The widower and surviving children of a 36-year-old woman killed in a Florida car accident three years ago have secured a $13 million verdict against the estate of the driver who caused the crash by making an illegal pass. The family’s wrongful death lawyer says the next step is to pursue a bad faith insurance claim against the auto insurance company that acted in bad faith in failing to settle this claim before trial.
As our West Palm Beach wrongful death lawyers can explain, bad faith insurance claims are those stemming from an insurance company’s failure to act in a reasonable manner when processing, investigating and paying a claim. This remedy exists because legislators and courts recognized that when it comes to settling claims, insurers are in the driver’s seat. They have more expertise, negotiating strength and financial resources than any claimant. That makes good faith and fair dealing of insurers essential. But that doesn’t mean they always do.
Working with an experienced wrongful death lawyer can help reduce the chances that an insurer will attempt to undercut you with a low-ball settlement or refuses to settle for a reasonable amount. If that doesn’t happen, a good lawyer can help you begin to gather evidence to build a solid case for bad faith insurance.
How to Establish Bad Faith Insurance After a Florida Car Accident
If an insurer mishandles or wrongfully denies a claim, you may be entitled to collect not only the initial damages to which you were entitled, but also additional damages.
Bad faith insurance claims aren’t fast or simple, but they can pay off – triple damages, per F.S. 624.155.
Common examples of bad faith insurance after a car accident include:
- Denying a claim for no valid reason;
- Knowingly offering less than the amount the policy should cover;
- Intentionally misrepresenting the terms of coverage;
- Failing to investigate a claim;
- Delaying a settlement unnecessarily.
Bad faith insurance claims can be either first-party (against your own insurer) or third-party (against the negligent person’s insurer).
Courts in Florida have held that third-party claimants can hold an insurer liable for excess damages against the policyholder if an insurer breaches its duty of good faith to that policyholder, including a duty to defend.
Plaintiffs will need to provide the insurer with 60 days written notice of any alleged violation. If the insurer corrects the violation within this time frame, the insurer can avoid bad faith liability.
Bad faith insurance claims should only be handled by an experienced legal team, as they are complex and can be time-consuming.
Family in Fatal Crash Case to Assert Bad Faith Insurance
The Florida wrongful death lawsuit that recently resulted in a $13 million verdict in the Alachua Circuit Court began on the morning of Jan. 19, 2017 on a two-lane road in Williston. The decedent was driving home when a man driving an SUV traveling the opposite direction tried to pass another vehicle in a no-pass zone. Both vehicles were traveling 60 mph. Both drivers died.
The legal team tried to negotiate with the insurer for the policy limits – $20,000 total. The insurer failed to send these two checks in a timely fashion. The family sued for wrongful death seeking non-economic damages.
At trial, family members testified as to how tight-knit they were and how excruciating the loss had been for each of them. Jurors ultimately awarded $2.5 million to the decedent’s widower and $3.5 million to each of her children.
With liability and damages against the negligent driver now established, the family can pursue their bad faith claim directly against the insurer.
These cases are not about greed. Families like this one recognize no amount of money is going to bring back their loved one (which what they’d rather have in a heartbeat, if it were possible). It’s about holding insurance companies accountable for bad practices and ensuring other families who are grieving/recovering will be less likely to endure similar ordeals.
Contact the South Florida personal injury attorneys at Halberg & Fogg PLLC by calling toll-free at 1-877-425-2374. Serving West Palm Beach, Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Fort Myers/ Naples. There is no fee unless you win.
Jury awards up to $13 million in fatal 2016 Gainesville crash, Aug. 20, 2019, By Emily Mavrakis, Gainesville Sun