Florida is a state prone to hurricane damage on a yearly basis because of its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Ocean, along with the hurricanes and tropical storms that regularly form in these bodies of water. Because of this, Florida has some of the highest insurance claims in the country.
When a person insures their home and other personal property, they tend to assume that since they have paid faithfully, their insurance claim will be honored without any problems. However, some insurance companies do not always act in good faith and will make an already stressful situation more complicated by unfair insurance practices.
What is Bad Faith?
After filing your Florida insurance claim, your insurer may tell you that your policy is ambiguous or open to having several possible meanings, or that the policy does not cover the type of property for which you are filing a claim. Another reason your claim may be denied is because the insurance company may claim that the property was not damaged, the damage resulted from the negligence of the owner or the damage resulted from another reason not covered by the insurance policy.
Insurance companies are required to act in good faith and in a timely manner during this process. Unfortunately, at times, an insurer will delay the payment or resolution of a claim or even violate Florida state laws. When this happens they are acting in bad faith.
Some types of bad faith an insurer might engage in can include unfair settlement claim practices or a refusal to insure for discriminatory reasons.
Unfair claim settlement practices can mean that an insurance company is:
•Failing to adopt or implement standards for the proper investigation of claims,
•Misrepresenting facts or insurance policy provisions,
•Denying claims without conducting a reasonable investigation,
•Failing to properly explain policy information, or
•Failing to pay any undisputed amounts of full or partial benefits in a prompt or timely manner.
It is illegal for an insurer to refuse to insure and individual based on their race, color, creed, marital status, sex or nationality. Additionally, an insurer cannot deny an individual based on where they live, their age or where they work.
There are several laws within the Florida Revised Statutes that relate to bad faith insurance claims and illegal business practices.The main statutes regarding bad faith include:
Florida Statute § 626.9541(1)(i) – Engaging in unfair claim settlement practices;
Fla. Stat. § 626.9541(1)(o) – Illegal dealings in premiums;
Fla. Stat. § 626.9541(1)(x) – Refusal to insure for discriminatory reasons;
Fla. Stat. § 626.9551 – Requirements to have a certain agent or insurer not permitted;
Fla. Stat. § 627.7283 – Return of premium for cancelled insurance policies required.
What should you do if your insurance company denies your claim?
If you believe that your insurance company is acting in bad faith in regards to an insurance policy claim, the first step many take is contacting a knowledgeable insurance attorney. An insurance attorney can help you decide the proper steps to take when dealing with an insurance company acting in bad faith.
Your insurance attorney may suggest that you file a civil suit against your insurer for damages. When you file a suit for damages you may be able to receive the full benefits of your policy, court costs and attorney fees.
With capable legal counsel and a firm understanding of how your insurance company is required, by law, to act, the property damage claims process in Florida will be much easier to handle, increasing your chances of a favorable and fair outcome.
Michael Germain is a Tampa, Florida insurance law attorney that helps his clients understand their legal option