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What happens when you get into a motorcycle accident in Florida with someone whose insurance has expired? It depends on why and how the insurance policy became inactive. If the policy lapsed because of non-payment and the insurance company has mailed written notice to the address listed in the policy at least 45 days before the policy lapses, there will be no coverage.

Florida Court Rules in Favor of Insurance Company in Wrongful Death Case

This week, Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal heard the wrongful death case of a Miami man who was killed while riding his motorcycle. He was struck by a car owned by Eduardo Olivera and driven with Olivera’s permission by Robert Zaid Alsina.

The family of the victim, Alfredo Rodriguez, sued Mr. Olivera and Mr. Alsina for their loved one’s wrongful death, only to discover that Mr. Olivera’s car insurance had become inactive about a month before the accident. Mr. Olivera thought he was insured with Security National Insurance Company. But following the tragic accident, when he was sued, his insurance company claimed his insurance policy had lapsed before the accident and therefore there was no money to pay the  Rodriguez family.

Wrongful Death Case

The Rodriguez family and Mr. Olivera entered into a contract called a “Coblentz Agreement” for $2.5 million. Coblentz Agreements are legal agreements made between parties in lawsuits when there are disputes about whether or not there is insurance to cover a certain event. In cases like this they agree to an amount of money as a judgment and then the plaintiff assumes the rights of Olivera to sue his own insurance company for bad faith in not paying the claim. This takes Olivera off the hook for any money he might owe the Rodriguezes and gives the Rodriguezes a chance to collect against the insurance company directly.

Sadly, in this case, there would have been insurance coverage . . . had the policy not been canceled for non-payment. The insurance company claims that the policy lapsed after it had sent notice to Mr. Olivera at the address he had provided in his insurance application: 5005 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, Florida 33140. However, he had not provided an apartment number.

Mr. Olivera claimed he never received any cancellation letters from his insurance company, which may be explained by the fact that no apartment number had been provided in either his application or in the renewal notice and cancellation letters that the insurance company testified that it had mailed him.

Florida law requires insurance companies to provide notice at the address shown in the policy and to the insurance agent at least 45 days before the policy becomes inactive if it is intending not to renew someone’s insurance policy. In this case the insurance company sent three letters: a renewal letter on November 2, 2008; a reminder on November 24, 2008; and a policy-expiration letter on December 6, 2008–apparently none of which was received by Mr. Olivera, who then let his policy lapse just a month before a car he owned killed Mr. Rodriguez.

Not surprisingly, the Court agreed with the insurance company and ruled that even though Mr. Olivera never received the actual notices of expiration and termination of his policy, there was no coverage. Read the Third District Court of Appeal’s opinion in Rodriguez v. Security National Insurance.

As a motorcycle accident attorney in Miami, I believe here are five important lessons we can learn from this tragic case, lessons that will protect our families:

Five Important Insurance Facts to Protect Florida Drivers

1. VALID INSURANCE: Is your auto insurance valid? Check your insurance card and make sure your coverage has not been terminated.

2. CURRENT MAILING ADDRESS: Does your insurance company have your current mailing address? If you have moved or changed your mailing address since the last time you renewed your auto insurance, immediately update your policy information and obtain new valid proof of insurance.

3. CURRENT DRIVER’S LICENSE ADDRESS: Does your insurance policy address match your driver’s license? If either or both need to be updated, do so immediately.

4. CURRENT VEHICLES: Have you acquired a different car, truck, or motorcycle since the last time you renewed your policy? You must provide this information to your company immediately and obtain an accurate insurance card.

5. NEW FAMILY MEMBERS: Do you have new family members over the age of 15 living in your household? I do–my daughter Sara Rose turned 15 earlier this year, requiring me to list her on our auto policies.

I am a lawyer in Miami who for more than 20 years has sued insurance companies after car, motorcycle, and truck accidents–for personal injuries, lost wages, medical expense, and pain and suffering. If you need my help, call me Toll Free at 1-866-597-4529, or email today for a free initial legal consultation about your potential accident case.