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Court Rules on Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Last month, the Florida Supreme Court addressed the issue of the amount of uninsured motorist (UM) coverage available under an auto insurance policy. In the case, the plaintiff was involved in an accident with an uninsured motorist and argued that the UM coverage transferred to her by her father years prior was no longer valid. Furthermore, she argued that the insurance company should have allowed her to select or reject coverage.

Facts of the Case

In the case of Chase v. Horace Mann Ins. Co., Richard Chase purchased an auto insurance policy from Horace Mann Insurance Co in 2001. The insured vehicle was a 1992 Chevrolet Geo that had bodily injury liability limits of $100,000/$300,000 and reduced uninsured motorist limits of $25,000/$50,000. His daughter, Allison Chase, was listed as a “driver” but was not a named insured on the policy. In 2004, Horace Mann removed Mr. Chase as the sole insured on the policy, transferred it to Allison Chase, and changed the insured vehicle to a 1997 Ford Escort ST that had been purchased by Allison.

Ms. Chase, who had never previously had the opportunity or right to select lower UM limits, was not provided the opportunity to reject the coverage or select lower limits for her new vehicle. In July 2007, Richard and Allison Chase were involved in a car accident with an uninsured motorist that claimed the life of Mr. Chase and injured Allison Chase. The issue at trial is that Allison claimed that she should be entitled, individually and as personal representative of her father’s estate, to UM coverage in the amount equal to the policy’s bodily injury limits because she never selected lower UM coverage in writing as required by Florida law.

Ruling of the Court

The trial court ruled in favor of Allison, finding that she should be entitled to the policy limits. However, the First District Court of Appeal reversed, finding that Mr. Chase’s UM original selection of lesser coverage was valid since there had been no change to the policy’s bodily injury liability limits over the years. Allison Chase then appealed to the Florida Supreme Court.

The Florida Supreme Court first looked at the language regarding UM coverage in Florida law. Under Section 627.727 of the state code, UM coverage can only be reduced when the named insured rejects the higher coverage in writing on behalf of all insureds under the policy. However, in this case Allison was not a named insured on her father’s policy prior to Horace Mann’s unilateral decision to give her the policy that previously belonged to her father, where she previously had no authority to make any changes to the coverage.

Furthermore, the court found that when Allison was issued her own policy as the named insured, it effectively created a new policy that should have included the option for lower UM limits. Therefore, Horace Mann did not obtain a valid waiver of UM coverage under Allison Chase’s policy. As a result, the Florida Supreme Court agreed with the trial court level, reversed the appellate level decision, and found in favor of Allison Chase.

Contact a Florida Uninsured Motorist Lawyer

If you or someone you know has been involved in a car accident with an uninsured motorist or is having issues with your insurance company regarding a UM claim in Orlando, Tampa, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, or West Palm Beach, let the experienced uninsured motorist lawyers at The Pendas Law Firm help. Call the office or contact us today for a free and confidential consultation of your case.

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