Everybody knows that insurance companies have a bad reputation. They often bully people into doing things their way and will usually try to take advantage of anything they can to pay out less, or in some cases, not payout at all.
After a crash, victims are often a little bit shaken and are not in the correct mind-frame to be dealing with the vultures that are insurance company adjusters. Pursuing those who have just been in a severe crash and bullying them into co-operating or settling, is not only immoral, it can also be punishable by law. This is called a bad faith claim.
Paying out covered damages is what we consider “acting in good faith.” This is what we expect an insurance company to do. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. After all, an insurance company is a business, they need to make money, and because of this, sometimes they will do everything they can to avoid payouts. Their goal is often to settle claims as quickly as for as little as possible.
Luckily, under Florida law, you can do something about this. By speaking to a good attorney, you might be able to lodge what is called a bad faith claim against either your insurance company or somebody else’s. Speak to The Law Place today for a free, no-obligation consultation at 941-444-4444.
What Classes as a Bad Faith Insurance Claim
Insurance companies are the driving force when it comes to settlements and claims in regards to an accident. Under Florida law, they have a duty to act “fairly and honestly towards its insured and with due regard for her or his interest.”
However, they usually have a hungry team of insurance adjusters looking to settle claims quickly and cheaply. Luckily, the legal systems in most states across America have realized that some insurance companies can act in ways that are immoral and wrong.
States like Florida, have changed their law so that anyone who thinks they have been dealt with unreasonably, has the right to open a lawsuit against the accused insurance company. This is what we call a bad faith claim. So what constitutes bad faith? Let’s go into the common elements found in a bad faith claim.
Different Types of Bad Faith Claims
In order to make a bad faith claim, you need to prove that the insurance company has not acted reasonably towards its insured and with due regard to their interests. This happens when the insurance company tries to minimize the cost to settle claims, often operating out of line with their insurance policy. There are two key ways that this often happens.
The one is the first-party bad faith claim. This is where an insurer unreasonably rejects your claim or refuses to carry out a reasonable investigation. An example of this is an insurer refusing to pay you after you lodge a storm damage claim that is covered by your home insurance.
The second type is a third-party bad faith claim. This is where the insurance company of a third-party handles a claim unreasonably. An example of this would be when you hit another motorist by accident. If your insurance company refuses to pay the other parties damages unreasonably, this could be grounds for a bad faith claim.
Common law is different from state to state. Florida’s bad faith is defined as conduct that is “unreasonable or without proper cause.” Under this law, every insurance company owes their policyholders and those who are involved with them, a duty of good faith and fair dealing.
In order to prove the insurance company is not acting in good faith, you will usually have to prove two things:
- Firstly, you will need to prove that the benefits you were due under the policy were withheld. This means that you need to establish that your claim was a valid one, in line with the terms of your insurance policy. At this stage, you will also need a document stating that your claim has been denied by the insurance company.
- Secondly, you will need to prove the reason for withholding those benefits was unreasonable. To do this, you will need to prove that the insurance company acted unreasonably.
There are some actions that automatically flag up as bad conduct under common law. These factors will not guarantee that you win your bad faith claim, but they definitely suggest that you have good grounds to make a case.
- Fraudulent Representation of the relevant data, facts, or policy provisions.
- Failing to even acknowledge a claim, or not acting promptly enough after a claim has been lodged.
- Failing to implement an investigation that is reasonable.
- Failing to accept or reject claims within a time-scale that is reasonable after the claim has been lodged.
- Failing to provide reasons that are reasonable for rejecting the claim.
Statutory Law Elements
Different states have a different outlook on the law surrounding bad faith claims. In Florida, the state law has been changed to protect policyholders and anyone else under their umbrella from deception and unfair practices that an insurance company might use. The following actions may entitle you to make a bad faith claim.
- If an insurance company compels you to litigate in order to recover funds due under an insurance policy.
- Offering an unreasonable explanation for rejecting a claim or an offer of settlement.
- Showing a lack of attempts to make a fair settlement when liability is clear.
- Refusing to send funds and pay claims without undertaking their own reasonable investigation.
- A failure to implement a reasonable level of standards when investigating.
Who Can File Bad Faith Actions?
Under Florida’s bad faith laws, you cannot lodge a first-party claim under common law; you can, however, lodge one as a third party. A first-party insurance claim is against your own insurance company, while a third party insurance claim is against the other driver’s insurance company.
