Earlier this month, an appellate court in Georgia issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving allegations that an insurance company acted in bad faith when it failed to settle a case that later resulted in a substantial jury verdict. Ultimately, the court concluded that there was sufficient evidence to survive the insurance company’s motion for summary judgment, and the case was ordered to proceed toward trial.
The case is interesting and relevant to Florida accident victims because it illustrates the difficulties that Florida personal injury plaintiffs may encounter when dealing with insurance companies after an accident.
The Facts of the Case
A motorist caused a five-car collision, in which he was killed and several others were seriously injured. This case involves just two of the victims, J.A. and J.H. The attorney for J.A. and J.H. contacted the at-fault motorist’s insurance company, inquiring about settling the case. The attorney expressed the interest of his clients to settle the case for the policy limit maximum but requested that additional information be passed. The letter asked for a response within 30 days.
After 41 days, the attorney for J.A. and J.H. wrote back to the insurance company, revoking the settlement offer. In response, the insurance company’s attorney explained that he misplaced the letter and was going to schedule a settlement conference. The insurance company later offered to settle the claims of both J.A. and J.H. for $50,000. Both J.A. and J.H. rejected the offer and authorized their attorney to file a personal injury case. That case went to trial and resulted in a substantial jury verdict in excess of $5 million.
After the verdict came down, the administrator for the at-fault driver’s estate filed this case against his own insurance company, claiming that the insurance company acted in bad faith when it failed to settle the claims. The trial court dismissed the case, and the estate appealed.
On appeal, the court reinstated the bad-faith claims. The court noted that insurance companies have a duty to act in good faith when it comes to settling claims within the policy limit. The relevant question when it comes to determining whether an insurance company acted in bad faith is whether the insurance company acted reasonably.
Here, the court explained, the failure of the insurance company to respond to the victims’ attorney presented factual issues regarding the company’s possible bad faith that should be resolved by a jury. In so holding, the court reaffirmed the general rule that “notice to an attorney is notice to the party employing him,” meaning that the insurance company was put on notice of the settlement offer by the mere fact that its attorney was sent the letter.
Have You Been Dealing with a Difficult Insurance Company?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a South Florida car accident, and you are currently dealing with a difficult insurance company, contact the dedicated Florida injury lawyers at the law firm of Friedman, Rodman & Frank. We have extensive experience handling all types of Florida injury claims, including those involving an uncooperative insurance company. Through ample experience, we have come to understand how insurance companies think and what motivates them to fairly settle cases. If an insurance company is unwilling to fairly settle your claim, we are prepared to take the case to trial. Call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with an attorney today.
More Blog Posts:
Court Discusses Official Government Immunity in Recent Wrongful Death Case, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published February 19, 2017.
Appellate Court Discusses the Government’s Responsibility to Maintain Safe Roadways, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published February 5, 2018.