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Federal Court of Appeals Affirms $2.25 Million Verdict in Underinsured Motorist Case

The United States Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals recently released an opinion affirming a federal district court’s decision to award a Colorado accident victim a $2.25 million verdict against his auto insurance company. The plaintiff had initially sought only the $750,000 policy limit for the uninsured motorist coverage purchased from the defendant, but his successful claim that the defendant unreasonably denied his initial claim resulted in a judgment three times that amount. With the Tenth Circuit’s decision to affirm the lower court’s rulings, the plaintiff will receive the $2,250,000 he was awarded by the trial judge.

The Plaintiff Suffered a Serious Back Injury after He Was Rear-Ended by an Underinsured Driver

The plaintiff in the case of Etherton v. Owners Insurance Company was injured in a rear-end collision in December 2007. Although the damage to his vehicle was relatively minor, he suffered a back injury in the accident and underwent three back surgeries to repair disc damage in his spine. The plaintiff initially sought damages from the driver at fault for the accident and received the policy limit amount of $250,000 in compensation from the other driver’s insurance company.

The Plaintiff’s Initial Insurance Claim with the Defendant

The plaintiff’s insurance coverage with the defendant included uninsured/underinsured motorist protection and covered additional uncompensated expenses from an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver up to a maximum of $1,000,000 (including any amount received from an underinsured motorist). The plaintiff made a claim under this coverage and requested $750,000, his policy limit minus the amount he’d received from the other driver. The defendant denied the plaintiff’s claim, offering only to pay $150,000, one-fifth of his requested amount. After negotiations stalled, the plaintiff filed a breach of contract lawsuit, seeking damages in the amount of his policy limits.

The Plaintiff Sought Additional Damages for the Unreasonable Denial of His Claim

Along with his claim to enforce his underinsured motorist policy, the plaintiff added a second cause of action and sought additional damages based on the defendant’s unreasonable delay or denial of his initial claim, under what is known as a “bad faith” law. After a successful jury trial, he was awarded $750,000 for the breach of contract claim, as well as an additional $1,500,000 for his bad faith claim. The defendant appealed their liability and the amount of the verdict to the Tenth Circuit, who upheld all of the district court’s rulings in the most recent opinion. The appellate court ruled that Colorado state law specifically allowed the additional award because the jury found that the defendant had acted unreasonably in the settlement negotiations.

Florida Laws Protecting against Bad Faith and Unreasonable Denial of Insurance Claims

To prevent insurance companies from acting in bad faith and treating clients unfairly, Florida law allows plaintiffs to be awarded additional damages from an insurance company acting in bad faith. Florida bad faith claims are addressed by evaluating all of the circumstances surrounding the claim and the negotiations between the insurance company and their insured. If it is found that the insurance company had little or no justification to deny a claim, failed to sincerely conduct settlement negotiations, or otherwise acted in bad faith, a plaintiff can be awarded significant damages, sometimes exceeding their policy limits or total losses.

Aggressive Representation Against Insurance Companies Acting in Bad Faith

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, don’t allow the insurance company to deny the coverage to which you’re entitled. If you believe your claim has been unreasonably delayed or wrongfully denied, you may be entitled to additional damages if bad faith is involved. The car accident attorneys at Cecere Santana will ensure your claim is taken seriously and considered fairly by the insurance company, and if an insurance company has already acted in bad faith, we’ll aggressively pursue your case for the additional damages you deserve. Contact the South Florida car accident lawyers at Cecere Santana today. Contact us using the online contact form or call 800-753-5529 to schedule a free consultation.

More Blog Posts:

State Supreme Court Rules for Defendant in Boating Accident Case, Cecere Santana Injury Lawyers Blog, published July 21, 2016.

Appellate Court Broadly Interprets Landowner’s Duty to Protect Visitors, Cecere Santana Injury Lawyers Blog, published July 28, 2016.

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