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Florida court decides the appropriate county for car accident lawsuit

November 1, 2010

A Florida court recently decided where it is appropriate for a person to file a lawsuit after they have been involved in a car accident. In Mercury Insurance Company of Florida v. Regina Jackson, the First District Court of Appeal ruled that Florida Statute § 47.011 requires that a car accident claim be brought in the county where the defendant resides, where the accident occurred, or where the property in litigation is located.

At issue in the Mercury case was whether a bad faith claim, which arises out of a car accident, is also required to be brought in the county where the accident occurred as required by F.S. §47.011. The court relying on a case decided in the Fourth DCA, covering Palm Beach County and Broward County, stated the duties [of good faith] included making a settlement offer and/or tendering the policy limits to the Estate of the injured party, which was opened in the county where the accident occurred, investigating and evaluating the claim, when the accident occurred in the county; and advising and warning the insured who resided in county, of possible outcomes, risks, and consequences. Although the physical location of the adjuster was in a different county, the totality of the circumstances support venue being proper in the county where the accident occurs.

This is an important case as many parties invovled in litigation try to “forum shop” which means to find a county where they think the judge or jury will be more favorable to the parties involved. In the Mercury case, although the insurance company wanted the lawsuit to be handled in Leon County (Tallahassee) where the insurance company was located, the Judge required the accident lawsuit, and the bad faith lawsuit, to be brought in the county where the accident occurred.

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