The law firm of Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers is currently representing Ricky Melendez , a 29-year-old man who was hit by a 16-year-old driver who had stolen a car and ran a red light at 112 mph. The Tampa Bay Times recently published an article covering the details of the incident and subsequent struggles with Menendez’s insurance company.
Attorney Mark Roman shares his thoughts.
You may have heard of GEICO’s unbelievable decision to give our client’s insurance proceeds to the families of the car thieves who almost killed him. It’s shocking, disgusting and just plain wrong. But insurance companies never take their insured’s feelings into account in handling a claim. They don’t have to. And they sure didn’t in this case. They didn’t even call him in advance to explain the reasons for giving these handouts. In my experience, car insurance companies almost never do the right thing.
GEICO didn’t even wait for law enforcement to conclude their investigation and report before they convened a “settlement conference” to give away money to people who had no legal claim to it. Apparently, in GEICO’s infinite wisdom, it wasn’t enough to know that the car thieves were going in excess of 100 miles an hour, headlights turned off, running from law enforcement when they ran a red light and nearly killed our client. He’s still in a wheel chair.
The money they paid came from insurance our client purchased to protect others from a mistake he might make. Well, he made no mistake that morning, other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
And GEICO had our client waive valuable insurance coverage he was entitled to, which would have paid him when something like this happens.
It is hard, very hard to get auto insurers to pay claims fairly, even in the cases where liability is clear and injuries are grave. That’s why it’s so ironic that they would willingly pay the families of car thieves who were completely to blame for their own death and injury.
The Sad Reality of Florida Auto Insurance Law
I’ve spent 32 years dealing with Florida insurance companies both in and out of the courtroom.
Getting a car insurance company to pay fairly for losses and injuries after a crash is never easy.
The handling of a valid, clear liability claim with serious injuries goes something like this:
Insurance company: “We don’t think our insured is at fault”. (Even when it’s obviously their fault)
When that doesn’t work the next thing you hear is this:
Insurance company: “We don’t think the crash was bad enough to cause an injury.” (Even when the damage to the cars is great and the evidence of the injury is clear)
When that doesn’t work it’s this:
Insurance company: “We think your client’s injuries were pre-existing conditions” (even when there is no evidence of it).
Then it’s this:
Insurance company: “We think the medical bills are too high.” So they take issue with your treatment.
And insurance companies never place a value on human suffering, even though they are supposed to.
The end result is the insurance company offering $3000 for a claim that is worth a policy limit of $100,000. I see this in every case, without exception. Insurance companies have literally made millionaires of certain doctors who they trot out at trial to try to contradict every bit of medical evidence from treating doctors.
Some people think there are too many lawsuits. The way insurance companies handle claims is the reason these lawsuits become necessary. You can’t change an insurance company’s mind. Only a jury can make them pay.
As you can see, this game is rigged. Rigged against you. Much of the time it’s your own insurance company saying all of the above. That is, if you are fortunate enough to have Uninsured Motorist coverage in the first place.
When it comes to Uninsured Motorist coverage the insurance game is rigged from the start. Your company or agent may say you don’t need it. That’s a lie. Let’s cover the most basic facts of Florida car insurance.
INSURANCE REQUIREMENTS IN FLORIDA
Here is what you have to have on your insurance policy to drive lawfully in Florida:
1. No Fault benefits. Also known as Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits, this pays $10,000 of your medical bills incurred after a crash regardless of who caused it.
2. Property damage coverage. This fixes your car, not you. And only $10,000 is required.
That’s it. Nothing else is required. You get hurt or killed by someone with the bare minimum and you or your family get nothing other than a car repair. That’s just plain wrong. But it’s the law.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage. The coverage they don’t want you to have.
Responsible drivers buy Bodily Injury coverage (BI). It protects others from your mistakes. It pays excess medical bills, wage losses and non-economic damage like pain, suffering loss of the capacity for the enjoyment of life, mental anguish, disfigurement and more. If you are injured by someone who does not have BI (and the number of uninsured drivers is stunning), you are out of luck. Unless you have Uninsured Motorist coverage.
When you buy BI, under Florida law you get an equal amount of UM. It’s your safety net. Unfortunately, insurance companies tell you that you don’t need it. They either give you false information about whether you need it, or they get you to waive it, telling you it will save you money.
If you remember nothing else from this blog know this: Uninsured Motorist coverage is extremely valuable and you should never waive your right to have it. No matter what they tell you. You should get out your policy right now and make sure you have UM. And make sure it is “stacking” coverage. Don’t waive the stacking feature either. It’s extremely valuable. Call me if you want a more detailed explanation.
Bottom line is this: you have to protect yourself from bad drivers. The only way is by buying UM insurance and as much of it as you can afford.
A bill has been introduced to change our laws to require mandatory bodily insurance coverage.
That’s a good start. Let your elected representatives know they should make that coverage mandatory.
As for Ricky Melendez, please go to his crowd funding page at https://www.gofundme.com/ricky-melendez-car-accident.
Contact the Personal Injury Law Firm Of Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers To Get The Help You Deserve
If you need help with your injury case or you want to learn more information, please call the Personal Injury law firm of Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers at (727) 787-2500 or visit the nearest location to schedule a free case evaluation today.
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