Florida Bad Faith Insurance Claim Denial Attorneys
Our Florida Bad Faith Attorneys pride ourselves on enforcing the contractual rights of our clients. Insurance companies must be held accountable for any unreasonable conduct resulting in denial or delay of a claim payment. Our Florida Bad Faith lawyers handle bad faith claim denials involving auto insurance, disability insurance, life insurance, commercial property insurance, homeowners insurance, fire insurance, and health insurance claims. If you think you may have a bad faith claim, please contact us for a free consultation.
What Is Florida Bad Faith Law?
In order to help you understand Florida Bad Faith law, we have prepared the following summary. Florida has a very specific bad faith statute that must be complied with in order to preserve a claim.
In Florida, there is no recognized common law right to a first party action for bad faith. Instead, Florida law provides that a first party bad faith claim against an insurance company is only a statutory right pursuant to a civil remedy statute. §624.155 allows first party bad faith actions against insurers, if all statutory prerequisites have been completed.
Since the statue is predicated on the failure of the insurer to act fairly and honestly towards the insured, the Florida Supreme Court has held that a third-party cannot bring a claim under the statute. §624.155 (a) and (b) delineate the kinds of violations and acts which permit a person to bring a civil remedy suit; and how such claims are evaluated to determine whether the insurer acted fairly and honestly toward its insured with due regard for the insured’s interest. §626.9541 (i), titled “Unfair Claim Settlement Practices,” places requirements on insurers to reasonably and timely evaluate a claim for disability benefits. Most insurance companies have created internal claims handling procedures in order to comply with §624.155 and §626.9541.
It has been well settled that bringing a cause of action for a violation of §624.155 is premature until there is a determination of liability and extent of the damages owed on the first party insurance contract. A premature claim under §624.155 should be dismissed as premature, but is not subject to a summary judgment concession. Therefore, a verdict must be obtained and all appeals must be exhausted before an action for bad faith can be filed.
A claim for bad faith under §624.155 is perfected when the plaintiff complies with the notice conditions imposed by the statute. The Florida Department of Financial Services (F.D.F.S.) requires that the insurer be given 60 days written notice of the violation on a form provided by the F.D.F.S. and include certain information outlined within the subsection. It is imperative to also send the Civil Remedy Notice via certified return receipt mail to the insurer. After the notice is given, the insurer is afforded 60 days in which to pay the claim or correct the violation. If the insurer fails to pay the claim or correct the violation within the allotted 60 days, there is an automatic presumption of bad faith and the burden shifts to the insurer to show why it did not respond.
The 60 days begins to run from the date the notice is filed with the F.D.F.S. If the F.D.F.S returns the notice as insufficient, the 60 days does not begin to run until the notice is corrected and properly filed. The F.D.F.S. will return the form if there any potential errors, including the incorrect spelling of the name of the insurer. When submitting a civil-remedy notice it is recommended that one submit an addendum to the required form and also include copies of any pertinent disability policies which are being disputed.
Insurers may offer to pay belated claims prior to the expiration of the 60 days in order to avoid any further exposure for civil remedy damages. Yet, there is a debate as to what constitutes a “correction” of a civil remedy violation. The Fourth District Court of Appeal in Brookins v. Goodson stated that an insurer could not escape liability for a violation of §624.155 by the simple expedient of a belated payment of the policy limits after the 60 day time period provided in the statute has expired. However, the insurer must still establish that the insurer’s failure to pay the policy limits by the expiration of the 60 day window period constituted bad faith.