Insurance & Bad Faith Litigation
For almost 40 years, Leesfield Scolaro has strongly and efficiently represented clients who were victims of their own insurance company or the third-party insurance company which insures the responsible party for causing our clients' injuries.
First party bad faith is related to the insurance companies obligation to a policyholder that they represent. When a claim is filed with an insurance company, that insurer has an obligation to settle the claim in a reasonable amount of time, for an amount that a reasonable person would believe they were entitled.
Third party bad faith relates to insurance claims made against someone else's insurance policy. For example, if you are injured in an accident where someone else is clearly at fault, their insurance company, the third party insurer, is responsible for compensating you for your injuries. Just as if the insurer was your insurer, they must settle the claim in a reasonable amount of time, for an amount that a reasonable person would believe they were entitled.
An insurance company has a duty to defend a claim or lawsuit even if some or most of the lawsuit is not covered by the insurance policy. It also has a duty of indemnification, which is the duty to pay a judgment against the policyholder, up to the limit of coverage, but only if the judgment is for a covered act or omission. Examples of bad faith include undue delay in handling claims, inadequate investigation, refusal to defend a lawsuit, threats against an insured, refusing to make a reasonable settlement offer, or making unreasonable interpretations of an insurance policy.
Recently, our attorneys secured a settlement against an insurance company which paid over 50 times their policy limits to avoid a devastating verdict at trial. For a complete list of the firm's representative results, go to our Verdicts and Settlements section.
The federal government currently has no bad faith law or set of specific requirements that insurance companies must fulfill to ensure that they act in good faith and fair dealings. The insurance industry is one of the most powerful and profitable industries in the United States. This industry wields significant influence over government bad faith law legislation, which some argue is the reason that no federal bad faith law exists today. The insurance industry is regulated by bad faith law provisions created by individual states. Each state has a bad faith law that protects the rights of policyholders in the event that an insurance company acts in bad faith.
While each state's bad faith law is unique, there are some basic commonalities between them. In general, bad faith law defines acts of "bad faith" on behalf of insurance companies as delaying, withholding, or denying policyholder benefits that are based on legitimate claims filed under valid insurance policies. It is generally agreed that insurance companies have a fiduciary relationship with policyholders. A fiduciary relationship requires that an individual or organization in a special relationship of trust act in good faith and uphold the obligations required of their role.
In Florida, bad faith law requires that insurance companies act in the best interests of their policyholders. This often means that an insurance company has the duty to look for coverage when a policyholder files a legitimate claim, rather than looking for ways to deny coverage. Under bad faith law, there are a number of other responsibilities that insurance companies must fulfill in accordance with good faith and fair dealings principles.
Under bad faith law, insurance companies are required to adjust a claim (deny it or pay it) within a reasonable period of time. Insurers must also cooperate with claimants through all dealings, which includes prompt response to policyholder needs and inquiries. Under bad faith law, insurance companies must express to policyholders the exact reason they are denying requested benefits by citing the policy provision upon which that decision relies. Bad faith law implies that insurance companies have the responsibility to act with prudence, honesty, and fairness in a timely manner in terms of all policyholder affairs.
When an insurance company acts in bad faith, bad faith law allows the policyholder who has suffered damages at the hands of their insurance company to seek relief through a tort, or personal injury, lawsuit. Bad faith law provides that an insurance company who has acted in bad faith be required to compensate the policyholder the amount of money that the original claim was worth and any other losses that resulted from the initial denial of benefits. Under some bad faith law, there may be circumstances under which an insurance company may be required to pay punitive damages to deter them from future acts of bad faith. Under bad faith law, the statute of limitations that limits the time in which a policyholder can file a legal claim varies depending on the specific state law, the theory applied to the case, and the specific policy and claim in question.
To contact one of our experienced trial lawyers call our Miami law office today at 800-836-6400 or click here for a free and full case evaluation.