Despite what they may tell you, auto insurance companies don’t always have your best interests in mind. In fact, many will go to great lengths to try to avoid or limit claims that are perfectly reasonable and clearly covered under the applicable policy. That includes clogging up the legal process with a wide variety of stalling tactics, technical disputes and appeals. In Safeco Insurance Company v. Rader, Florida’s First District Court of Appeals takes a look at one insurer’s attempt to limit liability by trying to force an insured driver to file claims for uninsured motorist (UM) benefits and bad faith separately.
Mr. Rader was injured in a car accident with a third party and later sought coverage from his insurer, Safeco, for UM benefits. Rader said his damages exceeded the $25,000 available under the other driver’s insurance company and therefore sought the coverage available for UM benefits under his policy. He then sued the company, alleging that it failed to offer him the full amount of the coverage available. Safeco later tendered Rader the full $100,000 of UM coverage made available under his policy. The company subsequently responded to Rader’s complaint by arguing that the payment represented a “confession of judgment as a matter of law” and that the trial court should simply close the case by entering judgment for Rader for the $100,000 he already received.
Rader, on the other hand, sought to amend his complaint to include a separate claim for bad faith against Safeco. The trial court denied Safeco’s claim for judgment on the pleadings in the case, in which the company asserted that the bad faith claim was premature until there was a final ruling on Rader’s UM claim. Instead, the trial judge granted Rader’s motion to amend his complaint and said the parties could resolve the UM claim by either entering a stipulation to that effect or by Safeco accepting the judgment against it.
Safeco sought to appeal this ruling immediately by seeking a writ of certiorari from the First District. Noting that such relief is granted rather infrequently, the Court explained that “the threshold question that must be reached first when determining whether to grant certiorari is whether there is a material injury that cannot be corrected on appeal, otherwise termed as irreparable harm.” Here, the Court said Safeco failed to establish this level of harm was posed by the lower court’s ruling.
In particular, the Court said the company’s claim that it was being exposed to an unnecessary trial on Rader’s UM claim – despite having already paid him the full amount of the benefits available – didn’t constitute irreparable harm. As a result, the Court denied the motion for writ of certiorari.
The best way to deal with an insurance bad faith claim in Florida is to avoid it altogether. By enlisting the services of an experienced and competent attorney right after your accident, you could level the playing field and avoid unfair and unscrupulous insurance company tactics. The South Florida car insurance attorneys 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.
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