Nearly a decade after a Florida motorcycle crash claimed the life of her husband, Tracy Potts and James Harvey were elated when a West Palm Beach jury ruled that Mr. Harvey’s insurance company Geico acted in bad faith in handling Mrs. Potts’ claim. As a result, Geico is now responsible for paying over $9 million in compensation to Mrs. Potts for the injuries and losses John Potts (deceased) sustained in a fatal accident.
A Fatal Accident Claims the Life of John Potts
The crash that claimed the life of Mr. Potts occurred on the Beeline Highway. Mr. Potts and Mr. Harvey were both approaching an intersection controlled by a flashing red light. Whereas Mr. Potts stopped his motorcycle at the traffic device before proceeding through the intersection, another court had previously found that Mr. Harvey failed to do so. Instead, he pulled his sports utility vehicle in front of Mr. Potts, and the collision claimed the life of Mr. Potts.
Geico Acts in Bad Faith
After the crash, Mrs. Potts through counsel asked Geico to tender the policy limits of Mr. Harvey’s insurance policy. Those limits were set at $100,000, and Geico did in fact tender that money promptly to Mrs. Potts. But when Mrs. Potts’ legal counsel asked to interview Mr. Harvey, Geico refused to allow this to happen. The purpose of the interview was to determine if Mr. Harvey had any other insurance policies or assets that could be pursued to pay the damages suffered as a result of the fatal collision that claimed the life of Mrs. Potts husband.
The denial of access to Mr. Harvey by Geico led Mrs. Potts to sue Mr. Harvey as well as the company that operated the traffic light at the intersection. A court proceeding later determined that the traffic signal company bore no responsibility for the collision, and a judgment for several million dollars was entered against Mr. Harvey. This judgment was appealed and affirmed by Florida’s appellate courts. This meant that Mr. Harvey was now personally responsible for paying millions of dollars in compensation to Mrs. Potts.
Subsequently, Mrs. Potts and Mr. Harvey both joined in a lawsuit against Geico (litigation can make strange bedfellows). The suit alleged the insurer acted in bad faith by unnecessarily and unreasonably exposing its insured to personal liability for the judgment by refusing to allow Mrs. Potts’ attorney to interview Mr. Harvey following payment of his policy limits. The actions taken by Geico were alleged to be in contravention of Florida insurance regulations that actually require insurance companies to make their insured reasonably available to determine what other policies and/or assets the insured has available. A jury agreed with Mr. Harvey and Mrs. Potts and found Geico responsible for the judgment previously entered against Mr. Harvey, which had climbed to over $9 million with interest.
The Lesson from the Tragedy
An insurance company that acts unreasonably in refusing to pay a claim or in unreasonably exposing its own insured to personal liability for compensation can be held responsible through a bad faith lawsuit.
You can reach Miami Insurance Claims Lawyer J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo by dialing his direct number at (786) 272-5841, calling the main office at (305) 461-1095, or Toll Free at 1 (866) 71-CLAIM or email Attorney Gonzalez-Sirgo directly at [email protected].