What is deemed a reasonable amount of time for settlement after an injured plaintiff has made an offer?
A reasonable amount of time hasn’t been determined as any set amount of time in the state of Florida. It really all depends on the particular circumstance involved in the case to determine what would have been reasonable. DeLaune v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., 314 So.2d 601 (Fla. 4th DCA 1975). With one possible exception, generally a tender of the policy limits by the insurer after the offered time for settlement but prior to the judgment will not protect the insurer from liability for the excess. Government Employees Insurance Co. v. Grounds, 311 So.2d 164 (Fla. 1st DCA 1975). This shouldn’t come as any surprise to an injured plaintiff or the plaintiff’s attorney. An experienced defense attorney can usually anticipate when the insurance company is facing the risk of a large judgment, and will try and avoid this by making a settlement offer immediately preceding a judgment. Also, your Palm Beach County accident attorney should use some clever lawyering in deciding on how to pursue a bad faith action against an unwilling insurance company. The Unfair Insurance Trade Practices Act requires a 60 day notice to be sent to the insurer after the insurer reject or fails to respond timely to a demand. However, the timing of this notice can sometimes determine if the bad-faith claim is maintained. This issue was presented in Clauss v. Fortune Insurance Co., 533 So.2d 1177 (Fla. 5th DCA 1988), where the insurer failed to tender the policy limits within the time given in the settlement offer. The plaintiff then filed the 60 day notice and the insurer paid the limits the next day. In this case, the court found that the insurer had not acted in bad faith because the payment cured the violation. An approach that may be more successful is to wait until an excess judgment has been rendered against the insurer before filing the 60 day notice under the Florida Statute demanding payment in full. Even if they tender the policy limits within the 60 day period, this will not cure a potential bad-faith claim. Hollar v. International Bankers Insurance Co., 572 So.2d 937 (Fla. 3d DCA 1991). When the insurer excessively delays in making a payment after a settlement agreement has been reached, this will probably suffice to constitute bad-faith when there is a subsequent excess verdict. One more tactic that can result in a bad faith claim against the insurer is failure to timely disclose the policy limits to the plaintiff’s attorney after a request has been made.