While Floridian drivers are required to have car insurance, not all of them do, and many uninsured drivers cause accidents throughout the state. Fortunately, many people purchase insurance policies that include uninsured motorist coverage, and they can obtain benefits for the losses caused by an accident with a driver without insurance. Many insurers are based in other states, though, and may dispute what state’s laws apply in determining whether coverage should be afforded. This was demonstrated in a recent opinion issued in an uninsured motorist accident case in Florida, in which the court discussed choice of law determinations. If you were hurt in an accident with an uninsured motorist, it is in your best interest to meet with a trusted Florida car accident attorney to discuss your rights.
The Accident and Subsequent Lawsuit
Allegedly, the plaintiff suffered injuries in a car accident with another driver. The accident occurred in Pennsylvania. The driver’s insurance company denied the plaintiff’s request for damages, arguing the driver was not liable for the accident. The plaintiff then filed a claim seeking uninsured motorist benefits from the defendant, her insurer. The insurer denied the plaintiff’s request, arguing that there was no uninsured driver, and the plaintiff was at fault for the accident and therefore was not owed damages. The plaintiff then filed a lawsuit against the defendant in Florida, seeking uninsured motorist benefits. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing Pennsylvania law should apply, precluding the plaintiff’s claims.
Choice of Law Determinations in Uninsured Motorist Cases in Florida
A federal district court exercising diversity jurisdiction will usually apply the law of the forum state, including when making a choice of law analysis. Prior to conducting a choice of law analysis, however, a court must determine whether there is a true conflict between the laws of the two jurisdictions. Where the laws of the two states would produce the same results, there is a false conflict, and the court should not conduct a choice of law analysis.
Here, there was a true conflict between the laws of Pennsylvania and the laws of Florida, in that in Florida, at-fault plaintiffs can recover benefits regardless of their degree of fault, while in Pennsylvania, a plaintiff must be fifty percent or less at fault to be awarded damages. The parties disputed not only which states’ laws should apply but also which Florida’s choice of law analysis for tort claims or contract claims applied.
The court ultimately determined that the nature of the issue presented was whether the plaintiff could pursue a tort claim against the driver. Thus, the action sounded in tort, and Florida law dictated that the law of the state with the most significant relationship to the accident should apply. As the accident happened in Pennsylvania, the court determined that the state had the most significant relationship with the accident and granted the defendant’s motion.
Confer with a Proficient Florida Car Accident Attorney
While people injured in accidents with drivers with no insurance may not be able to recover damages from the party that caused the accident, they may be owed benefits from their insurers and should speak to an attorney. If you were hurt in a collision with an uninsured motorist, Florida attorney Jarrett Blakeley can advise you of your rights and help you to seek any benefits you may be able to recover. You can contact Mr. Blakeley at (800) 602-5000 or through the form online to set up a meeting.