Florida Legal Topics

DeBary Legal News - Auto Accident

The Law Office of Paul Bernardini

Will a traffic ticket raise my insurance?

Getting a traffic ticket does not guarantee your insurance rates will go up. At least, not immediately.

Most insurance companies don't look at your driving record until your due for renewal. That's when they might notice it on your driving record and adjust your renewal rate accordingly. And, if you are checking rates with other insurance companies then their quotes may include an increased amount because of the traffic ticket.

The type of ticket can affect whether your insurance rates go up. It all depends on the risk that they perceive. For example, one speeding ticket may not affect your rate. But, multiple speeding tickets or a ticket for an excessive amount of speed, can jump your rates significantly.

Another situation you should be careful of, is a ticket associated with a more significant offense such as Driving While Intoxicated. At that point, the speeding ticket is the least of your worries. You should contact a lawyer immediately to help manage the damage to your driving record and insurance rates.

Do I need an attorney if I have been in a Car Accident?

This article is to help you decide if you need an attorney if you were in a car accident. Whether you were at fault, you were struck by another vehicle, you were a pedestrian struck by a vehicle, or you were a passenger, are not major factors in the decision.

Anyone involved in a traffic accident should consider contacting an attorney to protect your rights, including financial compensation.

We have seen cases where the person who was deemed to have caused the accident has trouble with their own insurance company. Of course, many times, the victim of the accident trouble getting compensated by the other driver's insurance company. But, victims can also have a problem getting their own insurance company to pay their share of the damages.

No matter how minor the visible damage, it doesn't hurt to contact an attorney to ask what you need to do to protect your ability to receive compensation in the event of an accident. We offer a free consultation to go over your situation.

Motor Vehicle Accidents

Auto accident, car accident, automobile accident, collision, car wreck, car crash -
no matter what you call it, the end result can change your life forever.

We are more distracted than ever before when we drive; by our cell phones, texting, radios (most new cars display artist and song title), GPSs, and all the new technology at our fingertips. We’re so used to multi-tasking, we can’t even stop when we get behind the wheel!

The National Safety Council estimates that 38,300 people were killed and 4.4 million injured on U.S. roads in 2015, which is the largest one-year percentage increase in since 1965. Surprisingly, according to Newsweek* magazine, “One of the strongest correlations tends to be between the economy and traffic fatalities.” That makes perfect sense: more jobs, more cars on the road and more people hurrying to get to those jobs. Also, more jobs, more money for more vacation trips – on the road.Accident and death rates always increase over the summer months.

Please take your driving safety seriously. It’s a lot more risky than ever before. And since about 40% of accidents are caused by uninsured or underinsured motorists, make sure you have uninsured motorist coverage. But if you’ve been injured in a car accident, or if a loved one has been in a fatal motor vehicle accident, please call us at 386-258-3453 as soon as possible. We’ll make sure you receive the maximum compensation you’re entitled to. The consultation is always free.

*Newsweek, “2015 Brought Biggest Percent Increase in U.S. Traffic Deaths in 50 Years” by Stav Ziv, 2/17/16

Insurance - Personal Injury Protection

Extended PIP provision of policy was ambiguous as to whether insurer's liability for extended PIP benefits was limited to $10,000 or whether insurer was required to pay all insured's medical expenses without limitation. Because ambiguity must be construed against insurer as drafter of policy, trial court erred in entering summary judgment for insurer in insured's declaratory judgment action, finding that extended PIP coverage only allows for recovery of medical expenses until $10,000 limit is reached. Spaid v. Integon Indemnity Corp., 39 Fla. L. Weekly D1299 (1st DCA opinion filed June 18, 2014.)

Surveillance from Auto Accident

Surveillance DVD showing plaintiff performing activities that he allegedly claimed in his deposition testimony he could not perform did not constitute clear and convincing evidence sufficient to support dismissal with prejudice for fraud on the court. Discrepancies between plaintiff's testimony and surveillance DVD are best resolved by the jury. Guillen v. Mai So Vang and Yang Xiong, 39 Fla. L. Weekly D1014.

It is always best to tell the truth in your depositions. One lie has the ability to cost you the case.

Automobile Negligence

Where the defendant in a case arising from an auto collision admitted that he was negligent and the sole proximate cause of the collision, and further admitted that he acted with gross negligence and conceded that the plaintiff was entitled to punitive damages, the trial court erred in allowing evidence of the defendant's drug use to be admitted in the compensatory damages portion of the bifurcated claim. Swanson v. Robles, 39 FLW D13 (Fla. 2nd DCA 12-20-2013).

