Florida Supreme Court Decision Will Help Florida Residents Battling Insurance Disputes

A recent decision by the Florida Supreme Court will not only help the two widows that were involved, but will likely help other Florida residents who are battling insurance disputes. The Florida Supreme Court ordered a settlement of over $8.5 million to a Loxahatchee widow that lost her husband in a car crash in 2006. The judgement was placed against Geico insurance company.

The attorneys involved with the case say that Tracey Potts had been a long insurance dispute over the death of her husband and the Supreme Court ruling proves that insurance companies do indeed have a fiduciary relationship with their clients and should not ever leave them out to dry the way that Geico did.

The Basis for the Decision

The 4-to-3 decision found that Geico did exactly that with their client James Harvey after he drove his Hummer into the path of John Potts who was riding a motorcycle. Potts was killed instantly in the crash. The Courts ruled that Geico did not take the appropriate steps to protect Harvey from a lawsuit in connection with the accident and Potts resulting death.

Justice Peggy Quince said in the decision that evidence proved that Geico failed to fulfill their commitment to Harvey because they dropped the ball and did not use the same degree of diligence and care as a person of ordinary prudence and care should have exercised.

Bad Faith

Because of Geico’s inaction, Harvey was on the hook for a judgement against him of several million dollars after a 2010 jury made the award for Potts. Harvey died last year, but his widow continued the fight for his estate. With interest, the judgement was now over $10 million.

The Supreme Court ruling stated that Geico acted in bad faith meaning that Harvey’s widow, as well as his estate, are not responsible for the judgement. One Justice, Charles Canady, does not agree with the ruling claiming that it opens an unwarranted expansion on the liability for claims of bath faith. He says in Florida law, mere negligence could now be considered bad faith.

Florida PIP Insurance

When the accident occurred, Geico tried to settle the matter by offering Potts estate a check for the full policy limits of $100,000. The estate refused to settle for that amount and demanded more.

In Florida, all drivers are required to carry insurance called personal injury protection (PIP) or “no-fault” insurance. This insurance will pay for any injuries that a person suffers as a result of a car accident, regardless of who is at fault. Just like other states, Florida has specific regulations and rules regarding PIP coverage.

Under Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law, drivers of vehicles with four or more wheels must carry at least $10,000 of personal injury protection insurance as well as $10,000 in property damage liability, or PDL. Drivers are required to maintain their PIP/PDL insurance coverage continuously thought the registration and licensing period.

What Does PIP Insurance Cover?

Many medical expenses, if not all, will be covered by personal injury protection insurance. This type of coverage also covers lost wages and death benefits. In the Sunshine State, you can decide if you want your PIP coverage to cover just you or all the members of your household.

The state will also only pay for 80% of your medical expenses that are covered by PIP. For example, if you receive $5,000 in injuries, PIP will pay $4,000 of it. In addition, some medical costs such as massage therapy and acupuncture, are not covered by PIP since the laws were changed. The following are claims that are eligible for PIP payment:

  • Ambulatory services
  • Rehabilitation services
  • Medications
  • Medical services
  • Surgical services
  • Hospital costs
  • Diagnostic expenses

The one big catch with PIP insurance is that if you fail to get treatment within 14 days of your accident, your PIP coverage will not apply. PIP coverage will also apply if you own the car that you were driving when you were in the accident, or if your spouse or a blood relative owned the car. Your claim must be made with your own PIP insurance carrier.

In addition, if the injuries you sustained are determined to not need emergency care, you will only be entitled to $2,500 in PIP insurance benefits. However, if you have a good health insurance policy, they should cover any expenses not paid by PIP.

PIP Benefits and Work

None of us ever want to miss work due to an accident, especially if that means you will not get paid. If you have to take off time from work after your accident, you may be able to claim those lost wages through your PIP insurance coverage. To make a claim for your lost wages, you will have to provide a wage and salary verification to your insurance provider. This will show them how much you earned in the 13 weeks leading up to your accident, so your insurance provider knows how much they are required to pay you. PIP coverage will pay as much as 60% of your lost wages.

How a Personal Injury Attorney can Help

If you or your loved one has been injured in an accident and the insurance company is not offering what you believe to be a fair settlement, it is important to consult with a personal injury attorney. Keep in mind that although you may believe that your insurance company is on your side, they are really in the business of keeping their costs as low as possible which means they may not offer you an adequate settlement.

That is where the attorneys at Brill & Rinaldi can help. They have decades of experience helping ensure that their clients get the settlements that they deserve, and they can help you too. Contact them today to schedule a consultation.