Travelers Ins. v. Harrington – Florida Supreme Court Sides With Auto Insurer

The Florida Supreme court reversed an earlier decision by the 1st DCA, instead favoring an auto insurance company in a case stemming from a single-vehicle crash where a passenger/daughter was in a vehicle owned by her father, insured under her mother’s policy and driven with permission by a non-family member.brokencar

In Travelers Commercial Insurance Co. v. Harrington, the state high court was asked to decide two questions:

  • Does the family vehicle exclusion for uninsured motorist benefits conflict with F.S. 627.727(3) when the exclusion is applied to a Class I insured who seeks benefits in connection with a single-vehicle crash where vehicle was driven by a Class II permissive user and where driver underinsured and liability payments from him, when combined with liability payment’s under Class I insured’s policy, don’t fully cover medical costs?
  • Are UM benefits stackable under F.S. 627.727(9) when the benefits are claimed by an insured policy holder, but a non-stacking election was made by the purchaser of the policy (even if the insured claimant didn’t elect the non-stacking benefit option)?

Our  car accident lawyers recognize these questions apply to very specific circumstances. However, the broader effect here is that insurance companies gained an important victory with determination that family vehicle exclusions pertaining to UM coverage did not conflict with Florida law. Further “stacking” isn’t allowed for insured’s who expressly decline it.

Stacked coverage is when an insured purchases uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage for more than one vehicle. In the event of a crash, an insured with “stacked” coverage can access coverage from each of those policies. So for example, if you have a policy covering three cars for $25,000 each in UM benefits, a stacked policy would allow you to collect up to $75,000, rather than $25,000.

In this case, the crash at issue occurred in October 2009. Injured plaintiff was a passenger in the vehicle, which was owned by her father and insured under a policy listing her mother as the named insured. The driver was a non-family member who had permission to operate the vehicle. The driver crashed, resulting in personal injuries to the passenger/plaintiff.

The parents’ insurance policy carried bodily liability coverage of $100,00 each and up to $300,000 per accident, plus non-stacked UM coverage of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident. Additionally, the driver had his own liability insurance policy with another insurer that granted up to $50,000 per person.

Plaintiff collected the $50,000 limit from the driver’s insurer, but this did not cover her medical expenses. She then collected the $100,000 limit from her parents’ insurer. However, this still did not totally cover her medical expenses. She sought stacked UM benefits from her parents’ insurer, but the insurer declined coverage on the grounds that the UM coverage provision contained a family vehicle exclusion. This exclusion expressly limited UM coverage in cases where the vehicle involved was owned, furnished or available for the regular use of the insured and/or family member and that person had already been paid bodily injury liability coverage.

Although trial court granted summary judgment to plaintiff, the Florida Supreme Court reversed.

If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at 888-751-7777 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.

Additional Resources:

Travelers Commercial Insurance Co. v. Harrington, Oct. 23, 2014, Florida Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

Otero v. Gomez – Third Party Lawsuit in Florida Bicycle Accident, Aug. 10, 2014, Naples Car Accident Lawyer