In Florida, an insurance company has a duty when handling claims against its insured to use the same degree of care and diligence as a person of ordinary care and prudence would exercise in the management of his or her own business. The insurance company must investigate the facts. They must give fair consideration to a settlement offer that is reasonable under the facts, and settle, if possible, where a reasonably prudent person, faced with the prospect of paying the total recovery would do so. An excess verdict in Florida happens when an insurance company has a reasonable opportunity to settle within policy limits but doesn’t, knowing the case would likely result in an verdict against its insured. The following is one of many car accident questions asked on avvo.com which attorney Mike Hancock has answered.
Question: At-fault rear-end collision. Same Insurance company and I’m being sued personally. Both parties insured with same insurance company. My policy limits only $10k. Other driver has UM.
Injured driver is suing me personally and insurance company in the same lawsuit. I received a letter from attorney who was assigned to me by insurance company, advising me to contact personal attorney because of possible excess verdict against me. However in a copy of the letter sent to adjuster he stated that claim against me remains within my policy limits. Does it mean that my insurance refuses to pay the requested amount and wants to go to trial? And because they go to trial I am at risk of excess verdict? Can I make them settle? What should I do?
Mike Hancock’s Answer: The first thing you should do is retain an attorney, as was suggested in the letter you received. The letter you received is fairly standard in cases where the other person’s injury claim may exceed your policy limits, l. There are two possible scenarios. The first is where the plaintiff’s attorney has made a demand to settle the claim within your policy limits, and your insurance company has refused to pay an amount within your limits to settle the claim. In that case, so that you won’t be subject to an excess verdict entered against you by a jury, what you do is hire an attorney yourself, and that attorney usually writes a letter to your insurance company advising them that the case value is greater than your policy limits and demanding that they protect your interests and settle the claim.