Insurance Coverage Cancelled and Claim Denied Because of Incomplete Address on an Insurance Policy

In prior blog articles, we have emphasized the importance of reviewing your insurance policies in their entirety.  A portion of a policy that many policyholders do not review is the section that contains information provided by the insured, such as the policyholder’s address.  While an insured might think there is no reason to worry about this information, the saying, “don’t sweat the small stuff” is dead wrong in this context.  When a policyholder fails to review information about the property and policyholder that is included in the policy, the consequences can be financially devastating.

A recent Florida Third District Court of Appeals decision provides a vivid example of the consequences of failing to check the address on your policy.  In Rodriguez v. Security National Ins. Co., Inc., No 3D13-1890 (Fla. 3d DCA April 30, 2014), a party who had been assigned the rights of the insured under the policy sued for breach of contract and insurance bad faith.  The insurance company denied the claim and contended that the claim was not covered because the policy had previously lapsed almost two years prior to the accident.

The trial court granted summary judgment for the insurer on the grounds that the policy had expired, and the plaintiff pursuing the claim appealed.  The insurer claimed that the policy had lapsed because the insured failed to make a required premium payment despite being sent notice of the potential cancellation for non-payment.  The plaintiff contended that the purported notice was not addressed properly so the insured was never informed of the risk of cancellation.

The street address on the notices sent to the insured did not include an apartment number.  However, the address used was the one provided on the application submitted to the insurer.  The address to which notice was sent also was the same address indicated on the insurance policy and declarations.  The plaintiff contended that the incomplete address made notice ineffective, and that the insurer had the correct address in the insurer’s policy file on a document prepared by a property appraiser. 

The appellate court affirmed the trial court decision based on Section 627.728(5), Florida Statutes (2009): “United States proof of mailing or certified or registered mailing of notice of cancellation, of intention not to renew, or of reasons for cancellation, or of the intention of the insurer to issue a policy by an insurer under the same ownership or management, to the first named insured at the address shown in the policy shall be sufficient proof of service. (Emphasis added).

The court found plaintiff’s contention that the insurance company should have known the address was incomplete because of the document from the appraiser in the insurer’s file unpersuasive.  The court reinforced its view that the insurance company was not put on notice by the document in the file because the insurer did not generate the report or receive the report from the insured.

In the context of a homeowner’s insurance claim for catastrophic damage to a policyholder’s residence, a minor mistake in the address on the policy could cost a policyholder hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.  The important take away from this case is that policyholders need to carefully verify their contact and personal information when purchasing a policy to ensure that the information is accurate.  It also is important to review your policies periodically so that they can be updated when the information changes.

If you have questions about your insurance claim or you insurance company is refusing to pay your claim in a timely manner, we may be able to help.  My law firm represents policyholders in claims disputes in Miami and throughout Florida.  The Law Firm of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A. offers free consultations and case evaluations.  No Recovery, No Lawyer Fees.  Call 305-461-1095 or Toll Free 1-866-71-CLAIM.

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