In Tibbets v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co., a Florida plaintiff pursued uninsured motorist (UM) benefits from her parents’ automobile insurer after an automobile accident that took place in September 2014. At the time of the wreck, the plaintiff lived with her parents and was riding as a passenger in one of the cars insured by the policy. The insurance policy provided $100,000 in bodily injury and $100,000 in UM benefits. The plaintiff was named as a “resident relative” under the insurance policy. The driver of the car did not have permission to drive the car. In fact, the driver did not have any motor vehicle insurance at the time.
After the collision, the defendant denied liability coverage to Walker for the accident, since he did not have permission to drive the car. The plaintiff then pursued UM benefits under the defendant’s insurance policy.
The insurance policy stated that the defendant “will pay compensatory damages for bodily injury and an insured is legally entitled to recover from the…driver of an insured motor vehicle.” The policy defined “uninsured motor vehicle” to include a motor vehicle whose ownership and use is not insured for bodily injury at the time of the accident. Additionally, the policy terms stated that a vehicle that was available for a resident relative’s regular use was not insured.
The main issue in the case became whether the car the plaintiff was in at the time of the accident should be considered “uninsured.” The defendant’s insurance company argued it was not insured because it was available to the woman for her regular use. The plaintiff argued that the car was, in fact, uninsured because an individual who was not on the policy was driving it.
The court sided with the plaintiff, explaining that her rationale was in line with Florida law. State law says an uninsured motor vehicle policy includes an insured vehicle if the policy provisions eliminate liability coverage for drivers who are not family members, and a relative of the policyholder suffers bodily harm in a wreck involving such an uninsured driver.
Both parties filed a motion for summary judgment on the issue of UM coverage. The court ultimately granted the plaintiff’s motion. The court explained that, when there is an ambiguity present because of conflicting policy exceptions, the court will construe the terms liberally in favor of UM coverage. The court may have ruled differently if the defendant had provided a strong explanation about how the conflicting provisions could be read in conjunction with each other.
At the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, our Miami car accident attorneys have years of experience representing clients in Florida accident cases. Our reputable team is committed to getting our clients the compensation they deserve for their harm. We proudly represent clients throughout South Florida. Note that we offer each and every prospective client a free consultation. We are here to answer your questions and address your concerns. To learn more, do not hesitate to call us at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) or contact us online today.
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