Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Georgia car accident case after the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of a car insurance company in a contract dispute. On appeal, the court was tasked with addressing whether a date on an insurance policy was a scrivener’s error. The evidence shows that a man applied for a car insurance policy on February 23, 2017. On his application, he indicated that he requested bodily injury and property damage coverage, but he rejected uninsured motorist coverage, and excluded his wife as a covered party. There were various dates and times noted on the application; however, the most pertinent date was next to his applicant’s statement that was dated May, 23, 2017.
According to the court’s opinion, the policyholder’s wife suffered injuries in a car accident on March 31, 2017, and thereafter requested coverage. The claimant filed a lawsuit after the company denied coverage. The insurance company filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the policyholder specifically excluded his wife from coverage. The claimant argued that the discrepancy of the dates in the insurance application creates an ambiguity regarding the effective date of coverage, and should preclude summary judgment.
Under Georgia law, courts should construe ambiguous insurance contracts in favor of the insured and against the insurer. This generally means that when a contract provision can be interpreted in two different ways, it should be construed in favor of the insured. However, this principle is limited to reasonable interpretations.
A scrivener’s error occurs when a document preparer makes a mistake that changes the parties’ intent. The law allows the court to resolve the discrepancy by using clear and convincing evidence of the parties’ intent. Generally, courts must construe ambiguous contracts unless a scrivener’s error is at issue. In these cases, a scrivener’s error should not be used to defeat the parties’ clear intentions.
Here, the contract specifically incorporates the application and declarations page. The claimant argues that the May date was not an error and instead refers to the date that the policyholder intended his written rejection and exclusion to go into effect. However, the court found that this interpretation was not reasonable because it did not conform to the application’s format, and it conflicted with other policy information. Instead, it is clear that the only reasonable interpretation is that the handwritten date of “5/23/2017” was an error, and it was intended to be “2/23/2017”. The court found that the claimant did not proffer any reasonable evidence for the date and failed to refute the insurance company’s contention effectively. Ultimately, the appeals court affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the insurance company.
Have You Suffered Injuries in a Georgia Car Accident?
The injury attorneys at McAleer Law can help you recover damages if you or someone you know has suffered serious injuries in a Georgia car accident. Our attorneys have extensive experience handling all aspects of a personal injury claim, including advocating on behalf of clients against negligent motorists and insurance companies. We have recovered significant amounts of compensation on behalf of our clients. Contact our office at 404-622-5337 to schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney at our law firm.