When you purchase homeowners’ insurance, you expect your insurance company to faithfully honor the terms of your contract in the event your home sustains covered damage. You do not anticipate unfair delays, wrongful denials, or insufficient payments. If your insurance company has violated the terms of your contract, you may have a viable claim of bad faith.
What is Bad Faith?
Before considering a bad faith claim, you need to first understand what you must prove to bring a bad faith claim and whether your insurance company’s action amounted to bad faith. Under Florida law, all homeowners’ insurance companies must abide by an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Denial of your insurance claim does not ordinarily present grounds for a bad faith claim. Rather, you must examine the particular reason for denial and the validly of your own claim to assess whether the insurer acted in bad faith.
Bad faith requires a show of more than mere negligence on the part of the insurer, but less than intentional conduct. It will often involve the making of a material misrepresentation, failure to timely notify the insured or conduct investigations, and failure to provide a reasonable explanation for the insurance company’s decision.
Interestingly, a recent Florida case entitled Cammarata v. State Farm Florida Insurance Company held that the plaintiffs could bring a bad faith action even before their breach of contract action is decided. This means that once the insurance company has determined the homeowners’ extent of liability for coverage, the homeowner can bring a claim for bad faith anytime thereafter. This further distinguishes the two causes of action and broadens the homeowners’ rights.
Totality of Circumstances
In Florida, courts will look to the totality of circumstances to assess whether the insurer acted in bad faith. The court will assess all actions taken by the insurance company and motivations behind these actions. The court will look to viable attempts to settle made by the insurance company and unnecessary delays designed to hinder progress, among other factors.
Bad faith is not easy to prove and often the court will determine that the insurance company made the wrong decision to deny the claim, but did not act in bad faith. However, in some instances where the insurance company’s conduct was egregious, the plaintiff will be able to establish bad faith and may receive damages in excess of the cost to repair their home or replace their personal belongings.
Any homeowner whose claim has been denied, unreasonably delayed, or wrongfully minimized should consult with a licensed attorney as soon as possible. Your lawyer will evaluate the actions of the insurance company in its entirety to make a determination as to whether bad faith has come into play. Your attorney will also assist you in fighting the denial of your claim so that you can start on the path towards repairing your home.
Contact the Homeowners’ Insurance Attorneys at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano Today For Your Free Consultation!
If you need assistance with a homeowners’ insurance related matter, contact the Miami Homeowners’ Insurance Attorneys at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano. Our skilled and dedicated attorneys will guide you towards the best possible outcome. We have over 130 collective years of experience representing homeowners against their insurers across South Florida and will put our extensive experience to work for you. Contact our firm as soon as possible to protect your legal rights. Our firm is the proud recipient of an AV rating from Martindale Hubbell and was ranked as a top firm in South Florida by the Miami Herald. Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or you can visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.