Understanding your automobile insurance policy should be one of the most important concerns when you get coverage. It is understandable to rely on your insurance agent’s representations, but nearly every insurance dispute arises from a misunderstanding of coverage. When you or someone you love has been involved in an automobile accident, it becomes even more important to have clear-cut answers about your insurance benefits.
This issue recently came before the Second District Court of Appeal of Florida. In Gallon v. GEICO General Insurance Co., an accident victim brought suit against the insurer in order to obtain additional uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. The plaintiff, who had been a passenger in his mother’s vehicle at the time of the accident, suffered from severe injuries.
When the plaintiff was denied the amount of insurance benefits he sought, he brought suit against the insurer. While several of the claims were dismissed by the trial court, the appeals court reversed dismissal on one claim of negligent misrepresentation. The claim of negligent misrepresentation was based upon communications that the policy-holder had with the insurer regarding UM benefits.
According to the plaintiff, his mother, the policy-holder, let her insurance coverage lapse for a period of time. When she reinstated coverage, the premium was higher than it had previously been. In calling to discuss the price difference, the plaintiff’s mother learned that the increase in price was due to the addition of stacked UM coverage. According to the plaintiff, an insurer representative explained that the stacked UM coverage would pay double the declared amount of coverage in the event of injury, since two vehicles were insured on the policy. As a result, the plaintiff asserted, his mother continued to pay the increased premium. However, after the accident occurred, the insurer denied the double benefits.
The appeals court noted that a claim of negligent misrepresentation must demonstrate that there was a misrepresentation of a material fact, and that the representative either knew or should have known that the statement was false, and intended to induce reliance. Finally, the court stated that there must be a proven injury that resulted from the reliance on the misrepresentation. Taking the plaintiff’s version of events into account, the claim for negligent misrepresentation had been sufficient. As such, the appeals court reversed the trial court’s dismissal of the claim.
An important issue that arose in this case was the reasonableness of the policy-holder in relying on the insurer’s representations. Since the statements made by the insurance representative conflicted with the language in the actual policy, the insurer argued that the claim for negligent misrepresentation ought to have been dismissed. Long-standing Florida law provides that this is not a bar to a claim against an insurer, however. Furthermore, the appeals court remarked that the issue of whether a policy-holder’s reliance is reasonable is a question of fact for a jury to determine.
The Southwest Florida injury attorneys at Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano are experienced in working with insurance companies after an automobile accident. In order to get the compensation you deserve, you need skilled and aggressive legal representation. If you’ve paid for insurance coverage, but your insurer refuses to provide the appropriate benefits, call one of our lawyers today. Contact us or call toll-free at (800) 238-7442.