Bad Faith Insurance Claims Pursuant to Commercial Policies

J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo
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Founder of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A.

With summer comes a rush of vacationers descending on Miami and the surrounding areas of Florida.  This glut of consumers will mean a business boom for local store owners and owners of other types of commercial properties.  However, the high volume of people also can increase the probability of accidents or intentional crimes committed against patrons.  Shoppers may slip and fall on the floor of your store while shopping, or a customer might suffer an injury when an item falls from a higher shelf.  Beyond innocent accidents of this kind, nefarious actors may assault patrons in your parking lot or rob tourists who they suspect are carrying a significant amount of cash on your property.

Anytime a patron or another person visits a commercial property, the victim of an accident or an assault committed by a third party may file a lawsuit against your business. This risk of liability is why business owners carry general liability insurance coverage.  While business owners can mitigate these risks by implementing safety precautions and installing adequate security measures, there is no way that the possibility of lawsuits can be eliminated. Even if an accident is not the fault of a business owner, the victim may sue the business owner. 

After a lawsuit is filed because of injuries sustained in an accident or crime on the premises of a commercial establishment, the business owner will face the cost of defending against the lawsuit and/or the expense of paying a judgement or settlement.  In some cases, the cost of prevailing in litigation is a hollow victory because of the expenses associated with mounting a strong defense. 

A business owner’s commercial liability insurance coverage provides protection against liability claims.  The insurance company will generally step into the shoes of an insured who is facing a lawsuit.  The insurance company will conduct negotiations with the plaintiff and his or her attorney while investigating the claim and attempting to negotiate a settlement.  If an appropriate settlement cannot be reached, the insurance company may hire attorneys to represent the insured in litigation in the courtroom.

Despite the fact that a business owner pays premiums in a timely manner, his or her insurance company may fail to meet its contractual obligations under the policy when a liability claim is filed.  The insurance company might deny the claim based on the contention that the incident that caused the injury was the result of gross negligence or willful action.  Commercial policies will typically exclude claims if they are caused by acts of gross negligence or willful conduct by an employee of the insured.

Alternatively, the insurer may claim that the injured patron was at fault and refuse to cover the claim on that basis.  The insurance company might also engage in other conduct that compromises a business owner’s interest. 

These alternative tactics might include refusing to accept a reasonable settlement offer within policy limits before losing at trial.  This result could expose the policyholder to a judgment significantly exceeding policy limits.  If this occurs, the policyholder will be liable for the deficiency between coverage limits and the judgement. 

If your commercial insurance carrier is acting in bad faith, you need a law firm that is prepared to fight for your interests.  My law firm represents commercial policyholders in insurance claims disputes in Miami and throughout Florida. The Law Firm of 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. 

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