This is not my case. In the case of State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company v. Siergiej, Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 2nd Dist. 2013, a claimant was involved in a crash with a motorcycle operated by a Lee County Sheriff Department employee.
He sued the Lee County Sheriff’s Department (the Sheriff) and State Farm, his uninsured motorist insurer.
He made negligence claims against the Sheriff arising from the crash and sought uninsured motorist benefits from State Farm.
The tortfeasor was a self-insured governmental agency. The government agency had $100,000 in coverage. The claimant settled for $50,000, which was less than the $100,000 in self-insured liability funds available from the Sheriff.
Change in Law: In Florida, state, county and city government agencies are currently liable for up to $200,000 per person/$300,000 per incident.
This case shows that the government may offer much less than the actual value of the claim. Per 627.727(6), Mr. Siergiej obtained State Farm’s permission to settle his claim against the Sheriff for less than the full amount of available self-insurance.
State farm waived its right of subrogation and agreed to a settlement between the victim and the Lee County Sheriff’s Department. The lawsuit continued.
Liability was not an issue. (I assume that State Farm admitted liability). State Farm disputed that the victim’s ankle and back injury were caused by the crash.
The trial lasted three days.
Jury Finds that Accident Caused Neck Injury
The jury found that the accident caused his neck and ankle injury. The verdict awarded him $211,000.
State Farm wanted a credit for the:
- $100,000 in self-insured liability funds available from the Sheriff, less $13,101 the Sheriff had paid for property damage, for a total of $86,899.
- $26,780 in medical expenses awarded for the neck injury that his workers’ compensation carrier paid.
- $20,000 that the jury awarded for lost wages, which was less than the $44,930 in lost wages and disability benefits the workers’ compensation carrier paid.
Tip: A Florida jury can award you less than your worker’s compensation carrier paid. There is no guarantee that a jury awards you the entire amount that your worker’s compensation carrier paid.
State Farm also wanted a credit for the $5,000 in PIP benefits it paid under his policy. The court entered a judgment in the victim’s favor for $100,000, State Farm Mutual Insurance Company policy limits.
Tip: You are limited to the coverage limits on the proper uninsured motorist (UM) policy. (This is true unless you can show that UM insurer acted in bad faith).
Even though this man’s verdict was much more than the UM policy, he can only get his UM limit, which was $100,000.
State Farm argued that the self-insured governmental agency should be treated the same way as a standard liability insurer.
It argued that State Farm is entitled to a credit of $100,000 against the verdict, which together with the other credits State Farm claims, will reduce the judgment to an amount less than $100,000. See § 627.727(6)(c), Fla. Stat. (2003).
Mr. Siergiej countered that section 627.727(6)(c) is inapplicable in this case because it governs settlements with liability insurers, not self-insured entities such as the Sheriff and that, therefore, State Farm is not entitled to credit under that section.
Section 627.727 regulates underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage.
Subsection 627.727(6) outlines the procedure an injured insured must follow if he elects to settle with a liability insurer and its insured in an amount that does not fully satisfy his claim for personal injuries so as to create an underinsured motorist claim.
Subsection (c) states that “the underinsured motorist insurer is entitled to a credit against the total damages in the amount of the limits of the underinsured motorist’s liability policy in all cases to which this subsection applies.” § 627.727(6)(c).
The underinsured motorist insurer is entitled to this credit even when the insured’s settlement with the liability insurer is for less than the full amount of the underinsured motorist’s liability policy. Id.
State Farm argues that under subsection (6) it is entitled to a credit for the full $100,000 in self-insurance that was available from the Sheriff.
The injured man used Young v. Progressive Southeastern Insurance Co., 753 So. 2d 80 (Fla. 2000).
He argued that because Young held that a self-insured motorist with a certificate of self-insurance with limits of liability lower than the damages sustained by the injured person is not an underinsured motorist as defined in section 627.727, subsection (6) is inapplicable.
Thus, State Farm is not entitled to a credit for the Sheriff’s $100,000 in self-insurance. According to Young, as a self-insured, the Sheriff is considered to be “statutorily uninsured,” not underinsured.
State Farm received a credit against Mr. Siergiej’s damages for the $26,780 in medical expenses and $20,000 in past lost wages paid by workers’ compensation, the $5000 in PIP benefits, and the $50,000 settlement from the Sheriff.
I assume that $159,220 was awarded for pain and suffering. This would be the difference between the $211,000 verdict and the economic damages that the court mentioned.
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