Insurance Bad Faith: Do I Have a Case Against My Insurance Company?

Insurance Bad Faith: Do I Have a Case Against My Insurance Company?

People and small businesses purchase insurance policies to protect them in the event of adverse claims or events and provide coverage for other claims and losses.  In the typical situation, a person or their business will pay monthly or semi-annual premiums to their insurance company and those premiums are part of a contract requiring the insurance company to provide protection.  Unfortunately, that paid for protection does not always exist.  When your insurance company fails to protect you, you have legal rights.

Insurance bad faith cases are a type of claim that insured individuals and businesses can bring against their own insurance company when the insurer deals dishonestly with an insured in handling a claim, premium payments,  or other matters pertaining to the insured’s policy coverages. Most frequently, bad faith lawsuits are brought against insurance companies who refuse to pay a claim they are liable for or who purposefully underpay a claim. Unlike a standard breach of contract claim, a bad-faith claim may allow plaintiffs to recover exemplary (or additional) damages in addition to monies owed to them for a denied claim or excessive premium charges.  The purpose of these additional damages is to deter more future bad conduct by the insurance company.

Insurance companies are regulated in each state but are nearly universally required to act honestly and reasonably in handling claims and all other business matters. Unfortunately, it has become an industry norm for insurance companies to deny, delay and fight claims using any means possible, including lying to and deceiving the people they insure and the claimants they owe money to.  Author Jay Feinman details this conduct in his 2010 book, Delay, Deny, and Defend.  Further, in a recent report, the American Association for Justice revealed that most of the leading insurance companies in America employ deceptive practices to avoid paying claims and to raise premium rates so they continue to generate profits for shareholders. The 10 worst companies cited by the AAJ were Allstate, Unum, AIG, State Farm, Conseco, WellPoint, Farmers, UnitedHealth, Torchmark and Liberty Mutual. The website badfaithinsurance.org also listed The Hartford, Metlife, American Family, Berkshire Hathaway, CNA, Nationwide, GEICO, Prudential, Progressive and Travelers among the worst bad-faith insurance companies.

If your insurance company is denying a claim or refuses to pay the full and fair value of your claim, or has raised your premium rates for unclear or unreasonable reasons, it is best to contact a lawyer and ask whether you have a case. You should receive the full value of your claim, including any exemplary damages if a court decides in your favor.

Indicators of Insurance Bad Faith

If you experience any of the following conduct in dealing with your insurance company or an insurance company you have a claim against, you may have a claim.  However, these matters are complicated and bad-faith claims are heavily defended by insurance companies with skillful attorneys, so always consult with an experience personal injury or bad-faith attorney before taking action.

If the insurance company does any of these, call a qualified injury attorney:

  1. Refuses to pay a claim they are obviously responsible for;
  2. Discounts or reduces the value of your claim for unreasonable or unexplained reasons;
  3. Delays payment of a claim for an unreasonable length of time;
  4. Constantly finds new reasons to argue against the claim or delay processing the claim or payment of the claim;
  5. Refuses to provide an attorney to defend a claim against you for which you are covered;
  6. Fails to investigate your claim right away or is biased, unfair, neglectful or inaccurate in their investigation;
  7. Treats you as an adversary in handling your claim, including attempts to intimidate your or threaten you with harm or legal action;
  8. Attempts to blame you (the insured) or suggest you are responsible for the claim rather than the insurance company;
  9. Misinterpreting or misconstruing the law or terms of the insured’s policy in their favor and to the detriment of the insured or claimant;
  10. Denying a covered treatment or health benefit simply due to high cost;
  11. Withholding information about the law or terms of the policy that would benefit you;
  12. Raises policy premiums significantly or cancels policy because you made a claim even though you were not at fault or the increase/cancellation conflicts with industry standards;
  13. Knowingly uses inaccurate for false information to reduce or deny payment of a claim; and/or
  14. Demands excessive documentation from you regarding a claim when the documentation is not required by terms of the policy.

The things insurance companies do to avoid paying claims extends far beyond this list. Any time an insurance company does anything other than immediately and impartially investigate your claim and pay it within a reasonable amount of time, you should contact an attorney. Most likely, the company is unlawfully attempting to avoid paying the claim.

Don’t let an insurance company unreasonably deny or defraud you of a valid insurance claim in Wyoming or Montana.

The personal injury attorneys at Stinson Law Group have extensive experience helping their clients hold insurance companies accountable and recover money due to them for legitimate insurance claims. If you believe an insurance company may be dealing dishonestly with you, Stinson Law Group can help you protect your rights and pursue recovery of your claim and possibly punitive damages as well. Call the personal injury and bad-faith lawyers at Stinson Law Group toll free today for a free consultation: (888) 527-6090.

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