Articles Posted in Bad Faith

The United States Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals recently published an opinion that reversed a lower court’s ruling in favor of the defendant, concerning the plaintiff’s claim that the insurer wrongfully delayed the payment of benefits for her personal injury claim. The appeals court’s reversal of the lower court’s granting of summary judgment to the defendant on this claim will result in the case going back down and proceeding toward a trial if the parties are unable to settle before that time.

Legal News GavelThe plaintiff in the case of Peden v. State Farm had been seriously injured while riding in a car that was involved in a DUI accident, and she allegedly suffered damages in excess of the policy limits of the insurance held by the driver of the vehicle involved in the crash. Before filing suit, the plaintiff made a claim with the defendant, seeking compensation for her injuries, and she was paid the maximum amount under the driver’s bodily injury liability policy limit. She sought the balance of her damages through her own policy’s uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, but her claim was denied.

The Plaintiff Files a Lawsuit to Enforce Underinsured Motorist Claim and Alleges Bad Faith by the Defendant

After her claim for underinsured motorist protection coverage was denied, the woman filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant in federal court to enforce the full benefits of the coverage. In addition to her claim for compensation related to the damages she suffered, she sought additional damages, as permitted under Colorado law, since the defendant denied her initial claim without good reason or even a proper investigation, forcing her to bring a claim that should not have been necessary. After the lawsuit was filed, the defendant paid out the full amount of coverage.

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Insurance companies can be difficult to deal with. Whether it is an aggressive representative trying to get an accident victim to settle a case for a low-ball amount or a claims adjuster denying a seemingly valid request for compensation, insurance companies are not known for their customer service. In fact, in many cases people have to turn to the courts to enforce their own insurance policy against the insurance company. That is exactly what happened in a recent case in front of the Florida Supreme Court.

Legal News GavelIn the case, Fridman v. Safeco Insurance Company of Illinois, the plaintiff was hit by an underinsured motorist and turned to his own insurance company, Safeco, for help. However, Safeco denied the plaintiff’s claim. After continuing to try and get a response for several years, the plaintiff finally filed a lawsuit against Safeco, compelling them to deal with the claim. The lawsuit was filed pursuant to a statute that allowed for recovery in excess of the policy limit.

Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, Safeco sent the plaintiff a check for $50,000 in an attempt to pay out the claim. However, at this point the plaintiff rejected the check, and opted to have a jury determine how much he was entitled to. The case proceeded to trial, where a jury awarded the plaintiff $1 million. Safeco appealed to the intermediate appellate court, which reversed the lower court’s opinion, and held that the $50,000 check given to the plaintiff was, in effect, a settlement that prevented the case from proceeding toward trial. The plaintiff then appealed to the Florida Supreme Court.

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Legal News GavelFlorida’s First District Court of Appeal has found that a bad-faith medical malpractice insurance case should go to trial. In Samiian v. First Professionals Insurance Co., a doctor performed plastic surgery on a patient who remained at his clinic following the procedure. After visiting with the patient at the end of the day, the physician apparently left the man in the care of a surgical technician. The technician reportedly administered intravenous medication to the patient before the patient unexpectedly suffered a fatal heart attack. On the following day, the doctor notified his medical malpractice insurance carrier regarding the potential for a future lawsuit.

Soon afterward, the deceased patient’s estate filed a notice of its intent to file a lawsuit against the physician, pursuant to Section 766.106(2) of the Florida Statutes. The doctor’s insurer then retained an attorney to represent him. Following an investigation into the matter, the company decided to tender a settlement check for the doctor’s full insurance policy limits of $250,000 to the deceased patient’s personal representative. Two days after the check was delivered, the lawyer who was retained by the insurer offered to submit the matter of economic damages to binding arbitration. In his letter, the attorney stated the insurance company was not amending its offer to settle the case for the full medical malpractice policy limits. Despite this, the arbitration offer was not contingent upon a damages limit. After the estate accepted the offer to arbitrate, a panel of neutral arbitrators issued an award of over $35 million in favor of the deceased patient’s estate. The arbitral award plus interest was later confirmed by a Florida court and also upheld on appeal.

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6265791102_27e0b7e570_b Accretion Disc CC BYThe Middle District of Florida has denied a defendant’s motion for summary judgment in a bad faith insurance lawsuit. In Hines v. Geico Indemnity Co., a Florida woman apparently caused a motor vehicle collision while driving a car that was owned by her husband. At the time, the vehicle carried liability coverage with bodily injury limits of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per incident. Following the car accident, the wife was arrested for driving while intoxicated.

After the crash, the other motorist retained a lawyer to represent her in the case. The driver’s attorney then offered to settle her claim against the couple and their insurance company for the bodily injury policy limits of $25,000. The attorney also submitted medical and other evidence in support of the driver’s request for damages. The couple’s insurer responded by stating the driver’s personal injury protection coverage already paid her $10,000. In addition, the insurance company offered to pay the injured motorist $3,500 to resolve her claim.

