Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Reason No 27 Why Your "Full Coverage" Auto Policy Might Be Meaningless

A recent Ohio case illustrates why the term "full coverage auto policy" is a meaningless term. Here's the scenario: you ask your agent to procure a "full coverage auto policy" for you. You think your agent has done this for you. two years after the policy is issued, you're injured by a negligent motorist with minimal liability limits. So you settle your claim with the negligent motorist's insurance company, and then attempt to pursue a "underinsured motorists'claim" against your own insurance company. Definition: a claim brought against your own insurance company when your injuries, medical bills, and lost wages exceed the negligent motorist's liability limits.

Your agent's response: "What underinsured motorists coverage? You rejected this coverage." The agent then produces an office note to the effect that you did not want uninsured/underinsured motorists coverage. Your response: "B.S. I told you I wanted a full coverage policy that included uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) motorists' coverage!"

This is what happened in Robson v. Quentin Cadd Agency, 179 Ohio App. 3rd, 2008 Ohio 5309. The injured party-insured sued the agent for negligently failing to procure the "full coverage" policy the insured requested. The trial court dismissed the case, reasoning that the insured had a duty to read the policy, which did not include the UM/UIM coverage.

Thankfully, the court of appeals re-institued the case, and ruled that a jury should determine whether the agent did not properly procure the necessary coverage. But the court of appeals also ruled that the jury should also consider whether the insured was also negligent in not reading the policy, which clearly did not include the UM/UIM coverage the insured thought he was getting.

As a result of this fiasco, the insured has now bought an expensive lawsuit and jury trial over what exactly happened and who bears responsibility for not including the UM/UIM coverage in the policy.

This is EXACTLY the problem with a "full coverage" auto policy. It has a definite meaning to purchasers of insurance ("I'm getting EVERYTHING"), but it has little to no meaning to the insurance industry and agents(it can virtually mean ANYTHING).

Lesson learned: Ask your agent to define, IN WRITING, what exactly is included in a "full coverage" policy. The most important part of your auto coverage is your UM/UIM coverage, which protects YOU if you're hit by an uninsured or underinsured motorist. Make sure any quote from your agent includes this coverage. And make sure your put IN WRITING that you want this coverage. That way, you have left a paper trail as to what you intended to purchase. Otherwise, if the agent fails to obtain this coverage (like the agent did in this case), you're in a standoff of "I said, he said," and then you're talking to an attorney and have just bought a lawsuit with an uncertain outcome. And the last thing you need is a bunch of legal bills piled on the kitchen table next to all the hospital bills...

1 comment:

jodi said...

i'm putting this IN WRITING: i learn something every time i visit your blog. rock on.