A Hypothetical Situation Illustrates Real Difficulties
Suppose that you have been injured in an automobile accident caused by the careless and negligent conduct of the other driver. The other driver is insured and has a bodily injury policy limit of $100,000. It is clear early on that your injuries will exceed this amount. As a result, you submit a claim to the other driver’s insurance company. Weeks go by without any communication from the insurance company while your medical bills and expenses continue to rise. If an injury victim is in this situation, it is important to understand when a delay becomes bad faith.
The Key Consideration – The Insurance Company is Allowed a Reasonable Time to Investigate and Settle Your Case
In nearly every case, “bad faith” does not exist until the insurance company has had a “reasonable time” to respond to the claim and determine whether it will settle. What constitutes a “reasonable time” will vary based on the facts of the case. Even two claims that appear fairly similar on their face may have two very different “reasonable time” periods. The amount of time that an insurance company will be afforded to settle your case depends on the answers to several questions:
- Does the insurance company have all the relevant information it needs to evaluate the claim? If the insurance company has made a reasonable request for information from you and you have failed to reply, the insurance company may reasonably delay payment of your claim.
- How clear is the insurance company’s client’s liability or fault? In cases where there are no eyewitnesses, liability can be difficult to determine. If liability or fault is not clear, a “reasonable time” to investigate the circumstances of the crash should be given to the insurance company.
- Is it clear your injuries will exceed the policy limits of the company’s insured? You may be asked to provide medical documentation or other paperwork that establishes the extent of your injuries. You may wish to consult with an experienced attorney if you are hesitant about handing over such personal information.
- How reasonable was your deadline? Except in first-party bad faith cases brought pursuant to statute (e.g., when you are injured in a crash with an uninsured motorist and seek payment on a claim you submit to your own insurer), you are given some leeway in establishing a deadline by which the insurance company must pay your claim. If you set too short of a deadline, the insurance company may attempt to defend itself against a bad faith claim by arguing you “set up the insurance company to fail” in that you gave the company an impossible deadline with which to comply. (In the case of a first-party claim brought pursuant to Florida statue, you must first file a form with the Florida Department of Insurance and then allow 60 days for the insurance company to respond.)
Determining “Reasonableness” of Insurance Companies’ Actions Takes Skill and Experience
It is essential to the success of your Florida bad faith claim that you document the contact you have with the insurance company beginning with the moment you first informed the company of your claim. A thorough investigation into the insurance company’s handling of your claim will help reveal whether your bad faith claim is viable and should be pursued. If the insurance company has acted in bad faith toward you in handling your claim, you may be entitled to compensation. The Law Firm J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo P.A. offers free consultations and case evaluations. No Recovery, No Lawyer Fees. Call 305-461-1095 or Toll Free 1-866-71-CLAIM.