You may be wondering to what extent will you be held responsible for the actions of an individual who is co-insured under the same coverage as you. This question often presents itself when a co-insured breaches a material element of your policy voiding their chance of recovery. This is concerning because you do not want the implications of the breach to be imputed on to you as an innocent party. Case precedent would point to each party being severally liable for their own breach in most circumstances. In an appellate decision made by the district court of appeals in Overton v. Progressive Insurance Company, the judicial determination was that a woman was not held accountable by the intentional breach committed by her husband.
Her husband’s intentional breach of setting his own vehicle on fire did not bar her from recovery despite being a co-insured and lacking any ownership interest in the vehicle. However, what she did have was a pecuniary or beneficial interest in her husband’s property that would result in some disadvantage from its loss, making her insurable interest valid. The contractual language found within the insurance policy provided several as opposed to joint coverage which allowed her to recover the claim benefits provided under her policy. Terminology used in the contract such as “direct and accidental” was not interpreted to relieve the insurer of payment for the losses caused by the intentional acts of a third party. In absence of express language indicating the intent of the parties, the court favors an interpretation selecting several coverage over joint coverage. This is a protection for the innocent co-insured, so they will not be held accountable for fraudulent acts of the co-insured.
Public policy typically affords this protection under the rationality that it would not be a good faith practice for insurance companies to impute the misdeeds of one insured upon another innocent party who in no way partook in the breach of policy. Ultimately whether this is applicable to your coverage is contingent upon the language set forth in your policy. Both express and ambiguous language can influence the outcome of a claim denied on this basis.
An experienced insurance claims attorney can help you analyze your policy and determine whether you have been unjustly denied coverage due to the intentional or tortious act of a co-insured. A legal expert can also help you analyze provisions found in your policy in a manner that is coherent and congruent with your entire coverage plan. Provisions cannot be read in isolation and are often subject to other contractual agreements found in your policy. Certain actions may lead to forfeiture or limitation of your coverage. For these foregoing reasons, it is highly encouraged you contact an experienced insurance claims attorney to make sure you are not being taken advantage of by your insurance company or having a claim be unjustly denied on an improper basis.
You can reach Miami Insurance Claims Lawyer J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo by dialing his direct number at (786) 272-5841, calling the main office at (305) 461-1095, or Toll Free at 1 (866) 71-CLAIM or email Attorney Gonzalez-Sirgo directly at[email protected].
-Overton v. Progressive Insurance Company, 585 So.2d 445 (4th DCA 1991)