Mark Bell: Bad Faith Reform and COVID-19

Insurance claims are always a headache, often made even more excruciating in Florida because of “third-party bad faith lawsuits.”

Under our current laws, policyholders can take another’s insurance company to court if they feel their liability claim from an accident wasn’t handled in good faith. That is a very foggy standard, subjective at best.  While I believe every citizen deserves to seek proper damages when necessary, this law is being abused by some lawyers using vague and unprovable accusations of bad faith to score quick settlements and lucrative fees.

As is usual with a lot of the lawsuit abuse we see in the state, consumers and even the plaintiffs often don’t immediately sense that a lawsuit is causing any kind of real pain.  But, over time, costs rise significantly.  Litigation costs are now built into the prices of manufactured products.  They are built into the price of medical services.  They are built into the prices of our groceries and fast food.  Litigation costs are even built into the prices of housing for working families.  While it may not mean a lot to policymakers, think about what would happen if there was an immediate 10 percent reduction in a citizen’s cost of living.  There is simply no excuse for our legislature not to get their act together and solve the bad faith crisis.

What’s more, the Legislature should have dealt with the issue before the COVID-19 crisis struck.  They didn’t and now, just as our economy moves into recovery mode, I have a feeling that there is going to be a fresh round of suits.  Some law firms are already beginning soft advertising to pave the way for COVID-related lawsuits.

While the lawyers get richer, the rest of us are left with higher insurance costs, higher product costs, jammed up courtrooms, and a slower recovery to our economy.

It’s time for Florida’s legislators to stop the abuse of our bad faith laws and put fairness back into our economy.

 

Mark Bell is the chairman of the Florida Coalition for Private Property Rights.

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