If you are like most people, you maintain more than one insurance policy—auto insurance, health insurance, homeowners’ insurance, and the like. You pay your premiums every month, which helps enrich these companies. When you have a claim, you expect the insurance company to deal with you fairly, even though paying your claim will cost them money.
If they don’t play fair with you, you might have a bad faith insurance claim in addition to your original insurance claim. Although Florida’s bad faith insurance statute codifies the standards for proving such a bad faith insurance claim, they are still relatively difficult to win.
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First-Party Claims vs. Third-Party Claims
A first-party claim is a claim against your own insurance company. A third-party claim is a claim you file against an at-fault party’s liability insurance company.
First-party bad faith insurance claims are easier to win than third-party claims. Both types of claims are winnable, however, depending on the circumstances. You cannot file a bad faith claim against another party’s insurance policy unless you first obtain a settlement or verdict against the insured party covered by the policy.
Car Accident Claims
More bad faith insurance claims arise from car accident claims than from any other type of personal injury claim because car accident claims are so common. Since Florida is a no-fault auto insurance state, if you experience a bad faith claim, the opposing party will probably be your personal injury protection (PIP) insurer.
Under Florida’s no-fault auto insurance system, your PIP insurer cannot refuse to pay simply because the accident was your fault. Nevertheless, other purported grounds exist for refusing to pay, such as unnecessary or excessive medical expenses or failure to mitigate damages.
Third-Party Car Accident Claims
Under certain circumstances of “serious” injury, you can exit Florida’s no-fault system and file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver. Unlike almost every other state, Florida does not require its drivers to carry liability insurance.
In practice, however, many third-party car accident lawsuits proceed against insured drivers through their voluntary auto liability insurance policy. If the at-fault driver lacks liability insurance, you will have to claim against their personal assets, which would not involve an insurance claim.
Examples of Bad Faith Insurance Claims
Following are some actions that should raise a red flag:
- An absolute refusal to negotiate a settlement despite your strong claim;
- Bogging you down with an unreasonable amount of paperwork;
- Dragging out your claim with a multitude of small delays;
- Refusing to pay a claim that it has already agreed in writing to pay;
- Unnecessary delay in payment of a claim already agreed upon;
- Denying your claim without explanation;
- Denying your claim without an investigation;
- Unreasonably denying claims for medical treatment;
- Threatening you;
- Misrepresenting the law;
- Misrepresenting the scope of coverage or the language of the policy;
- Refusing your reasonable request for documentation.
The preceding list is far from complete. Florida courts apply a “totality of the circumstances” test to bad faith insurance claims. Additionally, mere negligence is not enough to win a bad faith insurance claim.
How To Handle a Bad Faith Insurance Claim
Your best defense against bad faith insurance tactics is to hire a skilled and reputable personal injury lawyer soon after your claim arises. Bad faith insurers typically bully only unrepresented claimants or claimants who have hired ineffective lawyers. The best way to defeat a bad faith tactic is to deter the insurance company from trying one on you in the first place.
If the insurance company has already used dishonest or unfair tactics against you, respond firmly by taking the following steps.:
- Consult with your lawyer about whether you have a valid bad faith claim.
- If your lawyer agrees that you have a viable bad faith insurance claim, have your lawyer mention it to the insurance company verbally during settlement negotiations.
- If you don’t receive a satisfactory response, have your lawyer send the insurance company a warning letter.
- If your warning letter brings no satisfactory response, file a bad faith insurance lawsuit.
If your personal injury claim is still pending, you can continue pursuing it at the same time that you pursue a bad faith insurance claim.
A Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help You Win a Bad Faith Claim Against an Insurance Company
Personal injury lawyers frequently negotiate personal injury claims with insurance companies. They know that the insurance adjuster is an advocate for their employer, the insurance company. They also know that the insurance company has a bag of tricks they can use to dismiss or minimize your claim.
However, a bad faith claim is appropriate when the insurance company crosses a certain line. An experienced personal injury lawyer knows how to pursue such a claim. You can avoid bad faith claims by hiring a personal injury lawyer soon after your injuries occur. Contact Shaked Law Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free consultuation today. Try to find a balance between finding a personal injury lawyer quickly and “doing your homework” to find the best one. Call us at (305) 937-0191.