Insurance law is complicated and filled with buried mines waiting for us unwary policyholders to step on them. If we’re wise, we’ll start dealing with the insurance company even before we buy the policy.
Insurance companies have all the advantages over us:
- They write the policy
- They tell you what it means
- They keep it updated with the latest court decisions
- They have a battalion of lawyers on tap
- They have all the money
- They make the decision on your claim
So it behooves us to get busy early on and equip ourselves with things that will later help if we need to have a dispute with the company.
Learn more about Bad faith insurance cases
Before You Buy The Policy
Make notes on what the insurance agent tells you about the policy he’s selling you.
Sometimes the policy turns out to be different from what we’re told by the agent, or turns out to be ambiguous. There’ll be many pages of “exclusions” and “limitations”, all written in legalese, which may later be found to contain language in your favor, if you have an personal injury attorney to dig for you.
So date your notes and keep them with the policy when you receive it. Also save all brochures the agent gives you.
Don’t be influenced by any advertising about the insurance company’s policies.
Such advertising may be misleading or deceptive. Some states, such as California, make such advertising illegal. But that doesn’t mean there’s also legal protection for the deceived policyholder. You may be able to bring a suit against your agent, but not against the insurance company, who has a much fatter wallet. Any suit you might later bring must be based on the text of your policy, not on the text of any advertising.
Read your filled-out application.
Be sure it contains complete and accurate answers. Any variance from the truth here will be to your detriment later. Don’t give the insurance company any excuses to cancel your coverage later, after you’ve made a claim.
Insist on seeing your policy before you buy it.
Make sure you understand it. Read the fine print and get a grasp of what it’s covering, how and when, what it’s excluding or limiting, and what the deductibles are. Ask your agent if you need more clarity about something.
Take photographs of your home or vehicle, or whatever items you’re insuring.
If a fire later occurs, or a burglary, and you submit a claim, it will help if you have these “Before” pictures. Also note the serial numbers of things such as computers.
When You Have a Claim To Make
There’ll be a State statute of limitations, often two years, sometimes only one. Also, many insurance companies include a clause in their policies that requires the policyholder to bring suit within a certain period, usually one year, regardless of what the statute of limitations is in your State.
Take Notes If You Speak To An Insurance Representative
Be very careful of what you say to anyone from the company, because it could be used against you. Don’t volunteer anything. Before you speak to anyone, read through your policy and notes. Also obtain legal advice first.
When you do speak to someone, take notes with the date and time on the page, and note the person’s name and phone number. These are large companies and could send you a different adjuster from the one you first talk to. You’ll want to be able to prove what the previous one told you.
Collect Materials to Support Your Claim
Find any manuals that came with your lost or destroyed property. Take photographs. If you have to discard anything that’s damaged, you’ll need a record of what it was, proof that you did indeed own it, and that it was damaged.
If you’re injured, take photos of your injuries and keep notes on all medical care. Keep all receipts and copies of all prescriptions.
Don’t Accept the Insurance Company’s Evaluation of Your Loss
Since insurance companies make their money by investing, they prefer to hang on to all their cash and keep it invested where they can collect interest on it. Therefore, they’ll value your losses as low as they can. Hire an independent expert to value your losses. You might be surprised by the discrepancies.
Be Truthful About Your Loss
There’s no point in trying to claim more than you’re entitled to claim, on the theory that the company will pay you too little anyway. If your case has to go to court, such a maneuver will be discovered and won’t be to your credit. Just stick to the truth and fight to obtain what you’re entitled to by way of compensation. An experienced insurance claim attorney will be invaluable. Find one who’ll give you a free consultation.
Remember that the courts are not necessarily on the side of the insurance company.
If there’s an ambiguity in the policy text, it must be interpreted in the policyholder’s favor.
Courts will prefer to assign a “plain meaning” to policy text rather than some obscure or specialized legal meaning. A plain meaning is one that we, the consumers of insurance, would give to that language.
If there’s an exclusion in your policy that’s obscure or overly complex, courts will tend to interpret it narrowly, such that the policyholder’s interests are supported.
If a court finds any part of your policy to be written grossly in favor of the insurance company and at your expense, it can find that part to be “unconscionable” and may decline to enforce it.
Whether or not your policy contains a “covenant of good faith”, or “promise of fair dealing”, a judge will consider it to be there anyway and will hold the company to such a provision.
If your insurance company appears to be acting in bad faith with you, such as
- Denying your claim,
- Delaying payment too long, or
- Offering only a fraction of what you should be paid,
you need an experienced insurance claims attorney to help you file a bad faith insurance claim. A good attorney will give you a better chance of establishing legally that your insurance company acted in bad faith, and breached their promise of fair dealing. When that’s established, you’ll be able to recover damages, which will usually include:
- Compensation for your original loss
- Loss of use of the insurance proceeds
- General damages
- Attorneys’ fees, and in cases of outrageous misconduct
- Punitive damages
Every Case is Different
An experienced personal injury attorney can assess the particular circumstances of your case and decide what sort of action will most likely redress your injury. Contact an insurance bad faith attorney for your bad faith insurance claims such as Andrew T Brake in Denver, Colorado.