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Articles Posted in Bad Faith

An appellate court recently issued an opinion in a bad faith insurance lawsuit stemming from an accident between an 18-year-old driver and a motorcyclist. The accident occurred when the 18-year-old turned into a median in front of the biker. The biker slammed into the driver’s car with such force that the vehicle spun 180 degrees. The biker suffered serious injuries from the collision and was airlifted to a hospital.

The 18-year-old was driving his mother’s car at the time of the accident, and when he called the insurance company, he reported property damage but neglected to report any physical injuries. The insurance company interviewed the driver, who disclosed that the biker suffered injuries, and he indicated that the biker might have been speeding. The preliminary insurance investigation revealed that the accident occurred in a low-speed limit area, the motorcycle left long skid marks, and the driver did not receive a citation. With these facts, the insurance company concluded that the biker was likely contributorily negligent.

About ten days after the accident, the insurance company decided to tender the bodily injury limits to the biker; however, they asked the biker’s attorney if they could inspect the motorcycle. The next day the insurance company delivered a “tender package” to the biker’s attorney. The package included a cover sheet and described the content of the delivery, which included a $50,000 check and a form that released the company of “all claims.” The letter invited the biker’s attorney to edit the release or suggest changes to a release. The biker’s attorney did not address the release but rejected the offer stating the insurance company was trying to take advantage of the biker and his family by including an overbroad release.

Under Florida’s no-fault insurance laws, drivers must carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. This coverage pays a portion of the insured’s medical bills without consideration of fault. However, this protection only covers about 80% of a Florida injury victim’s medical expenses and even less for lost wages. As such, after an accident, Floridians often face an uphill battle in their efforts to recover the damages they deserve. In addition to personal injury lawsuits against the at-fault driver, victims may face challenges dealing with their insurance company. Despite their claims, insurance companies standing hinges on protecting their financial interests. Thus, insurance carriers will often improperly deny or delay claims, leaving victims in a tenuous financial position. Florida injury victims who find themselves in these precarious positions should contact an attorney to resolve these bad faith claims.

Recently, a Florida district court issued an opinion stemming from a dispute between the personal representative of an accident victim and an insurance company. The case arose after the victim suffered fatal injuries in a car accident with a volunteer employee of a not-for-profit corporation. The Estate obtained a judgment against the company the driver worked for; however, the Estate sought additional coverage with the not-for-profit’s insurance carrier. The insurance company asserted an “escape clause” in their coverage where they would not be responsible for incidents where another similar policy covers the not-for-profit. In this instance, the company had a GEICO insurance policy that covered the entity for liability because of the acts or omissions of an insured, such as the employee involved in the accident.

In this insurance dispute, amongst several issues, the Estate argued that the trial court improperly determined that the GEICO policy insured the not-for-profit. Generally, Florida insurance disputes require the court to interpret contracts. There are some general premises that courts use during this process:

After a Florida insurance claim, policyholders may file a first-party claim with their insurance company seeking benefits under the terms of the policy. First-party bad-faith claims occur when a policyholder sues their own insurance provider for unlawful and improper denial or settlement of a claim. Third-party bad faith actions have long been recognized; however, the Legislature enacted Florida Statute §624.155, to address first-party causes of action. Courts will evaluate the totality of the circumstances to determine whether an insurance provider has acted in good faith. Some of the common factors they evaluate are whether the insurance company investigated the facts, gave fair consideration to the circumstances, and settled the claim where possible. In cases where the insurance company did not engage in these steps, they may be held liable for their statutory breach.

A claimant may only recover against an insurance company if they meet the statute’s condition precedent. One of the condition precedents is filing a Civil Remedy Notice (CRN) with the Department of Financial Services (DFS). The failure to do meet this requirement may lead to a dismissal of a claimant’s case. For example, recently, an appellate court issued an opinion in a Florida homeowner’s claim against his insurance company. In that case, the insurance company disputed a property owner’s claim regarding water damage to his home. After filing a CRN, the property owner moved forward with a bad faith claim against the insurer. The court dismissed the complaint, reasoning that the plaintiff did not meet the requirements of the CRN.

The CRN statute outlines the specific information that a claimant must include in their notice. In sum, the notice must essentially specifically state the facts and circumstances surrounding the case, and the specific relevant policy language that the insurer is alleged to have breached. In this case, the court found that the plaintiff cited every provision in the insurance claim to meet the specificity requirement. The court found that citing every provision does not meet the specificity standard. The plaintiff argued that the insurance company’s failure to allow him to correct the defect meant that the CRN was sufficient. However, the court ruled that the insurer’s option to return a defective notice is discretionary. Therefore, because he did not meet the specificity standard, the court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal with prejudice.

