Insurance Company Bad Faith? Ask the Insurance Lawyer

bad faith insurance lawyer

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.

 

Insurance Claim Deadlines May be Shorter Than You Think

insurance-deadline - contact memphis insurance lawyerSuppose your insurance company denies your claim – whether for a fire loss, water damage, theft, or storm damage. How long do you have to file a lawsuit against the insurance company? Well, it may not be as long as you think, so be careful! The best thing you can do to make sure you preserve your insurance claim case is to consult with an insurance lawyer as soon as possible.

Insurance Policies Can Shorten Time for Filing Suit

While an insurance policy is a contract, and the “regular” deadline (a/k/a the statute of limitation) on contract claims in Tennessee is usually 6 years, your homeowners policy almost certainly has a much shorter “contractual statute of limitations” provision hidden in the fine print. In most cases, that shorter contractual deadline is only 1 year, and sometimes even shorter.

Immunity and Loss Settlement Periods in an Insurance Policy

An insurance policy usually provides for a period of immunity, or loss settlement period, during which you can’t sue the insurance company. This is to give the company time to investigate your claim before having to respond to it.  Many policies provide for 45-60 day periods. In some cases, the immunity period may expire before they actually finish investigating your claim, or before you receive a payment or denial. Because of this, Tennessee case law provides that your time to file suit begins to run following the “accrual of the cause of action” against your insurance company.

What does “accrual of the cause of action” mean?

The “accrual of the cause of action” against the insurance company occurs – and thus the clock starts ticking on your deadline – when the immunity period expires, or when the insurance company denies your claim, whichever comes first.

In some cases, depending on what the policy says, an insurance company’s immunity period may be extended if it continues to actively investigate a claim and request information beyond the time stated in the policy. It is critical that you consult with an insurance attorney to determine the applicable deadlines in your insurance claim case.

Important Dates in an Insurance Claim

If you have an insurance claim, keep all of your claim-related papers in one place. Look at your policy and figure out the loss settlement period.  If you don’t have a copy of your policy, ask for one. Keep any letters or emails you send to or receive from the insurance company. Record, be aware of, and keep up with the following dates:

  • Date of loss
  • Dates of claim payments
  • Dates of correspondence or phone conversations with the insurance company
  • Date of Denial

Don’t Wait Too Late to Involve an Insurance Lawyer

Determining insurance claim deadlines can be complicated, confusing, and depends on a number of factors. The insurance company understands how these time frames and deadlines work, and because adjusting insurance claims and reading insurance policies probably isn’t what you do for a living, you are at a disadvantage, especially in a complex or large loss insurance claim.

Call us sooner rather than later if you feel like your homeowners insurance claim is not being handled or paid properly.

  • Insurance policy language is confusing and it doesn’t always mean what it sounds like.
  • Your insurance adjuster is not your advocate.
  • We know insurance law. We will apply insurance policy language to your advantage.
  • We understand how insurance deadlines work.
  • You’ve paid your premiums for all of these years. Don’t lose out on a technicality.

 

Let us help you with your insurance claim case. Call Wiseman Bray PLLC at 901-372-5003.  We have offices in Memphis and Nashville. Don’t wait too late and lose your legal right to recover.