Florida Court Refuses to Dismiss First-Party Bad-Faith Claim Filed Against Auto Insurer

In 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.

Soon after the man filed his case, the insurer issued a check for $100,000 to the hurt motorist as the “Full & Final Settlement” of his claims. The injured man voided the check and returned it to the company. The man also accused his insurer of violating Florida law by failing to provide a statement indicating the coverage under which the payment was made. He also stated it was unfair of the insurer to attempt to tie the payment to a release of his claims. After the insurance company responded to the second CRN, it issued a new check for $100,000 to the hurt man. The trial court then entered a stipulated judgment for $100,000 against the company.

In September 2014, the hurt motorist filed a bad-faith insurance action against his insurer. In response, the insurance company filed a motion to dismiss the case. According to the Middle District of Florida, an insured is authorized to bring a first-party bad-faith claim against an insurer under Florida law. The court stated such a claim may not be filed until at least 60 days after sufficiently specific written notice is provided to the insurance company and the Florida Department of Financial Services. In addition, there must be “a final determination of both liability and damages in an underlying coverage claim.” The Florida court added that whether an insurance company acted in bad faith is generally a question for a jury.

Next, the Tampa court examined the facts of the case. The court first stated the initial CRN that was filed by the hurt man was sufficiently specific and addressed each of the requirements outlined in Section 624.155(3)(b) of the Florida Statutes. The court also said the man stated a plausible claim based on the first CRN because the trial court previously issued a final judgment regarding liability and damages in the underlying action. Next, the court found that the injured motorist failed to state a plausible claim for relief with regard to the second CRN because the insurer tendered the policy limits as requested within 60 days after it was filed. The Florida court added that the law does not require an insurer to include extra-contractual damages in order to effect a cure.

After stating the injured driver’s second CRN did not have an impact on his ability to state a claim for first-party bad-faith based on his first CRN, the Middle District of Florida denied the insurer’s motion to dismiss the man’s claims based on the first CRN. Despite this, the court dismissed the man’s claims that were premised on the second CRN.

If you or a treasured loved one was injured in a Miami automobile collision that was caused by someone else, you need a hardworking personal injury attorney on your side. To discuss your rights with a knowledgeable South Florida traffic accident lawyer soon, give the caring advocates at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. a call today at (305) 448-8585 or contact us through our website.

Additional Resources:

Baham v. Property & Casualty Insurance Co. of Hartford, Dist. Court, MD Florida 2015

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