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Skaperdas v. Country Cas. Ins. Co. – Auto Insurance Agents Owe Duty of Care

Florida courts have long held that insurance agents/brokers owe a duty of care to the insured. This means the agent has a duty to insureds to explain the coverage and to explain when unilateral changes are made.
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The law also requires insurance agents to use reasonable care in the procurement of requested insurance. In some cases, the law may require the agent to make recommendations on specific types and amounts of coverage reasonably and prudently needed to meet the customer’s needs.

Issues can arise where auto insurance customers believed they were covered for an accident, only to find they didn’t know it fell under an exclusion, or when they believed they were purchasing one type of coverage, only to learn they were in fact getting another.

This area of law is complex because there are a host of possible exceptions. However, if you have been injured in a Fort Myers auto accident and your insurer has denied the claim, your attorney should explore all options.

An example of insurance agent liability recently came before the Illinois Supreme Court. In Skaperdas v. Country Cas. Ins. Co., the insured believed his fiancee and her son were added to his auto insurance policy at his request. However, when the son suffered serious injuries as a result of being struck by a car while on a bicycle, the insurance company denied the claim, arguing neither the boy nor his mother were named insureds.

Initially, when insured purchased the policy, he listed only himself and his vehicles. Later, he got engaged. At one point, his fiancee was involved in a relatively minor car accident while driving one of his vehicles. The insurer agreed to cover the loss, but required insured to change his policy to include his fiancee as an additional driver (which would in turn extend coverage to her son as well).

Insured met with the insurance agent to request coverage for his fiancee under the policy. The agent prepared the policy, but only identified the original policy holder as the named insured. His fiancee was not included as a named insured, though the declarations page did identify a covered driver as a female between the ages of 30 and 64.

When the fiancee’s son was struck by a vehicle, the couple filed an underinsured motorist claim for coverage, as the at-fault driver only carried $25,000 in coverage. However, the company denied the claim, asserting neither the fiancee or the child were named in the policy.

The original insured and his fiancee filed a lawsuit against the insurance agent and the company, alleging negligence and vicarious liability for failure to use reasonable care in procuring insurance coverage. Although trial court granted summary judgment to defendants, the court of appeals reversed and the Illinois Supreme Court affirmed.

Despite arguments by the agent and the insurer that agent did not owe a duty of care to plaintiffs, the higher courts disagreed. Justices found that a plain reading of state statute indicated any person required to be licensed to sell, solicit or negotiate insurance owes a duty to exercise ordinary care in doing so.

Therefore summary judgment was reversed and plaintiffs case survives.

Call Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, at 1-800-646-1210.

Additional Resources:
Skaperdas v. Country Cas. Ins. Co., March 19, 2015, Illinois Supreme Court
More Blog Entries:
Florida v. Dorsett – Hit-and-Run Proof Standard Shifts, March 13, 2015, Fort Myers Injury Lawyer Blog