Florida Court Looks at Insurance Eligibility After Truck Accident

When you buy an insurance policy, you expect it to cover you in the event of an accident. However, you may want to exercise caution to ensure that it actually covers you, as this case warns. If you are injured in a car or truck accident, before you contact your insurer you should consult an experienced South Florida truck accident attorney to help protect you. Insurance companies will sometimes urge plaintiffs to settle for less than they deserve. Alternatively, as in this case, the insurance company may declare that unbeknownst to them, the policy holder is not actually insured.

Truck Accident Facts

The plaintiff in this case is a truck driver. He worked for a trucking company. While employed in this position he applied for an insurance policy through the National Independent Truckers and Contractors Association, Inc. Group Insurance Trust (“the policy.”) On May 13, 2015, the plaintiff sent off his application for the policy. The next day, he was injured in a truck accident. He spent six weeks in the hospital and incurred significant medical bills.

The insurance company was informed of the accident the same day it occurred. A certificate of insurance (“COI”) was issued on May 29, 2015. Though it was not processed until the end of May, the policy’s effective date was listed as May 14, 2015, the day of the accident. In late October the plaintiff submitted a claim to the insurer for his injuries from the accident.

The insurance company denied the claim for three different reasons. First, the insurer claimed that the coverage was not effective until the application was processed, which happened after the accident occurred. Second, they alleged that the plaintiff was never eligible for coverage under the policy to begin with. Finally, the insurer claimed that the plaintiff missed his deadline for filing the claim. The judge in this case, heard by the U.S. District Court of the Middle District of Florida, determined that the plaintiff was never eligible for coverage in the first place and so they only addressed that issue as it was dispositive.

Coverage Eligibility

Florida law states that interpretation of an insurance policy is a question of law, therefore it needs to be decided by the court. (Conversely, determinations of fact usually need to be decided by a jury unless the right to a jury has been waived.) The general rule is that an insurance contact should be interpreted in accordance with its plain meaning. If the language could have more than one reasonable interpretation then it should be interpreted in a way that broadens coverage rather than limits it.

The policy at issue stated that two kinds of truck drivers were eligible for coverage: owner-operators and contract drivers. Owner-operators are of course truck drivers who own and drive their own trucks. Contract drivers are drivers that are authorized to drive a truck owned by an owner-operator. However, the plaintiff in this case was neither of these. He did not drive a truck owned by an owner-operator, but was instead an employee of a trucking company. Though he argued that the provisions were ambiguous and should thus be interpreted in a way that broadened coverage, the court held otherwise. They determined that there was no ambiguity and it was clear that plaintiff was never eligible to be covered by the policy. Thus, plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment was denied.

Contact an Experienced South Florida Truck Accident Attorney Today!

The experienced South Florida truck accident attorneys at Donaldson & Weston know how to fight against insurance companies to help truck accident victims get the compensation they are due. Contact them today by calling 772-266-555 or 561-299-3999 or using the contact form on this website.

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