Litigating Florida Bad Faith Insurance Disputes

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:

  • Written agreements carry more reliability and weight than oral agreements.
  • A later-signed contract can modify an earlier agreement.
  • Contracts encompassing special clauses receive additional court attention.
  • Courts will look to the plain language when interpreting ambiguous terms in a contract.

Here, the case involved several contract issues, including special clauses and interpreting contract terms. The court reasoned that the contract language of both policies reflects that GEICO insured the not-for-profit. GEICO’s policy expressly stated that the carrier would cover an employee who incurs liability for their acts or omissions. The Estate argues that the coverage was not available because they exhausted the policy limit. However, the court found that the question is not whether the policy had money available but instead if coverage was available. Ultimately, the court affirmed the lower court’s ruling.

Is An Insurance Company Engaging in Bad Faith?

If you or someone you know suffered injuries in a Florida car accident, contact the attorneys at Friedman Rodman Frank & Estrada Attorneys at Law. The attorneys at our office prioritize our clients and maintain a successful practice fighting for Florida injury victims. We represent clients in their claims against at-fault individuals, entities, and insurance companies. Our attorneys handle cases stemming from Florida motor vehicle accidents, boat accidents, premises liability, defective products, and nursing home abuse and negligence. Contact our office at 877-448-8585 to schedule a free initial consultation with our attorney on our team.

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