You faithfully keep up with your monthly insurance premiums, but what happens when the time comes that you need for the insurance company to hold up their end of the bargain and come through when disaster strikes or a loss occurs?
Most laws that govern insurance companies are at the state level. However, when you look at each state’s laws, there are some common themes. The basic definition of bad faith is when one or more parties involved in a contractual agreement does not follow through with their legally-binding obligations.
There are many actions that can be deemed an act of bad faith by the insurer in question, here are just a few:
- Deceptive practices or deliberate misrepresentation of policy provisions to avoid paying claims
- Not responding to your claim in a timely manner
- Not investigating your claim in a timely manner
- Delaying a claim payment without a reasonable explanation
- Denying your claim before performing a proper investigation
- Trying to offer a reduced and unreasonably low payment, even when liability has been demonstrated
- Changing elements of the claim without the claimant’s knowledge
In Washington State, like many states, there is a statutory requirement for acting in good faith which reads as follows:
The business of insurance is one affected by the public interest, requiring that all persons be actuated by good faith, abstain from deception, and practice honesty and equity in all insurance matters. Upon the insurer, the insured, their providers, and their representatives rests the duty of preserving inviolate the integrity of insurance.
In some states you can also seek punitive damages, attorney’s fees, and other damages. The goal of tort law is to return the plaintiff to the state or condition they would be in if the wrong done to them had not happened. In some instances, that can only be done by giving the plaintiff the ability to seek all avenues of compensation, sometimes including punitive damages.
If you believe that an insurance company has not fulfilled their contractual obligation, whether it is a reduced payment, no payment, or slow action, you have the right to take legal action.