After a fire or storm ravages your property, one of your few comforts is the knowledge that you have insurance coverage that will help you afford the rebuilding or repairs you need to return to life as usual. Unfortunately, filing a claim often creates surprises, from seemingly-endless delays to reduction or even full denial of your claim.
The fact that a claim does not go as expected does not automatically mean that your insurance carrier is acting in bad faith. Seeking guidance from experienced Fort Lauderdale property damage lawyers is often the best way to determine if you need to take legal action against your insurance carrier. However, it is helpful to understand the high-level points of the law to learn your rights.
Recognizing What Bad Faith Claims Handling Looks Like
A claim reduction or denial is, of course, based upon the provisions of your specific policy. That said, policy language is often so complicated that many policyholders can easily believe they have coverage for a specific peril, only to learn too late that the coverage does not exist. Still, insurance carriers can unfairly hide behind the language to settle for less than the full value of your claim.
Certain provisions of the Florida Insurance Code (particularly Florida Statute §624.155) define bad faith insurance conduct, including:
• Not attempting in good faith to settle claims when, under all the circumstances, it could and should have done so, had it acted fairly and honestly toward its insured and with due regard for her or his interests;
• A material misrepresentation made to an insured or any other person having an interest in the proceeds payable under such contract or policy, for the purpose and with the intent of effecting settlement of such claims, loss, or damage under such contract or policy on less favorable terms than those provided in, and contemplated by, such contract or policy;
• Failing to adopt and implement standards for the proper investigation of claims;
• Misrepresenting pertinent facts or insurance policy provisions relating to coverages at issue;
• Failing to acknowledge and act promptly upon communications with respect to claims; and
• Failing to promptly provide a reasonable explanation in writing to the insured of the basis in the insurance policy, in relation to the facts or applicable law, for denial of a claim or for the offer of a compromise settlement.
Do Not Sign a Settlement Offer Until You are Sure
While there may be instances when you instantly recognize that a settlement provides full compensation for your losses, you may not even recognize the application of certain coverages or additional insurance that may apply to your claim that could increase your recovery (mold coverage, loss of use, personal property, claims expense coverage, law and ordinance coverage – just to name a few).
Before you sign any settlement with an insurer, especially when a settlement offer appears too low — or when it seems as if too much time has passed to receive that offer, contact our insurance claims attorneys who understands the Florida insurance laws and knows how to read policy language. If you have any doubt about your claim, call us at (954) 767-6333 or use our convenient online contact form to learn the next steps for your claim.