Florida District Appellate Court Reviews Complicated Uninsured Motorist Claim

Florida licensed drivers may be initially surprised to learn who is covered under an insurance policy and when this coverage is available. A driver, depending on the terms of his or her insurance contract, may be covered when he or she drives another vehicle, like a rental car, if he or she gets in an accident while driving an automobile not specifically listed on the policy. The policy may also cover any driver of a car listed on a policy, even if the driver is not the policyholder or a named insured. Driving RoadIn a recent Second District Court of Appeals case, State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co. v. Smith (2D14-1402), the appellate court analyzed whether an automobile insurance policy extended coverage to the son of a policyholder who had an accident while driving another family’s car.

In this case, there were two automobile policies available to the driver (the main party at the center of this suit) and the passenger of the car. One policy was issued to the driver’s mother, and the other was issued to the passenger and her parents, who were the owners of the vehicle in the accident. Both policies were with the same insurance provider. The accident that formed the foundation of this litigation occurred when the driver attempted a right turn from the left lane, colliding with a car waiting for a red light at the intersection.

After actions were filed by both the driver and the passenger against each other, the driver filed for uninsured benefits under his mother’s policy. The insurance company moved for summary judgment during the litigation over this claim, arguing that the driver was not “uninsured” as defined by his mother’s policy. The trial court disagreed, eventually entering a final judgment against the insurance company after the jury found liability at trial, assigning 92% to the passenger and the owners of the car, and 8% to the driver. The jury awarded over $200,000 to the driver, but the award was later reduced to the policy limits of $150,000 under the uninsured part of the policy. The insurance company appealed the award to the driver.

In its decision, the appellate court ultimately agreed with the insurance company. The court agreed with the argument that the plain language of the policy did not extend uninsured coverage to the driver under his mother’s policy for this type of accident. The court also determined that there was no violation of public policy by this result. The court felt that the uninsured portion of the policy established that the uninsured coverage only applied when one of the insured under the policy drove a vehicle insured by the policy. The court also looked at the liability coverage language of the mother’s policy, which extended benefits to the insured when a “non-owned car” in lawful possession of a driver was used at the time of the accident. The verdict for the driver was reversed, and the case was remanded to the trial court.

The Florida car accident attorneys at Donaldson & Weston are here to help you access all the benefits under your insurance policy, including any uninsured motorist claims. For a free consultation, call our office at 772-266-5555 and 561-299-3999.

More Blog Posts:

Florida District Appellate Decision Allows Woman Injured by Slip and Fall to Pursue Negligence Action Against County, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, April 19, 2016

Florida District Court of Appeal Reviews Grocery Store Slip-and-Fall Case, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, March 9, 2016