The Florida Second District Court of Appeals showed it is not afraid to uphold your rights as policyholders under the law. Unfortunately, insurance companies often try to come up with many fine-print or other outlandish excuses to avoid paying your claim. If you don't have an experienced attorney helping you with your claim, sadly, these excuses sometimes work. Here, GEICO tried to avoid its obligation under the law to timely pay claims, then further tried to avoid its liability for bad faith in doing so by ignoring the law that grants your right to sue for bad faith. Thankfully, the court saw through GEICO's unlawful efforts and ruled in favor of your rights as policyholders. Here is what the insurance company did in Harper v. GEICO.
Florida Law Protects You From Insurance Companies That Act in Bad Faith
Under Florida law, insurance companies are required to investigate and timely pay legitimate claims. While the hope is the insurance company, as it investigates your claim, will act in good faith—meaning in yourbest interest, not in the interest of its shareholders by keeping more money in their pockets—unfortunately it is more often they act in bad faith and try to delay or deny legitimate claims to save money. As experienced insurance dispute lawyers who have been representing policyholders against their insurance companies for over twenty years, we see this day in and day out. The good news is there are laws in place to protect you if your insurance company acts in bad faith.
Insurance Companies Must Remedy the Bad Faith in 60 Days Per Fla. Stat. 624.155
Under Fla. Stat. 624.155, if an insurance company acts in bad faith while investigating your claim, you can file what is called a Civil Remedy Notice. Basically, this is a notice to the insurance company that you believe they are acting in bad faith, and you are demanding they remedy the bad faith by paying your claim timely and in full. If the insurance company fails to remedy their bad faith behavior within 60 days of the date you filed your Notice, you are then granted the right under the law to sue your insurance company for bad faith. While this law is helpful for policyholders, it is still disheartening to know insurance companies have a legally-protected “out.” No other industry can intentionally act in bad faith toward consumers—sometimes harming or causing them significant damages—yet not be subject to an action for bad faith as long as they fix their wrongful behavior within 60 days of a consumer calling them out on it with a Civil Remedy Notice. This is just another example of the power the insurance companies are able to exercise over lobbyists to get laws put in place that help them avoid paying claims.
Appellate Court Found GEICO Was Trying to Ignore This Law
The good news is that GEICO's attempt to avoid Fla. Stat. 624.155 did not work. While the trial court agreed with GEICO in finding the 60-day “clock” began when GEICO received the Civil Remedy Notice, thankfully these policyholders had an attorney willing to continue fighting on their behalf who appealed that decision. On appeal, the Florida Second District Court of Appeals upheld the clear text of the statute, written to protect policyholders, which said the 60-day clock began when the policyholders filed their Civil Remedy Notice, not when GEICO received it. By trying to avoid this clear, non-ambiguous language in the statute, the appellate court rightfully saw that GEICO wanted to “ignore the plain language of section 624.155(3)(d).” Instead, the Florida 2nd DCA overturned the trial court's decision and granted the policyholders the right to sue GEICO for bad faith.
Why It Pays to Hire an Experienced Insurance Dispute Attorney
We share opinions like these because we find them encouraging. Too many times we see or hear about instances where insurance companies, like GEICO did here, try to avoid their obligation under the law to treat you fairly. And, when the policyholder does not know their rights or the law, the insurance company all too often gets away with it. Don't let them! This is why we represent policyholders only, never insurance companies. If you are dealing with an insurance company that is trying to delay or deny your claim, contact us for a free no-cost, no-obligation case review. The longer you want to contact an experienced insurance dispute attorney, the harder it may become to enforce your rights against the insurance company.