As a policyholder, your insurance with your insurer is founded upon a written contract. You pay your premiums and your insurer has a legal obligation to provide the coverage and uphold the terms and conditions of that contract. That obligation to you includes paying valid claims made against the policy by you.
However, insurers do not always live up to their contractual obligations. To increase their profitability, an insurance company may deny your claim or pay much less than the claim is actually worth. This is called “bad faith” insurance and, when it happens, you have the right to hold your insurer accountable through a claim or lawsuit.
At Chandler Law, our firm is known throughout Fresno, Madera County, Kern County, and Tulare County for its outstanding work in insurance bad faith litigation. For example, in 2003, Stuart Chandler obtained a Bad Faith Insurance verdict on behalf of his client against Fire Insurance Exchange for failing to defend the insured. The jury returned a verdict for Mr. Chandler’s client, a farm worker, in excess of 26 million dollars. Fire Insurance Exchange is a subsidiary of Farmers Insurance Exchange. This outcome reflects the skills, diligence, and relentless advocacy of Mr. Chandler and his team.
Unfortunately, insurers often employ tactics designed to avoid their obligations to policyholders. This can occur in a variety of ways. It can apply to any type of insurance policy, from health insurance to homeowner policies, auto insurance, life insurance, and more. This area of law can be complicated by whether the matter involves your own insurance company or a third-party insurer. It is much easier, though still challenging, to prove bad faith on the part of your own insurer than a third party. Our team can evaluate your situation to determine the facts.
Examples of bad faith can include but are not limited to:
- Undue delay in handling a claim
- Insufficient investigation into the claim or undue delay in initiating an investigation
- Refusal to defend a lawsuit
- Refusal to make a reasonable settlement offer
- Making unreasonable demands on or threatening the policyholder
- Misrepresentation of the facts or contract provisions to policyholders
- Forcing the claimant to litigate because the insurer refuses to make a reasonable settlement offer
- Failure to provide reasonable notice or justification of a denied claim
- Cancellation of your policy retroactively after filing a legitimate claim
The above are only a few of the bases for bringing a bad faith claim against your insurer. Each situation is unique and therefore it is recommended that you discuss your case with one of our attorneys. It is important to understand that, just because you disagree with an adjustor’s opinion about your claim, it does not necessarily mean bad faith. Simple mistakes on the part of your insurer also do not constitute bad faith.
Damages in a Bad Faith Claim
When prevailing in an insurance bad faith claim, you may recover damages that include what you were owed under your policy plus interest, as well as damages that can include your monetary losses, emotional distress, and legal fees. If your insurer acted egregiously, such as through malice or fraud, you may also be awarded punitive damages.
HOW MUCH IS A BAD FAITH CLAIM WORTH?
No two bad faith insurance claims hold the same value, as the worth of each claim depends on several factors. These factors include the type of insurance policy involved, the specific conduct exhibited by the insurance company, the financial and other losses suffered by the policyholder, and the strength of the evidence supporting the allegation of bad faith. In some cases, claim values may range from thousands of dollars to millions, depending on the severity of the insurer's actions and the extent of the policyholder's damages. Furthermore, punitive damages may be awarded in cases where the insurer's conduct was particularly malicious or fraudulent, further increasing the potential value of a successful bad faith insurance claim. As a result, it is crucial for individuals pursuing such claims to seek legal advice from experienced insurance bad faith litigation attorneys, who can provide a thorough analysis of their unique situation and offer a more accurate estimation of potential claim value.