Florida’s bad faith law is intended to protect an injured person who has not been successful in recovering damages from an insurance company which is refusing to settle. As if being injured in an accident is not bad enough, not being able to settle with the insurance company for money to cover medical expenses makes matters worse. Unfortunately this situation happens more often than not.
Florida bad faith law requires that insurance companies act in the best interest of the policyholders, meaning that an insurance company has to handle the claim from the approach that they will find coverage for the claim, instead of looking for ways to deny coverage. Insurance companies cannot delay, withhold, or deny benefits that are based on valid claims under the terms of the policy.
This concept is best illustrated by a case brought by an injured man against Prudential Insurance company after the insurance failed to settle with him. In that case, a woman driving her father’s car drove into two pedestrians from behind as they walked along a road. One of the pedestrians suffered serious injuries.
A week after the accident, the injured pedestrian’s lawyer sent a letter to Prudential describing the injuries and requesting for the policy limits to be disclosed. Prudential never responded. A second letter was sent three weeks later. That letter requested funds immediately because the injured pedestrian’s medical bills already exceeded $20,000 and the victim was without medical insurance. At that point, the injured pedestrian was in jeopardy of being transferred to another hospital as an indigent because he was without funds to cover his medical bills. Even after notifying Prudential of this, the victim never received a response with the policy limits. A third letter was sent, and again, Prudential did not respond.
Sixty-two days after the accident, Prudential finally contacted the victim’s lawyer and advised that it was disbursing the funds up to the policy limit. By that time it was too late and the victim had already filed a lawsuit.
At the conclusion of this case, the court held that bad faith can be inferred from an insurance company’s delay in settling the claim because it is a willful act without reasonable cause. When the victim sustains serious injury and liability is not at issue, the insurance company has an affirmative duty to initiate a settlement. Because the victim reached out to Prudential numerous times before the insurance company responded, the court found that there was enough evidence to show bad faith on the part of the insurance company.
Bad faith case law shows that Florida courts want insurance companies to act fairly towards their insurer. In situations where a settlement cannot be reached, it is up to the insurance company to show that there was no possibility of settlement based on the circumstances.
Contact an Experienced Lawyer
If you have been injured in an accident and are having difficulty settling with your insurance company, it is important that you contact an experienced lawyer at the Piccin & Glynn at 352-558-8480 for help negotiating your claim. John Piccin can discuss your options and help you recover compensation in your case.