If you are in a car crash in Miami, an immediate concern is whether the other driver has any insurance at all. If they do, then the question becomes just how much insurance is there. The amount of the policy limits may well determine whether your claim gets settled.
Insurance policy limits are usually offered in single and aggregate limits. There is a single amount that any one person can claim. Then there is a total amount that the insurance company will pay for any one accident no matter how many claims are made. For example, policy limits could be listed as 10/20. This means that the insurance company could pay up to $10,000 for one person’s claim. If the car crash involved five people, then the insurance company would pay no more than $20,000 for any claim made. If all five people were injured, no one would get more than $10,000 and the insurance company would pay no more than $20,000 total for the car crash claims.
In cases where there is a potential of multiple claims and small or low policy limits, an insurance company should hold a “global” settlement conference. All individuals with possible claims should be invited. The conference should be held as quickly as possible. Typically, an insurance company attorney will conduct the meeting and tell everyone that they are there to resolve all or as many claims as possible. The claimants and their personal injury attorneys are then encouraged to reach an agreement as to how to divide the limited amounts of insurance. Insurance representatives usually attend these “global” settlement conferences with a checkbook and releases for the claims that can be settled. Lastly the insured person or persons are also invited to attend but they rarely appear.
If you are injured in a car crash and the other driver doesn’t have insurance, then you may need to file a claim for uninsured motorist benefits assuming that you purchased that coverage. If you get hurt in an automobile accident and the other driver has enough insurance, then you should seek the advice of an experienced personal injury lawyer to help you.
If you are injured in a car accident with a driver who has small policy limits, then it is extremely important that you, or more likely your personal injury attorney, make a very specific demand to the insurance company because basic contract law applies.
The essential parts of a contract are an offer and an acceptance. If an offer is made and the other side accepts the offer but adds new terms, it is not an acceptance but rather a rejection and a counter-offer which can be accepted or rejected. These same principles apply to attempts to settle car crash claims.
In the case of Pena v. Fox 40 Fla. Law Weekly D2573a, 2DCA (November 13, 2016), the injured person made a specific demand for the minimal policy limits of the at-fault driver. She specifically stated that she would only release the insured at-fault driver and no one else. Predictably, the insurance company sent a settlement draft for the policy limits and the insurance company’s standard release. The problem was that the standard release stated that the injured party was releasing not only the at-fault insured driver but also his all officers, directors, agents or employees of the foregoing, their heirs, executors, administrators, agents, or assigns. The addition of these other individuals was determined to be a counter-offer and therefore a rejection. The injured woman was then free to file suit to seek the full value of her damages. The insurance company could then be liable for her entire damages because they failed to specifically accept the offer to settle as originally made.
If you are injured in a car accident in Miami or anywhere in South Florida, you should speak to a personal injury lawyer. We at Wolfson & Leon have helped clients with car accident claims and lawsuits since 1963. We are available to discuss your case free of charge anytime. Wolfson & Leon also represents clients with insurance claims in Homestead, Miami Gardens, West Park, Hallandale and other towns throughout South Florida.