodily injury per incident,
  • $25,000 for property damage, 
  • Personal injury protection benefits, and
  • Uninsured and underinsured vehicle coverage (“UM/UIM”).

When the TNC driver is engaged in a prearranged ride, defined in 627.748(1)(b) as “when a TNC driver accepts a ride requested by a rider through a digital network controlled by a transportation network company, continuing while the TNC driver transports the rider, and ending when the last rider exits from and is no longer occupying the TNC vehicle,” the coverage limits above are bumped up to “at least $1 million for death, bodily injury, and property damage.”

Of the five varieties of coverage required by the statute, only the first four in the list above are mandatory. Uninsured and underinsured vehicle coverage, which is for the protection of persons insured under bodily injury policies who are legally entitled to recover damages from owners or operators of uninsured motor vehicles because of bodily injury, sickness, or disease, including death, can be rejected by the “insured named in the policy” on behalf of all insureds under the policy. Section 627.727(1), Florida Statutes.

While the TNC statute, 627.748, leaves it up to the companies or the drivers to secure the required coverage, the reality is that the companies secure the coverage. This makes the companies “the insured named in the policy” authorized to reject the UM/UIM. Since UM/UIM adds to the cost of the insurance policy, TNC companies typically reject the coverage (Lyft) or select limits lower than the required BI limits (Uber). (627.727(1) allows insureds to reject altogether or select limits lower than the BI limits. Hence, Uber is able to select $10,000 in UM/UIM coverage even though its BI is $50,000/$100,000 or $1,000,000.)

Continue reading

car-insurance-policyMotor vehicle insurance companies are expert at finding ways of denying coverage under policies. The successful denial of coverage can leave the insured with significant burdens.

The successful denial of coverage in Geico Indemnity Co. v. Walker, Case No. 4D20-764 (Fla. 4th DCA May 12, 2021), is a cautionary tale for Floridians, as the circumstances underlying the denial are exceedingly common.

In Walker, the Geico insured was the driver in a single-vehicle crash that killed him and his passenger. The passenger’s estate filed a wrongful death action against the insured. Geico denied coverage under the driver’s policy because the subject vehicle was not a listed vehicle on its policy. With respect to the incident, Geico asserted that the subject vehicle did not meet the definition of an owned, non-owned, or temporary substitute vehicle.

Following Geico’s denial, the two estates entered into a settlement agreement whereby damages would be determined by arbitration and the driver’s estate would assign its right to sue Geico for breach of duty to defend and to indemnify. The arbitration resulted in an arbitration award of $7,722,150 in total damages for the passenger’s wrongful death claim against the driver.

The case we are discussing is the appeal from the passenger’s lawsuit against Geico facilitated by the assignment. At the trial court level, it was established that the vehicle operated by the Geico insured was a 1992 Porsche, made available to the driver by the owner, his stepfather, to use and take care of for ten years without specific restrictions. The Porsche was not listed under the Geico policy as an insured vehicle. Instead, the vehicle was listed in the stepfather’s automobile insurance policy with Allstate, which also listed the driver as an insured driver on that policy.

Continue reading

Contact Information