1. The Careless Driver
The most obvious person to go after in an auto accident case is the driver whose negligence caused your damages. Hopefully the driver who is at fault will be an insured under an auto insurance policy providing bodily injury coverage.
If so, his or her bodily injury coverage will pay for your damages up to the limits on the policy.
Tip: The driver who the police officer believes is at fault is generally listed as driver #1 on a Florida crash report. Although police officers are human, their determination as to who is at fault is incorrect.
Example – $100,000 Settlement With Careless Driver’s Insurer
Michelle is driving a car in Miami, Florida. Her car is insured through USAA. Michelle has bodily injury (BI) coverage with split limits of $100,000/$300,000.
Jenny is driving a different car. Michelle runs a red light.
Michelle crashes into Jenny. As you can see from the photo below, Jenny’s car is damaged.
To keep it simple, I won’t talk Jenny’s possible entitlement to personal injury protection (PIP) benefits. Jenny can make a claim for her out of pocket medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering with Michelle’s auto insurer, USAA.
This example is from an actual case that I had. (I changed my client’s actual name.)
USAA paid us the $100,000 BI limits. We made an additional claim that I talk about in number four (4) below.
2. Vehicle Owner
Florida is the only state in the US that places strict vicarious liability on a party who lends the vehicle to another whose negligence causes damage to another.
Owner Is Liable Just By Owning the Car
This law is called Florida’s dangerous instrumentality doctrine.
The crash report should list the owner of the vehicle. Sometimes the owner of the vehicle is different from the driver. In Florida, you can make a claim against both the owner and the driver.
You can complete a Motor Vehicle Records Request and send it to the Florida Department of Highway and Safety Motor Vehicles to find out who has title and registration to the vehicle.
In a situation where an employer owns a vehicle and allows an employee to use the vehicle during nonworking hours, the dangerous instrumentality doctrine makes the employer liable for the employee’s negligent driving of the vehicle, even if an employer told the employee to use the vehicle only for work.
Person Who Owns the Car Liability Limited to $100,000 for Pain and Suffering
Under Florida Statute 324.021(9)(b)3, when the owner of a motor vehicle who is a natural person lends a motor vehicle to a permissive user, the owner’s liability is only up to $100,000 per person and up to $300,000 per incident for bodily injury and up to $50,000 for property damage.
If the permissive user of the motor vehicle is uninsured or has any insurance with limits less than $500,000 combined property damage and bodily injury liability, the owner shall be liable for up to an additional $500,000 in economic damages only arising out of the use of the motor vehicle.
The additional specified liability of the owner for economic damages shall be reduced by amounts actually recovered from the permissive user and from any insurance or self-insurance covering the permissive user. There is no limit on the liability of the owner for his or her own negligence.
No Limit if Owner of Vehicle is a Business and It’s Being Using for Business Purpose
There is no limit on the liability of an owner of a motor vehicle that is used for commercial activity in the owner’s ordinary course of business, except a company that meets the definition of “rental company” as defined by the statute.
Rental Car Companies – Liability Usually Limited to $10,000 for Bodily Injury
Florida rental car companies are usually not liable if a driver of their rental car causes a crash. However, there are exceptions.
The most common exception is that someone who is injured by a rental car driver may be able to get at least $10,000 in bodily injury damages and $10,000 in property damages from a rental car company. This is pursuant to Florida’s Financial Responsibility Law.
The best part?
This $10,000 bodily injury liability (BIL) limit applies even if the rental car driver didn’t purchase insurance from the rental car company. For example, I settled a personal injury case against a driver who was driving a Hertz rental car. Hertz Claim management agreed that there was $10,000 in BIL coverage.
Hertz is affiliated with Dollar and Thrifty. I would like to think that Dollar and Thrifty take the same position.
The bad news?
Some rental car companies have taken the position that they aren’t required to cover their cars with any BIL insurance.
Here is a diagram from the crash report of the case that I settled with Hertz.
