A common question we receive from our clients during an initial consultation is: “I’ve been injured in an accident in my friend’s car (or at my friend’s house). I don’t want to sue my friend. Are there any options that…
Following a car accident, one of your main concerns will likely be how to obtain compensation for your losses. These can include; medical bills, lost income, property damage, and more. While you have different options in how to seek compensation, the first step is generally to make an insurance claim.
If another driver was at fault in your accident, you can file a claim with the auto insurance agency that covers that driver. If that driver was not insured or was underinsured, you may need to file a claim with your own uninsured motorist policy. Even if you were at fault in the accident, you will still have to deal with your own insurance company for your financial recovery. In short, seeking compensation for losses in an accident generally starts with an insurance company.
When a policyholder selects a policy and pays their premiums as required, the insurer should provide the coverage promised in the policy. Unfortunately, insurance companies are corporate entities and, like any other corporation, their main concern is often their profits and bottom line. This can lead many insurance companies to be stingy when reviewing claims and to deny part or all of a claim whenever possible. In some circumstances, insurance companies may even engage in bad faith insurance practices to avoid paying out on valid claims.
Examples of Bad Faith in Insurance Claims
Sometimes you may feel like your insurance company is treating you unfairly, but you may be uncertain whether their actions constitute bad faith. Simply put, “bad faith” is a failure to live up to the expectations and obligations set out in the insurance policy contract.
In addition, bad faith may exist when an insurance company violates the California Insurance Code in some way. Insurance contracts and laws can be complicated, however, so it is not always easy to identify when an act of bad faith has occurred.
Some common examples of insurance bad faith can include the following:
- Unnecessarily delaying payment on a valid claim;
- Refusal to pay for part or all of a valid claim;
- Refusing to approve necessary and reasonable medical treatment;
- Failure to make a decision on a claim in a timely manner;
- Failure to thoroughly investigate a claim prior to a denial;
- Ignoring obvious circumstances or facts that support a valid claim;
- Requiring the completion of unnecessary and undue paperwork during the claims process;
- Requiring an unreasonable amount of evidence to support a claim;
- Losing or claiming to have never received paperwork or evidence in support of a claim;
- Misinterpreting a policy or misrepresenting facts to the detriment of the insured;
- Failing to provide a valid reason for the denial of part or all of a claim;
- Refusing to settle a claim if a settlement would be appropriate in the situation;
- Otherwise unreasonably withholding benefits to which the insured is entitled under the policy;
- Violating the California Fair Claims Settlement Practices Regulations.
One of the key factors in bad faith insurance practices is unreasonableness.
What are Your Rights if Your Insurer Acts in Bad Faith?
Insurance policies are based on contracts and, like every contract, you have legal rights and remedies if the insurance company does not live up to its end of the bargain. If you bring a claim for breach of contract against the insurance policy, you can seek contract damages including the benefits you deserve under your policy for your valid claim and any applicable interest.
Furthermore, California law treats insurance bad faith cases differently than other contract cases. California recognizes there is often a significant disparity between you and your insurer regarding an understanding of insurance law and requirements. For this reason, it can be all too easy for an insurance company to take advantage of policyholders by acting in bad faith. In order to provide extra protection for policyholders, California law gives you additional ways to recover.
In addition to traditional contract damages, California allows you to also pursue damages under “tort” law. Tort law allows you to seek compensation for various harms you suffered as a result of the insurance company’s negligent or intentional bad faith acts. This compensation may include:
- Consequential financial losses;
- Emotional distress;
- Punitive damages if the bad faith was intentional and involved fraud or malice.
If you believe you have a case involving insurance bad faith, it is crucial to consult with an attorney who has experience with auto insurance claims and lawsuits. These cases can be extremely complicated and can involve many different California laws and regulations. In addition, you are already facing losses incurred in your auto accident and it is important that you recover for those losses as soon as possible to avoid any further financial issues.
An insurance bad faith claim can complicate how you handle your injuries, property damage, and other losses stemming from your car accident. Therefore, it is important to contact an attorney as soon as you suspect any bad faith has occurred.
Call a Car Accident Attorney in California to Discuss Your Insurance Claim
When insurance companies act in bad faith, they can cause serious problems for car accident victims. You may already be coping with and recovering from injuries and other accident-related complications; the last thing you need is an unreasonable withholding of the insurance benefits you deserve under your policy. The experienced legal team of GJEL Accident Attorneys can help you with all of the legal matters related to your car accident, including your personal injury claim and any insurance bad faith claims that may exist.
We can protect your rights and explore every avenue to help you receive the recovery you deserve, either directly from the insurance company or from the negligent party. Please contact our office today for a free consultation by calling 866-218-3776 or by using our online contact form.