Tampa Bad Faith Insurance Lawyer
It is a common misconception that insurance companies want to protect their claimants. In reality, insurance companies are for-profit businesses. They put their bottom lines first. Struggling with your insurance company to receive a fair payout can take many forms and, sometimes, your insurance company is acting illegally.
For example, you filed a rightful claim with your insurance company, but the company denies your claim. Or maybe the insurance company has agreed to pay but you’ve been waiting months for the check.
If you have experienced either of these situations, you could have experienced what is called a “bad faith” insurance claim.
Since many factors that go into an insurance claim, the only way to know if your insurance company is guilty of bad faith insurance claim is to contact the experienced insurance claim attorneys at Williams Law, P.A.
Helping Clients With Bad Faith Insurance Claims For Over 25 Years
With offices in Tampa, Brandon and New Port Richey, our firm’s founder, insurance claims lawyer K.C. Williams, has more than 25 years of experience assisting Florida residents and property owners with their bad faith insurance claims, including sinkhole claims. We have earned a reputation for excellence in handling sinkhole damage claims, hurricane claims and other insurance claims.
Preparing, filing and disputing insurance claims can be challenging. Insurance companies do not always have your best interests in mind and often want to pay out as little as possible on claims. You should retain the services of a qualified attorney to represent you during this process. If you have already submitted a property damage claim only to have it improperly handled by an insurer, we can represent you during a bad faith lawsuit in Hillsborough County.
What Is Bad Faith Insurance?
Insurance companies have a legal obligation to handle claims in good faith. This means to handle them in an honest and sincere attempt to resolve the claim, in accordance with the language of the policy and applicable insurance laws. Unfortunately, in practice, insurance companies often fall short of this responsibility. They engage in unethical – and, in some cases, illegal – practices that are intended to save the insurance company money rather than help the claimant. This is called bad faith insurance.
What Are Common Examples of Bad Faith?
An insurance company can be guilty of many different mistakes, lapses in judgment and intentional wrongful acts that constitute bad faith in the eyes of the law. There are many rules and regulations that insurance companies must obey when responding to, processing and paying out claims in Florida. Breaking any of these rules or violating the insurance code of ethics is bad faith. Common examples of bad faith dealings include:
- Taking too long to respond to a claim or investigate.
- Failing to conduct a thorough investigation of the claim.
- Requesting an excessive amount of proof or information from the claimant.
- Denying a claim without giving an explanation.
- Wrongfully denying a valid claim.
- Misinterpreting the language of a policy.
- Misrepresenting the terms of a policy when it was sold to the insured.
- Offering less money than the claim is worth or the limits of the policy allow.
- Refusing to reasonably negotiate with a claimant on a settlement.
- Making threatening or intimidating statements.
If you run into problems of any kind after filing an insurance claim in Tampa, you may be a victim of bad faith. Bad faith can be an issue in all types of insurance claims: automobile, life, health, dental, commercial, property, homeowners and renters insurance. If you suspect insurance bad faith in how an insurance company or one of its representatives is handling your claim, consult with an attorney at Williams Law, P.A. to find out if you have grounds to bring a civil lawsuit.
What Laws and Regulations Apply to Insurance Companies in Florida?
One example of insurance bad faith is an insurance company violating Florida’s related rules and regulations. The Florida Department of Financial Services has many insurance regulations in place to protect claimants. The Florida Statutes also has a chapter dedicated to insurance field representatives and operations. It is an insurance company’s legal obligation to abide by all of the applicable laws and rules when handling a claim and communicating with clients. These rules in Florida include:
- A code of ethics. Insurance companies have a legal obligation to act according to a code of ethics. Insurance companies cannot discriminate against a client based on race, gender, disability or any other protected class. Insurers also cannot charge unfair rates, misrepresent their policies, engage in false advertising or commit unfair claim settlement practices.
- Response deadlines. When it receives a claim, an insurance company in Florida has the responsibility to respond and resolve the case according to Florida’s applicable deadlines. In general, these are 14 days to acknowledge the claim after its receipt, 90 days to make a decision on the claim and 20 days to pay a claim that’s been approved.
- A duty of good faith and fair dealings. In addition to specific rules and regulations, all insurance companies have an implied covenant to act with a duty of good faith and fair dealing. This overarching law protects consumers against unfair dealings by insurance companies. This duty is not conditional to any obligations owed by the policyholder.
If an insurance company in Tampa is guilty of breaking any statewide insurance regulation, code or covenant, it may be required to pay the claimant for related losses. This can include payment for inconvenience, financial losses, legal fees and more. In addition, the courts may require the insurance company to pay interest or penalties as a form of punishment for acting in bad faith. It is your right to seek this compensation as a victim of bad faith in Florida by filing a civil lawsuit.
What Is a Bad Faith Insurance Claim?
According to the 2021 Florida Statutes Section 624.155, a person may bring a civil action against an insurance company when he or she is damaged by a violation of one of the insurance company’s legal responsibilities. This can include unfair and deceptive acts, coercion of debtors, illegal dealings, discrimination, and the failure to issue refunds for canceled policies by insurance companies. The law also gives claimants the right to bring civil actions based on the following acts by an insurer:
- Failing to settle a claim in good faith when it could and should have done so based on the circumstances had it acted fairly and honestly toward the claimant and with due regard for his or her interests.
- Failing to accompany payments issued to insured parties or beneficiaries that set forth the coverage under which the payment is being made.
- Failing to promptly settle claims after the obligation to do so has become reasonably clear, except as to liability coverages.
