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Florida wrongful death suit complicated by insurance company

A wrongful death case in Hillsborough County, Florida, is being complicated by an insurance company's refusal to allow settlement talks between representatives of the victim's estate and the county. The Miami attorney for the victim's estate says, "I've never seen anything so blatantly wrong in my 34 years of practice."

The wrongful death suit stems from an accident in Feb. 2010. A 39-year-old nurse at Brandon Regional Hospital was driving home when she crashed into a semi-trailer truck belonging to the Hillsborough Solid Waste Management Department that was stopped on Veterans Expressway. The driver told law enforcement that his engine had died and he was unable to pull off the road. He said the emergency blinkers would not work, but he placed warning cones behind the truck.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, the nurse, who died five days after the crash from her injuries, was at fault. They said she should have been able to see the truck stopped on the road, but there was no indication that she did because she didn't brake. The estate's attorney has argued that the truck driver should have pulled onto the median and that he did not place the cones correctly.

The county attorney says that Hillsborough County is "interested in meaningful settlement discussions," but that their insurance company, Star Insurance, is preventing them. The county is now prepared to sue the insurance company. If they do, a judge will decide whether the company has the right to reject a settlement between the county and the victim's estate.

The attorney representing the estate says he has offered several times to settle the case for $2 million. That's the liability limit of the county's auto insurance policy. The county seems to be agreeable to such a settlement. The estate's attorney says he will move forward with his wrongful death case, despite the fact that the fight between the county and its insurer could take years. He calls the insurer's actions "appalling."

When wrongful death suits involve companies or government entities, their insurers often foot the bill for any wrongdoing on their part. When the insurers' don't believe that their clients should pay, however, that can complicate things for everyone involved. Of course, the plaintiffs' attorneys need to remain focused on getting the best settlement for their clients.

Source: Tampa Bay Times, "Hillsborough to sue insurance company for blocking wrongful death settlement" Will Hobson, Aug. 06, 2014

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