Common Claims-Related Questions [Part II]

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

This is Part II of our two-installment blog post answering common questions our Miami insurance claims law firm receives about insurance bad faith.  Although we have answered a number of general questions, we invite you to contact us to discuss your specific situation. Click here to read Part I.

Can I recover damages for emotional distress if my insurer uses bad faith tactics when handling my claim?

Many bad faith denials of coverage have a monumental impact on people’s lives.  When a claim is denied, an insured might suffer the following types of devastating consequences:

  • Death of a loved one because of the bad faith denial of a health insurance claim for cancer treatment
  • The specter of bankruptcy because an auto accident insurer refuses a settlement offer for policy limits
  • Loss of a business because a carrier fails to pay for the increased cost of rebuilding related to changes in building code standards

The loss of a home, family member, or business can have a significant physical and emotional impact.  Policyholders who suffer emotional distress might be able to obtain a monetary recovery for this form of harm especially when the emotional harm has physical consequences.

Will I need to deal with a trial if I retain your insurance claims law firm to pursue a lawsuit for breach of contract or bad faith?

Although my reputation has been built on my experience as an insurance claims trial attorney, virtually all of the cases we handle are resolved without a trial.  There are many forms of alternate dispute resolution that can be effective in settling insurance disputes, such as neutral appraisal, mediation, or informal negotiation.  Our law firm approaches insurance claims disputes with a commitment to engaging in the necessary investigation and legal research to craft a strong litigation strategy.  While most cases will settle without a trial, we operate on the theory that the best negotiated insurance claims are the product of persuasive legal positions that might merit a substantial judgment at trial.

What makes a bad faith insurance claim potentially more lucrative than a claim based on breach of contract?

Every insurance policy is essentially a contract between the insurance carrier and the policyholder in which the insurer promises to indemnify the insured against certain financial risks in consideration for premium payments.  When an insurer breaches its promises contained in the policy, the insured can obtain contract damages.  However, punitive damages generally are not an element of the recoverable damages for a breach of contract.  Typically, punitive damages are awarded in a lawsuit involving a “tort” claim, such as bad faith conduct by an insurance company. 

In broad terms, contract damages are intended to place the aggrieved party in the position he or she would have been in had the other party fully performed under the contract.  Punitive damages serve a completely different purpose, so they are calculated based on other grounds.  The function of punitive damages is to discourage particularly egregious conduct and deter such conduct in the future.  The calculation of punitive damages involves ensuring the award is sufficient to serve the function of this type of award.  When the defendant is an insurance company that makes millions of dollars in annual revenue, the award will not discourage future misconduct or provide an effective monetary “punishment” unless the award is substantial enough to make the loss of profits felt by the carrier.  This means that a punitive damage award frequently dwarfs all other forms of compensation potentially available to a policyholder whose claim is unreasonably denied, delayed, or underpaid. 

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].

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