In Florida, “bad faith” law allows a person with insurance or anyone injured by an insured person to seek damages from an insurer for failing to settle a claim in good faith when the insurer could have and should have done so.
For many years, Florida bad faith remedies have been in place through the common law and statute for many years. These remedies have been aimed at protecting insurance consumers from unfair practices by insurers.
Florida’s bad faith laws effectively check insurance companies, which usually have a considerable bargaining power advantage over insureds.
Some argue that Florida’s bad faith system has unfairly incentivized insureds or injured third parties to use unfair strategies to accused insurers of acting in bad faith. In the process, insurers are sometimes forced to pay claims that should not be paid just to avoid a litigation over an allegation of bad faith.
Some common issues regarding bad faith insurance claims involve the following:
Going after an insurance company for bad faith still requires the help of an experienced attorney.
At The Law Offices of James B. Coulter James B. Coulter has years of experience representing clients in personal injury cases. If you think you may have a bad faith claim against your insurer, call The Law Offices of James B. Coulter at (321) 586-9944 to schedule a free consultation.
This firm operates out of Brevard County in Satellite Beach. We represent clients throughout Brevard and represents clients in Orange County, Volusia County, Seminole County and neighboring regions.
Under Florida law, an insurance company’s failure to settle a claim occurs when, considering all the circumstances, the insurance company could have and would have settled the claim, if it acted fairly and honestly toward the insured and with due regard for the insured’s interests.
As required by Fla. Stat. §627.736(10)(a), to file suit for benefits, the provider must give written notice to the insurer once the claim becomes overdue. Subsection (b)(3) states that the notice must include “an itemized statement specifying each exact amount, the date of treatment, service, or accommodation, and the type of benefit claimed to be due.”
Medical providers have a duty to specify the correct compensable amount owed by the insurer, and to “leave no question as to what amounts are being sought by the notice.” State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. v. MRI Associates of America, LLC, 17 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 745a (Fla. 15th Cir. 2010), quoting Tampa Bay Imaging, LLC v. Esurance Ins. Co., 17 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 234a (Fla. 13th Cir. 2009).
A lawsuit will be considered premature unless the insurer is given the precise amount due. Id. (internal citations omitted).
Under Florida law, bad faith claims involve both the common law and statutory provisions. A cause of action for first-party common law bad faith does not exist. Instead, Florida recognizes only third-party common law actions. Allstate Indemnity Co. v. Ruiz, 899 So. 2d 1121 (Fla. 2005).
For a bad faith cause of action under the statute, both first and third-party claim are recognized. Most causes of action for Florida bad faith litigation are centered around the statute. It is also important to note that Florida does not recognize a cause of action for comparative bad faith or “reverse”, which would be brought on behalf of the insurer. Nationwide Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co. v. King, 568 So. 2d 990 (Fla. 4th DCA 1990).
Under Florida law, a first-party claim for bad faith involves an insured bringing a lawsuit against his or her insurer claiming that the insurer refused to settle a claim in good faith.
The most common examples of a first-party bad faith claim involve an accident with an uninsured motorist that does not settle under his or her own uninsured motorist liability carrier for costs.
First-party claims can involve an allegation that the either:
In Florida, the first-party bad faith claim is recognized in statute. Prior to the statute, Florida courts rejected such first-party claims because the insured was not exposed to liability and there was no fiduciary duty on the part of the insurer.
Third-party claims in Florida are recognized under both common law and as a statutory claim under s. 624.155, F.S. Under Florida law, a third-party bad faith claim occurs when an insurer fails to settle a third party’s claim against the insured in good faith within policy limits. In these cases, the insurance company is exposing the insured to liability in excess of his or her insurance coverage.
Elements of a bad faith claim involve:
When the particular matter in issue is the insurance company’s failure to settle a claim, bad faith on the part of an insurance company is failing to settle a claim when, under all the circumstances, it could and should have done so, had it acted fairly and honestly toward its policyholder or its insured or an excess carrier and with due regard for its interests.
Liability can also be asserted for the insurance company’s violation of some other duty. For instance, in Boston Old Colony Insurance Co. v. Gutierrez,386 So.2d 783, 785 (Fla. 1980), the court found the duty “to advise the insured of settlement opportunities, to advise as to the probable outcome of the litigation, to warn of the possibility of an excess judgment, and to advise the insured of any steps he might take to avoid same”. For bad faith insurance claims brought under F.S. 624.155, issues of notice and cure generally will be determined by the court. See Talat Enterprises, Inc. v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co.,753 So.2d 1278 (Fla. 2000).
Florida Statute 624.155- Visit the website of the Florida Legislature to find the statute in the insurance code for administration and general provisions regarding civil remedies under Florida Statute 624.155. Find information on bringing a civil action against an insurer when such person is damaged.
2011 Interim Report on Insurance Bad Faith- Visit this site of the Florida Senate to find the 2011 interim report on insurance bad faith, insurance requirements and insurer obligations, and bad faith legislation. This site offers information on some criticisms of Florida’s bad faith laws and how they may be disadvantaging insurance companies.
If you think you may have a claim for bad faith against your insurer which resulted in a harm to you, call The Law Offices of James B. Coulter at (321) 586-9944. At The Law Offices of James B. Coulter you can speak with an experienced attorney who understands these complex issues.
This firm operates out of Satellite Beach in Brevard County, FL. He represents clients in Viera, Melbourne Beach, Mims, Lake Washington and neighboring counties.
This article was last updated on Friday, October 7, 2016.