What can someone do, after purchasing and paying for automobile insurance, if that person files a claim and the claim is denied unfairly?
Continue reading, and we’ll explain how to deal with automobile insurance companies that do business in “bad faith” in our state.
State law in California offers substantial protections to insurance policyholders and third parties who might additionally be covered by a company’s auto insurance policies.
If an automobile insurance company should fail to meet its obligation to you – that is, if you’re targeted or victimized by “bad faith” insurance practices – an experienced Fresno personal injury attorney can advise you and take legal action on your behalf.
WHAT CONSTITUTES BAD FAITH INSURANCE PRACTICES?
When a consumer purchases an automobile insurance policy, the company obligates itself to certain duties and to a general duty to do business with that consumer in good faith.
If you file a claim, you expect compensation, but if you don’t receive it promptly, it may be that the company is operating in bad faith, which can include:
1. the failure to investigate an accident thoroughly and promptly
2. forever asking more questions to delay action on your claim
3. offering only part of what the claim is worth or rejecting it completely
4. providing insufficient or obviously untrue reasons for the denial of the claim
Bad faith also includes an auto insurance company failing to protect policyholders from lawsuits (the failure to indemnify) as well as “general” negligence by an insurance broker or agent.
HOW CAN AN INJURY ATTORNEY HELP?
If your auto insurance claim is being denied or delayed, a California injury lawyer can tell you if the company’s practices constitute bad faith and if you can or should take legal action.
Simply having a lawyer – and showing the company that you can’t be intimidated – may convince the insurance company to treat you right.
If it doesn’t, your attorney will negotiate on your behalf. In California, bad faith claims are usually resolved outside of the courtroom. Lawyers for the two sides typically negotiate an agreement that satisfies everyone.
WHAT IF YOUR BAD FAITH INSURANCE CASE GOES TO TRIAL?
If your bad faith case goes to court, and if your attorney prevails on your behalf, a California court will order the company to compensate you adequately and fairly.
An auto insurance company is supposed to treat every claimant and claim with good faith, whether you’ve paid for a policy or you’ve been injured by one of the company’s policyholders.
And particularly if you are recovering from a disastrous injury, you can’t let bad faith insurance practices victimize you a second time.
WHAT CAN INSURANCE BAD FAITH MEAN FOR INJURY VICTIMS?
When an insurance company takes too long or entirely denies a claim, the victim of a negligent driver can also become a victim of financial hardship.
Medical bills can pile up when you’re injured, out of work, and holding on to hear something from an auto insurance company that’s in no rush to pay you or deal with your claim.
In the greater Fresno area, if you’re injured in traffic by a negligent driver, put your case in the hands of a personal injury attorney at once.
Let your attorney deal with the insurance company while you concentrate on getting your health back.
Businesses exist to make profits. Everyone knows this. Everyone also knows that profits have to be made ethically. Putting profits ahead of people – or ahead of a company’s legal obligations – is not acceptable.
If you’ve been severely injured by a negligent California motorist in any kind of accident, don’t even think about negotiating your claim by yourself. Before you even speak to the insurance company, obtain a trustworthy injury attorney’s representation and advice.
TO PROVE INSURANCE BAD FAITH, WHAT WILL YOU NEED TO DO?
If an auto insurance company is operating in bad faith, how can you prove it? You’ll need to have precise facts and adequate documentation of the company’s bad faith practices.
If you’re injured by a negligent driver, make copies of the insurance policy and any other pertinent documents, including any emails or letters to or from the insurance company.
Always make written notes whenever you speak to an insurance company representative. Write down the date, time, name, and the title of the person you spoke with and what you spoke about.
WHAT WILL YOUR ATTORNEY NEED TO DO?
For a bad faith claim to prevail at trial, your attorney will need to show that your claim’s denial wasn’t a simple “mistake” but was the result either of negligence or of intentional bad faith.
An insurance lawyer handling your claim may gather evidence by requesting insurance company documents or by taking a deposition from the claims adjuster or from other insurance company representatives.
In some trials, an insurance expert may be asked to provide testimony regarding industry practices.
WHAT CAN A BAD FAITH VICTIM EXPECT IN A SETTLEMENT OR VERDICT?
When your attorney can prove that an insurance company has operated in bad faith in handling your original insurance claim, your bad faith lawsuit will prevail, and a court will order the company to compensate you – adequately and justly.
Merely denying a claim or failing to pay it is not necessarily, by itself, insurance bad faith.
But if a California jury determines the company acted in bad faith, the company may be ordered to pay the original claim as spelled out in the policy along with the plaintiff’s legal fees.
But to win punitive damages, a plaintiff must prove that the insurance company’s bad faith was also malicious, fraudulent, or oppressive. The law says:
“In an action … where it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant has been guilty of oppression, fraud, or malice, the plaintiff, in addition to the actual damages, may recover damages for the sake of example and by way of punishing the defendant.”
WHAT’S THE CENTRAL ISSUE IN AN INSURANCE BAD FAITH CASE?
Trust is the core issue in every bad faith insurance case. A policyholder expects the company to be there when it’s needed. That’s what consumers pay for.
If an automobile insurance company rejects your claim or simply fails to take proper action, you may need an attorney’s help.
Most personal injury lawyers will assess and review your case at no cost, so it makes good sense to find out more about your case and how the law applies to it.
Filing a lawsuit may not be your only option. If the insurance company isn’t treating you right, speak to an experienced Fresno personal injury attorney who will advise you candidly, and if necessary, fight aggressively on your behalf.
Don’t let any insurance company bully you. Get the legal help you need.