St. Petersburg Insurance Bad Faith Attorneys
Serving You and The State of Florida
Virtually everyone has insurance of some kind. Whether it is auto insurance to cover us in the event of an auto accident or homeowner’s insurance to cover our property in case it is damaged, we carry insurance as a hedge of protection against the unexpected events life can throw our way.
Many of us have life insurance that we count on to protect our loved ones in the event of our untimely death, and we trust that the policy will be paid. We spend significant funds, throughout our lifetimes, to insure against the unforeseen. When that protection we have paid for fails, the results can range from frustrating and unfair to catastrophic.
We pay our premiums on time, trusting that in our moment of need, the insurance company will step up and honor their promise to pay our claims when we need them. Sadly, all too often, these insurance companies do not honor the claims that are submitted to them. Insurance companies are a business, and they make money by taking in far more in premiums than they ever pay out in claims. They sometimes undervalue or outright deny claims they should rightly pay to save themselves money.
What is insurance bad faith?
Insurance bad faith occurs when an insurance company fails to honor an otherwise valid claim, or they undervalue a claim that has merit and warrants a higher payout. These insurance companies are very protective of their profits and are not above using unfair and deceptive practices to avoid paying.
Some of the deceptive practices common in insurance include using confusing language in their policies that make it hard for anyone to understand precisely what loopholes they are providing for themselves. They delay payment much longer than they should, creating harm to those who have faithfully paid their premiums. Some insurance companies make demands regarding the proof of loss that are so egregious that no one could comply with them, or they fail to do a proper investigation into the claim. All of the above tactics, and more, may constitute a bad faith claim against an insurance company.
Florida statutes expressly prohibit insurance companies from using unfair and deceptive trade practices. Statutory law also mandates that insurance companies:
- Recognize your claim
- Investigate in a reasonably prompt manner
- Not slow down the progression of a claim with unnecessarily burdensome forms
- Respond promptly to your communication attempts
- Provide the reasons behind any denial of your claim and explain any delays in the process
If your insurance company has failed to do any of these things, then you may have a claim for bad faith. Contact the Lopez Law Group to discuss your case and the potential legal remedies that might be available to you.
What is a good example of a bad faith insurance claim?
You get a phone call at work that your home is consumed in flames. You are in shock over the magnitude of the loss, but your first thought is gratitude that no one was home when the fire broke out. You know insurance can never replace the memories and mementos lost in the fire, but you are grateful you have homeowner’s insurance to replace your financial loss.
You contact your homeowner’s insurance to file a claim. After contacting them, the insurance company tells you that they are going to send someone out to look at the home. That person never shows up. You cannot begin to rebuild or replace the items lost in the fire until the insurance pays your claim.
You call back, and they assure you someone will be out within five to seven business days. You are accruing expenses staying at a hotel, your family has had to buy basic essentials, and your entire life seems in limbo. The seven days pass, and you still hear nothing.
This is a far too typical example of bad faith. The insurance company is aware of your valid claim for damages to the home, yet they did not uphold their end of the bargain by coming out to inspect the property or pay on the claim. The above is an example of first-party bad faith.
Third-party bad faith
In third-party bad faith, your insurance company does not pay on a valid claim when they should, forcing you to pay out of pocket to defend yourself when you are sued individually. An example would be an auto accident in which you were driving under the influence and hit another vehicle. The person you hit is injured. You have an insurance policy that covers $50,000 in medical bills for the injured person.
That person submits their medical documentation to your insurance company, only to have your insurance deny all or part of the claim, even though the claim is worth three times that amount. With no other recourse, because your insurance refused to pay, the injured party files a lawsuit against you for the damages they incurred. You are forced to pay out of pocket to defend yourself.
Not only are you combating the criminal ramifications of driving under the influence, but you also find yourself embroiled in a legal suit that would not have occurred if your insurance company had paid the amount stated in your policy.
In either of your cases, you will find yourself questioning what you are paying for with insurance if valid claims can be denied with little or no explanation.
What happens in a bad faith case?
In tort law, there is an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Certain states have even enacted laws that expressly prohibit bad faith by insurance providers. If you are in a state where bad faith claims are forbidden by both common law and statutory law, you could bring a claim in both arenas. Federal law also prohibits bad faith insurance practices.
If the insurance company is found to have committed bad faith, it may be on the hook for damages that are in excess of the available policy limits. Damages that can be awarded include:
- Damages for emotional distress
- Economic losses
- Damages for attorney’s fees
- Punitive damages—punitive damages are meant to act as a punishment against a person or entity that has acted with egregious disregard for their duty
Punitive damages are typically calculated with relation to the insurance company’s wealth, not the value of the claim and the actual losses.
Statutory pre-filing—what is it, and how do I satisfy it?
If you are asserting a statutory claim of bad faith against an insurance company, you must first provide sixty days of written notice of any alleged violation on the part of the insurance company. Once the insurance company receives this notice, they have an opportunity to “cure” the alleged bad faith violation. A cure means that they pay for the alleged damages.
If the insurance companies pays within sixty days, the claim is considered cured, and you can take no further legal action against the insurance company. If the insurance company does not respond to the notice of bad faith within the sixty-day time period, the court will give consideration to that failure when deciding if the insurance company acted in bad faith.
An experienced attorney can do the legwork of meeting the statutory requirements of pre-filing in a way that complies with all applicable laws and legal standards. Remember, insurance companies have teams of in-house attorneys working to help them find ways to beat bad faith claims and to pay as little as possible for valid claims.
You do not want to take on an insurance company on your own. Instead, you rely on a reputable attorney with experience fighting insurance companies for their clients. The Lopez Law Group can help make sure your bad faith claim is handled in such a way that every possible loophole that will allow the insurance company to get out of paying damages is closed.
When we take your case, it is about more than winning a monetary award. We want to play a small part in changing the way insurance companies conduct unethical business. Every win for our clients is a small dent in a corporate giant, and enough wins for bad faith actions will force them to reevaluate the way they treat their customers.
What should I do if I feel like I have been the victim of insurance bad faith?
The laws surrounding bad faith are very complex, and having an attorney on your side who knows the ins and outs of these laws, as well as how insurance companies operate, is imperative to making a successful claim.
If you feel like you have a valid insurance claim which was not honored by your insurance company when it should have been, you may have a potential claim for bad faith. The attorneys at the Lopez Law Group will be able to examine the evidence you have and look into the potential claim to see if you have a valid bad faith case.
With years of experience taking on insurance companies, our attorneys have the skills and competence to take on even large insurance companies who are not honoring claims as they should. Call us at (727) 933-0015 to schedule a case evaluation. We will give you our honest assessment of the strength of your claim, based on our knowledge of the law, and the probability of winning you the compensation you deserve in a bad faith case. Do not wait, call today.
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