I am posting a response that I sent to the author of an article I recently read about the upcoming Personal Injury and Auto Accident debate in the Florida Legislature.
Dear Ms. Garcia,
I am a Florida attorney and our office has been handling personal injury cases since 1965. I recently read your article on line, and wanted to point out a misstatement.
The sentence in your article that reads, “And Florida’s bad-faith law requires insurers to pay attorneys’ fees as well as damages if they lose in court,” is not accurate when read in context. Florida’s bad faith law does not require insurance to pay attorneys fees or damages if the insurer simply loses in court on the underlying personal injury or PIP claim.
In 1982, Florida’s Legislature became the first state in the US to create the right to bring a private lawsuit for an insurance company’s violations of the Unfair Insurance Trade Practices Act (UITPA). It was codified as Florida statute 624.155, commonly known as Florida’s Bad Faith Statute. It provides a remedy for insurers who do not “attempt in good faith to settle claims when, under all the circumstances, it could and should have done so, had it acted fairly and honestly towards its insured and with due regard for [the insured’s] interests.” This standard is well above and beyond just losing. In fact it’s an entirely separate lawsuit that must be handled by a separate attorney because the original attorney representing the injured party now becomes a witness against the insurance company for their “bad-faith” negotiations. As for damages, the jury can award punitive damages against the insurer only if it finds the insurance company (a) acted willfully, wantonly and maliciously with respect to any person claiming damage under the statute, or (b) in reckless disregard of the rights of one of its insured’s. Bad Faith is a very tough standard.
I also felt the slant of your article doesn’t do enough to shed light on the abuses insurance companies take. For example, United Auto’s reputation is beyond that they are tough, it is more so that they just don’t pay. They collect premiums gladly but when it comes time to pay a PIP claim, they deny and delay, on almost every case we’ve seen with them. In general, insurance companies deny and delay as much as possible. They are companies in business to make money and the formula to do so is very simple, increase revenue, which means collect premiums, and decrease expenses, which includes paying as little as possible. Very often, people involved in personal injury cases that were through no fault of their own are left with huge unresolved doctor’s bills and hospital liens either because the PIP ran out, there was inadequate BI or UM coverage, or because the insurance companies refuse to pay the full amount.
My opinion is the law is broken and the insurance industry is an inherent conflict of interest. We trust them with so much of our citizens well-being on health and medical care issues, when it is not in their best interest to pay. I believe it was the insurance companies who wanted this “no-fault” PIP law in the first place to save them money. I think PIP in some ways is just a new angle for fraud and likewise a new medium for insurers to delay and deny truly injured parties their contractually agreed upon rights. Our laws currently require people to carry insurance only for their own injuries, PIP, and someone else’s property damage. So the average Joe can run a stop sign and hit you but under Florida law he is not required to carry insurance to help pay for your even your medical care. I think this is backwards. Why should I have to pay to cover my injuries when someone else is the cause of them? I would like to see mandatory Bodily Injury Coverage for at least $25,000.00. As you probably know, one day in the hospital/ER will cost at least $10,000.00. Mandatory BI is not perfect but I believe it is the most fair and rational way.
If you ever want to hear my opinions on Florida’s Medical Malpractice “crisis” please let me know!
Evan M. Rosen