Typically, when you’ve been injured in a Florida car accident, the at-fault party is responsible for the damages and looks to his or her auto insurance policy to aid in payment. Sometimes, the policy limits may not cover all the related expenses, or the at-fault party does not have state-required auto insurance, or the at-fault party flees the scene and is unavailable. In those instances, you may look to your Uninsured/Underinsured (UM/UIM) coverage to make up the difference. Auto insurers offer different plans with varying amounts of coverage, so a policy-holder may elect to pay for the extra insurance or choose to pay for the required amount of insurance only. Under Florida Statute 627.727, the auto insurer must advise of the coverage available, and the policy-holder must provide a written waiver of the higher amounts of coverage.
In Chase vs. Horace Mann Ins. Co. (No. SC13-2013), the Supreme Court of Florida reviewed whether or not removing one of the named insured created a new policy instead of a supplement when the policy-holder had to formally reject UM/UIM coverage. The state Supreme Court decided the issue in this case by following the line of reasoning and ultimate conclusion in the 2nd District’s decision in Creighton v. State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Co., 696 So. 2d 1305 (Fla. 2d DCA 1997). The Supreme Court determined that an auto insurance company is required to advise any new “named insured” of the uninsured motorist benefits equal to the liability limits and obtain a written waiver of those benefits before reducing them.
The injured driver in Chase was previously under her father’s policy, obtained in 2001, as a listed driver for a 1992 vehicle. She was not a named insured under the policy and was not required to choose whether or not she wanted reduced uninsured motorist coverage. The father chose the lower coverage. Three years later, the insurance company decided to remove the father as the sole named insured and make the daughter the sole named insured, changing the vehicle to the 1997 car that was purchased by the daughterThe father was issued a new policy for a 2004 vehicle. The father was presented a new UM/UIM rejection form for his new policy, but the daughter was not provided the same opportunity.
A month before the accident, the daughter moved back in with her father and added him as a listed driver on the original policy. Again, there was no opportunity for the daughter to accept or reject the UM/UIM coverage. The accident killed the father and injured the daughter. After filing suit, the daughter sought the maximum amount of coverage available through the insurer, arguing that the limits of the policy chosen by her father did not apply to her when she became the named driver. The Supreme Court agreed, ruling that this case was distinct from prior district court rulings. The daughter was not a named insured when the policy was issued, and it was the unilateral decision of the insurance company to give her the same policy as the father. She was therefore not provided with the proper opportunity that was intended by the state legislature when they created the law.
The Florida car accident attorneys at Donaldson and Weston can help you maximize your damages. Our experienced personal injury litigators know how to scrutinize auto policies and find potential additional funds to recover. Call our office today at 772-266-5555 or 5601-299-3999 for a free, confidential consultation.
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