Sometimes it seems like dealing with insurance can take forever. Those delays could be a result of your insurance company doing its due diligence in an investigation.
Or…it could be that your insurance company isn’t actually acting in your best interest at all. Sometimes a long delay in receiving your insurance settlement is a result of bad faith insurance.
So what exactly does “bad faith” mean and what happens if you suspect you’ve fallen victim to this kind of practice with your insurance provider?
What Is a Bad Faith Insurance Claim in Florida?
“Bad faith” is a legal term for an insurance company denying a claim without a reasonable basis. Claiming something is bad faith requires that you show there is reason to believe the insurance company did a bad job in their investigation.
A mistake in the claim is not a sign of bad faith, but according to Florida law, there are several acts that do justify a bad faith claim against your insurer:
- Coercive Claims Handling Practices: Rarely, insurers may threaten to drop coverage or sue for insurance fraud without evidence in order to get you to accept a settlement that’s not what you need.
- Failing to Fully Inquire into Possible Bases for Coverage: Insurers, when they investigate your claim, should be looking for reasons to cover your claim, not to deny it. To do otherwise is bad faith.
- Cherry-Picked Evidence: Ignoring evidence for your insurance claim or choosing to only use evidence that contradicts your need is considered bad faith cherry-picking.
- Relaying on Biased Peer Reviews: Insurance companies tend to work with the same doctors for independent peer reviews regularly. This is frequently because those doctors are inclined to render opinions in favor of the insurance company.
- Unreasonable Delay: The last, and most frequent kind of bad faith insurance problem is “unreasonable delay,” where the insurance company drags out investigations to delay making a payment.
An unreasonable delay is the most common issue people face. The problem is that defining an unreasonable delay is complicated.
When Does FL Consider Delays in Claims Processing Unreasonable?
A delay in receiving a settlement may be unreasonable when it is “vexatious.”
What does that mean? Good question.
When the Delay is “Vexatious”
Vexatious is defined as bothersome or distressing. So ask yourself whether you are experiencing these feelings. If your insurance makes you visit too many doctors, say, they may be doctor-shopping, hoping for an opinion that results in denial of coverage.
This is probably causing you quite a bit of stress (among other things) and is considered an unreasonable delay because they have the necessary opinions already.
Other reasons include simply delaying payments for several months or otherwise dragging out an investigation into your claim. Overall, should reaching a settlement take more than a year, that’s when the delay might be unreasonable.
When an Experienced Bad Faith Attorney Can Prove It
The reason this is the most common form of bad faith practice is that proving a delay is unreasonable is often quite difficult. A delay of three months might be reasonable in one circumstance, but unreasonable in another.
Even worse, if an insurance company regularly delays payment, they likely have justifications pre-written. Pressing a successful suit requires knowing the law inside and out.
Good legal representation is key to successfully winning your case for insurance bad faith. Even if you don’t have a case, consulting with a lawyer can put you in contact with others who have the same complaint.
When you’re already in a situation where you’re waiting on an insurance settlement, you’re stressed. You deserve better than having to fight your insurance for the money you’re owed. Get good representation, and let them file and fight on your behalf. If your insurance is acting in bad faith, you are owed compensation for that.
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Winston Law. For over 20 years, he has successfully represented countless people in all kinds of personal injury cases, with a particular focus on child injury, legal malpractice, and premises liability. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Preeminent Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, enjoys a 10.0 rating by AVVO as a Top Personal Injury Attorney, has been selected as a Florida “SuperLawyer” from 2011-2017 – an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – and was voted to Florida Trend’s ”Legal Elite” and as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015, 2016, and 2017.