Car insurance. Health insurance. Homeowner’s insurance. Renter’s insurance. Life insurance. Pet insurance. Travel insurance. And also insurance for kidnapping, alien abductions, werewolves, vampires, and ghosts.
No, those last several are not jokes. Apparently, there’s insurance for everything. We get insurance for those “just in case” situations that we hope don’t come up but that we’re prepared for in the event that they do. We want to ensure that we won’t deplete our savings if we get into a car accident, need an expensive medical treatment, or have to repair our house after a flood.
And when something does go wrong and we need to file a claim, we want to know that our insurance company has our back. Insurance companies have to act in good faith to investigate your claim and pay you for valid claims.
But what if they don’t? What if the insurance company denies your claim without a reasonable explanation?
The term “bad faith” is used when insurance companies deny claims for no apparent valid reason. There are numerous examples, actions, and situations that might establish that you have a bad faith insurance claim, such as:
Unjustified denial of coverage
Failure to communicate important information
Failure to have a reasonable investigation of the insured’s claim
Refusal to pay a claim without conducting an investigation
Failure to pay or deny the claim within an appropriate amount of time
Failure to confirm or deny coverage within an appropriate amount of time
Failure to try to arrive at a fair and just settlement when it’s clear who is liable
Offering much less money to settle the claim than the actual value
Failure to quickly offer a reasonable explanation for a claim’s denial
Failure to negotiate a claim settlement
Failure to answer a time-limit demand
Failure to divulge policy limits
So, basically, if your insurance company doesn’t do their job with your insurance claim, you may be able to bring a civil lawsuit against them. But if they made an honest mistake or an error, that’s not acting in bad faith. It has to be done intentionally and without a reasonable explanation.
Bad Faith Insurance Claims in Action
Let’s look at an example of a bad faith insurance claim here in Florida.
In Miami in 2004, Miguel Gonzalez – an uninsured driver – crashed into Juan Chirino – an underinsured driver handling an 18-wheel oil tanker – near the Golden Glades Interchange. The impact of the crash sent Gonzalez’s car across traffic and careening into a head-on collision with David Zucker’s car, where his wife Carrie was also a passenger.
The other two drivers were uninsured and underinsured, but Zucker – whose car insurance was through Geico – had coverage on his policy for uninsured/underinsured motorists.
And since Zucker had that benefit on his policy, Geico was going to be responsible for Gonzalez’s and Chirino’s portion of the car accident. Instead, Geico denied the claim and refused to pay for Zucker’s damages – which included permanent spinal injuries and urological injuries.
So the Zuckers sued Geico and, in turn, a jury found that Gonzalez was 100 percent at-fault and liable for the accident. Which means that Geico would be the one to pay for all the damages.
Last November – 11 years after the accident – the Zuckers were finally awarded a $14.5 million settlement in their bad faith insurance suit for past and future lost wages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering damages. Of the large settlement, $2.5 million was awarded to Zucker’s wife for loss of consortium – pain and suffering as a result of her husband’s damages.
This is an interesting case because it brings up an important question about damages. After denying Zucker’s original claim, Geico ended up being on the hook for over $14 million. But how much would they have paid if they had rightfully settled the claim to begin with?
Many times, an insurance company acts in bad faith to save themselves some money. And they also bet on the fact that you’re not going to question when a claim is denied. They’re hoping you’ll just accept it and won’t fight for what’s owed to you.
Had Geico acted in good faith, perhaps they wouldn’t have had to shell out so much money. But they didn’t. And that’s why if you believe you are the victim of a bad faith insurance claim, make sure you fight back so you can receive your deserved compensation.
About the Author:
Steven Slootsky is a 1985 graduate of Nova Law School, which means he’s been a practicing Fort Lauderdale injury lawyer for more than 2 decades. He founded the Law Offices of The Injury Law Firm of South Florida in 1991. The Fort Lauderdale-based accident attorney is a member of the Florida Bar, as well as the Federal Bar for the Southern District for the U.S. District Court. During his career as a personal injury lawyer/auto accident compensation attorney, Steven has served as the co-chair of the Workers’ Compensation section for Broward County, Florida. He is also a Bronze member of the Florida Workers Advocates, a former member of the board, and serves as an “Eagle” member of the Florida Academy of Trial Lawyers.
Buy a car? Need minimum liability required. Buy a house? Got to have a homeowners’ policy. Living and breathing? Government says you better have health coverage or else. So why does it seem then that those insurance companies that we hire and pay regular monthly premiums to continue to fight so hard against acting in [..]
In June 2018, a horrific crash was caught on camera near Orlando. In this very dramatic footage, the vehicle is seen drifting into a concrete barrier at the toll plaza on the Florida Turnpike near St. Cloud. The impact ejects one of the four passengers onboard out through the windshield and sends him flying for [..]
