Court Reverses Decision in Florida Auto Accident Citing Insurer’s Failure to Make Disclosures – Gira v. Wolfe

In Gira v. Wolfe, Florida’s Second District Court of Appeals explains that an insurance company must make certain disclosures about a policyholder’s coverage after he or she is involved in a car accident.

Ms. Gira was injured in a July 2010 accident when she was struck by a car driven by Ms. Wolfe. Southern-Owners Insurance Company, Wolfe’s auto insurer, sent Gira a check for $50,000 a month later. The package also included a disclosure statement required by state law in which the company indicated that the money represented the limits of Wolfe’s policy for bodily injury. A space next to “other available insurance” was left blank.

Gira’s attorney originally returned the check to Southern-Owners, indicating that he was still conducting an investigation and that Gira was not yet ready to consider a settlement. He later offered to settle the matter for $50,000 and another $440 representing personal property destroyed in the accident. The negotiations broke down when the company allegedly failed to provide the disclosure required under section 627.4137, Florida Statutes, however. Specifically, Gira’s attorney claimed that the company did not provide a statement indicating the name and coverage of each of Wolfe’s known insurers. Gira then filed suit against Wolfe and her husband for negligence.

A trial court entered judgment in favor of the Wolfes, finding that Gira had made an offer to settle the matter which Southern-Owners accepted and was therefore bound by it. On appeal, Gira argued that the settlement was not enforceable because the Wolfes failed to comply with the terms of it by providing the necessary insurance disclosure. The Second District agreed.

“Gira’s settlement offer made it a condition that the insurer provide ‘all documents, statements and all information required to be disclosed pursuant to section 627.4137’ and that the disclosure be ‘in the manner and form required by the statute,’” the court explained. The statute requires a liability insurer to provide the disclosures – including the name and coverage of each known insurer – and forward a request for information to all affected insurers within thirty days of the request.

Noting that the company left the statement regarding other known insurance blank in both of its disclosures, the court said that the Wolfes did not meet the settlement conditions. As the court explained, a valid contract requires a “meeting of the minds” in which both parties agree to the same terms. By failing to make the requested disclosure, the Wolfes did not agree to Gira’s actual settlement offer, according to the court.
As a result, it reversed the trial court’s ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings.

This case is a good example of just how important it is to make sure that an insurance company plays by the rules after an accident. The South Florida car accident lawyers at Anidjar & Levine have vast experience representing clients in car accident cases and insurance disputes throughout the area, including in Ft. Lauderdale, Pompano Beach and Hialeah. If you were recently injured in a car accident, contact us for a free consultation.

Related blog posts:

Insurance Issues in Florida Car Accident Lawsuits – Goheagan v. American Vehicle Insurance Company

Causation In Florida Car Accident Litigation – Durse v. Henn

Florida Supreme Court: No Accident Liability for Owner Who Leased Car – Rosado v. DaimlerChrysler Financial Services Trust