Tampa, Florida – A recent ruling by the Florida Supreme Court has potentially increased the compensation for an accident victim involved in a traumatic collision. Randy Willoughby, the victim, initially received a $4 million bad-faith settlement from his auto insurer and later won a $30 million jury verdict against the truck co-owner responsible for the crash. Willoughby’s legal team is now seeking to collect on the judgment through a bad-faith action against the truck owner’s insurance company.
The court’s ruling centered around the interpretation of Florida’s collateral source rule. This rule disallows the owners of the car at fault in an accident from using a settlement received from their insurance company to reduce the amount of a jury verdict. The Supreme Court determined that payouts in bad faith actions are more akin to penalties rather than insurance “benefits” and therefore cannot be considered a collateral source.
The case involved an uninsured motorist policy with a limit of $10,000, which was transformed into a $4 million settlement. The insurer had initially refused to pay until they recognized their exposure. Additionally, the insurance company representing the co-owner of the truck agreed to pay the $100,000 policy limit to relieve their client of liability.
The ruling affirmed that the settlement received by Willoughby should not be offset against the $30 million jury verdict. The defendant had not raised an argument regarding a statute that could have allowed an offset during the trial, and the Supreme Court agreed that new arguments could not be raised on appeal. This decision paves the way for Willoughby’s attorney, Brent Steinberg, to pursue a bad faith lawsuit against the co-owner’s insurance company.
Willoughby’s lawyers have been fighting for justice for their client for over a decade. The accident, which occurred in 2012, left Willoughby in a coma for a month and inflicted a severe brain injury from which he is still recovering. Steinberg expressed satisfaction with the Supreme Court’s decision, noting that it brings his client closer to putting the matter behind him.
Moving forward, Steinberg plans to focus on the bad faith lawsuit against the co-owner’s insurance company. The lawsuit alleges that the insurer did not offer a sufficient settlement amount, refusing to acknowledge their obligation to pay more than the $100,000 policy limit. Steinberg previously attempted to settle the claim in 2015, but the insurer would not budge from their offer.
The Florida Supreme Court’s ruling has significant implications for accident victims seeking just compensation. It clarifies that bad faith settlements should not be used as a means to offset jury verdicts. This decision provides hope for individuals like Willoughby, who have suffered severe injuries and are fighting for fair treatment in the legal system.