If you are confused about whether you are a first-party victim or a third-party victim, give us a call. The Law Place offers a free consultation call. In that call, we can advise you in a way that you will understand. We can tell you what we believe is the best course of action. Even if you do not end up hiring us, we will still offer the best advice we can give. It’s a win-win situation. That advice could be the deciding factor in whether you win your claim or not.
How Do I File a Bad Faith Claim?
As we have already touched upon, every insurance company has a legal team who may not always follow Legal Ethics. With a big insurance company, this legal team is probably a large team of attorneys, skilled at what they do. Florida law can be tricky to navigate. For these reasons, in almost every case, you will need a skilled knowledgable attorney on your side to ensure that they act in good faith.
In a high number of cases, the other insurance company will try and throw out your bad faith claim by going on the attack themselves. They will argue that they acted in line with their insurance policy. They could claim that your insurance company or you yourself handled the case negligently.
They might say that you exaggerated damages or failed to keep a record of your expenses. They will use this to argue that they could not act reasonably in accordance with as you had already acted negligently.
As with any lawsuits, the following protocol is of vital importance. Just as the insurance company is expected to act in line with their insurance policy, you are expected to as well. This is why it is so beneficial to consult with a reputable attorney as soon as possible.
They know the protocol like the back of their hands, and they will tell you what to do and make sure you are following the protocol to the letter. One piece of advice to listen to is to only communicate with the other insurance company via email and letter; this ensures there is a paper trail to be used as evidence.
You should keep a record of everything. Keeping a record of all correspondence can prove a vital tool in fighting off the insurance company and their dogs.
Even if you are extremely careful and follow everything to the letter, you still have to fight against a strong legal team to win a case against an insurance company. This is why we advise, strongly, that you consult with an attorney at the earliest instance.
What Will My Attorney Do For Me?
When it comes to dealing with bad faith claims, it is exceptionally difficult for someone with no legal training to fight a strong and compelling case in court. Bad faith claims have been on the rise since Florida law cracked down on insurance companies.
In response to this rise in cases, almost every insurance company in Florida now has its own dedicated legal team solely created to fight bad faith claims.
Just as you go to a butcher for the best meat, these attorneys’ sole job is to fight against people like you, who are trying to seek the compensation you deserve. This is where a skilled bad faith lawyer really shines. Here at The Law Place, our team of knowledgable attorneys has over 70 years of combined experience in dealing with cases like this. They have handled countless first and third-party cases and won against some of the biggest insurance companies in Florida.
So here is what we will do for you:
- It starts with a free consultation, you ring us up, and we discuss your case in an informal setting. In this conversation, we will ask you about what happened. Then we will offer our advice on whether you should pursue a claim or not as well as our honest advice on what we think is best. We will also outline our fees, whether it is a contingency basis or an up-front fee.
- Once you have had time to think about it and have agreed to let us represent you, we will begin our investigation in earnest.
- During our investigation, we will represent you, protect you, and speak to all relevant parties on your behalf. At this point, we will advise you to let us handle everything. We will tell you not to talk to the other insurance company while we look into your bad faith claim.
- Once we have carried out our investigation, we will call you in or arrange a phone call where we can talk about our findings. This is where we will start to form a strategy. Depending on how strong we believe our position is, we will ultimately decide our strategy.
- Next, we will attempt to negotiate a fair settlement from the insurance company for you. Nobody wants a long drawn out court battle, and luckily, a lot of the time, as soon as the insurance company knows you have a skilled attorney behind you, they will change their tune and will look to act in good faith by offering a more acceptable settlement.
- If they still refuse, then it is time for us to file a bad-faith lawsuit in accordance with Florida state law. We will use the strong case we have built up for you to convince the judge and jury that you are deserving of winning the case.
- If our case is strong, which it usually is, we will win in court, securing you a sum of money that is in line with how you were treated.
Contact The Law Place Today!
Here at The Law Place, we have many years of experience in dealing with bad faith claims against insurance giants across Florida.
Nobody deserves to be treated in bad faith by an insurance company when they have done nothing wrong.
The most important thing you can do to protect yourself from things like this is to have a reputable law firm like ours in your head before you ever need to use us. Doing your research and ensuring that you have the number for a skilled attorney will allow you to act accordingly when accidents happen.
Bad faith claims have seen a massive increase in Florida recently, which suggests that even though Florida law has been changed to combat the factors of a bad faith claim, they still happen regularly.
If you are considering making a bad faith claim in the state of Florida, make sure you give us a call. We help people seek the compensation they deserve when they have been wronged. When the worst-case scenario happens, we are ready to stand toe to toe with any legal team, no matter how big or scary they may seem.
Speak to The Law Place today for a free, no-obligation consultation at 941-444-4444