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Court Analyzes Underinsured Motorist Coverage in a Florida Case

November 21, 2019

by Donaldson & Weston

When a person is injured in an accident that is caused by a negligent driver, the person may seek coverage for medical expenses from the negligent driver’s insurance company. If the negligent driver does not have sufficient insurance to cover the cost of the injured party’s medical bills, the injured party may be eligible for underinsured motorist benefits under any policy in which he or she is insured. It may not always be clear, however, whether a policy affords coverage. In a recent case decided by a Florida District Court in which coverage was disputed, the court explained the interpretation of common insurance policy provisions and terms pertaining to underinsured motorists. If you were injured in a South Florida car accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver you should consult an experienced South Florida car accident attorney to discuss what coverage you may be able to seek for your harm.

Factual Background of the Case

Reportedly, the plaintiff was driving a car she co-owned with her husband when she was involved in a collision with an underinsured motorist. The plaintiff had automobile insurance for her vehicle, which included underinsured motorist coverage. Additionally, at the time of the accident, the plaintiff lived with her father who had an insurance policy with the defendant insurer. The plaintiff was not a named insured on her father’s policy; however, the policy provided coverage to resident relatives in certain circumstances. One month after the accident, pursuant to a disclosure request from the plaintiff’s attorney, the defendant insurer stated there were no known coverage defenses.

It is alleged that the plaintiff’s attorney and the defendant continued to engage in communications discussing whether the plaintiff was eligible for underinsured motorist benefits under her father’s policy. The plaintiff ultimately filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging breach of contract for the failure to pay the claim. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff was not entitled to coverage under the policy.

Interpretation Provisions Providing Underinsured Motorist Coverage in an Insurance Policy

Whether a policy provides underinsured motorist coverage to a particular person is a question of contract. If the language of the contract is clear and unambiguous, it should be interpreted in accordance with its plain meaning. If the terms of a contract can be interpreted in more than one way, however, they are ambiguous and should be interpreted in favor of coverage. Additionally, exclusions must be clear to be enforceable.

In the subject case, the father’s policy stated, however, that uninsured motorist coverage was not afforded to any person injured while operating an automobile owned by that person. Thus, the court found that the plaintiff was not owed underinsured motorist benefits under the policy, because she was injured while driving a vehicle she owned. The court was not persuaded by the plaintiff’s argument that the term “owned” was ambiguous because she co-owner her vehicle. As such, the court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant.

Speak with a Skilled South Florida Car Accident Attorney Regarding Your Case

If you were involved in an accident in South Florida with a driver that has insufficient insurance coverage, you may be eligible for underinsured or uninsured motorist benefits. Thus, it is in your best interest to speak with a skilled South Florida underinsured motorist car accident attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options for seeking coverage. The experienced South Florida car accident attorneys of Donaldson & Weston analyze the circumstances surrounding your accident and help you pursue any coverage you may be afforded. You can contact us at 772-266-5555 or 561-299-3999 to schedule a meeting to discuss your case.