Anyone who’s ever dealt with an insurance company may already know that the answer to coverage disputes often lies in the fine print. In Angelotta v. Security National Insurance, Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeals takes on an insurance case about what the fine print means when it refers to insurance coverage for a “vehicle.”
Mr. Angelotta was injured in a February 2008 accident at The Villages, a popular retirement community north of Orlando. The collision occurred when a golf cart driven by Mr. Snyder on a public roadway sideswiped a car and slammed into Angelotta’s golf cart, which was lawfully stopped. Snyder’s golf cart, which he was leasing at the time of the crash, had been modified so that it could travel at speeds of more than 20 miles an hour. Angelotta later sued Snyder for negligence.
Snyder had an automobile insurance policy with Security National Insurance at the time of the crash. The company refused to indemnify him in the litigation, however, asserting that the golf cart wasn’t covered under Snyder’s policy. After Angelotta obtained a money judgment against him in excess of $70,000, Snyder assigned to Angelotta any rights that he may have to bring legal action against Security National related to the crash in exchange for Angelotta’s agreement not to enforce the final judgment.
Angelotta, in turn, sued Security National, asking the court to issue a declaratory judgment ruling that the golf cart was covered under Snyder’s insurance policy. Angelotta, who passed away while the litigation was ongoing, also sued for breach of contract and bad faith. The trial court ruled in favor of Security National, however, finding that the policy didn’t cover the golf cart because it wasn’t “designed principally for use on paved public streets and highways.”
Reversing the decision, the Fifth District held that the modified golf cart was a “low-speed vehicle” and therefore fell under the terms of the policy. The court explained that the policy had been issued pursuant to Florida’s Financial Responsibility Law, which required Snyder to carry a certain minimum amount of insurance coverage because of a previous DUI conviction. The law requires an insurer to insure the covered person for any liability imposed on him as a result of damages stemming from the person’s use of “any motor vehicle not owned by him…”
Finding that state law defines a “golf cart” as a certain type of vehicle capable of traveling no faster than 20 mph, the court said the leased, modified cart in this case was more akin to a “low-speed vehicle.” The law defines these vehicles as four-wheelers that can travel faster than 20 mph, but not more than 25 mph. The golf cart was therefore required to be insured by Security National pursuant to the Financial Responsibility Law, according to the court.
If you have been injured in a car accident or are involved in a related insurance dispute, it is important to have experienced legal counsel in your corner. Contact the South Florida car accident lawyers at Anidjar & Levine. From offices in Ft. Lauderdale, we serve clients throughout the area, including in Hialeah, Coral Springs and Pompano Beach. Call us toll-free at 800-747-3733 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
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