While insurance is supposed to provide a motorist with peace of mind after a Florida car accident, in reality, the opposite is often true. Because insurance companies are for-profit corporations, they rely on taking in more money each month in premiums than they pay out in claims. Thus, insurance companies approach each claim with the same goal: expending as little money as possible to resolve the claim.
In some cases, insurance adjusters will offer low-ball settlement agreements knowing the claim is worth much more in hopes of catching an accident victim in a moment of desperation. In other situations, insurance companies will outright deny a claim based on their interpretation of the policy language. For this reason, it is critical that Florida motorists take care to ensure that they understand their insurance coverage and that it meets their needs. A recent opinion issued by a state appellate court illustrates just one type of issue that may arise after a Florida car accident.
According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was killed in a traffic accident when he was struck while riding a moped. The moped was powered by a small 49cc motor, similar to that which would power a scooter. The motorist’s family initially filed a claim with the other driver’s insurance company. However, because that policy only provided $100,000 in benefits, the family then filed a claim with their insurance company under the underinsured motorist (UIM) provision of the policy.
The family’s insurance policy listed five vehicles; however, the moped was not among those vehicles that were listed. That being the case, the insurance company denied coverage on the basis that the accident involved a vehicle that was “owned but not insured.” Under a clause in the family’s insurance contract, coverage did not extend to accidents involving automobiles that were owned by the policyholder but not named in the policy. The family filed for a declaratory judgment, asking the court to clarify whether they were entitled to coverage.
The court held that the family was entitled to coverage because the policy language did not clearly explain that a moped was a motor vehicle that, if not listed in the policy, would be subject to the exclusion. The court explained that the general rule when interpreting insurance contracts is to give effect to the clear language of the policy. However, if the policy language is not clear, any ambiguity should be resolved in the policyholder’s favor.
Here, the court held that the policy language was not clear insofar as whether a 49cc moped that was not required to be registered or licensed qualified as a “motor vehicle” under the terms of the policy. The court reasoned that the mere fact that the moped had a small motor did not mean that it was a “motor vehicle,” because other vehicles with motors – such as farm equipment – were specifically excluded from the definition of “motor vehicle” under the terms of the policy. Thus, the court determined that the family was entitled to coverage.
Have You Been Injured in a Florida Auto Accident?
If you or someone close to you has recently been injured in a Florida car accident, and you are currently dealing with a difficult insurance company, contact the dedicated Florida injury advocates at the law firm of Friedman Rodman & Frank for assistance. At Friedman Rodman & Frank, we represent injury victims and their families in all types of Florida personal injury matters, including car accidents, truck accidents, and motorcycle accidents. To learn more, call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free no-obligation consultation today.