What You Need to Know about Insurance Company Claims
The overwhelming majority of insurance claims are fairly handled and paid without complication. But, some are not. While there are a number of reasons why an insurance claim might be denied or why you might not get paid what you think you are owed, one thing is certain in Tennessee: An insurance company must handle your claim in good faith. If you think your insurer is acting in bad faith, consult with an insurance lawyer.
Tennessee Bad Faith Statute
If an insurance company does not act in good faith in handling an insurance claim, then it may be subject to bad faith penalty damages. Tennessee Code Annotated 56-7-105 says that if an insurance company’s refusal to pay a claim was not in good faith, then then the company may be liable for up to 25% of the loss amount, measured by the additional expenses incurred by the policyholder. So, if your loss is $100,000, you could recover up to an additional $25,000 if the insurance company didn’t act in good faith.
What is Bad Faith? What is Good Faith?
Every case is unique and it depends on the circumstances. That’s why you need to consult with an insurance lawyer. As a general matter, it is difficult to prove that an insurance company’s denial of a claim was not in good faith. The policyholder has the burden of proving bad faith and the following principles in Tennessee case law favor the insurance companies:
- Delay in settling a claim does not constitute bad faith when there is a genuine dispute as to value, no conscious indifference to the claim, and no proof that the insurer acted from any improper motive.
- If an insurance company unsuccessfully asserts a defense and the defense was made in good faith, the statute does not permit the imposing of the bad faith penalty. So, even if the insurance company loses or was wrong, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the company acted in bad faith.
Before joining Wiseman Bray PLLC, I worked for almost ten (10) years at an insurance defense law firm representing insurance companies. I cannot recall a single time that I was not successful in eliminating the bad faith portion of a lawsuit before the case made it to trial. I would add that, in most cases, the bad faith claim was simply thrown into the lawsuit, as if an afterthought. I say these things to stress that it’s an unusual case when the bad faith penalty is actually applicable, but that does not mean you don’t have a claim for bad faith. Ask an insurance lawyer to be sure.
Unfair Claims Settlement Act
Tennessee also has what is referred to as the Tennessee Unfair Trade Practices and Unfair Claims Settlement Act. While the Act does not create a private right of action, it does create standards and rules that insurance companies must follow when handling claims. The Act provides at least some level of guidance concerning activities that might be considered to evidence bad faith.
What to Do if You Suspect Bad Faith by Your Insurance Company
- Read your insurance policy. Make sure that you are in compliance with the “Duties After Loss” section.
- Keep good and organized records.
- Ensure that all of your communications to the insurer are kind and courteous and that they exhibit cooperation.
- Keep a timeline of relevant communications and events that support an allegation of bad faith.
- Get an insurance lawyer involved sooner rather than later. Insurance policies are full of deadlines and there are specific procedures that are important in preserving a claim of statutory bad faith against an insurer.
Need an Insurance Lawyer? We can help.
Call Wiseman Bray PLLC at (901) 372-5003 or email us here.
Visit our website to learn more. Our Memphis office is conveniently located at 8001 Centerview Parkway, Suite 103 Memphis, TN 38018, near the intersection of Walnut Grove and Germantown Parkway. We accept cases throughout Tennessee and Mississippi, including Memphis, Bartlett, Cordova, and Germantown.