Illinois Supreme Court to Insurance Companies: Get it right, or face the consequences!

I've been battling with my insurance carrier for months, and I believe there was a mistake in the preparation of my policy. Can I hold my insurance provider liable?

Rest assured, insurance companies will jump on any opportunity to avoid liability or rely on the language of an exclusion to deny a claim. But how does the law treat the insurer when the shoe is on the other foot? As in, the insurer made a mistake or committed an error in preparing a policy or handling a claim? According to the Illinois Supreme Court, insurers are now under the same duty of care, caution, and reasonableness applied in any personal injury or negligence action - which should help avoid some of the difficult scenarios faced by policyholders when the insurance company itself makes a mistake.

In Skaperdas v. Country Cas. Ins. Co., an insured motorist met with his insurance agent in order to add his fiancé' to his policy. The agent agreed to add her, and drew up a new policy. Shortly thereafter, the fiancé's minor child was struck by an underinsured motorist while riding his bicycle. The motorist offered only $25,000 in bodily injury coverage, and the fiancé' made a claim under her new policy's underinsured motorist coverage. A problem arose when it was discovered that the insurance agent forgot to actually add her name to the policy, resulting in a denial of coverage.

The couple proceeded to sue the company, alleging that it violated the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure, which requires that "[a]n insurance producer, registered firm, and limited insurance representative shall exercise ordinary care and skill in renewing, procuring, binding, or placing the coverage requested by the insured or proposed insured."

In its defense, the insurance company argued that an insurance agent is not expressly included in the language of the statute. However, the Illinois Supreme Court opined otherwise, holding that the language of the statute - and the intent of the legislature - was to absolutely include insurance agents within the purview of the reasonableness standard, and the company was indeed liable to the couple for the coverage they would have had but for the mistake.

If you were recently injured and would like to speak to a personal injury attorney about your options, please contact the Chicago, Waukegan and McHenry attorneys at Ryan Ryan & Landa today. We offer personal and compassionate representation for personal injury victims. Call us at (847)416-1989.

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