Automobile Repair Estimates

Written automobile repair estimates can be waived. In Sian Motors Inc. v. Spivey, 39 Fla. L. Weekly D338 (February 12, 2014), the Second District Court of Appeal ruled that Florida Statute 599.909 (1), which requires a written estimate, can be waived under certain circumstances.  That is, the repair facility can offer oral testimony showing that the customer waived a written estimate.

Automobile Accidents - Evidence

The defendant's misconduct is sometimes not known to the jury.

In an automobile accident case involving the use of drugs by the defendant, the Second District ruled on December 20, 2013, that evidence of the drug use was not admissible where the defendant admitted that the defendant was liable for both compensatory and punitive damages and that the defendant had acted with gross negligence which was the proximate cause of the wrongful death of the decedent. Swanson v. Robles, 39 FLW D13 (2nd DCA, December 20, 2013).

Torts - Automobile Accident - Damages

Jury finding of zero damages:

On October 30, 2013, the Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled that a jury was not required to find any damages whatsoever in favor of the plaintiff.  The plaintiffs made several claims, one of them for medical treatment at the scene of the accident and the emergency room immediately following the accident. Verdicts like this are one of the reasons people consider settling their claims.  Hernandez v. Gonzalez, 38 Fla.L.Weekly D2257 (2013).

Insurance - Uninsured Motorist Coverage

On November 22, 2013. The Second District Court of Appeals detailed that an injured insured may bring a direct action against his or her own uninsured motorist carrier without having first resolved the claim against the negligent party. Woodland v. Travelers Indem. Co., 699 So. 2d 1361, 1363 (Fla. 1997). However, injured insured must demonstrate that he or she is entitled to benefits on the basis that the negligent party is an uninsured or underinsured motorist. Allstate Ins. Co. v. Boyton, 486 So. 2d 552, 557 (Fla. 1986).

In this specific case, Ms. Neff acknowledges that the tortfeasor has $50,000 in liability coverage and that her damages are less than that amount. Because of this, Ms. Neff did not prove her damages exceeded the underinsured driver's policy limits of $50,000. Therefore she must resolve her claim with the negligent party before she can make a claim for her underinsured motorist coverage.

The Court's ruling is consistent with past rulings holding that uninsured motorist coverage is to compensate the injured insured over and above the negligent party's liability coverage. See State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Moher, 734 So. 2d 1088, 1088  (Fla. 2d DCA 1999).

The above information is intended for general purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.

Automobile Accident - Uninsured Motorist Coverage

It is important to remember that 40% of the drivers in Florida are either under insured or uninsured. You can judge for yourself who causes the worst accidents, between the people who have no insurance and the people who are properly insured. It is very important to know that uninsured motorist coverage is the one type of insurance that protects you and your family from drivers who do not have insurance or who do not have adequate insurance.

Always be careful about what you sign at the insurance agent’s office. Surprisingly, when people understand what uninsured motorist coverage is, many people waive uninsured motorist coverage. A good example of what bad things can happen when uninsured motorists coverage is waived is the case of Horace Man Insurance v. Chase, determined September 26, 2013 by the First District. In that case, the named insured rejected uninsured motorist coverage equal to the bodily injury liability limits and that rejection was binding on a subsequent policyholder. The plaintiff's recovery was limited due to lack of uninsured motorist coverage.

With regard to unlicensed drivers, the Second District decided on September 18, 2013 that evidence that driver of the vehicle was unlicensed was admissible where the evidence was relevant to show the driver’s inexperience in handling an automobile which bore a causal connection to the accident in the wrongful death claim. Lopez v. Wink Stucco, Inc., 38 FLW 1976.

The above information is intended for general purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.

Liability Insurance - Automobile

A leased golf cart that has been modified to exceed a speed of 20 miles per hour may sometimes fall within the statutory definition of a low speed vehicle and as such, can be insured pursuant to the Florida Financial Responsibility Law. Angelotta v. Security National Insurance, Fifth District Court of Appeal, July 5, 2013, 38 FLW D1477.

Wrongful death: title holder held not responsible

In a case involving a wrongful death, the Fifth District held that even though the Defendant's name was on the title to the motor vehicle, he was not responsible because he did not possess any beneficial ownership in the vehicle that was driven by another person at the time of the accident. The entire case turned on who had beneficial ownership of the vehicle. Of course, the safest thing to always do is to have your name removed from the title.