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Florida Court Holds Policy Language Excludes UIM Coverage Benefits for Injuries Sustained by a Resident Relative in a Car Not Owned by the Insured

December 15, 2019

by Donaldson & Weston

Car accidents involving uninsured motorists often cause financial hardship. In many cases, your insurance policy allows you to recover uninsured motorist (UIM) benefits from your insurance provider, which can help ease your financial burden.  At times, however, you and your insurer may not agree on what benefits you are entitled to under the terms of your policy.

In a recent case, a Florida Court of Appeals held that where a policy’s language was unambiguous, an exclusion for uninsured motorist benefits for resident relatives of the insured was valid. If you are involved in a car accident in South Florida, you should consult a knowledgeable Florida car accident attorney to aid you in understanding the terms of your policy and the meanings of any exclusions.

Coverage under the Policies

Reportedly, the plaintiff and her mother lived together and each owned a vehicle. The defendant insured both the plaintiff and her mother under separate auto insurance policies. The mother was the only named insured on her policy, which had an uninsured motorist coverage limit of $100,000, while both the plaintiff and her mother were named insureds under the plaintiff’s policy, which had a substantially lower uninsured motorist coverage limit of $25,000. The policies were otherwise the same. Both policies included exclusionary language stating there was no coverage for an insured who sustains an injury while occupying a vehicle owned by the insured or a resident relative if it is not the insured’s car. The policies also stated that if the uninsured motorist coverage of the policy and any other policy issued to the insured or a resident relative both applied to the same injury, the coverage limits would not be added together.

Action to Recover Benefits

Allegedly the plaintiff was involved in a car accident with an uninsured motorist while driving her own vehicle. The defendant offered the plaintiff $25,000, the full amount of the plaintiff’s uninsured motorist coverage.  The plaintiff then filed a declaratory judgment action against the defendant, seeking uninsured motorist benefits under her mother’s insurance policy in addition to uninsured motorist coverage under her own policy. The defendant admitted the plaintiff was an insured under both policies but denied the plaintiff was entitled to recover benefits under the mother’s policy, citing the exclusionary language of the policy. Further, the defendant argued that the plaintiff and her mother both willingly rejected stacked coverage. The defendant and plaintiff both filed motions for summary judgment. The trial court granted the plaintiff’s motion, after which the insurer appealed. On appeal, the court found that the mother’s policy precluded the plaintiff from recovering uninsured motorist benefits and reversed the trial court ruling.

Analysis of Policy Language

On appeal, the court held that the language of the policy clearly stated that while the plaintiff was an insured under the mother’s policy, the exclusionary language clearly precluded her from recovering uninsured motorist benefits under the policy, as the plaintiff was a resident relative of the mother, occupying a vehicle not owned by the mother at the time of the accident. Additionally, the court held that because the plaintiff was not entitled to coverage under the mother’s policy, it did not have to determine which policy’s uninsured motorist limits applied. Lastly, the court agreed that Florida law permitted insureds to waive the right to stacked coverage and that the defendant complied with the requirements for allowing the waiver. As such, the court reversed the order granting the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings.

Consult an Experienced South Florida Car Accident Attorney Today

Many people do not know the specific terms of their auto insurance policy. If you are involved in a car accident, however, it is essential to know and understand the terms of your policy as they determine what benefits you may be able to recover.  The South Florida personal injury attorneys of Donaldson & Weston can assist you with understanding the terms of your policy and help you pursue the benefits you may be owed. Contact us today at 772-266-5555 or 561-299-3999 for a free and confidential consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Florida Court Upholds Arbitration Clause After Car Accident, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, November 20, 2018

Insurance Company Granted New Trial After Florida Car Accident, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, November 13, 2018

Florida Court Addresses When Car Accident Victims Can Be Awarded Attorney’s Fees, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, October 26, 2018