An underinsured motorist (UIM) carrier has been deemed responsible to render policy limits for punitive damages an at-fault driver is unable to pay, even when those limits pertained to “property damage” losses plaintiff didn’t suffer.
The case is indicative of why you need a highly experienced Florida car accident attorney to help handle drunk driving and/ or wrongful death accident claims. The reality is, you are likely to have valid claims against numerous insurance companies and making certain you have received payment on all policies rightly owed is imperative. Further, drunk driving accident claims are among the only type of car accident case in Florida wherein one might expect to obtain punitive damages, as outlined in F.S. 768.82. Such damages are allowable in cases where there is clear and convincing evidence a defendant is guilty of intentional misconduct or gross negligence. They are intended to punish the defendant rather than “make whole” the plaintiff (the latter being the goal of most personal injury claims).
In the case in question (arising in South Carolina, but with issues that may pertain to Florida car accident claimants), plaintiff and his wife were riding in a vehicle owned by the wife’s mother. Without warning, a drunk driver crossed the center line and struck their vehicle. Both were seriously injured, with plaintiff’s wife dying several days later due to catastrophic injuries. The at-fault driver paid its policy limit. Then the vehicle owner’s (decedent’s mother) insurer paid on its UIM limits for ($25,000 to husband individually and $25,000 to him as representative of his wife’s estate). Husband then sought recovery from his own insurer, which provided split limits UIM policy. This allowed for property damage coverage up to $50,000 and bodily injury coverage of up to $100,000 each. Continue reading →