Without a doubt, insurance policies are hard to read. After all, who writes this way. Furthermore, they are even harder to understand without a law degree. As a result, oftentimes they are filled with ambiguous terms. Whether that ambiguity is held against the insurance company depends on a number of factors. Hence, an ambiguous policy can work for or against you. Consequently, lawyers tend to argue ambiguity to try and get justice for their clients. Bardsley v Government Employees Insurance Co. is a case where a party challenges a policy’s clarity.
Ambiguous Terms in SC Insurance Policies
Ludwig drove a Maserati owned by his company SDI. While going between 85 to 96 miles per hour in a 35 mile per hour zone, Ludwig lost control. As a result, he crashed his car into the rear of the Bardsley’s home. In addition, he struck Frederic, killing him, and then continued through the home and onto the front yard. At the time of the accident, SDI and Ludwig had $3 million in liability coverage. Furthermore, the Bardsleys had a State Farm homeowner’s policy for $500k. And finally, the Bardsleys also had auto insurance through Government Employees Insurance Co. (GEICO) that provided $400k in underinsured motorists coverage. Although GEICO covered property damage, it would be excess over other valid insurance. Subsequently, State Farm paid to repair the home but then claimed that Bardsley should reimburse them. GEICO refused to pay anything for the property damage. No surprise here.
Ultimately, Bardsley settled with State Farm and reimbursed State Farm via a settlement with Ludwig. However, she later sued GEICO for her losses. After hearing arguments, the trial court found the other insurance provision to be ambiguous but offered no reasoning. Rather, the judge granted summary judgment in favor of Bardsley, and GEICO appealed. However, the SC Supreme Court reversed and found that the GEICO policy was, in fact, not ambiguous. Instead, a contract provision is only ambiguous if more than one meaning is possible or if the meaning is unclear. Here, the Court found nothing about the provision was unclear. In addition, the Court found no factual or legal basis in the circuit court’s Order. Consequently, the Order could not stand. It is ironic that the ambiguity in the Order was more important than the ambiguity in the policy. Go figure.
Lawyers and Contracts
So leave it up to lawyers to cluster up a written agreement. Then they cluster it up further on appeal. You just cannot make this stuff up. However, on a serious note, little phrases in contracts can make a big difference. Try not to worry. This is what we do, and we are here to help when you need us. After all, ambiguous terms are what lawyers live for. Call now for more information and options. You’ll sleep better after learning your rights and what to expect.