Florida law generally requires auto insurance companies to act in “good faith” when handling claims against the people they insure. Failure to do so can result in a lawsuit, either by the insured individual or family or by those with claims against them. In Rodriguez v. Integon, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida explains the basics of a bad faith claims and reminds us that a complaint must provide sufficient allegations for a court to determine whether those claims are viable.
Alex Rodriguez was injured in an October 2010 car accident in which the car he was driving collided with a car owned by Mr. and Ms. Monteclaros. Integon, the couple’s auto insurer, later issued a letter to Rodriguez (whom the company incorrectly referred to as “Anthony”), offering to settle his claims against the Monteclaros for $100,000. In exchange for the money, the company required Rodriguez to sign a release form, releasing all claims related to the accident against the Monteclaros and Integon. Rodriguez declined the offer and instead sued the Monteclaros for negligence. He was awarded a judgment against the family in excess of the $100,000 offered by Integon. Rodriquez later sued the company for bad faith.
Dismissing the action, the District Court said Rodriguez failed to adequately state a claim for bad faith upon which the court could grant relief.
“The essence of a `bad faith’ insurance suit (whether it is brought by the insured or by the injured party standing in his place) is that the insurer breached its duty to its insured by failing to properly or promptly defend the claim. . . which results in the insured being exposed to excess judgment,” the Court explained, quoting the 1982 decision by Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeals in Kelly v. Williams. Here, Rodriguez argued that Integon engaged in bad faith by offering to pay someone other than him: the misnamed “Anthony Rodriguez.” As a result of the mix-up, Rodriguez claimed that the company failed to make a timely offer to settle the case, which was part of its responsibility to promptly defend his claims.
The Court ruled, however, that Rodriguez failed to provide sufficient information in his complaint to state a viable bad faith claim. Indeed, the Court noted that Integon initially assumed that the bad faith claim was related to the language of the release form it required Rodriguez to sign as part of any settlement. It wasn’t until Rodriguez responded to the company’s motion to dismiss the complaint that he indicated that his claims were based on the name snafu.
The Court also said Rodriguez didn’t provide enough details about the circumstances to lay out a viable claim. “The complaint contains no information regarding the time frame in which the alleged events transpired, and additionally contains no information regarding Rodriguez’s response, if any, to Integon’s proposed release of claims,” the Court observed. As result, the Court granted Integon’s motion to dismiss the complaint, but left open the opportunity for him to file an amended action with sufficient pleadings and information.
The best way to deal with an insurance bad faith claim in Florida is to avoid it altogether. The South Florida car insurance lawyers at Anidjar & Levine, have vast experience representing clients in car accident cases and insurance disputes throughout the area, including in Ft. Lauderdale, Boca Raton and Hialeah. Call us at 800-747-3733 for a free consultation.
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