It may come as a shock to many, but the truth is that more and more often people in the state of Florida are having to resort to suing their own insurance companies to receive the benefits that they have paid for. You would think that it would be automatic. You pay for insurance, have a contract; get in an accident, they pay. Two things you must keep in mind, though. Insurance companies are in business to make money not take care of you, and their attorneys can be very creative when it comes to finding ways to avoid paying claims.
That is one of the reasons that so many of us are pushing to have the Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and Uninsured/Underinsured sections of the Florida Statutes reformed. It has become almost automatic for insurance companies to deny these claims and then wait to see if they get sued.
For them, it is a win/win situation. If they deny your claim and you don’t contest it, they keep the money. If they deny your claim and you hire an attorney to try and recover what is rightfully yours, they will draw out the process for as long as possible. The longer the case takes to settle, the longer the money stays in their accounts drawing interest or in their investment portfolios earning income. No matter how the money earns, it is earning for them and offsetting any loss they may have to eventually pay.
What to Expect if You Sue Your Insurance Company
Your attorney — never represent yourself — will notify the insurance company of your intention to file a claim for damages.
These damages may include:
- Emotional distress
- Legal costs
- Loss of use of your home or car
- Lost interest/loss of opportunity
- Lost wages
- Medical bills
- Pain and suffering
- Property damage
At this point, depending on the strength of your claim, they may make you a settlement offer of pennies on the dollar.
If you reject the insurance company’s offer, the process of discovery will begin. This involves gathering all the pertinent paperwork, testimony and other evidence together and all parties being given access to the information. Be warned, you will most likely have to give a deposition during this process.
After discovery and initial negotiations, the insurance company’s attorney will most likely request the case go through a mediation process. In the majority of cases, this nonbinding process is little more than a delaying tactic on their part. Remember time is always on their side.
From here the case will most likely progress to either court or arbitration. Generally, the company will prefer the cold hard climate of the arbitrators to that of the emotionally charged atmosphere of a jury of YOUR peers.
Again, be warned, there is a very good chance that you will have to testify regardless of which course the case takes.
Either the arbitrator or the court will render a decision, and if you and your attorney prevail, you will receive your settlement.
This entire process can take anywhere from a few months to a few years. So, if you are left with no alternative but to sue your insurance company, be prepared to wait a while. For the insurance companies, that is the entire point. They may owe you $50,000 but if they can keep that money earning for them for say three years, offsetting money earned plus inflation that $50,000 may only be $35,000 or $40,000 for them in real money.
As someone who has dedicated his life to fighting for the little guy against the big money insurance companies, the way the system is being abused drives me insane. I apologize if this post is as much rant as information. Sometimes even a personal injury attorney needs to blow off a little steam. Besides, it is best you know how the system actually works. That is why I always give you the truth no matter how ugly it may be.