While Florida law requires drivers to retain a minimal level of auto insurance, umbrella insurance policies aren’t mandated, but they can cover liability damages stemming from a crash. So if one’s auto insurance maximum isn’t enough to fully compensate injured parties for wreck-related costs, the next move would be to see if any other applicable insurance policies may be in place.
Because many people don’t carry umbrella insurance, injured parties usually go straight to their own carrier for uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, which is supposed to cover the difference between the at-fault driver’s coverage and actual damages, up to the policy limit. But, when the negligent party does have an umbrella policy, your own carrier may require that you make a claim under that policy first, before pursuing UM coverage.
Our Hollywood accident lawyers understand this can create confusion and uncertainty for those grappling with long-term recovery and debilitating injuries. That’s why we work tirelessly to shield you from the stress as much as possible, while fighting tenaciously to ensure you receive the full compensation you deserve.
One recent example of an injured plaintiff seeking coverage under an umbrella policy carrier is Allstate v. Manzo-Pianelli, before Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal. Had the at-fault driver also been the named insured on the umbrella policy, this case would likely not have made it to the appellate level. However, the at-fault driver was a permissive user of the vehicle, while the policyholder was the owner of the vehicle.
The crash giving rise to the case occurred in 2007, when a driver of a vehicle owned by someone else was involved in a crash, resulting in serious injury to the driver of another vehicle. The vehicle itself was insured under the owner’s auto insurance policy for $100,000. The full policy amount was tendered, and allowed a partial release of liability against the vehicle owner.
However, the vehicle owner also had an umbrella insurance policy that provided $1 million in coverage. But the umbrella policy carrier denied coverage on the grounds the driver of the vehicle wasn’t covered.
Injured plaintiff then sought underinsured motorist benefits from her own carrier. But her carrier filed a third-party complaint against the umbrella policy carrier, asking the court to issue a determination as to priority of coverage.
Initially, the trial court refused motion for dismissal, finding incidents arising out of permissive use of a motor vehicle were covered under the policy. Instead, trial court issued a summary judgment in favor of plaintiff.
However, on appeal, the 4th DCA found genuine issues of fact were raised with regard to whether the policy provided coverage, specifically because the policy excluded coverage in cases where the insured would not be legally obligated to pay. Here, the permissive user was not a named insured, neither was she a resident relative. Beyond that, the named insured/vehicle owner could not be legally obligated to pay, according to the insurer, because he wasn’t listed a defendant in the case. Further, he couldn’t be added as a defendant because, by that point, the statute of limitations had run out on the claim.
The insurance company argued that because there was no chance the named insured could be held liable in the case, it was not obligated to pay the claim. The appellate panel decided the insurer had a point, reversed the earlier summary judgment favoring the plaintiff and remanding the case to the trial court for further consideration on this issue.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.
Allstate v. Manzo-Pianelli, Nov. 5, 2014, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal
More Blog Entries:
Bolding v. Kindel Concrete – Proving Crash Injury Causation and Damages, Nov. 10, 2014, Hollywood Crash Lawyer Blog