Americans have been driving less in recent months, and some auto insurance companies recently announced they’ll be extending financial breaks to policyholders through June. That may help more drivers hang onto their policies, but many have already had their coverage either canceled or reduced. Even before the Florida unemployment rate topped 13 percent, the Sunshine State had the highest percentage of uninsured drivers at nearly 27 percent. If you’re in a Florida auto accident with an uninsured driver or an underinsured driver, it’s important to understand your rights as well as the means by which you can still be compensated. Continue reading
A city police officer struck by a van and seriously injured while directing traffic in Florida secured a claim for workers’ compensation and a settlement of $1.5 million against the at-fault driver. More recently though, he lost his claim for bad faith insurance.
Florida’s bad faith insurance law is designed to protect people why buy insurance and fulfill their contractual obligations (paying their premiums) by making sure the insurer acts in good faith when investigating, handling and settling an insured’s claims. Insurers are compelled to settle claims when a reasonably prudent person would. Failure to settle when extended a reasonable offer to do so can give rise to a bad faith insurance action.
In deciding whether an insurer has acted in bad faith, courts are supposed to consider the totality of the circumstances. The standard isn’t negligence but whether the insurer acted diligently with the same speed, care and rigor it would if it were in the insured’s shoes in working to avoid an excess judgment.
In many bad faith insurance claims stemming from auto accidents, the third-party injured person can obtain from the right to step into the shoes of the at-fault driver insured and pursue a claim against the at-fault driver’s auto insurer. That was what happened in the recent bad faith insurance case involving the Florida city police officer. Continue reading
Courts in Florida have established a legal concept known as “rebuttable presumption” when it comes to rear-end collisions. The rebuttable presumption is that if a vehicle strikes another from behind, the rear vehicle was presumptively negligent, though that can be rebutted. There are some specific exemptions to the rule, and motorists filing claims should pay attention to these.
This rebuttable presumption can make it easier for plaintiffs in these cases to prove liability, and it can also make it tougher for the defendant to prove comparative fault. Florida is a pure comparative fault state. That means whatever percentage of fault is shared by the plaintiff will proportionately reduce the amount of damages paid by the defendant – up to 99 percent. So for instance, if you were 40 percent at-fault for a crash and the defendant was 60 percent at-fault, defendant would only be responsible to pay 60 percent of your total damages.
Some of the grounds on which the rebuttable presumption can be challenged (per the 2007 ruling in Dept. of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles v. Saleme) are:
- Evidence of mechanical failure by the rear vehicle (in which case, the vehicle manufacturer may be liable);
- Evidence/ testimony of an unexpected or sudden stop or lane change (drivers must anticipate these scenarios to an extent and maintain a safe distance from vehicles ahead; defendants must prove the stop or lane change truly both sudden and unexpected);
- Evidence the vehicle was not stopped legally on the roadway.