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Swept Away: Hurricane Insurance Claims in Florida

For better or worse, Florida has always had hurricanes. It is considered second nature to take steps to protect your property and your life, most often with insurance policies. However, sometimes the insurance company will not pay, or will not pay enough. After a hurricane, the last thing you need is an insurance dispute. If your insurer decides to dig in its heels, you need a Miami hurricane insurance lawyer on your side to help you fight for what you are owed. 

An insurance policy is a contract. An insurance company that does not honor the terms of that contract is in breach. The term used for when an insurance company breaches the terms of their own policy is ‘bad faith,’ and more specifically, ‘first party bad faith.’ Florida codifies the law on first party bad faith issues in section 624.155 of the Florida Statutes; while other states recognize a common law cause of action for a breach of the “duty of good faith and fair dealing,” Florida residents must follow the steps in the statute.

The statutory standard is laid out in the jury instructions given at the close of a civil trial. An insured has a valid claim of bad faith when an insurance company fails to settle a claim, when, if it had been acting in a fair and honest manner, it ought to have settled. This is the standard that must be proven in court. 

Notice Must be Filed

In Florida, there is a condition precedent set out in the statute that must be completed before a suit is permitted to go forward. Notice must be given (at least 60 days) to the insurer and the appropriate department before the suit can be filed, to give the insurer time to correct the alleged violation. That notice must be fairly specific – it must state the statutory provision in question, as well as the facts of the situation, and a statement that the notice is being given for the purpose of perfecting your right to file suit. If no action is taken on the notice, then a suit can be filed.

You should be aware that if no action has been taken and the 60-day notice period has expired, a rebuttable presumption that the insurer has committed bad faith takes hold, which can help your case. A rebuttable presumption means that the court will assume that the presumption is true unless the insurer presents evidence to show it is not. A mere failure to pay out on a claim is not bad faith, however. 

If you obtain a favorable verdict from a jury, there may be a possibility of punitive damages; it is rare, but does happen. The Florida statute allows for punitive damages if the acts that gave rise to the violation happen often enough to constitute a general business practice and were of an especially malicious character, and constituted reckless disregard for the rights of the insured and their beneficiaries. This might all sound a bit complicated, and it really can be in practice. Your best bet is to get the help of an experienced Miami hurricane insurance attorney as soon as possible.

Experienced Personal Injury Lawyers in Miami 

Insurers have a duty to do right by their customers. If your insurance company has not done right by you, please contact the Miami personal injury law offices of Gerson & Schwartz today.

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