Florida’s Office of Insurance Regulation Looking for Beneficiaries of Multi-Million Dollar, Multi-Agency Life Insurance Settlement Agreements

Florida’s Department of Financial Services, Bureau of Unclaimed Property, holds unclaimed accounts at more than $1 billion dollars. A large portion of this money was obtained through multi-million, multi-state settlement agreements with life insurance companies, including AIG, John Hancock, MetLife, Prudential, and Zurich. All of these companies were previously only using the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File to benefit themselves. They used the file to stop annuity payments to account-holders, but they weren’t using this registry to find beneficiaries that would require new payments.

This is a large example of insurance companies refusing to make the payments to which beneficiaries are entitled. Florida insurance companies are required by law to act in good faith when negotiating and settling a claim, but they often fall short of their fiduciary responsibilities. If you need assistance litigating a bad faith claim to get the compensation you are owed, the South Florida attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. have the experience and results you are looking for.

The District Court of Appeals, 4th District recently ruled against the insurance company, American Vehicle Insurance Company (AVIC). AVIC had previously been awarded summary judgment in their favor, where they alleged that there was no bad faith negotiation on their part when they failed to make a settlement soon after the accident. The Court of Appeals was specifically looking to see if there were any material issues of fact for a jury to consider whether or not AVIC acted in bad faith.

The mother of the deceased originally filed suit in Florida against the drunk driver who ran into her daughter, causing serious injuries that induced a coma and later caused her death. The mother claimed the driver’s insurance company acted in bad faith in the immediate months after the accident by failing to offer a settlement. Two-days after the accident the claim was assigned to an employee who quickly assessed the case and decided that the driver was solely at fault, that the injuries exceeded the policy limits, and that the claim should be settled. The AVIC employee attempted to contact the mother, not the injured, and was advised that an attorney was hired. The suit against the driver was filed, and the settlement offers were rejected by the mother of the victim.

The mother was awarded damages in the original case, and decided to sue for bad faith. AVIC moved for summary judgment, arguing that the mother did not have a bad faith claim. The lower court agreed, and the mother appealed, stating that the question of whether AVIC acted in bad faith is determined by their actions, not the action of the claimant. The Court of Appeals agreed with the mother, recognizing that the insurer has an affirmative duty to negotiate settlements. The Court also pointed out that Florida has a stricter standard for summary judgment, requiring that the moving party show conclusively that no material issues remain for trial (Byrd v. BT Foods Inc., 948 So.2d 921, at 923-24 (Fla. 4th DCA 2007). Ultimately the Court stated, “Any delay in making an offer under the circumstances of this case even where there was no assurance that the claim could be settled could be viewed by a fact finder as evidence of bad faith.” The Court reversed the lower court’s ruling in favor of AVIC and remanded the case so the mother could move on to further proceedings.

The attorneys at Friedman, Rodman, & Frank, P.A. have over 100 years of combined experience litigating and negotiating wrongfully denied or delayed insurance claims. If you need assistance holding an insurance company accountable, call for a free consultation at (877) 448-8585.

Dog Bites at Unexpected Florida Locations, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, January 4, 2013

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