To many people, even the thought of dealing with your insurance company is a headache. Unfortunately, insurance coverage is an important part of our lives, especially in areas such as home ownership, renter’s coverage, and auto insurance. When an insurance company in Florida acts in bad faith or causes damage to a policyholder because of their conduct, holding them accountable can be challenging without proper representation.

In a recent Florida District Court of Appeal case, the court considered whether a homeowner’s insurance claim was filed properly. According to the court’s opinion, the homeowner initially filed a claim with his homeowner’s insurance company for damages to his home that was caused by a fire.

The insurance company’s investigation revealed that the homeowner previously filed two plumbing claims and another claim for fire damage with a different insurance company. In addition, the insurance company discovered that after the homeowner received the insurance payout from one of the previous claims, he did not repair the damage. The company believed that earlier damage overlapped with damage from the current claim.

Many people purchase insurance to protect against economic losses stemming from personal injury or property damage. In exchange for premiums, the insurance company must uphold its duties to the policyholder. The duties include providing coverage, paying valid claims, and adhering to the policy’s terms. Policyholders who believe their insurance company is violating their agreement may file a Florida bad faith claim against their insurer.

Insurance bad faith claims fall under first-party and third-party claims. Third-party bad faith insurance claims typically involve liability insurance. Bad faith claims occur when an insurer breached their duty to defend their policyholder and pay costs. Common examples of third-party insurance include, liability insurance, malpractice insurance, and commercial liability insurance. First-party insurance is a claim against a policyholder’s insurance company. Bad faith claims arise when a policyholder’s insurance company fails to pay a claim without an appropriate investigation or basis for a denial. This often includes claims against a health or homeowner’s insurance provider, but also in claims involving an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver.

Under Florida law, a policyholder may file a first-party bad faith claim against their insurance provider. A lawsuit is appropriate if the insurer failed to engage in good faith by acting fairly and honestly towards its policyholder. For example, an appellate court recently issued an opinion in a homeowner’s appeal of a judgment in favor of their insurance company. In that case, a water supply line burst in the homeowners’ home. Following the burst, the homeowners’ filed a claim under their insurance policy. Their insurance company investigated the claim and tendered a payment the homeowners thought was insufficient. In response, the owners filed a civil remedy notice (CRN) alleging bad faith violations. They also asserted an amount that could cure the violations. The insurance company acknowledged the CRN, and the matter proceeded to appraisal. Following the appraisal, the company paid an amount less than the homeowners’ requested.

Recently, a Florida appellate court issued an opinion in an insured’s appeal of a circuit court’s final order granting her insurance company’s motion to dismiss her claim for bad faith. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff filed a claim with her insurance company for damages to her home from a hurricane. The homeowner claims that, despite admitting the loss was covered, the insurance company “grossly undervalued the claim” and “refused to negotiate the damages.” An appraisal panel found that the damages the woman claimed were appropriate, further supporting the woman’s contentions against the company.

Abiding by the condition precedent to bringing a bad faith action, the woman filed a civil remedy notice (CRN) with the Department of Financial Services (DFS) and the insurer. Within sixty days of the DFS’s acceptance of the CRN, the company did not pay damages. Thus, the homeowner argued that the company committed bad faith in adjusting her claim. The insurance company argued that the notice was ineffective because the CRN misidentified the insurer. The homeowner appealed a circuit court’s ruling in favor of the insurance company, arguing that the company waived their argument by not raising it in its response to the CRN.

On appeal, the homeowner argued that the insurance company never claimed that the incorrect identification caused it any prejudice. Instead, the plaintiff claimed that the insurance company simply denied the claim and argued that the loss did not exceed the policy’s deductible, without attempting a cure. Second, the company had actual notice of the CRN within the cure period and responded to the notice. Next, the company waived any misnomer defects by timely responding without any objections. Finally, the company’s failure to note the misnomer in its CRN response, and failure to bring the defect to her attention, warrants the application of estoppel principles. The insurance company argued that the plaintiff’s claim failed to satisfy the condition precedents because it was filed against another company, the CRN was legally insufficient, and the company could not cure the defect.

Owning a home is a major milestone, but also comes with significant responsibilities and costs. Unlike renting, maintenance is no longer a call away to help fix things when they break or leak in your home. Home insurance, however, can often provide recourse in unexpected situations that are out of your control. These insurance policies often have specific rules and instructions on how to file a claim in the event of an issue that gives rise to a claim. As a homeowner, it is crucial that you read and understand these rules so that if an incident arises in your home, you can properly assert your rights for recovery.

In a recent Florida District Court of Appeal opinion, a homeowner filed a lawsuit against his home insurance company, arguing that they had breached their contract. The plaintiff’s home was insured by the defendant. The insurance policy provided that in the event of a loss giving rise to the claim, the homeowner must provide “prompt notice” to the defendant, give the defendant the requested records and documents, and submit to an examination under oath to recover for the loss.

