Several months ago, injury lawyers for comedian Tracy Morgan announced a confidential settlement agreement in pending litigation against Wal-Mart, after one of the company’s sleep-deprived truck drivers crashed into Morgan’s limousine in 2014, seriously injuring Morgan and two others and killing comedian James McNair, also known as “Jimmy Mack.”
However, the box store chain is suing two of its insurance companies, alleging bad faith in refusal to consent to the settlements or to pay their portion under the existing policies. That lawsuit is on the tail of another filed earlier this month by Ohio Casualty Insurance and Liberty Insurance Underwriters. Those companies assert the settlement agreement with Morgan was “unreasonable.” The insurers raise the question of whether the company agreed to the high settlement amount (which has not been publicly disclosed) to ward off the possibility of punitive damages in court. Those damages, under the terms of the insurance policy, would have fallen squarely on the store.
Morgan himself is not involved in the action, and neither are the other victims. Because defendant in this case was a large company with sizable assets, it had the resources to pay the settlement directly to the victims, and then seek compensation from its insurers. However, it’s worth pointing out that many bad faith claims in Florida are filed by victims as a third-party action. That’s because most defendants don’t have the same kind of resources Wal-Mart does. They can’t afford to pay significant judgments. So victims agree to release the defendant from liability if he or she will sign away the right to seek compensation from the insurance company.
In Florida, bad faith insurance action following a car accident can only take place after a third-party is found liable. That’s because Florida does not allow victims to file claims against at-fault drivers’ insurance companies directly unless the other driver has already been deemed liable in court. If an insurance company then refuses to pay that claim, then under F.S. 624.155(1)(b)(1), that individual may pursue a claim of bad faith.
Some other examples of bad faith insurance action can include:
- Failure by insurer to acknowledge or reply promptly upon notification of a covered claim;
- Attempting to settle a claim for less than the amount a reasonable person would deem fair;
- Making burdensome requests for documentation that isn’t required under the policy;
- Failure to provide a reasonable explanation and basis for denying a claim or making a compromise offer of settlement.
Insurance companies may not be “evil,” as some say, but they certainly do not act in the best interest of those injured. That’s why it’s so important to have an experienced trial attorney handling your case. While most claims are settled out-of court following intense negotiations, insurers need to know you are prepared to take the case to a jury if necessary.
The truck driver in the Morgan case has been charged with charged with homicide. Officials allege he was awake for 24 consecutive hours at the time of the crash, and had driven 700 miles from his Georgia home to the company warehouse in Delaware before he even started his shift. The truck accident lawsuit Morgan filed alleged Wal-Mart knew or should have known the driver’s schedule ran afoul of federal safety rules.
The driver sought to intervene in the civil lawsuit so that any testimony he provided in the civil case couldn’t be used to incriminate himself. A federal magistrate denied that request, as plaintiffs sought no discovery or relief from him personally.
If you have been a victim of a truck accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.
Wal-Mart Accuses Insurer of Bad Faith in Tracy Morgan Case, Oct. 14, 2015, By Michael Booth, New Jersey Law Journal
More Blog Entries:
Maniglia v. Carpenter – Florida Car Accident Lawsuit to be Retried, Nov. 9, 2015, Miami Truck Accident Attorney Blog