Skip to comments.Az Supreme Court: Law doesn't mandate Spanish insurance offers
Posted on 01/22/2011 2:29:31 PM PST by DeaconBenjamin
Insurance companies don't have to make state-mandated offers of certain kinds of coverage in Spanish, even if that's the language the person speaks, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
In a unanimous decision, the justices acknowledged that state law requires insurers to tell motorists they have the right to purchase protection from situations where another driver is either uninsured or lacks sufficient coverage to pay for all the medical bills incurred. And that notice, they said, must be in writing.
But Chief Justice Rebecca Berch said if state lawmakers wanted to require insurance companies to provide that notice in Spanish, they would have spelled that out in state law. Absent that, Berch said, there is no obligation to translate the offering.
Berch also said the question of whether the motorist buying the insurance understood what was being offered is irrelevant. The only thing that is, she said, is whether the offer was made as required by law.
"Whether an offer was made turns only on whether a reasonable person would understand that a proposal of terms was made,'' she wrote. The subjective understanding of that offer by the motorist does not matter, Berch said.
The case involves Luis Ballesteros who bought an automobile insurance policy from American Standard Insurance Co. of Wisconsin.
Because his primary language is not English, a Spanish-speaking staffer helped him complete his application. The insurance agent also gave Ballesteros an English-language form, approved by the state Department of Insurance, informing him of his right to purchase these optional coverages.
Ballesteros signed the form in the place indicating he declined.
Several months later his mother-in-law, who was covered under his policy, died in a collision with an uninsured driver. When his claim for coverage was denied, Ballesteros sued, saying the failure to offer him the coverage as required by state law means he is entitled to it automatically.
A trial judge agreed, saying the English-language offer was not designed to bring Ballesteros' attention to the offer. But Berch said that was wrong.
Berch said while Arizona at one time required motorists to purchase both types of insurance, the current law says it only must be offered. It also directs the Department of Insurance to come up with the proper form.
She said that form complies with the law because it would be understood by a reasonable person.
Berch said the fact that state regulators also approved a Spanish-language form does not make its use mandatory. The justice cited a legal brief submitted by the state insurance director saying that form is provided "as a matter of convenience for insurers, rather than a mandate for use.''
Only fools sign documents they don’t completely understand.
There can be some serious downsides to being ignorant of your country of residence's predominant language. Tough tacos, señor!
Although the availability of the option is mandated, I imagine the insurance company priced it for profit and would prefer to sell more than less especially since it helps to defray of extraneous liabilities and litigation costs such as that created by this incident and report.
I bet Ballesteros new what he was declining but was ignorant of its value.
Good for AZ.
If you thing you understand all of the fine print in all the documents you sign, then you probably are more oblivious than the person who couldn't read English. A couple of good teams of lawyers can spend several years on litigation, and bill hundreds of thousands of dollars before a judge will determine what the contract really means.
And just because a phrase has one meaning today doesn't mean that it will have the same meaning after a judge decides a case next week.
He understood, it was translated for him. He opted out because that rider would have cost a little bit. Later, when he needed it, he didn't "understand".
What do you want to bet the “uninsured motorist” who ran into Balesteros’ mother-in-law was an illegal alien?”
They come here for the money. The money that buys them the life they can’t live in the Spanish-speaking crap-holes they ran away from. A nations currency is a nations language. Ours is printed in English. Learn it.
Nice to see judges opt not to legislate from the bench.
Come here & don’t speak Engligh?
Not our fault!!! YOUR fault!!!
What about traffic signs? Are they in Spanish? And traffic tickets? - are DUI arrests made in Spanish?
Yo no Se. that catchall phrase when you know you’ve screwed up and have to fall back on your own stupidity.