Olga was driving a car (vehicle 2 in the diagram) heading north on Interstate 95 (I-95). She was driving in the first lane from the left shoulder of the road.
The driver of Vehicle 6 stopped in the roadway after he ran out of gas. The driver of Vehicle 3 and Vehicle 4 stopped for Vehicle 6.
Juan, the driver of Vehicle 1, attempted to change lanes to avoid hitting vehicle 3. However, vehicle 1 went directly into the path of Olga. Olga then collided into the rear of vehicle 1 with her car’s right front.
The motorcycle driver attempted to pass between Olga and vehicle 3. This caused a sideswipe collision with the right side of Olga’s car.
After the collision, the motorcyclist continued traveling northbound and collided into the rear of vehicle 4. This caused both the driver and passenger to fly off the motorcycle.
All the vehicles were removed from their final rest upon the reporting officer’s arrival with the assistance of the road rangers.
Vehicle 6 vehicle was not involved in the accident.
3 Different Drivers Got Tickets for Moving Violations
Juan received a ticket for improper change of lane, and pulling out in front of a vehicle. Florida Statute 316.085(2).
Carlos, the driver of vehicle 5, got a ticket for careless driving. His vehicle was uninsured.
The driver of vehicle 6 was charged with improper stopping/standing/parking. He was issued a citation pursuant to Florida Statute 316.1945(1)(a).
She will continue to be treated on an as needed basis.
State Farm insured the driver of vehicle 1. We settled with State Farm for $8,000. Hertz Car Rental owned vehicle 6. We settled with Hertz Car Rental for $2,000. The total personal injury settlement was for $10,000.
I represented the injured driver. I personally knew her from before the accident. However, when she initially called me to see if I could represent her, she mentioned that a criminal defense attorney, Aubrey Webb gave her my number.
Thus, with the client’s (and the other attorney’s) consent, I listed him as co-counsel on our fee contract. He received 25% of our attorney’s fee.
If a Rental Car Company’s Negligence Caused the Accident, There are No Limits
If the rental car company was negligent, then they are on the hook for damages. There are no caps on the amount that you can recover.
If the injured person’s only argument is that the rental car company rented a car to a driver who didn’t have a license, it is a tougher case.
Here is an example of a real settlement against the rental car company for negligence. (This wasn’t my settlement.) The case allegedly settled without a lawsuit being filed.
A rental car company rented a car to Natalie (not real name). The rental car company didn’t check to see if Natalie had a valid license.
The rental car was impounded (taken) by the police after Natalie committed a moving violation.
Natalie notified the rental car company that the car was impounded. Natalie then got the car back.
Even though the rental car company knew the car was impounded, they let Natalie continue to use the car.
Thereafter, Natalie’s friend, Tim (not real name), was driving the rental car. He caused an accident and injured Lisa (not real name).
Lisa had a huge hospital bill. A chiropractor treated Lisa for soft tissue injuries. (Soft tissue injuries typically means back and/or neck pain).
Lisa allegedly settled her personal injury claim against the rental car company for $60,000.
Learn more about rental car accident claims.
3. Liability Insurance of the Careless Driver’s Spouse and Resident Relatives
Although you may not be able to sue, the liability insurance of spouse of a named insured and resident relatives of either the named insured or the spouse may provide coverage for an individual whose negligent driving causes damages to you.
No Coverage Under Resident Relative’s BI Insurance if Driver Owns the Car
If the driver (or owner) of the car or truck that caused your accident does not have bodily injury liability insurance or was underinsured, you can make a claim against the bodily injury liability coverage of a resident relative(s) of the driver of the adverse vehicle if the adverse driver was not driving a vehicle that he/she owned at the time of the crash.
I define “adverse” as the vehicle that caused your accident. A resident relative of the careless driver may have bodily injury coverage with a major auto insurance carrier in Florida.
If so, the resident relative’s BI insurance coverage should cover the 20% of your medical bills – that PIP does not pay – up to $10,000.
