Middle District of Florida Denies Motion for Summary Judgment in Bad Faith Insurance Case

In Taylor v. Geico Indemnity Co., a driver was involved in an at-fault motor vehicle collision with a motorcyclist. Following the traffic wreck, the biker was treated for numerous broken bones. The motorcyclist elected to receive compensation from his own motor vehicle insurer, which would then seek subrogation from the at-fault driver’s liability insurance company. At the time of the collision, the automobile driver carried $10,000 in bodily injury and property damage liability accident coverage.

Eventually, 90 percent of the fault for the collision was attributed to the insured car driver. As a result, the man’s liability insurer notified him that he may be liable for any damages to the motorcyclist that exceeded the limits of the liability insurance policy he carried.

About one month after the crash, the liability insurer received a demand letter from the injured motorcyclist. The company was also notified that the biker incurred more than $140,000 in medical expenses related to the collision. Next, the liability insurer sent the injured biker two small reimbursements related to his property damage. After the checks were returned by the postal service, the company reissued the payments. Not long after, the motorcyclist’s insurer paid him about $5,000 for his property damage.

The biker asked the at-fault driver’s insurance company to pay him an additional $1,500 for the loss of his motorcycle, and the liability insurer refused. The biker then cashed the property damage check and returned the payments made by the at-fault driver’s insurer with a note stating the biker was “sorry an agreement could not be reached.” Next, the motorcyclist filed a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.

After the injured biker secured a judgment of nearly $1 million, the at-fault driver filed a bad faith in handling claims case against his insurer in the Middle District of Florida. In response to the case, the liability insurance company filed a motion for summary judgment. In general, a motion for summary judgment is appropriate only when there are no issues of material fact in dispute and the moving party is entitled to judgment in its favor as a matter of law. Additionally, any conclusions must be drawn in the light that is most favorable to the non-moving party.

According to the federal court, a Florida automobile insurer who is handling a claim against its insured has a duty to defend the insured with the same care and diligence it would use in its own business matters. In addition, the court stated an insurance company must alert its insured to any potential settlement opportunities that might decrease the insured’s liability. Next, the court said mere negligence on the part of an insurer does not rise to the level of bad faith. The court added that insurance bad faith is normally a question for jurors.

The Middle District of Florida next turned to the facts of the case at hand. The court stated summary judgment was not appropriate because a question of fact existed regarding whether the liability insurer timely fulfilled its duty to warn the at-fault driver about settlement opportunities that may have reduced his financial exposure. In addition, the court held that a trier of fact could find that the insurer’s alleged bad faith in claims handling caused the at-fault driver to incur the outstanding judgment.

Since genuine issues of material fact existed in the case, the Middle District of Florida denied the liability insurer’s motion for summary judgment.

If you were injured in a South Florida motorcycle wreck, you should discuss your rights with a knowledgeable lawyer. To speak with a seasoned personal injury advocate about your right to receive damages for your harm, give the skilled attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. a call at (305) 448-8585 or contact us through our website.

Additional Resources:

Taylor v. Geico Indemnity Co., Dist. Court, MD Florida 2015

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