Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Breach of promise is a base surrender of truth.” When an insurance company solicits your business, they make a promise to you. If you buy their policy, they will pay for medical bills and damages to your property if you are involved in an accident.
Unfortunately, there are many unscrupulous insurance companies that will try to cheat their clients out of settlement money. Companies that sell insurance are staffed with teams of lawyers whose job it is to keep the company money in house. It may be helpful to understand a few facts about bad-faith insurance,
What is considered a “bad-faith” insurance claim?
An insurance company might have handled a claim in bad faith if they did not investigate it within the proper amount of time. It may also be considered bad faith if they refuse to pay a legitimate claim or if they ask for excessive or unreasonable evidence of a person making a claim.
A salesperson may also sell a bad faith policy by explaining the entire policy or section of it to a policyholder in a misleading way. A salesperson may act in bad faith if they do not inform potential clients of certain limitations in the policy they are selling.
When an insurance worker or company has acted in bad faith, they have violated a contractual law called Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing. The law states that parties signing a contract must deal with one another in a fair way and above board.
If you believe that you were misled by an insurance salesperson, or if you think that an insurance company is refusing to pay your legitimate claim, you need to contact a personal injury attorney.
Types of Bad-Faith Car Accident Claims
There are a few different ways that an insurance company may attempt to deceive its clients. An attorney can help you decide if you have fallen victim to any of them.
When you report an accident to an insurance company, they will have a certain amount of time to process each stage of the claim. The amount of time they have is determined by state law. For example, in the state of Florida, an insurance company has 14 days to acknowledge your claim.
Once they get your insurance information, they will have 30 days to review the case and approve or deny it. If they approve the claim and you accept the settlement offer, they will have 20 days to pay. If you do not get your payment in time, it may be considered bad faith.
Failing to Investigate a Claim Fairly
When you have a car accident, the insurance company is supposed to start investigating the claim as soon as they have all the necessary documentation. Bad faith may occur if they do not conduct a thorough investigation in a timely manner.
Offering a Ridiculously Low Settlement Amount
It is not uncommon for an insurance company to offer a claimant less money than an accident was worth. Generally, a person will hire an attorney after the company’s initial offer, and the attorney will negotiate for a better deal. If they do not negotiate at all with your attorney, the claim may be considered bad faith, and you may have to go to court.
Refusing to Provide a Reason for Denial
When an insurance company closes a case, they will decide whether or not the claim is valid based upon the evidence with which it has been presented. The company can not keep the reasons for denial a secret from you. They should give you a detailed account of why they are refusing to pay you. They should also provide you with any documentation that you request.
How a Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help You Avoid a Bad Faith Claim
A personal injury law firm will be staffed with professionals who are trained to research the specifics of your case. A personal injury attorney will have years of experience in negotiating with insurance companies. They will be up to date on the often capricious personal injury laws in your particular state.
Ways to Strengthen Your Accident Claim
If you take an insurance company to court for bad faith, you will be able to sue them for the amount of money you feel you should have been awarded for your claim. You can also sue them for any damages that you incurred because of their actions.
You should save the records of any psychiatric treatment you may have as you might be able to get compensated for emotional distress. You may even be able to get punitive damages if you do a good job proving your case.
You should save records of all the documentation that you have sent to the insurance company. If you had to fax them anything, you should save the confirmation of the fax. If you use email, save what you send and receive in a folder. Make sure to have copies of your claim sent to you.
Steps to Take After a Car Accident
Having a collision can be very upsetting. However, taking the appropriate first steps after a car accident is critical to ensuring that the aftermath of the accident goes smoothly.
When you are injured in an accident, you should check on the well-being of everyone involved. You should call the police and wait for them to arrive. Take pictures if you can. You should get the names of any witnesses who were at the scene and you should ask for a copy of the accident report.
You should also exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver.
Always be very polite to the law enforcement officer who questions you. Most attorneys will tell you that you should never admit to guilt at the scene, even if you think you were the one who was negligent. There may be conditions that affected the accident of which you are unaware.
Allow EMS to check on injuries
If an ambulance is called, you should let the EMS check you for injuries. If they tell you you need treatment, you should get it.
Save Your Medical Records
You should always see the doctor even if you feel just fine. There are some injuries that may not be immediately apparent.
You will want to save the bills from every medical appointment that you have, including physical therapy. You should also save the receipts from any medications you may have needed.
If you have missed work because of your injuries, you should get a letter from your employer stating the number of hours you have missed from your job. You should also save the bills for any housekeeping services or Uber rides that you have needed to take because of your accident. You may also want to document any important life events that you have missed due to the crash.
Contact a Qualified Car Accident Attorney
It is a good idea to contact an attorney as soon as you can after an accident. You may want to have a consultation with them before you even contact your insurance company. Look for a personal injury law firm that has practiced in your state for a while, and that has a great reputation with the state bar.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does an accident lawyer cost?
Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency basis. This means that they will take a percentage of your settlement. In the state of Florida, an attorney may charge up to 33 1/3%. The average attorney in the United States will charge around 33% to 40%.
How long do I have to file my claim?
You should file your claim as soon as possible. Although there is no set law for how long an individual has to file a claim, Your insurance policy probably does specify a time limit, so read it carefully.
Should I take an early settlement from the insurance company?
Insurance companies may offer you an early settlement to release themselves from liability. They will try to record their conversation with you so that it can be used as evidence against you if you try to get fair compensation in the future. It is not usually a good idea to take such a settlement. You should check with a trained attorney before you take any insurance claim, early or otherwise.
Having an accident is hard enough without having the insurance company try to cheat you. Careful record keeping and a good attorney can help you get the money you need to get back on your feet.