Tip: Some smaller Florida car insurers have stopped writing this coverage into these policies.
The resident relative’s BI coverage may cover your medical bills and other damages – for amounts above the $10,000 – at 100% if the adverse driver was at fault.
The BI claims adjuster for the adverse driver should list any other available insurance coverage that would cover you, as well as other insurance information, pursuant to Florida Statute 627.4137 if you request it in writing.
Send Affidavit for the Careless Driver and Owner to Complete
You can send an affidavit to the driver and owner of the adverse vehicle. The affidavit may ask for their the contact information and auto insurance information for all the resident relative(s) of the driver of the adverse vehicle.
There is a chance that the adverse driver could lie in his or her affidavit though. You can ask him/her if he will let you take his statement under oath. You or your attorney would need to hire a stenographer to record the conversation.
Stenographers charge a minimum of about $100 to appear at the statement.
4. The Driver’s Employer (or Agency)
If at the time of the accident the employee was within the course and scope of her employment, the employer is liable for the employee’s negligence even if the employee was driving her own car.
Careless Driver’s Employer May Not Be Liable if Going or Coming to Work
If the careless driver was going to or coming from work at the time of your crash, his employer usually isn’t liable for your injuries.
Exceptions to No Liability for Going or Coming to Work
However, the careless driver’s employer may be liable if the driver:
- Was a “traveling employee“; or
- Falls under the “premises rule” exception, the “special hazard exception”, or the “special errand exception”
If the careless driver wasn’t driving a company car, you may only find out if one of these exceptions applies if you take the driver’s statement under oath. You can also send him/her an affidavit to complete.
4a. Uber or Lyft
Rideshare companies are Uber, Lyft and Others. A Florida “Rideshare driver’s” negligence may cause your injury. Maybe another driver caused your injury while you were a passenger in an Uber or Lyft vehicle.
The good news?
Here are some articles on Uber and Lyft claims.
- Injury claims if an Uber or Lyft driver’s negligence caused your injury in a Florida accident
- Uber and Lyft Passenger Claims Against Another Driver in Florida
4b. A Volunteer Organization’s Insurer
If a driver was volunteering when he or she caused your accident, the volunteer organization’s insurer may pay for your injuries.
When I volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami several years ago, I was told that they had a $1 Million or so insurance policy that covered me when I was driving with my “little brother”.
5. Parents Liable if They Signed the Drivers License Application
A parent is liable for the negligence or intentional act of a minor when operating a vehicle if the parent or guardian signed the application for an instruction permit or driver’s license. This is true even if the crash occurred outside of Florida. Florida Statute 322.09(2)
The big issue here is whether the parent’s or guardian’s insurance policy language offers coverage.
6. Workers’ Compensation
If a person is injured while working, the injured person may have a workers’ compensation claim.
7. Manufacturer of the Vehicle or Tires
The injured person may also have a claim against the manufacturer of a vehicle or the tires. These cases are expensive so there generally must be very bad injuries to justify the expense of a defective product claim.
8. The Repair Shop
The injured person may have a claim against a repair shop whose negligence caused the accident.
9. The Contractor (or Others) Responsible for the Design or Maintenance of the Road
If the roadway was improperly maintained, the injured person may have a claim against the state or federal agency.
10. Property Owners Who May Have Created the Hazard that Caused the Accident
If the accident was caused by a property owner’s creation of a condition that caused an accident, the injured person may have a claim.
There was a $12 Million Verdict for the Parents of a Boy Killed By a Van Driver where a jury found that a condominium association and property manager were negligent in failing to trim the hedges and have stop signs in place so that drivers exiting the condominium complex would have seen pedestrians and bicyclists. That was not my case.
11. Other First Party Benefits
You may also be entitled to other first party benefits such as uninsured motorist coverage, disability coverage and more.
Did someone’s carelessness cause your injury in a Florida car crash or other type of accident?
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