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San Diego: Under-Covered Automobile Insurance

In San Diego, California, there has never been mass public transportation as in other major cities. As such, in San Diego, most commuters rely on theirr automobiles. Given the high number of uninsured drivers in San Diego, it is important to make sure that you have both uninsured and underinsured coverage on your automobile. This has relevance in estate planning as all of your assets can be seized if you owe for medical bills or for other damages and your insurance does not cover. You need to report to the Department of Motor Vehicles if there is a personal injury in an accident or if the property damage meets the reporting requirements. Always make sure that the legal name of the vehicle is in the name of your living trust.

In one case, a woman called the insurance agency she had done business with for 10 years and told the agent she needed “full” automobile coverage. According to her, no one discussed what level of insurance would provide adequate protection. Instead, she was sold a policy that provided only the minimum amounts required by state law for uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. The woman and her husband sued the insurance agency for negligence after their son was seriously injured when he was struck by an underinsured motorist and their expected damages exceeded their insurance coverage. The insurance agency, whose line of work is more used to criticism for overzealous selling, was instead in the position of being sued for not selling enough of its product. It is always advisable to contact the California Board of Insurance to make sure that the agent is licensed to sell the type of insurance you are purchasing.

Insurance agents are not personal financial counselors or risk managers for their customers. They generally fulfill their duty to the insured simply by providing the coverage requested by their customers, who typically know more about the extent of their assets and their ability to pay premiums. The agents do not have a duty to advise a client to obtain different or additional coverage. In this case, though, the court ruled that an exception to this no-duty rule arose because there was a “special relationship” between the insured and the insurance agent.

Such a relationship can come about in several ways. The theories that applied in this case were the failure of an agent to respond appropriately to an inquiry or request about a particular type or extent of coverage and the failure to clarify an ambiguous request before providing coverage. Although there were factual issues to be resolved, the court ruled that the woman should have a chance to present her case to a jury.

If you have been injured in an automobile accident, please do not hesitate to contact our law firm of Law Office of Scott C. Soady, A Professional Corporation or e mail us.

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