It’s an unfortunate reality that auto insurers don’t always have their clients’ best interests in mind. There are a number of ways in which these companies look to limit coverage payouts after an accident, including the so-called “rejection” of coverage at issue in Arnold v. Wausau Underwriters Insurance Company.
Mr. Arnold filed a claim with Wausau seeking uninsured motorist coverage following an October 2011 car accident that occurred while Arnold was working as a “Road Ranger” for Roy Jorgensen Associates. RJA held an auto insurance policy with Wausau, which originally included $1 million in Florida uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage and under which Arnold was covered as RJA’s employee.
Wausau denied the claim, however, arguing that the parties had agreed to modify certain policy provisions just two months after it was executed in June 2011. Among those changes, Wausau claimed that RJA signed a form rejecting any and all Florida uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. Yet, as the Court noted, the rejection paperwork wasn’t signe or dated and wasn’t actually endorsed until February 2012, roughly six months after Arnold’s accident. And while it was Wausau’s common practice to refund premiums related to coverage rejections at the end of a policy year, it didn’t do so in this case until August 2013, half a year after Arnold sued the company for breach of contract.
Based on this record, the Court said it was unable to grant either Arnold or Wausau summary judgment and instead ordered that the case proceed to trial. Summary judgment is a procedural tool that allows parties to a lawsuit to ask the judge to role in their favor on certain claims prior to trial, arguing that there are no issues of material fact in dispute and that the party seeking summary judgment is clearly entitled to it based on the undisputed facts. Here, the Court said some of the facts remained unclear and a reasonable jury could rule for either party at this juncture.
Section 627.727(1), Florida Statutes provides that an “insurer is obligated to provide uninsured motor vehicle coverage unless the insured rejects this type of coverage,” the Court explained. This law was amended in 1982 to require that uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage rejections be made in writing. It is generally for a jury to decide whether such a rejection is made knowingly, according to the Court.
“The facts that the rejection form was neither signed nor dated, that Wausau did not endorse the Policy until after the accident, and did not refund the premiums until after this litigation ensued create a genuine issue of material fact as to whether a knowing or informed rejection of uninsured motorists coverage occurred, and, if it did, as to when the rejection took place,” the Court held. As a result, the Court denied both parties’ motions for summary judgment.
Dealing with insurance companies can be a stressful, vexing process, especially for someone who is also trying to recuperate from a car accident. The best strategy is to let a professional, experienced personal injury attorney who understands how to work with insurers handle the legwork. The South Florida car insurance lawyers at Anidjar & Levine, have vast experience representing clients in car accident cases and insurance disputes throughout the area, including in Pompano Beach, Boca Raton and Hialeah. Call us at 800-747-3733 for a free consultation.
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