We often talk about lawsuits filed by consumers against their insurance companies. The insurance company has not kept its promise, its contractual obligation to the policyholder, and the policyholder has suffered a loss as a result. Sounds pretty straightforward, doesn’t it?
It is not. At least, it is not that easy here in Florida. Thirty years ago, the Florida Legislature passed the Civil Remedy Statute. The law has been amended a few times since then, but the essence of the law has not changed.
There are a number of different reasons a policyholder would take an insurer to court. We have discussed an insurance company’s duty to defend and duty to indemnify its insured many times. If the insurer fails to carry out that duty, the policyholder may have grounds for a lawsuit, a civil action.
An attorney cannot just wander down to the courthouse and file a complaint, though. The Civil Remedy Statute requires a plaintiff to notify the insurance company as well as the Florida Department of Financial Services before filing the complaint. The notice must go out 60 days before the complaint is filed.
Basically, the notice tells the insurance company that it has violated the law or breached the terms of the policy. The department does not get involved with the litigation, but it does review the notice to make sure the plaintiff has provided enough detail about the nature of the violation and the losses suffered.
What can get confusing for policyholders is that the 60-day notice period is not the same thing as the statute of limitations. Civil claims are time-limited. For example, in some circumstances a lawsuit about a property insurance claim must be filed within five years of the loss. The 60 days is separate.
Insurance litigation has its own process, its own timeline and its own language. If you don’t follow the rules, you could lose your chance to recover any losses caused by the insurance company’s negligence or willful conduct.
Source: West’s Florida Statutes Annotated § 624.155, via WestlawShare