In a recent holding, the Florida Supreme Court held that an insured was entitled to an award of attorney’s fees under Section 627.428 of the Florida Statutes based on a property insurer’s tender of policy benefits for a Florida property damage claim, after the insured filed a lawsuit based on the insurer’s initial denial of the claim.

A Florida homeowner filed a property insurance claim after noticing structural damage to her home which she contended was the result of sinkhole activity, a covered event under her homeowner’s insurance policy.  The insurance company hired an engineering firm to investigate the claim, who generated a report stating that the structural damage to the Florida home was not a result of sinkhole activity.  The insurance company denied her claim based on that report.

The Florida homeowner hired an independent firm to conduct a subsequent investigation, which in turn found that the damage to the Florida home was caused by a sinkhole.  Thereafter, the Florida homeowner filed a lawsuit against the insurer for wrongfully denying her insurance claim.  The court then allowed a neutral evaluation to take place, the results of which confirmed that the structural damage to the Florida home was caused by sinkhole activity.  Upon receiving this report, the insurer paid the policy benefits to the Florida homeowner, who then sought an award for attorney’s fees she incurred in having to litigate against the insurance company based on their denial.

Ultimately, the court found that a Florida insurance company does not necessarily need to engage in bad faith practices for attorney’s fees to be applicable under Florida law.  Conversely, the court held that attorney’s fees are appropriate where the insurer issues an incorrect denial which is either followed by a judgment in favor of the insured, or where the insurer pays without a judgment.  Essentially, if a Florida property owner is forced to file suit based on an insurer’s denial of a claim, the insurer cannot then abandon its basis for denial to pay the insured after a lawsuit is filed, without the insured being able to seek attorney’s fees.

If you or someone you know has had difficulties in bringing a Florida first-party property insurance claim, where the claim has been delayed or otherwise denied, it is imperative that you contact a skilled, experienced Fort Lauderdale property insurance attorney to ensure that your rights and interests are adequately protected.

For more information, please contact The Schulman Law Group at (954) 349-3300 or at info@schulaw.com.