An allegedly false statement by an auto insurance agent regarding stacked underinsured motorist (UM) coverage is at the center of a personal injury case before Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal.
Although other elements of the claim have been dismissed and affirmed on appeal, allowed to proceed is the question of whether this misrepresentation should mean the insured’s injured son is entitled to double the UM coverage stated in the policy.
Our Fort Lauderdale car accident lawyers know issues of negligent misrepresentation are generally rare in these cases, so it will be interesting to see what ultimate conclusion is reached. If nothing else, the case of Gallon v. GEICO illustrates why it’s not uncommon to need an attorney when dealing with auto insurance companies.
According to court records, plaintiff was a back seat passenger in his mother’s vehicle when she was involved in a single-car crash that resulted in his being ejected and suffering serious injuries. His mother carried auto insurance with a single company on two vehicles. The policy included uninsured motorist coverage in the amount of $50,000. The policy indicted the UM coverage was “stacked” though she had only purchased UM coverage on one of the two vehicles.
Stacked UM coverage allows insureds to increase the amount of coverage by the number of vehicles on a policy.
It was the plaintiff’s contention that because the policy provided for stacked coverage and because there were two covered vehicles on the policy. he should be entitled to receive $100,000. However, the insurer argued that because only one of the vehicles had UM coverage, he was limited to a maximum pay-out of $50,000. When the insurer refused to pay the $100,000 requested, plaintiff sued.
Plaintiff amended his complaint four times, with the final draft asserting a claim for negligent misrepresentation. Specifically, plaintiff asserts at some point prior to the wreck, his mother’s insurance lapsed, and when it was reinstated, the premium was much higher. When she called the company to ask why, an agent reportedly told her she could decline the coverage, but if she kept it, her UM coverage would be stacked. She was told if either of her sons were injured, the company would pay double the amount stated on the $50,000 UM limit. Plaintiff alleged his mother relied on this statement to keep the policy, even though the insurer denied him the benefits of the stacked coverage for which she’d paid.
The insurer claimed it didn’t matter what the agent said or didn’t say, because the plain language of the policy indicated the coverage couldn’t be stacked when only one vehicle was covered with UM benefits.
The bar for proving negligent misrepresentation is rather high. Plaintiff will need to show defendant provided a misrepresentation of material fact, the representer knew or should have known the information was false, the representer intended to induce another into an act based on that misrepresentation and finally, that injury resulted to plaintiff as a result of justifiable reliance on that misrepresentation.
The trial court granted the insurer’s motion to dismiss on this count, but the appellate court reversed, finding the allegation facially sufficient to proceed to trial.
Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Gallon v. GEICO, Sept. 12, 2014, Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal
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Carman v. Tinkes – Comparative Fault Can Harm a Personal Injury Case, Aug. 25, 2014, Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Lawyer Blog