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Legal News GavelIn Levesque v. Government Employees Insurance Co., a Florida woman sustained serious injuries in a car accident that was caused by an uninsured motorist. Following the crash, the woman sought uninsured motorist (“UM”) benefits from her automobile insurance provider. Since the insurance company failed to provide the woman with the full policy limits of $100,000 within 60 days of being provided with a Civil Remedy Notice of Insurer Violation, the woman filed a lawsuit against the company in a Florida state court. The insurer admitted the woman was entitled to recover the full policy limits and moved for entry of final judgment.

After procuring a final judgment against the auto insurer, the woman filed a statutory bad-faith case against the company under Section 624.155 of the Florida Statutes. In her lawsuit, the woman sought damages for the full value of her injuries from the insurance company. The insurer responded to the hurt woman’s complaint by filing a motion to dismiss or stay the case. According to the company, the woman’s action was premature because she failed to establish her total damages in her underlying UM lawsuit.

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Legal News GavelIn Baham v. Property & Casualty Insurance Co. of Hartford, a motorist was involved in a traffic wreck that was apparently caused by another driver. At the time of the crash, the at-fault driver carried $25,000 in bodily injury liability insurance. Since this amount was allegedly insufficient to cover the motorist’s injuries and lost wages, the man filed a request for the full amount of his uninsured motorist (“UM”) policy limits of $200,000 from his own automobile insurer. The man’s insurer denied coverage and claimed his accident injuries did not exceed the limits of the at-fault driver’s bodily injury policy.

Next, the hurt motorist filed a Civil Remedy Notice of Insurer Violation (“CRN”) with his insurance company and the Florida Department of Financial Services. According to the man, the insurer refused to settle his valid claims. In response, the insurance company stated the evidence it received did not support the hurt man’s claim and requested any additional information that was available in order to continue to evaluate the insured’s claim. About two years later, the insurer agreed to pay the man $100,000 in UM benefits and stated the amount constituted the insured’s full UM policy limits. After that, the injured motorist filed a second CRN as well as a lawsuit against his insurance company seeking the remaining $100,000 in UM benefits he believed he was entitled to.

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Legal News GavelIn 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.

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Legal News GavelIn Mann v. Taylor, a woman was hurt in a traffic collision that was allegedly caused by another driver. As a result of her accident, she filed a negligence lawsuit against the at-fault motorist in a Florida court. The injured woman also sought uninsured motorist benefits from her own automobile insurance company. In addition, the hurt motorist accused the company of refusing to settle her claim in good faith and asked the court to issue a declaratory judgment against the insurer. After the insurer successfully removed the woman’s case to the Northern District of Florida based on diversity of citizenship, the business filed a motion to dismiss or strike portions of the hurt driver’s claims against the company.

First, the federal court stated an injured person may bring an uninsured motorist case against his or her auto insurance company before resolving the individual’s claim against the negligent party. After examining the woman’s complaint, however, the Northern District of Florida found that the injured driver’s request for relief was unclear and ambiguous. Since the claim was not sufficiently pleaded, the court dismissed the hurt woman’s uninsured motorist benefits claim with leave to amend it in the future.

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Legal News GavelIn Shapiro v. Government Employees Insurance Co., a couple was seriously injured in a Florida automobile accident that was caused by an uninsured motorist. At the time of the collision, the hurt individuals maintained an uninsured and underinsured motorist (“UIM”) policy on each of their vehicles. Following the automobile crash, the couple sought financial compensation from their UIM insurer. Unfortunately, the insurance company refused to pay the couple damages for the harm each sustained in the traffic wreck. As a result, the couple filed a claim for UIM benefits in Broward County. The couple also sought a declaratory judgment under Sections 86.011 and 86.111 of the Florida Statutes and accused their UIM insurer of committing bad faith.

In response to the couple’s complaint, the insurance company removed the lawsuit to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, based on diversity of citizenship. After that, the company filed a motion to dismiss the couple’s bad faith claim as well as their request for a declaratory judgment.

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Legal News GavelIn Eads v. Allstate Indemnity Co., a Florida woman was permanently injured when the motor vehicle she was traveling in was struck while stopped at a red light in Broward County. The unfortunate car accident apparently hurt at least seven people. Following the collision, the seriously harmed woman and six other individuals filed a personal injury claim against the automobile insurance company that provided liability coverage for the driver who negligently caused the traffic wreck. In response, the insurance company agreed to pay the injured parties a combined total of $20,000. As a result, six of the people who were hurt in the crash received $2,857.

Instead of accepting the settlement offer, the permanently hurt woman filed a lawsuit against the driver who caused the collision and the owner of the automobile in the 17th Judicial Circuit in and for Broward County. According to the woman’s complaint, the vehicle owner’s insurance company did not investigate or fully evaluate the various personal injury claims filed in connection with the traffic accident. Instead, the woman alleged the insurer offered her a capricious amount of damages and refused to allow its insured to negotiate a settlement with her. Following trial, a Broward County jury awarded the woman more than $300,000 in damages.

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