Florida Supreme Court Says Auto Insurer Issued New Policy When it Changed the Sole Named Insured in UM Benefits Dispute

343545_signed_away_1 sxchuThe Supreme Court of Florida has resolved a conflict between two District Courts of Appeal in an uninsured motorist insurance dispute. In Chase v. Horace Mann Insurance Co., a man purchased motor vehicle insurance with bodily injury liability limits of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident from an insurance company. At the time, the man also elected uninsured motorist (“UM”) coverage of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per incident. The man’s daughter was listed as a driver on the policy, but she was not a named insured.

Three years later, the insurer made the man’s daughter the sole named insured on the automobile policy and listed the father as a driver. The insured vehicle which was titled in the daughter’s name was also updated. When the change was made, the daughter was not presented with a UM rejection form. Around the same time, the insurer issued an entirely new policy to the father. Although the daughter eventually moved out of her father’s home and removed him from her auto policy, she later moved back in and once again added him as a driver on her policy. At no point was she provided with the opportunity to select lower UM limits or reject coverage in writing.

In July 2015, the father and daughter were involved in a traffic collision that unfortunately killed the father and seriously hurt the daughter. Following the accident, the daughter sought UM coverage equal to her automobile insurance policy’s bodily injury limits on behalf of herself and her father’s estate. After the insurer refused payment, the woman filed a lawsuit against the company in a Florida court. According to the woman, she was entitled to such coverage because she never agreed in writing to lower UM limits as required by Section 627.727 of the Florida Statutes.

Next, both parties filed a motion for summary judgment with the trial court. The court granted the woman’s motion and stated the woman and her father’s estate were each entitled to receive $100,000. The auto insurer then filed an appeal with Florida’s First District Court of Appeal. After holding that the father’s UM election was binding on his daughter, the First District overturned the trial court’s decision. Since the First District’s order conflicted with a similar Second District Court of Appeal case, the woman sought review by the Supreme Court of Florida.

In Florida, UM benefits are typically equal to the bodily injury limits included in an automobile insurance policy. Under Section 627.727, a named insured may elect lower coverage in writing on behalf of all named insureds. According to the Supreme Court, the father’s waiver did not apply to his daughter because she was not a named insured on his liability policy. Instead, the daughter was merely a named driver until the policy was transferred to her.

The Florida high court found that the insurance policy at issue was a new policy under Section 627.727(9) even though the insurance company unilaterally opted to transfer the accident policy number to the daughter. Since the insurer did not provide the woman with the opportunity to accept or reject the lower UM limits that were selected by her father, the court stated the UM waiver relied upon by the insurer was invalid. Similarly, the high court said the father’s previous UM waiver did not apply to his estate’s claim against the insurer for the same reasons.

After finding that the auto insurer issued a new policy to the woman when it changed the named insured and the woman did not sign a valid UM waiver as required by Florida law, the Supreme Court of Florida quashed the First District’s order and approved of the Second District’s conflicting opinion in another case.

If you were severely injured or lost a loved one in a Miami traffic wreck, you need a skilled personal injury attorney on your side to advocate on your behalf. To discuss your accident case with a dedicated South Florida personal injury lawyer today, do not hesitate to call the experienced attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. at (305) 448-8585 or contact us online.

Additional Resources:

Chase v. Horace Mann Insurance Co., Fla: Supreme Court 2015

More Blog Posts:

First District Court of Appeal in Florida Overturns Summary Judgment in Favor of Auto Insurer Despite That Applicant Made Material Misrepresentations, February 25, 2015, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

Florida Appeals Court Holds Employer May Select Different UIM Policy Limits for its Insureds, February 23, 2015, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

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