Truck accidents often cause catastrophic injuries, and in many instances, trucking companies lack adequate insurance to cover the injured party’s losses. Thus, people hurt in such collisions may turn to their insurance companies to recover underinsured motorist benefits. While the law precludes people who are hurt from obtaining windfalls, a defendant deemed liable for a plaintiff’s harm will only be granted a set off of the plaintiff’s settlement with another party in limited circumstances.
A Florida court recently discussed setoffs in an opinion issued in a trucking case in which the plaintiff obtained $4 million from his insurance company and was granted over $30 million in damages from the defendant. If you were hurt in a collision involving a commercial truck, you should consult a capable Florida truck accident lawyer to discuss your options for seeking compensation.
The Facts of the Case
It is alleged that the plaintiff was a passenger in a car that was t-boned by a truck driven by the defendant driver and owned by the defendant owner. He suffered serious injuries in the accident and filed a lawsuit alleging negligence claims against the defendants and claims against his insurance carrier for underinsured motorist benefits. Two years later, he settled with his insurance company for $4 million.
It is reported that the claims against the defendants ultimately proceed to trial, and a jury issued a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, awarding him in excess of $30 million. The defendant then filed a motion seeking setoff due to the plaintiff’s $4 million settlement with his insurer. The court denied the motion, and the defendants appealed.
Setoffs Under Florida Law
The appellate court explained that the purpose of the law regarding setoffs is to prevent a windfall to the plaintiff via a double recovery. The applicable statute requires setoff in cases in which a defendant shows that the plaintiff has issued a release or covenant not to sue to any party in partial satisfaction of the damages sought.
In interpreting the statute, the Florida Supreme Court held that it presupposes numerous defendants jointly and severally liable for the same harm and stated that the applicability of the law was predicated on the existence of other tortfeasors liable for the same injury as the party that settled. In the subject case, the plaintiff argued that the insurance company and defendants were not joint tortfeasors and, therefore, the defendants were not entitled to a setoff. The appellate court found that under the current precedent, the plaintiff’s reasoning was correct and affirmed the trial court ruling.
Confer with an Experienced Florida Attorney
While the law prohibits double recoveries, setoffs are not appropriate in every instance in which multiple parties are liable for a plaintiff’s losses. If you were injured in a truck accident, it is in your best interest to confer with an attorney to assess your possible causes of action. The experienced Florida truck accident lawyers of Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, P.A. are adept at helping people aggrieved by the negligence of others in the pursuit of damages, and if you hire us, we will zealously pursue any compensation you may be owed. You can contact us through our online form or by calling us at 800-283-7442 to set up a conference.