If you recently suffered injuries from night out on the town, you know that slip and fall injuries are no joke. People have received millions of dollars in compensation after slipping and falling at a store or a bar. Maybe you want to pursue one of these lawsuits yourself. After all, the medical bills are [..]
If you have recently suffered a personal injury and are currently considering filing a claim, you are likely asking yourself whether the effort will be worth your time. Frankly, the answer to that question depends on what the incident has cost you. In a personal injury case, when a judge or jury finds there is [..]
No turn signals, sudden stops, swerving – driving on the road in Florida can feel like an accident waiting to happen. Even if you’ve lived in the state your whole life, it can be incredibly frustrating to drive here. Worse, the blame is shared between retirees, tourists, and just downright bad drivers. Unfortunately, it appears [..]
As a homeowner, you pay your premium for homeowner’s insurance trusting that your insurer will do right by you in the event that the worst happens. That they will pay out for covered damages. This is known as acting in good faith. Although most insurers operate ethically and meet their obligations to policyholders, it’s also [..]
When Harry Davila and his children first came to us in September of 2018, they were heartbroken and deep in grief. Harry had lost his dear wife Mary, and his children had lost their beloved mother. However, their sorrow not only came from the fact that they lost her to breast cancer earlier that month, [..]
This may be obvious, but if you are at fault in a car crash, you can’t receive compensation from anyone. However, you may be too quick to blame yourself if your brakes failed and caused the crash. There are a number of parties who could potentially be at fault for your car accident, so don’t [..]
Are you traveling with your children over spring break? Use these tips to keep your kids safe while you enjoy your family vacation. Prepping for Your Trip Since a trip to the emergency room is needed in a shocking 25 percent of all family vacations, it’s wise to prepare ahead of time for family safety. [..]
Did your child get a new bike over the holidays? Are they begging you to let them bike to school… but you’re feeling hesitant about it? Your worries are understandable. Florida can be a dangerous place for cyclists, and kids aren’t exactly known for being careful. However, children need to have some sense of autonomy, [..]
Bars and advertisements for alcoholic products often encourage people to “drink responsibly,” but in some cases, the establishments or bartenders serving these drinks may be at least partially liable for a patron’s alcohol-related injury or death. Under certain circumstances, bars can—and should—be held responsible for over-serving patrons. Many states have “dram shop” laws (named [..]
The death of a loved one is traumatic and devastating experience— regardless of the cause. However, the ordeal can be especially upsetting if the death could have been avoided had it not been for the negligent actions of another. In Florida, surviving family members and loved ones may be able to recover compensation for [..]
Summertime is quickly approaching, which means barbecues, family vacations, and a lot of days sitting by the pool. While you and your loved ones enjoy the hot summer weather and cool water, it is important to keep yourself safe. In this post we will be focusing on swimming pool injuries and how to prevent them. [..]
Right now, all Florida drivers are required to have car insurance coverage that pays personal injury protection (PIP) benefits, but that may come to an end in 2019 if some lawmakers get their way. Florida currently operates under a “no-fault” system when it comes to paying insurance claims after a car accident. If a [..]
When you become a parent, every little decision regarding your child’s safety and development can become a hot debate. We’re not going to tell you how to raise your child, but we do have one piece of advice backed up with statistics from the AAP and NHTSA. When you are driving with your child, [..]
It’s not every day that you get into an accident and need to file a personal injury protection (PIP) suit. This type of litigation may be confusing to many, especially since PIP laws are constantly being debated and changed in Florida. However, it is possible for you to get through this process and receive [..]
Car accidents can result in tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars in medical bills, lost wages, and car repairs. How is it decided who will have to pay for these damages and bills? In Florida, it usually starts with personal injury protection (PIP). If you experience damages that add up to less than [..]
Image: http://pixabay.com/en/dog-man-attacking-canine-training-78117/ When Pets Attack, They Can Cause Serious or Even Fatal Injuries Most people like dogs. How can you resist those adoring eyes, the wagging tail, and the warm, fuzzy head that seems to appear in your lap just when you’re feeling your lowest? So many Americans like dogs, in fact, that [..]
What are your chances of getting hit by someone driving a rental car in Florida? Every year, the state of Florida has 15 million active drivers on its many roads and highways. About 250,000 drivers end up in car crashes annually in Florida. Since almost 85 million visitors come to enjoy Florida every year, [..]
School is out, but that doesn’t mean your child has to be stuck at home for the summer with no structure and nothing to do. Summer camps are a great way to keep your child active, supervised, and having fun – while also allowing them to branch out. However, summer camps come with a lot [..]
This law firm helped me with my car accident case and helped me to get the most of the medical benefits that were needed after the accident, and gave me fair and helpful expectations on what I would recieve back for the pain and suffering after the accident.