Has Your Insurance Agent Caused You to Become Uninsured?
Florida insurance agents are often licensed and appointed agents of the insurance companies for which they sell insurance. Insurance agents owe a duty to their customers to exercise reasonable skill, care and diligence in evaluating their insurance needs. If an agent breaches this duty, and the customer is harmed by the agent’s failure to use reasonable care, both the agent AND the insurance company may be liable for the harm caused to the insured.
When an insurance agent meets with an insured, he or she has a duty to properly assess the customer’s insurance needs. For example, if a customer tells his agent he wants to purchase health insurance that covers a preexisting condition such as heart disease, the agent may be found negligent if he sells the insured a policy that excludes coverage for the preexisting condition.
Under Florida law, the acts of an insurance company’s agent, including the knowledge of the agent, are imputed to the insurance carrier. See Desantolo v. John Alden Life Insurance Co., 744 So.2d 1123 (Fla. 4th DCA 1999). This is important as it holds the insurance company liable for the damage caused by its agent. An insurance agent’s negligence often becomes apparent when an insurance company denies coverage for a claim for which the insured sought coverage. These situations arise when an insured tells the agent that he needs coverage for a particular risk, yet the agent sells the insured a policy which results in the insurance company denying coverage for a claim the insured thought was covered.
Florida law provides policyholders with remedies when they are harmed due to the acts of an insurance agent. For example, Florida recognizes a cause of action for the negligent failure to procure insurance on behalf of the policyholder. This cause of action arises when an agent fails to properly investigate an insured’s existing coverage to make sure the agent sells the insured a policy that is comparable to the insured’s existing coverage. Agents can also be held liable for failing to fully inform and educate their insureds regarding the terms and coverage contained within a policy. Finally, agents can be held liable for misrepresenting the terms and coverage contained within a policy sold to an insured.
Jason Cornell is a Florida attorney who represents consumers in insurance coverage disputes. You can reach Jason at 561 616-3333 or firstname.lastname@example.org.