Uninsured motorist coverage is a smart way for drivers to protect themselves in the event they are involved in a crash with a driver who lacks insurance. This is especially important here in Florida because this is the fifth-highest state for uninsured motorists, with one out of ever four drivers lacking coverage, according to the Insurance Research Council.
Even those who do have coverage may only be carrying the bare minimum, which means it won’t be enough to cover your medical expenses and other costs. This is the purpose of UM/UIM coverage. Your insurer steps in to help cover the difference.
But of course, as our Fort Lauderdale car accident attorneys know well, insurers have many ways of mitigating their losses, including outright denial of legitimate claims and numerous provisions that limit the total payout you can receive. This is coverage for which you pay and to which you are entitled. More often than not, however, motorists are going to need the help of an experienced attorney if they have any hope of collecting.
The recent case of Floyd-Tunnell v. Shelter Mutual Ins. Co. illustrates how even a loyal customer holding three UM policies with a single insurer faced a battle every step of the way when trying to collect on those policies after her husband was killed in a crash with an uninsured driver.
According to court records, the couple owned three vehicles and each was covered under a separate UM policy. Each policy offered up to $100,000 of UM coverage per person in the event of a crash. However, these policies also had a provision listing an “owned-vehicle” exclusion. Essentially, if a crash occurred involving a vehicle not covered under the policy, the maximum payout was $25,000 – the minimum required under state law in Missouri where this incident occurred. (It’s worth noting Florida lacks a law requiring a minimum degree of UM coverage, so it’s entirely up to motorists whether to purchase it.)
When the husband was killed in a crash with an uninsured driver, his widow sought to collect $300,000, which would be $100,000 on each policy. However, the insurer would only agree to settle for half that – $100,000 for the policy under which the vehicle the decedent was driving was covered, and the $25,000 minimum provided on the other two policies.
The widow took the case to court, and a summary judgment was granted in favor of the insurer. The case was appealed all the way to the Missouri Supreme Court, which affirmed the earlier ruling. The court rejected the widow’s claim that the partial exclusion provision was ambiguous or that, alternatively, as a named insured on each of the policies, the widow was entitled to collect the full amount.
In fact, for the purposes of the claim, the “insured” was the husband, and since he had only occupied one of the three vehicles at the time of the crash, his estate was only entitled to receive the minimum on the other two policies.
Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.
Floyd-Tunnell v. Shelter Mutual Ins. Co., July 29, 2014, Missouri Supreme Court
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