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What are insurance bonds?

Insurance bonds are financial instruments designed to guarantee the performance of a contractual obligation or compliance with regulations. They function as a form of risk management by transferring non-performance risk from one party to another.

For example, a construction company may need a surety bond to ensure the completion of a project according to contract terms. If the company fails to fulfill its contractual obligations, the bond issuer will compensate the project owner for any losses.

Another typical example is the fidelity bond, which protects businesses from employee dishonesty, such as theft or embezzlement. In this case, the bond issuer would compensate the business for any financial losses caused by the dishonest employee.

Need help with a matter related to Insurance bonds? Schedule your consultation today with a top insurance attorney.

In Florida, which laws and regulations relate to insurance bonds?

Florida Statutes Chapter 624 regulates the issuance and enforcement of surety and fidelity bonds. This statute sets forth licensing requirements for bond agents and agencies, financial and reporting requirements for insurance companies, and guidelines for the types of bonds that may be issued.

To ensure compliance with all applicable laws and regulations, individuals and businesses in Florida should consult with knowledgeable legal counsel or a bond agent to determine the specific requirements for their situation.

What are common disputes regarding insurance bonds that lead to litigation?

The following disputes are among the most common in actions regarding insurance bonds in insurance procurement and coverage matters:

  • Performance Bond Claims: When a principal (e.g., a contractor) fails to perform their contractual obligations, the party relying on the principal’s performance (e.g., a project owner) may file a claim against the bond to recover financial losses.
  • Payment Bond Disputes: Subcontractors, suppliers, and other similarly situated parties may file claims against payment bonds when they are not paid for their work or materials. This can lead to disputes over the validity of the claims and the extent of coverage.
  • Fidelity Bond Claims: Employers may seek recovery for losses resulting from employee dishonesty or fraud. Disputes often arise over the scope of the bond’s coverage, the amount of the loss, or the extent of the employee’s misconduct.
  • License and Permit Bond Disputes: Government agencies often require licenses and permit bonds for certain businesses to operate. Disputes may arise over compliance with regulations, the validity of claims, or penalties assessed against companies for non-compliance.
  • Indemnification Disputes: When disputes like those mentioned above occur, insurance carriers may seek reimbursement from the bonded party (principal) for claims paid under the bond. Thus, further disputes can arise over the principal’s obligation to indemnify the carrier or the amount of indemnification owed.

We are value-based attorneys at Jimerson Birr, which means we look at each action with our clients from the point of view of costs and benefits while reducing liability. Then, based on our client’s objectives, we chart a path to seek appropriate remedies.

To determine whether your unique situation may necessitate litigation, please contact our office to set up your initial consultation.

What measures should an insurance carrier take to minimize the risk of litigation over insurance bonds? 

To successfully mitigate the risk of litigation over insurance bonds, an insurance carrier should:

  • Clearly Define Bond Terms and Conditions: Ambiguities in bond language can lead to disputes. Ensure the bond’s terms and conditions are clearly outlined, including coverage limits, exclusions, and claim procedures.
  • Verify the Principal Party’s Qualifications: Conduct a thorough evaluation of the principal’s creditworthiness, financial stability, and experience to minimize the risk of bond claims.
  • Monitor Project Progress: Stay informed about the status of bonded projects to identify potential issues that could result in bond claims. Promptly address any concerns to minimize disputes.
  • Maintain Open Communication with Stakeholders: Regularly communicate with the bonded party, project owners, and other relevant parties to address issues before they escalate into disputes.
  • Seek Legal Counsel: Engage knowledgeable legal counsel to advise on bond language, claim handling, and dispute resolution to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations. Legal counsel can also assist in developing strategies to minimize litigation risk.

What must be proven to file insurance bond lawsuits successfully, and what are common legal defenses to those claims? 

While the particular requirements may change depending on the type of bond, plaintiffs must generally satisfy the following criteria:

  • Existence of a Valid Bond: The plaintiff must establish a valid insurance bond between the principal and the surety.
  • Breach of Bond Terms: The plaintiff must demonstrate that the principal breached the bond terms.
  • Damages: The plaintiff must show they suffered damages due to the principal’s breach.
  • Causation: The plaintiff must prove that the principal’s breach directly caused the damages.

Common legal defenses to insurance bond claims include:

  • Lack of Standing: The defendant may argue that the plaintiff lacks standing to bring the lawsuit, meaning they do not have a legally protected interest in the dispute.
  • Compliance with Bond Terms: The defendant may assert that they complied with the bond terms, and thus, no breach occurred.
  • No Damages: The defendant may argue that the plaintiff did not suffer any damages or that the damages claimed are unrelated to the alleged breach.
  • Waiver or Estoppel: The defendant may contend that the plaintiff waived their right to bring the lawsuit or is estopped from doing so because of their actions or statements.

To see what actions or defenses may be available for your unique situation, please contact our office to set up your initial consultation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a surety bond and an insurance policy?

A surety bond is a three-party agreement between the principal (the party required to obtain the bond), the obligee (the party requiring the bond), and the surety (the company issuing the bond). It guarantees the principal’s performance of specific obligations. On the other hand, an insurance policy is a two-party contract between an insured party and an insurance company that provides coverage for particular risks.

How do I know if I need an insurance bond for my business in Florida?

To determine whether your business needs an insurance bond in Florida, consult a qualified attorney or insurance professional. Some companies, such as contractors, may be required to obtain specific bonds (e.g., performance or payment bonds) to comply with Florida regulations.

Can an insurance bond be canceled or revoked?

Insurance bonds can be canceled or revoked under certain circumstances, depending on the bond terms. For example, a surety may cancel a bond if the principal fails to pay the bond premium. If a bond is canceled or revoked, the principal may be required to obtain a new one to comply with applicable regulations.

Have more questions about an insurance bond-related situation?

Crucially, this overview of insurance bonds does not begin to cover all the laws implicated by this issue or the factors that may compel the application of such laws. Every case is unique, and the laws can produce different outcomes depending on the individual circumstances.

Jimerson Birr attorneys guide our clients to help make informed decisions while ensuring their rights are respected and protected. Our lawyers are highly trained and experienced in the nuances of the law, so they can accurately interpret statutes and case law and holistically prepare individuals or companies for their legal endeavors. Through this intense personal investment and advocacy, our lawyers will help resolve the issue’s complicated legal problems efficiently and effectively.

Having a Jimerson Birr attorney on your side means securing a team of seasoned, multi-dimensional, cross-functional legal professionals. Whether it is a transaction, an operational issue, a regulatory challenge, or a contested legal predicament that may require court intervention, we remain a tireless advocate every step of the way. Being a value-added law firm means putting the client at the forefront of everything we do. We use our experience to help our clients navigate even the most complex problems and come out the other side triumphant.

If you want to understand your case, the merits of your claim or defense, potential monetary awards, or the amount of exposure you face, you should speak with a qualified Jimerson Birr lawyer. Our experienced team of attorneys is here to help. Call Jimerson Birr at (904) 389-0050 or use the contact form to set up a consultation.

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