Every Floridian purchases insurance either because they are required to do so by Florida law or simply for the peace of mind. Although we all hope that we will never need to use it, unforeseeable circumstances do occur. When that time comes, we expect that that our insurance company will resolve any claims covered by our policy and settle disputes in good faith. Unfortunately, this may not always be the case. Recognizing the unfortunate truth that insurance companies don’t always put the interest of their policyholders before their own, in 1982 the Florida Legislature enacted a statute which recognized claims for both first-party and third-party claims against an insurer for bad faith. Under this statute, any person may bring a civil action against the insurer for not attempting to settle claims in good faith when, under the circumstances, they could have and should have settled had it acted fairly and honestly towards its insured and with due regard for their interests.
What is Bad Faith?
Florida law recognizes two types of bad faith claims; first-party and third-party. A first-party claim is one where the insured is suing their insurer, claiming that the insurer did not settle their claim in good faith. The most common instances where first-party claims arise are where an insurer has denied coverage, delayed payments, or drastically underpaid an insured for their loss. Third-party claims on the other hand involve situations where the insurer fails to settle a third-party claim against the insured within the policy limits thereby exposing the individual to liability for damages beyond their policy coverage. For example, in the case of a two-car accident on I-95, the other car or “third-party” makes a demand to settle the law suit against you for $ 70,000.00; well within your policy limits. If the insurer refuses that offer and subsequently brings the suit to trial which leads to a verdict against you in excess of your policy limits, you may be held liable for the damages over and above that of your policy limits. In this instance, you may have a bad-faith claim for the insurer’s failure to settle the case within the limits where they could and should have done so.
Making a Claim
Prior to bringing a claim under Florida’s Insurance Code, we would first file a Civil Remedy Notice with the Department of Financial Services. The civil remedy notice will indicate which statute the insurer violated, the facts which support the claim, the name of any individuals which were involved, any relevant policy language, and lastly, state that notice given in order to perfect the right to pursue the civil remedy authorized by Florida Statute § 624.155. This Civil Remedy Notice provides the insurer with a 60-day safe harbor in which they may cure the violation or pay the damages.
If the insurance company fails to cure the violation within the 60-day safe harbor period, the experienced attorneys at Arcadier, Biggie & Wood, PLLC will serve you to ensure that your rights as a Florida resident are protected. Arcadier, Biggie & Wood, PLLC, proudly serves Palm Bay, Melbourne, Cocoa Beach, Viera, Brevard County and all of Central Florida. Most of the time, these insurance bad faith cases can be pursued on a contingency fee basis which means, you will not have any out-of-pocket expenses unless you recover. Our lawyers will be glad to help and advise you every step of the way, from initial consultation, to going to trial if that is where your case ends up. If you or a loved one feels that your insurance company isn’t looking out for your best interests, call us today to set up your free consultation so we can discuss your case and your options. Let Arcadier, Biggie & Wood, PLLC give you the peace of mind knowing that you’re protected.