April 11, 2016

Florida Supreme Court Upholds $1 Million Verdict in Insurance Bad Faith Case

640px-Japanese_car_accidentAlthough car insurance can come in handy, there are countless situations in which insurance companies create headaches and prevent their insureds from receiving the benefits of their policy agreements. In the recent case of Fridman v. Safeco Insurance Company of Illinois, a motorist was involved in a collision with an underinsured driver. The motorist contacted his insurance carrier, Safeco, shortly after the accident to make an underinsured motorist claim pursuant to his policy agreement. The insurance company denied the claim and continued to deny the plaintiff's repeated requests for policy benefit payments.

Eventually, the plaintiff filed a claim against the insurance company based on a theory that the insurer had engaged in bad faith. Under an insurance policy, the insurance company's duty is to provide benefit payments and coverage pursuant to the terms of the policy. For the insurer, however, this often means paying money on claims. To keep costs down, some insurance companies engage in dilatory tactics, refute legitimate claims, or simply ignore an insured's request for service.

Following initiation of the suit, the insurer mailed the plaintiff a check in the amount of $50,000 as an offer to settle the claim. The plaintiff rejected the offer and the case proceeded to trial. The jury ultimately awarded the plaintiff $1 million in damages.

The defendant appealed the verdict to the Florida Appellate Court. According to the appellate court, the insurance company's check to the plaintiff for $50,000 constituted a settlement of the claim that should have prevented the lawsuit from proceeding to trial. On this basis, the appellate court reversed and the plaintiff appealed the matter to Florida's highest court, the Florida Supreme Court.

In addressing whether the $50,000 check effectuated a settlement of the parties' dispute, the Florida Supreme Court turned to public policy. If the court upheld the appellate court's reversal, it reasoned that any insurance company could thwart an insured from bringing a legitimate claim by sending a check to the insured before the trial advanced. This would allow insurers to "game the system" through forcing plaintiffs to wait for a settlement and requiring the insured to incur the substantial expense of readying for a trial that was unlikely to proceed. Ultimately, however, the Florida Supreme Court reversed the action based on issues that were not raised before the appellate court and remanded the case.

Dealing with insurance companies can be incredibly stressful, especially if you are coping with painful injuries, missed paychecks, and tending to your daily responsibilities. At Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, our car accident lawyers have helped numerous Southwest Florida residents to bring a claim against both the party responsible for their injuries and an insurance company that is not acting in its insured's best interests. We will assert your rights along each step of the litigation process while ensuring that you receive the compassionate and personalized legal attention that you and your family deserves. Representing clients throughout Naples, Cape Coral, and Fort Myers, we offer a free consultation to help you learn about the legal implications of your situation. Call us now at 1-800-283-7442 or contact us online to set up your appointment.

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