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Electronic Signature Challenges

Valerie A. Dondero | March 18, 2013

Automobile insurers in Florida are facing increasing challenges to their online application and electronic signature processes, especially with respect to the execution of the Uninsured Motorist Selection/Rejection form.

Under §627.727, Fla. Stat., a "signed" rejection of Uninsured Motorist coverage or selection of lower limits grants the insurer a presumption that the rejection (or selection) was a valid and knowing waiver of coverage. However, insureds have been filing lawsuits claiming entitlement to Uninsured Motorist coverage by alleging that the electronically-signed application for insurance and rejection/selection form for Uninsured Motorist coverage does not contain a true written signature and that the form is therefore invalid, thus creating stacked Uninsured Motorist coverage under the policy. Insureds have been alleging that the plain meaning of the Uninsured Motorist statute requires a "written signature" on the Rejection/Selection form in order to be valid. They have also been arguing that the insurer cannot guarantee an insured is viewing the online form in its maximized screen version so that the 12-point font requirement of the form is met.

Insurers must be ready to defend their online processes and electronic signatures incorporated therein. In 2000, the Florida Legislature passed the Uniform Electronic Transaction Act (UETA), which allows an electronic signature to be used to sign a writing and grants the same force and legal effect to an electronic signature when certain conditions have been met. Section 668.50, Fla. Stat., provides that a signature may not be denied its legal effect or enforceability solely because the signature is in an electronic form. Significant arguments can be made that UETA is applicable, even to UM Rejection/Selection forms, as the legislature specified the types of transactions that are excluded from UETA’s applicability, and insurance is not one of them. In fact, the Federal E-SIGN Act, which UETA follows, specifically applies to insurance. Insurers must ensure that their online processes comply with UETA, as well as Florida’s Insurance statutes. Shareholder Valerie Dondero has had statewide success in defending challenges to the validity of the electronic signature in several auto insurance claims.

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