Following a major plumbing leak incident in the homeowner’s house, the plaintiff provided notice and documentation of loss, but failed to show up for his examination under oath because he was out of the country and unaware that the examination under oath had been scheduled. The defendant subsequently denied the plaintiff’s claim, arguing that the plaintiff had breached the insurance policy’s requirements. The lower court ruled in favor of the defendant, and the plaintiff appealed.

Recently, a Florida appellate court issued an opinion in a plaintiff’s appeal of several issues in a car accident lawsuit against their uninsured motorist carrier (UM). The case stemmed from a chain-reaction three-car accident. According to the court’s opinion, the driver of the first car made a sudden lane change and abruptly slammed on their brakes. This resulted in the second-car rear-ending the first car, and the third car, driven by the plaintiff, slammed into the second car. The driver of the first car received a citation and assumed liability.

Shortly after the accident, the plaintiffs sent a demand letter to their UM carrier. They requested full policy coverage but failed to include the husband’s medical records. After the UM requested additional information, the plaintiffs asserted their rights again, and included medical documentation. The UM carrier denied coverage, and requested several other pieces of information, including confirmation of the host vehicle’s coverage, tender of available coverage, and additional hospital records. Certain information indicated that the husband might have been mostly at fault for the accident. However, the plaintiffs advised the company that they would sue if the company did not pay the full benefits. The husband filed a Civil Remedy Notice (CRN), and a jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs, apportioning 90% fault on the first driver, and 10% on the husband. However, the court reversed jurisdiction to conduct a bad faith trial.

After an initial mistrial, both parties filed motions to preclude the admission of certain documents. The court granted the defendant’s motion to admit the parties’ mediation activity log. The defendants used the log to show that the plaintiffs initially wanted a $50,000 settlement instead of their current demand of $500,000. The husband argued that the log was inadmissible because it was confidential, irrelevant, violated the trial court’s orders, and would only inflame the passions of the jury.

Recently, an appellate court issued its opinion in a bad faith claim homeowners filed against their home insurance company. According to the court’s opinion, the homeowners filed a claim with their insurance company after suffering losses from Hurricane Irma. The insurance company investigated the claim and determined that the homeowners’ loss was $3,013.20. In response, the homeowners provided the insurance company with their public adjustor’s estimate of their losses. According to the insurance agreement, the insurer began the appraisal process. The policy contained provisions that either party could demand an appraisal if the parties failed to agree to the amount of loss. Further, the policy included a provision that homeowners could not file a lawsuit unless the parties fully complied with the policy’s terms.

The homeowners filed a civil remedy notice of insurer’s violation (CRN), alleging that the insurance company breached its duty to settle the claims in good faith. They argued that the company was given notice of the severity of the homeowners’ losses, and the opportunity to inspect the property. The homeowners contended that, despite this opportunity, the insurer failed to identify the full extent of losses. As such, they filed a complaint based on Florida’s bad faith statute.

Under Florida Statutes, section 624.155, policyholders maintain a civil remedy for an insurance company’s bad faith. The claim applies in situations that an insurer failed to act reasonably, honestly, and in good faith to settle claims. Florida law requires plaintiffs to provide the Florida Department of Financial Services and the insurer with written notice of a violation. The CRN notice must include specific statutory violations, relevant facts and policy provisions, and a statement asserting the plaintiff’s right to pursue a civil claim. The statuary requirements to a Florida bad faith insurance claim require the claimant establish that the insurer was liable for coverage, the policy holder’s damages, and compliance with the notice requirements. The statute does not bar an insured from sending a CRN before a determination of liability or damages.

Insurance companies play a vital role in most Florida car accident cases and are expected to abide by the terms of their policies faithfully. However, in many instances, insurance companies wrongfully deny claims, and Florida personal injury victims end up in lengthy and costly disputes. These disputes can take longstanding financial, physical, and emotional tolls on Florida car accident victims. Florida has several statutes and remedies in place to hold insurance companies liable for delaying or wrongfully denying claims. Floridians who are at a standstill with an insurance company should retain an experienced attorney to help them get their rightfully due damages.

Florida motorists typically purchase automobile coverage with the expectation that the company will provide them with financial protection if they are involved in an accident. Insurance companies must deal with their policyholders in “good faith” and with “fair dealing.” These terms mean that the insurance company must treat their policyholders fairly and carefully when determining the validity of a claim, and settle claims against the insured within the agreed-upon coverage limit. Insurance companies act in bad faith when they refuse to pay or settle a claim without a reasonable basis, fail to promptly and adequately investigate or defend a claim without justification, implement deceptive practices to avoid paying a claim, or refuse to offer the full value of a claim.

There are generally two types of Florida bad faith insurance claims, first-party and third-party claims. First-party insurance claims occur when a Florida motorist’s insurance company fails to address and pay a claim adequately. This typically occurs when a Florida driver evokes their policy’s underinsured or uninsured coverage.

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