Negligence Case Against Insurance Agent Dismissed on Summary Judgment, South Carolina Court of Appeals Affirms

While most people understand that they “need insurance” for certain situations, such as car accident, a house fire, or a slip and fall accident on their premises, few individuals or business owners truly understand all of the different types of insurance that are available, how they differ from one another, and what the best choice may be for a particular situation.

Accordingly, it is not unusual for those who are not insurance professionals themselves to rely heavily on their insurance agent to provide appropriate coverage. When the agent does not provide reliable advice, a South Carolina negligence lawsuit may be possible against the agent or the agency that employed him or her.

Facts of the Case

In a recent (unreported) case from the South Carolina Court of Appeals, the plaintiff was a woman who purchased a policy of commercial automobile insurance for her daycare business in April 2010. After a parent drove a car through the wall of the plaintiff’s business, causing personal injuries to the plaintiff, the plaintiff sought coverage for her injuries. According to the plaintiff, she thought that she had purchased coverage “for every person who went in and out of the building, including herself.” The defendants, the insurance agent and agency from whom the plaintiff purchased her policy, denied her claim.

The plaintiff filed a professional negligence action against the defendants, asserting that the agent had undertook to advise her, either expressly or impliedly, and had breached the duty to properly advise her to list herself individually on the policy. The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendants.

Decision of the Court

The court of appeals affirmed the lower court’s judgment, holding that the plaintiff had not presented even a “mere scintilla” of evidence to support her claims. In so holding, the court observed that the defendant’s expert witness had opined that the plaintiff’s claim was in the nature of a workplace injury rather than a commercial automobile liability claim. The plaintiff’s business had a policy of workers’ compensation coverage, but it was purchased from an insurance agency other than the defendants’, even thought the defendants had offered to provide such coverage.

The court also noted that, generally, an insurer has no duty to advise an insured. Although an agent may, nevertheless, opt to provide advice, there was no evidence in the instant case that the defendants had done so. The plaintiff’s statement that she trusted the defendant agent “because he was a professional” was unavailing insomuch as there was no ongoing relationship between the parties and they communicated only briefly about the policy.

Talk to a South Carolina Injury Attorney

Even when liability seems clear in a personal injury accident case, it is not unusual for the defendant or his or her insurance company to put up a fight. Unfortunately, this is almost “to be expected” in today’s legal environment. What is more unusual, but still quite possible, is for an insurance company to not only deny a claim but deny coverage for a particular individual or situation (as happened in the above case). If you believe that an insurance company has acted in bad faith and you would like to discuss legal your rights with an experienced South Carolina insurance company bad faith lawyer, call the Patrick E. Knie Law Offices today at 864-582-5118 today. We will be glad to schedule an appointment for you in our Spartanburg or Greenville offices at your conveniences.

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