State Appellate Decision Addresses the Timing of Filing Third-Party Bad-Faith Action in Florida Car Accident Case

Many legal discussions about time and deadlines in a personal injury action revolve around filing or answering something too late. Sometimes, an action can be filed too early. If a claim is added too early or too late, the litigation can either be dismissed or derailed. This is seen in a recent car accident case from the Third District Court of Appeal (No. 3D17-1086), which determined a third-party bad-faith action was filed prematurely against the defendant’s insurance company.

The plaintiff sustained an injury as a passenger in a vehicle after another woman struck the car. The defendant driver was insured with a bodily injury policy that provided coverage for $10,000 per person and $20,000 per occurrence. The injured passenger filed suit against the woman within a year of the accident but moved to amend the complaint to include the defendant’s insurer. In the amended complaint, the injured person added a third-party bad-faith claim against the defendant’s insurer.

The insurance company moved to dismiss, arguing the bad-faith claim had not accrued and was premature. Section 627.4136 of the Florida Statutes requires a person seeking an action of liability against another party’s insurance company to obtain a settlement or verdict against the insured of the policy first. The trial court did not dismiss the claim against the insurer, instead choosing to abate the action until the negligence case against the driver was resolved. The insurance company appealed.

The injured person agreed her bad-faith claim had not yet accrued, but she maintained that it was within the trial court’s discretion to abate the premature claim rather than dismiss it. The appellate court disagreed, looking at its prior decision in 2013 that quashed an order denying a motion to dismiss an unaccrued third-party bad-faith claim against an insurer. The 2013 lawsuit dealt with a denied claim under a home owner insurance policy. Similar to the case at hand, the plaintiffs filed suit against the insurer prior to a settlement or verdict against the home owner and insured. The order refusing to dismiss the plaintiff’s motion was quashed, and the plaintiffs had to wait to pursue damages from the insurer.

The court distinguished the case at hand from the state decision cited by the injured passenger. In this opinion, the appellate court allowed abatement after an injured person filed a bad-faith action against her own insurer. The court highlighted that the cited case involved a first-party action, rather than a third-party action. The court held the plain language of the non-joinder statute definitely applies to third-party actions, but not to situations in which the injured person seeks to sue her own insurer when it does not attempt a settlement in good faith as required by law. The court found that to abate an action, rather than dismiss, went in the face of the legislative mandate. Since the case against the insured had not concluded through a verdict or settlement, the action to file suit was premature. The Court of Appeal quashed the trial court’s order denying the insurer’s motion to dismiss and remanded with instructions to enter an order to dismiss the claim without prejudice.

Car accident litigation is often challenging and complex. Despite their stated mission to provide coverage when a car accident occurs, insurance companies often dodge their obligations by denying claims and refusing to settle in good faith. To obtain the coverage you’re entitled to receive under your or the defendant’s auto policy, you need experienced Florida car accident counsel at your side. The attorneys at Donaldson & Weston have the knowledge and understanding of personal injury law you are looking to find, so call today at 772-266-5555 or 561-299-3999.

More Blog Posts:

Florida District Appellate Court Reviews Future Medical Expenses in Multi-Car Accident Case, Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, November 28, 2016

Federal Circuit Court of Appeal Declines to Find Equitable Tolling in Slip and Fall Case, Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, October 21, 2016

Florida Court of Appeal Allows Injured Motorist to Pursue Additional PIP Payments to Medical Providers, Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, May 18, 2017