Understanding Insurance Bad Faith
Insurance bad faith, also called insurance fraud, refers to the mistreatment of consumers and businesses by their insurers. It is normally used in situations in which an insured person or entity is refused a settlement payout.
Insurance bad faith is unfortunately a widespread occurrence. A lot of insurance companies make use of statistics to know how much they need to pay out, depending on particular circumstances. Even if an insured person is entitled to a certain amount of cash, the insurer may still not want to pay it in full. Either the individual or entity accepts the insurer’s decision or brings the matter to court for bad faith.
Three of the most common scenarios involving insurance bad faith are:
> insurer denying all promised benefits to the insured;
> insurer offering less compensation than what the policy guarantees; and
> unwarranted payment delays.
Each insurance contract comes with a stated or implied “covenant of good faith and fair dealing.” That means the two parties, the insurer and insured, have to comply with all the terms of their contract.
In such a contract, the insurance company must fully compensate the insured party when appropriate and in a timely manner; otherwise, the insurer will have committed a violation of the good faith and fair dealing covenant. In some states, there are statutes or other regulations that govern bad faith by insurance firms.
When bad faith is exhibited by these companies, they may be subject to punitive damages, government penalties and statutory damage. Bad faith claims are affected by different laws in different states, so anyone dealing with related issues with their insurers must talk to a lawyer.
The bad faith damages paid by insurance companies are different, depending on the jurisdiction. In general, the damages will be equivalent to the actual compensatory damages the insured would have rightfully obtained from the insurer in a non-bad faith setting. In a number of states, punitive damages – damages intended as punishment for an insurer’s bad conduct – also apply. In some states, there are limits to how much may be claimed in punitive damages; in others, there are none. Since insurance bad faith or fraud can be complex and confusing, anyone planning to go to court because of such experience should always consult with a lawyer.
This kind of case is typically accepted on contingency basis by an attorney. That means the attorney will not be paid from the client’s award of damages, but rather from the damages that the insurer will have to pay the lawyer in a separate judgement.
If you think your insurer has acted in bad faith in relation to your policy claim, your first step is to see an insurance lawyer who can define the steps you must take.