Duties of the Insurance Company
An insurance company has a duty not only to its policyholders, but also to persons its policyholders harm (such as those injured in a car accident). The duties vary depending upon the circumstances. For example, some claimants will be classified as “first party” or “third party” persons. Their rights vary greatly depending on their classification.
In the case where someone’s property is damaged, such as a house (via sinkhole or hurricane) or a car, these persons are often “first party” claimants. The insurance company is supposed to investigate and in good faith determine whether the damage is covered. Based upon that investigation, the insurance company is supposed to then pay the value for the damaged property.
Insurance Companies Often Wrongfully Deny Claims
Insurance companies often decline claims without properly investigating them – or even worse, they deny legitimate claims. This is what is known as insurance bad faith. It also occurs when the insurance company improperly refuses to defend a lawsuit or pay a judgment or settlement of a covered lawsuit. In these circumstances, we can make them pay – not only the compensatory damages our client suffers but also punitive damages.
Insurance Companies May be Liable for Punitive Damages
Punitive damages awards serve the same purpose as criminal penalties. However, because civil defendants are not accorded the protections afforded criminal defendants, punitive damages are difficult to sustain without proper legal representation. Thus, courts have instructed courts reviewing punitive damages to consider:
- The degree of reprehensibility of the defendant’s misconduct
- The disparity between the actual or potential harm suffered by the plaintiff and
- The difference between the punitive damages awarded by the jury and the civil system
If your insurance coverage was unfairly denied, or if your insurance company failed to live up to its end of the policy, call the experienced North Central Florida insurance bad faith attorneys at Massey & Duffy. Even if you are unsure about whether your insurance company acted illegally, a free initial consultation with one of our insurance coverage attorneys can help you to understand what type of compensation may be available. Call our Gainesville office today at (352) 505-8900, and let our North Central Florida lawyers help you to resolve your matter quickly, efficiently and with integrity.