There have been a rash of cases filed lately by auto insurance companies in Florida attempting to escape liability following a car accident. The insurers accept premiums for months or years, yet, when a crash occurs, they look for ways to avoid paying for the losses. To do so, the insurers try to rescind insurance policies, meaning that, legally speaking, the customer never had insurance on his or her vehicle.
The result is nothing short of devastating for the consumer. He or she will be: denied personal injury protection benefits to pay medical bills or lost wages resulting from injuries; denied coverage for damages caused to another vehicle; denied coverage for damage done to his or her own vehicle; denied coverage for bodily injuries suffered by someone else hurt in the collision; and denied uninsured motorist coverage for his or her own injuries.
As Jacksonville car insurance lawyers, we often hear from our clients that, among the first questions asked by an insurer following a crash, is whether application questions were filled out correctly. One of the most common methods used by these insurers is to claim that its customer failed to list all of his or her family members when completing the application. Yet, the application itself may be extremely confusing about who is to be listed.
For example, we have a case pending now in which the application reads as follows:
Driver Information: Names of all drivers in household, all children and all persons that use the vehicles. Coverage is provided only for the drivers listed below:
Six pages later, the application contains a place to initial that reads:
I hereby certify that I have listed all persons in the household and all drivers of the vehicles, whether in my household or not, as well as all children, whether living with me or not.
These two provisions do not match. The “Driver Information” section, the only place where names can be listed, does not request the applicant to list “all persons in the household.” Further, it is very confusing as to whether children who do not drive need to be listed as it is titled “Driver Information” and merely specifies that “Coverage is provided only for the drivers listed below.” It does not provide that “coverage will be denied if you fail to list all persons in your household.” The insurer preys on people who list all drivers in this part of the application, but fail to list members of the household that do not drive.
Unfortunately, many of the affected policyholders do not know that the insurer’s position can be challenged in court. Instead, they end up with a mountain of debt that should have been paid for by the insurance company. If enough people challenge this type of conduct, the insurers will be forced to stop. This is largely because, in Florida, if you sue your own insurance company and win, the insurer has to pay all of your attorney fees. As a result, the insurers end up having to pay much more than just the covered damages, giving them incentive to act fairly in the future.