Caufield & James, L.L.P Caufield & James, L.L.P

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A guide to bad faith claims

Suffering from an injury is a burden, and having insurance that doesn't hold up its end of the agreement only makes that person's suffering worse. Insurance companies that operate in California have a duty to investigate and settle claims with their insureds fairly. Failure to do so is known as operating in bad faith. Thankfully, there are steps that can be taken to hold an insurer liable for acting in bad faith.

There are a variety of bad faith tactics that insurance companies will use. One common tactic is unreasonable delay. Insurance companies know that many insureds are relying on their settlement to meet basic needs. By dragging their feet, insurance companies hope an insured will eventually settle a lowball offer to get it all over with or simply drop the claim entirely. Some states give insurance companies up to 60 days to accept or deny a claim.

Another common tactic includes deceptive practices. This could be hiding the fact that an insured has coverage at all, failing to notify the insured of an impending deadline or refusing to provide claim paperwork until after the deadline to file the claim has passed. Other deceptive practices can include purposefully misrepresenting state law or policy language to make an insured believe he or she doesn't have coverage when in fact coverage is available.

Proving that an insurance company has operated in bad faith can be an intricate process. The insurance company is likely to see things differently than the insured and may have an entire legal department to help the company make its case. An attorney with experience in bad faith claims and insurance litigation might be able to help an insured prove that their insurance company acted in bad faith and recover monetary damages.

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