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Bad Faith Lawsuits: Making Sure Your Claim is a Strong One

Fri Mar 23rd, 2018 on     Bad Faith Insurance,    

In Florida, insurers have a duty of good faith that they must adhere to.  Simply put, insurers must act fairly, honestly, and with due regard towards the interests of their policyholders.  If they fail to do so — for example, by wrongfully denying a claim, unreasonably delaying the handling of a claim, or otherwise interfering with the policyholder’s ability to recover the damages to which they are entitled — then they may be held liable pursuant to Florida bad faith insurance law.

Bad faith disputes can be multi-layered and complicated.  In order to prove that the defendant-insurer has committed bad faith, you’ll have to show that they acted unfairly or dishonestly, or that they acted without due regard to your interests.  This is a “holistic” determination that depends on the total circumstances surrounding your claim.  You’ll have to prove that — given the circumstances — the insurer violated their duty of good faith.  Doing so is not always easy, but our Miami bad faith insurance lawyers are here to help.

The insurer will almost certainly fight tooth-and-nail to avoid bad faith liability.  When you bring a bad faith claim, in Florida or elsewhere, the insurer will expose the weak points in your arguments.  For example, an insurer might argue that the circumstances justified a delay to give them time to investigate the insurance claim further, given that there was not sufficient evidence in the original submission for them to determine whether to payout.

Potential Weaknesses to Avoid When Bringing Your Claim

Keep the following information in mind, as these issues may lead to less favorable results for your claim.

Notice of Violation Was Not Provided

According to section 624.155 of the Florida statutes, a policyholder bringing a bad faith claim against their insurer must first give written notice of the purported violation.  If the notice is not sufficiently specific, then a request for an adequately specific notice may be sent out.  This back-and-forth can cause a degree of frustration for policyholders, who may feel as though they can and should simply move forward with their bad faith lawsuit anyway.

Florida law requires that a proper written notice be sent (and accepted), however.  Once that requirement is satisfied, a 60 day period must pass before an action for bad faith can be brought against the insurer.

If you have not followed this process,  the insurer may argue that you are not entitled to bring an action for bad faith, and may therefore dismiss the action on such basis.

Mitigating Factors Apply

In Florida, the court will determine whether the insurer committed bad faith after considering the “totality of the circumstances.”  An insurer can therefore avoid being found liable for a bad faith violation by demonstrating that there were various factors and circumstances that mitigated their liability, and justified their actions.

For example, suppose that you are bringing a bad faith claim against the insurer for substantially undervaluing your insurance benefits claim.  However, the insurer presents evidence that demonstrates that they valued the claim fairly on the basis of the documentation that was submitted with your benefits claim paperwork.  Had you submitted additional documentation, that may have resulted in a higher valuation, as there would be evidence to support it.

Insurance Claim is Not Well-Supported

Bad faith liability will generally not attach unless the underlying insurance claim is well-supported.  For example, a policyholder will not be able to recover for the “wrongful denial” of their insurance claim if the claim itself was not well-supported, and would not have been accepted by a reasonable insurer.

Punitive Damages Award is Inapplicable

In some bad faith disputes, punitive damages may seem possible.  Section 624.155 of the Florida Statutes makes it clear, however, that punitive damages will not be awarded for insurance bad faith violations unless the acts giving rise to the violation occur with such frequency as to indicate a general business practice.  If the acts taken by the insurer were a “one-off,” then punitive damages will not be awarded, even if the insurer acted willfully, wantonly, and/or maliciously.

Work With an Experienced Miami Bad Faith Insurance Lawyer

Here at Ver Ploeg & Marino, our attorneys have advocated on behalf of insurance policyholders — individuals and companies alike — for over two decades, assisting them in a wide range of disputes, including those that involve bad faith claims against the insurer.  We are one of only a few firms dedicated primarily to insurance coverage disputes, and though we have enjoyed significant success, we remain steadfast in our commitment to client-oriented legal advocacy.

Bad faith claims can be quite challenging to litigate, particularly if you’re intending to secure an award of punitive damages.  Given the inherent complexity of bad faith litigation, it’s important that you seek the assistance of a team of attorneys that has experience successfully recovering damages in bad faith disputes on behalf of policyholders.

Call (305) 577-3996 today to schedule a free consultation with a Miami bad faith insurance lawyer here at Ver Ploeg & Marino.  During your consultation, our attorneys will evaluate your bad faith claims and determine the next steps and best course of action.

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