Tampa Federal Court Holds Insurer Did Not Commit Bad Faith Following Motorcycle Accident

DSC_0109333 morguefile dedulophotosIn Rodriguez v. Integon Indemnity Corp., a motorcycle rider was seriously injured in a motor vehicle collision. At the time of the crash, the at-fault driver carried bodily injury insurance with a liability limit of up to $100,000 per person and $300,000 per incident. The day after the traffic wreck, the insurer was notified about the accident. A few days later, the claims representative who was assigned to the case sent a letter to the hurt biker stating he would be handling the injured man’s claim. In addition, the insurer sent two letters to the hurt motorcyclist’s attorney stating the company would settle the man’s claim for the full policy limits of $100,000. In both letters, the insurance company misstated the injured man’s first name but provided the appropriate claim number and date of loss.

Less than two weeks after the traffic wreck, the at-fault driver’s insurer sent a proposed release form and a check for $100,000 to the motorcyclist’s lawyer. An accompanying letter asked the man to hold the check in trust until an agreed-upon release could be executed. After the insurer unsuccessfully attempted to contact the law firm on multiple occasions, the motorcyclist’s attorney filed a lawsuit against the at-fault driver and the owner of the vehicle that struck the biker.

Next, the motorcyclist testified that he understood the full liability policy limits of $100,000 were offered to him by the insurer in order to settle his claim. The motorcyclist subsequently entered into a $5.1 million negotiated settlement with the motorist who struck him and the owner of the car. The at-fault driver’s insurer then reissued a check for the full policy limits to the motorcycle rider.

About one year after the accident, the motorcyclist filed a bad faith lawsuit against the insurance company in the Middle District of Florida. In his complaint, the man alleged that the business refused to tender payment of the full liability policy limits to him despite that it had “full and adequate information in its possession which would cause a reasonably prudent person to have settled the claim.”

In response to the motorcyclist’s case, the insurer filed a motion for summary judgment. Typically, such a motion is only appropriate where there are no material facts in dispute and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. In addition, all inferences must be drawn in favor of the non-moving party.

According to the Tampa court, the biker asserted both a statutory and common law bad faith claim against the insurance company. The court stated Florida law allows an injured person to bring such a cause of action against an insurer that refuses to settle a claim in good faith. In addition, the Middle District said a court may rule as a matter of law that an insurance company did not act in bad faith despite that such a determination is typically a question reserved for jurors.

Next, the Middle District stated there was no evidence to support a bad faith insurance cause of action. In fact, the motorcyclist and others testified that the insurer made the full policy limits available to the hurt man during initial settlement negotiations. The federal court then found that evidence made clear the injured motorcycle rider was simply unwilling to accept the insurer’s timely offer.  Because the insurance company made repeated efforts to settle the biker’s claim, the Middle District of Florida granted the insurer’s motion for summary judgment.

If you were hurt or a family member was killed in a South Florida motorcycle wreck, you should discuss your case with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as you are able. To speak with a capable Miami personal injury lawyer today, do not hesitate to give the skillful advocates at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. a call at (305) 448-8585 or contact us online.

Additional Resources:

Rodriguez v. Integon Indemnity Corp., Dist. Court, MD Florida 2015

More Blog Posts:

Not All Evidence is Admissible in a South Florida Car Accident Case, March 5, 2015, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

Florida Supreme Court Says Auto Insurer Issued New Policy When it Changed the Sole Named Insured in UM Benefits Dispute, March 2, 2015, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

Photo Credit: dedulophotos, MorgueFile

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