South Florida Crash Ends in $14.5 Million Award for Uninsured Motorist Benefits

When a former chiropractor suffered serious and permanent injuries in a 2004 auto collision with an uninsured motorist and an uninsured motorist, he and his wife sought compensation from their own insurance company. They carried a policy that provided for UM/UIM coverage.
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However, there car insurance company – GEICO – refused to pay the claim. At that point, plaintiffs Dr. David Zucker and his wife, Carrie Zucker, had no choice but to file a lawsuit. According to The Daily Business Review, Carrie Zucker had been a passenger in the vehicle and was pregnant at the time. Her injuries, however, were not as serious as those suffered by her husband.

David Zucker reportedly suffered permanent spinal and urological injuries as a result of the crash, which happened on Interstate-95 in Miami after a reportedly uninsured motorist, Miguel Gonzalez, slammed into an 18-wheel oil tank truck, driven by Juan Chirino. The impact of that accident caused Gonzalez’s vehicle spinning across three lanes of traffic, where he slammed into the Zuckers’ vehicle.

While Gonzalez was in violation of Florida law in driving with no insurance, Chirino was underinsured, meaning his policy did not cover the full extent of damages suffered by the Zuckers.

As our Fort Lauderdale auto accident lawyers can explain, suing an uninsured driver directly for damages is usually a hopeless endeavor. The reason most people don’t have insurance in the first place is because they can’t afford it. Although any crash case that involves a large truck should be closely analyzed to determine all possible defendants, there is no indication here the truck driver was at-fault.

That left plaintiffs with one real option: Pursue the uninsured/ underinsured motorist claim. Many of these cases are settled before a lawsuit is ever filed. Insurers may put up a fight to limit liability, but they generally recognize that to deny a legitimate claim will open the potential for a bad faith lawsuit.

It’s not clear from the news reports of the Zucker case the reason for GEICO’s denial of the claim, but the couple pressed forward with litigation, suing for medical expenses, past and future lost earnings, pain and suffering and loss of consortium.

Now, 10 years after that awful crash, a Miami-Dade jury has sided with the couple, finding Gonzalez was 100 percent at-fault. Because he was an uninsured motorist and the couple had a valid uninsured motorist policy, GEICO was on the hook to pay those damages.

The insurance company, via its attorney, as indicated it plans to appeal the verdict.

Although this couple should never have had to fight this hard to obtain benefits rightfully owed to them, the case is a good example of why carrying UM/ UIM benefits are important. Had the couple not had this policy, they may have had virtually no recourse at all.

It’s important to discuss your case with an attorney before agreeing to any settlement with any party. In some situations, when you settle a claim with an underinsured motorist, it has to be approved by the insurance company if you plan to later make a UM/ UIM claim.

Contact our offices to learn more about how we can help.

Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Additional Resources:
Geico Loses $14.5 Million Award to Injured Miami Motorist, Nov. 4, 2015, By Julie Kay, Daily Business Review

More Blog Entries:
Dangerous Driving Simulator Shows Hazards of Distraction, Impairment, Nov. 6, 2015, Fort Lauderdale Uninsured Motorist Lawyer Blog