In Order To Ensure A Provider Has Committed An Act Of Bad Faith, What Are The Major Requirements That Need To Be Met By The Property Owner?
I’d like to remind the reader that successful bad faith claims in Florida are very unusual. It has to be extreme, and you need, for example, an insurance company completely ignoring letters and emails for a matter of months, perhaps taking over a year to make a claim determination, or offering nothing or denying a claim that should obviously be covered. Just because you’re unsatisfied with the determination does not automatically make it an instance of bad faith. It has to be extreme.
Although successful bad faith claims are rare, they could still be used for leverage. We still file civil remedies notices on almost every case because we need to have that threat to keep them honest and to create leverage in our litigation. Filing the civil remedy notice holds them accountable and forces the insurance company to resolve or make a claim determination within 60 days. You can also use a civil remedies notice to keep a claim out of appraisal. An appraisal is a process in some insurance policies in which the case is essentially arbitrated, and the decision is binding.
At What Point, Is It Ideal or Do You Recommend That Someone Hires An Experienced First-Party Dispute Attorney To Take On Their Case? Is It Ever Too Early To Get An Attorney Involved, Is It Ever Too Late?
It can be too early, and it can be too late to hire an attorney. I typically tell people to file a claim and see what the insurance company is offering. If they’re happy with it and speak with a GC, they get estimates from third parties. They think the insurance company is being fair enough not to need a lawyer, that’s ideal, and in that situation, you don’t need a lawyer, you’re back to where you started, and you’re one of the lucky ones. On the other hand, as soon as a property owner feels like their insurance company will not give them what they want out of the claim, that’s the time to hire a lawyer. Additionally, early on might be a good time for you to hire a lawyer if you are not comfortable with the process and don’t know any contractors or remediation companies and want a lawyer to help guide you through that situation. So it’s going to be different for everyone.
It’s never a bad thing to consult with an attorney. It will never hurt you to get an attorney’s opinion at any time during this process, especially if the insurance company is coming out to inspect. If they want to ask you questions, take your sworn statement, or have you sit for an examination under oath, in those kinds of situations, you’re probably going to want an attorney depending on your level of comfort with the claim and with the process.
Once Someone Has Hired Your Firm And They’re Facing A Denial, Delay Or Underpayment From The Insurance Company, What Are The Next Steps?
First, we will assess the claim, and typically, we need our own estimate. Usually, the first thing we do after we’re signed up is to assign an estimator to come out and write up a report for us showing the estimate of the cost of the loss, and that’s both to fix the damage to remediate the loss as well as to rebuild the property to pre-loss condition. As soon as we have the estimate, we send a letter of representation and demand to the insurance company saying we are representing this homeowner. We are assessing the loss based on this estimate, and this is what you need to pay. Depending on how much time has elapsed, we can sometimes issue a demand contingent upon a certain number of days elapsing. Then, based on the insurance company’s response to our demand, we either file a suit or facilitate their investigation of the claim.
Do These Cases Generally End Up Going Before A Judge Or Jury Or How Does The Litigation Process Work?
The percentage of cases that seat a jury is meager. It’s probably less than 99.5%. A fair number of cases, probably 65% or so, will go in front of a judge at some point either for an initial hearing or some of the preliminary discovery motions. Still, the actual number of cases going to trial is very low, which is good because, as a homeowner, you don’t want to assume the risks of a trial if you can avoid it. There are situations where there’s no risk, but typically risk is involved by the time you get to a trial.
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