Florida auto insurance laws require that if you have a car in the state for more than 90 days annually – and those days need not be consecutive – then you are required to comply with Florida’s registration requirements. You aren’t necessarily required to obtain insurance if you are regularly driving back-and-forth to your home state, but if you park the vehicle here year-round, you need to obtain auto insurance for it here. Also if you are required to register it here, you’ll be required to obtain auto insurance here too.
This can create headaches for snowbirds, but it’s important to discuss these matters openly and honestly with a licensed insurance agent because, as our personal injury lawyers know, failure to do so could result in a lost opportunity to collect damages.
This was what happened recently in New Jersey to a driver who, a court concluded, wrongly registered and insured his car in Florida, despite being a New Jersey resident. Law.com reports a judge in the Essex County Superior Court dismissed plaintiff’s personal injury lawsuit, finding that allowing him to proceed would violate insurance statutes because he fraudulently obtained car insurance in Florida.
Mind you, the issue was not the plaintiff wasn’t seriously injured or that defendant driver wasn’t at-fault. The judge’s ruling was clear to say plaintiff was seriously injured (though no other details of the crash are included in the recent ruling). However, the judge stated that plaintiff was living and working in New Jersey, and had been for five years prior to the 2014 crash. He also kept his vehicle in that state. However, because plaintiff allegedly determined it was cheaper to have his vehicle insured in Florida, he obtained a Florida driver’s license, registered his vehicle in Florida and maintained a Florida auto insurance policy.
Defendant sought dismissal of the car accident lawsuit, arguing state law requires those who live there and who keep their car there to also purchase insurance there. The trial court judge agreed that plaintiff’s vehicle is not considered insured pursuant to state law.
Plaintiff argued he technically did have insurance and that state law pertaining to this issue was only to prohibit injured motorists from taking legal action when they personally had no auto insurance. The judge did not agree and found plaintiff had committed a crime in violation of the state’s insurance fraud statute. The judge further stated the law was written with the intent to prevent drivers in New Jersey from keeping their vehicle in the state, while obtaining cheaper insurance in another state.
Plaintiff’s injury attorneys say they plan to appeal the ruling.
Although it doesn’t have any direct bearing on courts in Florida, it’s worthwhile to explore because Florida has an estimated 1 million seasonal residents who flock to the state every winter. It’s important for these motorists to understand their responsibilities when it comes to auto insurance so that if they are in a collision here – or even in another state – that they are properly insured.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles outlines the requirement, noting that anyone with a vehicle in the state for more than 90 days out of 365 must purchase PIP and property damage liability auto insurance coverage.
Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Judge Bars Lawsuit by Injured NJ Driver Who Maintained Fla. Insurance, Nov. 30, 2017, By Michael Booth, New Jersey Law Journal
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Pizza Deliver Crash Raises Questions of Employer Liability, Nov. 14, 2017, Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Attorney Blog