It is not uncommon for a collision on a highway to cause traffic to slow down. Unfortunately, backups often lead to additional crashes, as approaching drivers may not be able to stop in time to avoid an accident. Drivers hurt in collisions are often owed damages from other drivers. If the drivers responsible for their harm lack the means to compensate them fully for their losses, they may be owed underinsured motorist benefits from their insurers as well. Recently, a Florida court addressed the unique issue of whether harm suffered while a motorist was stuck in collision-related traffic arose out of one or two accidents. If you were injured in a crash by a driver with inadequate insurance, you should speak to a dedicated Florida car accident attorney regarding your rights.
The Collisions Leading to the Decedent’s Death
It is reported that the plaintiff insured the decedent, who was killed in a car accident in 2019. At the time of the crash, the decedent was stopped due to a traffic back up because of an accident that occurred two miles away. A dump truck driver who was speeding failed to slow down in time to avoid a collision that struck the decedent. The dump truck flipped over and landed on top of the decedent’s vehicle, causing his death.
It is alleged that the dump truck driver lacked adequate insurance to fully compensate the decedent’s estate for the losses caused by the decedent’s death. Thus, the estate filed an underinsured motorist claim with the plaintiff. The parties disputed whether the estate was entitled to the policy limits for one or two accidents. As such, the plaintiff filed a declaratory judgment action and subsequently filed a motion for summary judgment.
Underinsured Motorist Coverage for Harm Caused by Accidents
To resolve the issue of whether the decedent’s death was caused by one or two accidents, the court looked to the language of the policy, noting that under Florida law, insurance contracts must be interpreted according to the plain meaning of their terms. Additionally, they would receive a construction that is just practical and reasonable.
If a term in a policy is not defined, it should be given its plain and ordinary meaning, which courts can garner from legal and non-legal dictionaries. In the subject case, the policy included a coverage limit for each accident and several provisions referring to underinsured benefits for damages caused by an accident. The term accident was not defined, however. The court noted that dictionaries defined accidents as injurious occurrence. Based on the evidence of the case, the court found that no reasonable person could find that two accidents led to the decedent’s death. Thus, the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment was granted.
Speak to an Experienced Florida Attorney
It is not uncommon for people with inadequate insurance to cause collisions, and when they do, injured parties may be left with substantial damages. If you were hurt in a crash with an underinsured driver, you should speak to an attorney regarding your options. The experienced Florida attorneys of Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, P.A. are committed to helping people hurt by the negligence of others pursue damages, and if you hire us, we will advocate tirelessly on your behalf. You can contact us via the form online or at 800-283-7442 to schedule a conference.