In today’s economy, some insurance companies are scrutinizing claims more aggressively, resulting in claim delays and claim denials that may not be warranted. A denial or delay by the insurance company in paying for the theft of an automobile, for example, can place the consumer in a difficult situation, possibly stranded without transportation. Similarly, a denial or delay in paying for a homeowner’s claim can result in the homeowner not being able to live in their home, or the home being subject to further damage. Most consumers are unaware that they can take their insurance companies to court to have their valid claims paid, with the insurance company ultimately having to foot the bill for the consumer’s attorneys’ fees and cost.
Florida Statute section 627.428 provides that if the consumer files suit against the insurance company and prevails (including the insurance company simply agreeing to settle and paying the claim) the insurance company has the obligation to pay for the reasonable attorneys’ fees and taxable litigation costs incurred by the consumer. This law allows a consumer to have access to competent legal counsel to take on his or her insurance company and its lawyers. It’s a way of leveling the playing field for those who could not have otherwise been able to afford an attorney. Best of all, in most circumstances, the consumer recovers the value of the claim without losing any percentage of the recovery to legal fees. Hence, there is no reason for a consumer with a valid claim to be at the mercy of the insurance company or to “go at it” alone.
Moreover, many lawyers who practice in this field of law will take the case without seeking any money up-front from the client. The attorney will simply wait until the case is over and have the court award the fees and costs to be paid by the insurance company. If the consumer does not prevail, in most circumstances the consumer will have no further obligation to his or her attorney. Every lawyer may do things a little differently, so make sure to discuss this up front.
This important Florida law applies to almost all cases where the consumer’s own insurance company denies coverage for a loss or refuses to properly pay the full claim. In automobile cases, it can be as a result of an unpaid comprehensive or collision loss, unpaid P.I.P. benefits, or from a refusal to provide coverage at all. In a homeowner case, it may involve any covered, yet unpaid loss whether by theft, fire, windstorm, burst pipe, etc. This consumer benefit also applies to watercraft policies, disability policies, life insurance policies, errors and omissions policies, liability policies, and other property & casualty policies. Insurance companies have lawyers representing their interests. You CAN afford to have one to look after yours!
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