What are Bad Faith Insurance Practices?
Have you ever struggled with your insurance carrier to obtain coverage for a loss that you felt should’ve clearly been covered? Assessing insurance coverage is monumentally difficult and confusing–and this is even so for attorneys who regularly study and practice insurance law! As a result, the average layperson navigating a claim can easily feel outmatched and outgunned, thereby acceding to the stingy coverage conclusions of the adjuster, which are often extremely disappointing.
Given that every claim the carrier pays out works against its profits, it’s no small wonder that insurance companies look for opportunities to deny or underpay on coverage claims–and they can and will take advantage of the confusing process to do just that. Fortunately, insurance carriers have a heightened duty under the law to take care of their insureds, who have some fairly strong civil remedies at their disposal when the insurance carrier crosses the line.
First and foremost, insurance companies are prohibited from making any misrepresentations about the coverage and how it applies to your claim. Other acts insurance companies are prohibited from include willfully delaying paying payment to cause you to accept less money, refusing to pay on a claim where liability is clear, failing to conduct a reasonable investigation of your claims, and requiring you to produce unreasonably onerous or duplicative documentation.
The main reason that adjusters can get away with these acts is because the insurance policy–the central contract governing your relationship with the insurer–is a massively complex and confusing document. Many insurance policies are susceptible to multiple interpretations when coverage questions arise. It’s not uncommon for experienced lawyers to disagree as to what an insurance policy actually covers.
A skilled insurance attorney will assess how the adjuster has handled your claim and will determine if these and other rules are being violated. Because of the carrier's heightened duty to resolve claims in a manner that's fair and equitable, there can be extraordinary remedies available to the plaintiff in a bad faith insurance suit. These remedies might include triple damages under North Carolina's unfair and deceptive practices act, punitive damages, and even the recovery of all of your attorney fees.
As usual, you must be diligent at all times, and must take every reasonable step you can to protect yourself by creating the evidence trail that will later be used to prove the insurance company’s fault. That means forcing the adjuster to commit to his or her statements in writing. For more information on how to protect yourself through the claims adjusting process, see our article, “Insurance Claims: How to Protect Yourself.”
Finally, if you suspect that you’re the victim of bad faith insurance practices, it’s imperative that you reach out and contact the insurance attorneys at Asheville Legal. We have the experience and knowledge to make sure you maximize your recovery while preserving your claims in case litigation develops.