Florida Appellate Decision Discusses Venue Issues in Uninsured Car Accident Case

Many considerations are made when filing a Florida car accident lawsuit. The injured person must name and notify all parties responsible for the injury, think of the experts needed to connect the defendants’ actions to the injury, and collect documentation to show the damages amount needed to cover the incurred hospital bills and lost wages. An important decision, albeit less obvious, is where to file the lawsuit. In a car accident lawsuit, an action may be filed in the home county of the insured, the county of residence of the defendant, or the county where the accident occurred. A recent Fourth District Court of Appeal decision (No. 4D17-1546) reveals additional locations where a lawsuit may be filed when an injured person must file suit against an insurance company to receive uninsured/underinsured (UM) benefits.

This appeal stemmed from a lawsuit against two uninsured motorist insurers. The injured person was a resident of Broward County, and the uninsured defendant driver was a resident of Hillsborough County. The accident occurred on I-75 in Manatee County. UM claims were filed with his insurance companies, which were both denied. Both companies were foreign corporations. The injured person then filed suit in Palm Beach County, which contains an office for an agent of one of the insurers. One of the defendant insurers filed a motion pursuant to Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.060 to transfer to a different county, which was granted. The plaintiff appealed.

Chapter 47 of the Florida Statutes provides the guidelines for determining proper venue. If the defendant is a domestic corporation, the lawsuit can only be brought in the county where the corporation usually keeps an office to handle its usual business, where the cause of action happened, or where the property in litigation is located. Similarly, lawsuits against foreign corporations are brought where the business has an agent or other representative, where the cause of action accrued, or where the property in the litigation is located. If there is more than one defendant, Chapter 47 allows the lawsuit to be brought in any county in which any defendant resides.

The trial court based its venue ruling in favor of the insurer on a Fourth District opinion rendered 14 years ago. In that case, the insurer sought to move the lawsuit to the county where the accident occurred, asserting they did not have an agent in the county where the lawsuit was filed. Based on this case, the trial court felt the only proper venue was the county where the accident occurred. However, the appellate court noted the difference between that case and the present one; the older decision was an action for a determination of an entitlement to damages caused by an automobile collision. This case revolved around a breach of an insurance contract. The older case cited by the insurer in this lawsuit also involved only one insurer. The appellate court pointed out that the presence of two insurers extends the possibility of venue locations. Since one of the insurers had an agent in Palm Beach County, the venue was appropriate. The order granting the insurer’s motion to transfer venue was reversed and the case remanded to the trial court for further proceedings.

The location of litigation can affect many things, especially the cost of litigation for the injured person. Maximizing damages means minimizing or eliminating unnecessary expenses like travel to and from a venue. The Florida uninsured motorist accident attorneys at Donaldson & Weston will work tirelessly to pursue all avenues of financial relief to help return your life to normalcy as quickly as possible. Call our office today at 772-266-5555 or 561-299-3999.

More Blog Posts:

Florida District Appellate Court Reviews Future Medical Expenses in Multi-Car Accident Case, Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, November 28, 2016

Federal Circuit Court of Appeal Declines to Find Equitable Tolling in Slip and Fall Case, Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, October 21, 2016

Florida Court of Appeal Allows Injured Motorist to Pursue Additional PIP Payments to Medical Providers, Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, May 18, 2017