I’ve written many articles about people who live in another state, and are injured in a Florida car accident. Here, I focus on Tennesseans who hurt in a Florida car accident. These cases are different than a case for a Floridian who is injured in a Florida car accident.
If you don’t know the differences, you can blow the case. And you want to avoid that! At all costs.
You Must Sue the At Fault Driver (to Get UM Benefits)
If you live in Tennessee but you’re injured in a Florida car accident, you must sue the at fault driver. In order to be able to make a claim against a Tennessee uninsured motorist (UM) insurer, Tennessee law requires you to sue the at fault driver. Bates v. Greene, 544 SW 3d 345 – Tenn: Court of Appeals 2017.
The Bates court said:
Today, Tennessee Code Annotated section 56-7-1206 sets out the procedures a party must follow in order to bring its uninsured motorist carrier into a case against a tortfeasor. Winters v. Estate of Jones, 932 S.W.2d 464, 465 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1996). Nine years after Schleif was decided, the Tennessee General Assembly passed what eventually became subsection (d) of Tennessee Code Annotated section 56-7-1206, which now provides:
‘(d) In the event that service of process against the uninsured motorist, which was issued to the motorist’s last known address, is returned by the sheriff or other process server marked, “Not to be found in my county,” or words to that effect, or if service of process is being made upon the secretary of state for a nonresident uninsured motorist and the registered notice to the last known address is returned without service on the uninsured motorist, the service of process against the uninsured motorist carrier, pursuant to this section, shall be sufficient for the court to require the insurer to proceed as if it is the only defendant in the case.’
However, I’m not sure that a Florida court would require the injured Tennessee resident to sue the at fault driver in Florida. I have never seen a Florida car accident case that has discussed this issue. In a moment, I’ll discuss this.
If the Tennessee resident sues the responsible driver in Florida, then best practice if for the the Tennessee resident to also sue his or her Tennessee uninsured motorist (UM) insurer. Why take a chance?
The Tennessee resident should likely sue the UM insurer in Florida. However, to do this, the Tennessee insurer must have some connection with Florida. Erie Ins. Exch. v. Larose, 202 So. 3d 148 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2016) (Judges refer to this connection as “minimum contacts”.)
Having this connection is is known as personal jurisdiction.
You can’t sue any party in Florida unless you they are subject to personal jurisdiction in Florida.
An example of a UM insurer having a connection with Florida is if the Tennessee insurer sells or issues car insurance policies in Florida.
Should you settle with the Other Driver if you’re hurt in a Florida car accident and you have Tennessee UM?
Not if you your case is worth more than the at fault driver’s bodily injury liability (BIL) insurance limits.
This is because if you settle with the at fault driver, then you won’t be able to sue him or her. The Tennessee uninsured motorist insurer can argue that you haven’t complied with the UM insurance policy and/or Tennessee UM law. This can kill the UM claim.
I’m aware that Florida law doesn’t require suing the at fault party in a case against UM insurer who sold the policy in Florida. This is for public policy reasons. However, out of state residents are not subject to the same UM public policy arguments that Florida residents can make.
I’m not saying that a Florida court will force the injured Tennessean to sue the at fault party in Florida. However, it’s something to consider. I’m unaware of any Florida case requiring or not requiring the injured to sue Florida at fault driver in order to have a viable UM claim based on an out of state UM policy that requires the at fault driver to be sued. If you know of a case, please let me know in the comments section below.
Let’s complicate matters a little more. Assume that the Tennessee UM insurer does not have any connection to Florida. If the injured person sues in Tennessee for UM benefits, he or she may have an argument that it is impossible to get personal jurisdiction on the Florida at-fault driver. Thus, the injured Tennessean can argue that he or she can’t be required to sue a Florida driver in Tennessee for a Florida car accident.
In sum, when dealing with an Tennessee UM policy and a Florida car accident, it’s best to wait to settle a personal injury claim until the UM claim is settled. This is especially true since Tennessee UM law requires suing the at fault driver.
And Tennessee only give you 1 year to sue the at fault driver. So watch out for that too.
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This article is not legal advice. Always speak with an car accident attorney. Every case is different.
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