The United States Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals recently published an opinion affirming a federal district court’s ruling awarding a plaintiff triple damages in a breach of contract case filed against his insurance company. The plaintiff sued his insurer after the defendant refused to honor an underinsured motorist claim made by the plaintiff after another driver caused a car accident, resulting in injuries to the plaintiff. In addition to the damages initially requested by the plaintiff, the trial jury also awarded him $1.5 million in special damages because of the defendant’s unreasonable delay and denial of his initial claim. Based on the Tenth Circuit ruling affirming the jury’s award, the defendant will be required to pay the full amount to the plaintiff.
The Plaintiff Suffered a Back Injury in an Accident with an Underinsured Driver
The plaintiff in the case of Etherton v. Owners Insurance Company is a Colorado man who was injured in an auto accident in 2009. The at-fault driver was insured with $250,000 worth of liability coverage, although the plaintiff claimed to have suffered at least $1 million in damages from the crash. The plaintiff filed a claim with the defendant, his own insurance company, seeking compensation through his underinsured motorist policy for the $750,000 deficiency between the accident expenses and the other driver’s policy limit. The defendant denied the plaintiff’s claim, noting “serious questions of causation” in the plaintiff’s claim and offering only a $150,000 settlement to handle the issue. After subsequent negotiations failed, the plaintiff filed suit against the defendant to enforce the insurance policy.
The Trial Court’s Award of Additional Damages is Upheld by the Appellate Court
A trial was held on the plaintiff’s claim against the insurance company, and the jury found that the plaintiff’s injuries were caused by the accident. Additionally, the jury found that the defendant had unreasonably delayed and denied the plaintiff’s claim. After the trial, the plaintiff requested that the trial court enter an additional judgment in his favor based on a Colorado law that allows a damages award to be tripled in the event an insurance company unreasonably denies a client’s initial claim. The plaintiff’s request was granted, and a total judgment of $2.25 million was entered in his favor, resulting in the defendant’s appeal to the Tenth Circuit. On appeal, the high court found no errors were made at trial and upheld the damages award.
Bad-Faith Claims Against Insurers in Florida
Florida law contains a provision to protect insurance customers from bad-faith behavior by insurers in response to uninsured or underinsured motorist claims. Florida Statutes, Section 624.155 permits accident victims to sue their insurance companies if their claims are unreasonably delayed or denied. Unlike the Colorado rule that allows plaintiffs to collect an additional 200% of their initial claim amount, the Florida statute allows a plaintiff to collect the full amount of the damages incurred in the accident, in addition to attorney’s fees. Depending on the circumstances of the underlying accident, the law in Florida could result in a smaller or larger total damages award than the statute enforced in the recent Etherton case. Bad-faith conduct by Florida insurance companies can be extremely costly for the companies and extremely beneficial to their clients. Accident victims who have a claim wrongfully denied by their insurance company should seek a South Florida accident attorney familiar with the state laws to help pursue a bad-faith claim.
Have You Been Mistreated by Your Insurance Company?
If you or a family member has been in a Florida car accident with an underinsured or uninsured driver and is not being treated fairly by your insurance company, you may have a valid bad faith claim. The Florida auto accident attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank can review your case and help you seek the compensation that you deserve. If the insurance company has been acting unreasonably, we may even be able to obtain a damages award in excess of the policy limit. At Friedman, Rodman & Frank, we represent clients in personal injury, auto accident, and insurance disputes throughout South Florida. Contact us and schedule a no-obligation consultation. Call us toll-free at 877-448-8585 or use our web-based form to be put in touch with a skilled attorney today and discuss your case.
More Blog Posts:
Court Permits Wrongful Death Claim to Proceed after Personal Injury Judgment Had Been Awarded Based on Defendant’s Same Negligent Conduct, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published August 4, 2016.
Blatant Surgical Errors Remain Startlingly Common Despite Technological Advances in Medicine, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published August 18, 2016.