Florida Court Addresses When Car Accident Victims Can Be Awarded Attorney’s Fees

You probably know that people injured in car accidents in Florida can recover damages for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. However, in some cases, people who have been injured in car accidents or other personal injury actions may also be able to recover attorney’s fees on top of their other damages. Your skilled South Florida car accident attorney can help you to determine whether your case may qualify for recovery of attorney’s fees.

When You Can Recover Attorney Fees 

As noted above, if you are injured in a car accident, you may be able to recover attorney fees as well as your other damages. Before your case goes to trial, typically your attorney will have sent the other party a proposal for settlement. If they decline the settlement, and you go to trial, you can get attorney fees if the jury awards you at least 25% more than what you asked for in the settlement.

Insurance and Bad Faith Claims

In most car accident cases, there will also be at least one insurance company involved. In this case, and many others, you may even need to end up suing your own insurance companies. A typical example is like here, where the plaintiff had gotten into (two different) car accidents with uninsured motorists. Luckily, the plaintiff in this case had uninsured motorist coverage. His policy had a $20,000 limit per accident. The problem occurred when the insurance company would not pay the plaintiff the full amount of damages he believed he was owed. Therefore, the plaintiff sued his insurance company.

Initially, the plaintiff offered to settle the claims for $40,000 each, for a total of $80,000. The defendant insurance company rejected this offer. After trial, the jury rules in the plaintiff’s favor and awarded him $170,598.78 for the accident that occurred in 2010, and $84,564.83 for the accident that occurred in 2011. The question then became, for the purposes of determining whether the plaintiff is eligible for attorney fees, whether the appropriate verdict is the $40,000 policy limits or the approximately $250,000 verdict that the jury returned.

To make things even more complicated, in order to recover more than the policy limits, the plaintiff also needs to sue the insurance company under a bad faith claim. Insurers owe their clients a duty of good faith, which means they need to properly investigate claims, communicate with insureds, and not deny claims without an investigation or explanation. They also are not allowed to misrepresent any material facts or act in any other deceptive ways.

Here, the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal held that a case called Fridman dictated. That case directs the trial judge to enter the full amount of the jury verdict, but limit the execution to the policy limits until the resolution of the bad faith claims. In other words, for the purposes of eligibility for attorney’s fees the jury’s verdict controls. However, the plaintiff is not entitled to the difference between the policy limits and the jury’s verdict until the bad faith claim is resolved.

Contact an Experienced South Florida Car Accident Attorney Today! 

As you can see, the legal procedures involving insurance companies can be very complicated. The knowledgeable South Florida car accident attorneys at Donaldson & Weston have experience helping plaintiffs recover from insurance companies. If you are injured, you should contact us by calling 772-266-555 or 561-299-3999 or using the contact form on this website.

See Related Posts:

Florida Court Addresses Jury Verdict After Car Accident

Florida Court Looks at Insurance Eligibility After Truck Accident