The civil action mentioned in this state law is referred to in the civil justice system as a bad faith insurance claim. It is a civil lawsuit that pursues justice and financial compensation from an insurance company for breaking the mandated duty to process a claim in good faith, resulting in harm to the insured. If you are not sure whether you have grounds for a bad faith insurance claim in Tampa, Florida, our lawyers at Williams Law, P.A. can assess your case and let you know if it has merit.
What Compensation Is Available in an Insurance Bad Faith Lawsuit?
If you or your lawyer successfully prove that an insurance company is more likely than not guilty of bad faith in the handling of your claim, you could be awarded financial compensation, or damages, for the harm that you suffered because of this tort. The insurance company may be required to pay for your past and future losses associated with its failure to properly handle your claim. A settlement or judgment award can include:
- Financial losses
- Any money you had to pay out of pocket when the insurer denied your claim
- Lost income and earning opportunities
- Legal expenses and attorney’s fees
- Emotional distress
- Punitive damages, in some cases
The value of your bad faith claim is something that should be discussed with an attorney before you settle with an insurance company to ensure that you are accepting a fair settlement. You could be eligible for financial compensation for insurance bad faith from your own insurance provider or that of a third party. Every insurance company, whether or not you are the policyholder, has a responsibility to handle your claim in good faith.
How Much Does a Bad Faith Insurance Lawyer in Tampa Cost?
At Williams Law, P.A., we understand that those who come to us for help are already dealing with some type of financial problem, whether it’s obtaining coverage for property damage after a storm or paying for medical bills after a car accident. We don’t want to impose any further financial toll on a client. This is why we accept cases on a contingency fee basis in Tampa. This means that you won’t pay your bad faith insurance attorney unless he or she recovers financial compensation for your claim.
If we don’t win your bad faith claim, you won’t owe us any attorney’s fees for the work that we already completed on your case, guaranteed. If we do succeed in securing you a settlement or judgment award for insurance bad faith in Tampa, we will deduct our fees as a percentage of the overall amount won rather than billing you directly. We keep our percentage rates reasonable to ensure we never make more than our clients. This arrangement means that you won’t pay your lawyer out of pocket, win or lose. Our fee schedule ensures that any insurance claimant who needs high-quality legal assistance can afford representation.
What Is the Statute of Limitations on Bringing a Bad Faith Insurance Claim in Florida?
As in every personal injury case, there is a statute of limitations that you must obey when filing a bad faith insurance lawsuit in Florida. A statute of limitations is a strict deadline for filing. Without it, a plaintiff could potentially wait as long as he or she wanted to bring a civil lawsuit, keeping the defendant waiting unjustly. There are different statutes of limitations in Florida for different types of civil claims.
The time limit for bringing an insurance bad faith civil suit in the State of Florida is five years. Generally, the five-year clock starts ticking on the date that the act of bad faith occurs, or the last example of bad faith if there have been multiple acts. As a victim of bad faith, you must take legal action and file your paperwork in the appropriate civil courthouse before this deadline passes. Otherwise, your claim will most likely be rejected by the courts due to the expired statute of limitations.
How to Deal With an Insurance Company in Tampa
Although you may not be able to prevent an insurance company from handling your claim in bad faith, you can avoid being taken advantage of if you know how to deal with an insurance company during a claim in Florida. How you deal with an insurance company and the representative assigned to your case (known as the claims adjuster) can make a difference to its outcome. Use these tips to protect your rights when dealing with an insurance claims adjuster:
- Don’t admit fault for your injuries or property damage. Don’t apologize for the incident, either, as this can be misconstrued as an admittance of fault.
- Don’t give too many details. Keep your answers to questions short and concise. If you don’t have an answer, say you don’t know rather than speculating.
- Don’t give the adjuster a recorded statement. No matter what the adjuster says, the insurance company does not need a recorded statement from you to process or accept your claim. Tell the adjuster that you’ll submit a written statement later instead.
- Don’t sign anything. Don’t sign any forms sent to you by the insurance company. This includes a medical authorization release form to access your medical records or a release of liability waiver to accept a settlement.
- Don’t rush into a fast settlement. One insurance company tactic is to quickly offer a low settlement in the hopes that the claimant will not want to wait to negotiate for a higher amount. Accepting the first offer is a mistake.
It is normal to want your property insurance claim to be resolved and settled as quickly as possible so that you can move forward with your life. However, it is critical not to rush into a fast settlement offered by an insurance company. The initial settlement may be less than you deserve for your losses. Instead of quickly accepting a settlement, bring your case to an attorney in Tampa for advice that you can trust. Unlike an insurance company, an attorney wants to maximize your financial recovery after a disaster such as a hurricane or sinkhole.
What to Do if You Believe You Are a Victim of Bad Faith in Tampa
If you believe that an insurance company is not handling your claim fairly, be sure not to sign anything. Once you accept an offer and sign a release of liability waiver, your case is over. You cannot reopen it or defend yourself against bad faith. This means you will have to accept the amount that you said yes to – even if you later discover that it is less than you need. It’s important to always contact an attorney before finalizing anything with a signature. An attorney from Williams Law, P.A. can help you determine if you’re a victim of bad faith.
Keep copies of all letters and communications that are sent to you by the insurance company. If you spoke to a representative on the phone, write down everything that you can remember about the conversation. Obtain a copy of the original insurance claim that you filed, along with any photographs or proof of your losses. Then, bring all of this information to an attorney for a review of your claim and legal rights. We offer free case reviews in Tampa.
Think You Might Have A Bad Faith Claim On Your Hands? We Can Help.
Please call for a free, confidential consultation with a Florida insurance claims attorney by calling us at (800) 451-6786. We look forward to assisting you.