Wife May Reject Florida UM Coverage as Agent of Husband – Progressive American Insurance Co. v. Grossi

Under Florida law, an automobile insurance company that provides liability coverage must also provide uninsured motorist coverage, unless the insured rejects the uninsured motorist coverage in writing. Section 627.727, Florida Statutes. Uninsured motorist coverage is insurance that covers damages caused by a driver who does not have insurance. For purposes of uninsured motorist coverage, Section 627.727 defines “uninsured vehicle” to include a vehicle with policy limits that are less than the total damages, after the liability insurer has provided the bodily injury policy limits. Thus, uninsured motorist coverage applies in situations when the at-fault vehicle was either uninsured or underinsured.

The Fifth District recently addressed the issue of whether uninsured motorist coverage can be rejected by the spouse of the named insured in Progressive American Insurance Company v. Grossi. In this recent case, the husband was the named insured on an insurance policy. His wife was an additional insured under the policy. The policy had been in place for approximately three years. During that period, the wife had made numerous changes to the policy that resulted in reduced premiums. The insurer sent a policy declaration showing the changes to the husband after each change. Among the changes made by the wife was a rejection of uninsured motorist coverage.

Because of the rejection of coverage, the insurer denied uninsured motorist coverage after an automobile accident. The Fifth District’s per curiam opinion does not provide a lot of factual or procedural history, but it does note that the trial court had granted a final summary judgment in favor of the insureds. The insurer appealed the order for summary judgment.

The insureds argued that the wife did not have actual or apparent authority to reject the coverage. They argued that only the named insured, in this case the husband, had the authority to reject uninsured motorist coverage. The insurer argued that the wife was acting under either the actual or the apparent authority of her husband in rejecting the coverage and that her rejection was therefore valid.

The district court found that the named insured could reject uninsured motorist coverage through an agent. Furthermore, the court found that there was “ample evidence” to support the insurer’s position that the wife was acting as her husband’s agent regarding the policy. There was, according to the court, at least sufficient evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact as to whether she was acting as her husband’s agent. Summary judgment was therefore inappropriate. The court reversed the order granting summary judgment and remanded the case to the trial court.

While a person might assume that dealing with his or her own insurance company would be easier than dealing with the other party’s insurer, that is not always the case, especially with uninsured motorist claims. Insurance carriers often contest uninsured motorist claims. If you were injured by someone without insurance or with insufficient insurance, the South Florida car accident attorneys at Anidjar & Levine can help you deal with your insurance company. Call us at (800) 747-3733, or submit an online “Contact Us” form.

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