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Bad faith: An insurance company and its money are seldom parted

It isn't often that an insurance bad faith lawsuit finds its way into the news, so when one does come up we jump at the opportunity to talk about it -- even if it has nothing to do with Florida.

These cases aren't generally covered by the press for a few reasons. Like most medical malpractice and personal injury cases, most bad faith cases don't involve multi-million dollar jury awards. In fact, most cases settle before trial. Often, too, when large sums are at stake, the settlements are confidential.

With all that in mind, then, we were startled to see that a bad faith case settled in December for $18 million. The dispute was over an auto insurance policy with a $100,000 limit on bodily injury claims.

Here's the story: Ten years ago, two brothers were in a car accident. One was driving, the other a passenger when the car struck a utility pole that sliced the vehicle in half. The passenger, then 15-years-old, suffered severe head trauma. The brain injury resulted in permanent physical and cognitive impairments.

The boy sued his brother for damages. The court decided that the driver was liable, and a jury awarded $15.6 million to the boy.

But the insurer failed to settle the claim. Initially, the excuse was that the company didn't have enough documentation; yet six months after the accident, when the insurer had ample time to collect and review all the information it needed, there was still no settlement offer.

So the family sued. We'll explain what happened in our next post.

Source: Pennsylvania Record, "Plaintiff’s attorney secures $18 million settlement in insurance bad faith case stemming from car wreck," Jon Campisi, Jan. 3, 2014

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