Florida Court Discusses Valuing Uninsured Motorist Claims in Diversity Cases

While Florida drivers are required to carry adequate insurance, many do not, and uninsured and uninsured motorists cause a fair number of collisions throughout the state each year. Luckily, many drivers have the foresight to purchase uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance and can seek benefits from their insurer if they are hurt by a party without sufficient coverage. In some cases, though, an insurer will fail to comply with its contractual duties and will deny a person’s claim for first-party benefits. Recently, a Florida court discussed how breach of contract and bad faith claims arising out of an insurer’s refusal to pay underinsured motorists benefits are valued in a ruling on the issue of whether a case should be removed to federal court. If you were hurt in an accident with a driver without insurance and your insurer is refusing to pay you benefits, you should speak to a Florida car accident attorney to discuss your rights.

History of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiffs were involved in a collision with an underinsured driver. The driver was ultimately determined to be at fault for the accident. The plaintiffs suffered significant and permanent injuries. Thus, they filed an underinsured motorist claim with the defendant, their automobile insurance carrier. The defendant denied the plaintiffs’ claim, after which the plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the defendant in state court, alleging breach of contract and bad faith claims. The defendant removed the case to federal court, after which the plaintiff filed a motion to remand.

Valuing Uninsured Motorist Claims for Diversity Jurisdiction

The issue in dispute was whether the defendant adequately demonstrated that the value of the plaintiffs’ claims exceeded $75,000, as required for the federal court to exercise diversity jurisdiction. The court explained that the defendant bears the burden of proving a claim is appropriately within a court’s jurisdiction. In cases in which the plaintiff does not assert a precise amount of damages, the defendant must prove that the majority of the evidence demonstrates that the amount the plaintiff seeks in damages exceeds the jurisdictional threshold.

Here, the plaintiffs argued that because the defendant offered to settle the matter for $6,000, it did not believe the value of the claim exceeded $75,000. The court was not persuaded by this reasoning, noting that while case law demonstrated that a plaintiff’s settlement offer could be assessed in determining whether diversity jurisdiction existed, there were no rulings suggesting that a defendant’s offer should be similarly evaluated.

Further, the court explained that a plaintiff’s settlement offer that set forth factual information regarding the plaintiff’s claim for damages was entitled to greater weight. The court ultimately found that the defendants had produced sufficient evidence by way of the plaintiffs’ demand to support the removal of the case to federal court. Thus, the motion to remand was denied.

Speak with a Capable Florida Attorney

People hurt in a collision caused by underinsured drivers are entitled to benefits from their insurer in many instances, and if their requests for benefits are denied, they can take legal action. If you were involved in a crash with an uninsured or underinsured motorist, it is in your best interest to speak to a lawyer regarding your options. The capable Florida attorneys of Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, P.A. are adept at helping injured parties seek the full amount of damages and benefits recoverable, and if you retain our services, we will fight tirelessly on your behalf. You can reach us through our online form or at 800-283-7442 to set up a meeting.

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