Insurance companies require you to pay your premiums to maintain your coverage, but in return they also owe you more than just a check for basic coverage when you or someone else gets injured.
Washington state requires insurance companies to act in “good faith” towards their policyholders. In simple terms, acting in good faith means representatives deal honestly with policyholders and to the best of their ability uphold the requirements of an insurance contract.
When companies do the opposite and practice “bad faith” insurance tactics, they deny claims unfairly and rob policyholders of the financial support they should be getting.
It’s important to know when you are being targeted by this unfair behavior and what to do about it. Fortunately, Spokane personal injury lawyers have had to become experts in bad faith insurance practices to protect their clients after an accident.
What Insurance Companies Owe Spokane Policy Holders
When you sign up for a policy for car or homeowners insurance, or any other type of insurance, you are signing a legal contract. The contract ensures that as long as you are paying your premiums you are entitled to certain benefits.
The most important responsibilities an insurance company bears are to provide compensation for any “covered risk” and to defend their policyholders from false claims from third parties. If insurance representatives don’t fulfill these duties as best they can, they are guilty of bad faith behavior.
Washington’s bad faith law is found under RCW § 48.01.030 and states, “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 rest the duty of preserving inviolate the integrity of insurance.”
Washington’s legal code WAC § 284-30-330 more specifically describes unfair claims settlement practices. These are just a few of the violations insurance companies could be guilty of:
- Misrepresenting pertinent facts or insurance policy provisions.
- Refusing to pay claims without conducting a reasonable investigation.
- Failing to affirm or deny coverage of claims within a reasonable time after fully completed proof of loss documentation has been submitted.
- Attempting to settle a claim for less than the amount to which a reasonable person would have believed he or she was entitled by reference to written or printed advertising material accompanying or made part of an application.
In common terms, insurance companies should not twist the language of your policy to deny coverage. They should not purposely delay responding to insurance claims. They must investigate claims before dismissing them. Insurance companies are also in trouble if they make “lowball offers” to victims paying out far less in support than what should be reasonably expected.
When insurance providers commit these bad faith violations and others, policyholders can file a bad faith claim. Bad faith behavior can cause great financial harm to victims and also cause them great emotional stress. These damages earn compensation when it can be proven that an insurance company purposely acted against the best interests of the policyholder.
Duty to Compensate Insurance Policy Holders
People pay sometimes high insurance bills each month in order to have financial protection in the event of misfortune. A house fire, a car accident, a serious health issue can have a major effect on our physical, financial, and emotional wellbeing.
They trust that under such difficult situations, insurance companies will work quickly to provide financial support. This is vital to victims as they may see hospital bills mount and be losing valuable paychecks at work. They could even be homeless after a fire and in need of urgent help.
Unfortunately, insurance adjusters often focus on how to avoid paying out fair compensation instead of focusing on the needs of their policyholders.
In addition to the tactics that are discussed above, insurance companies can try to blame victims for their own accidents and somehow claim their actions negate any right to compensation. Adjusters can also downplay injuries or property damage and try to get away with providing minimal support or none at all.
Duty to Investigate Claims and Defend Policyholders
Third parties may also file a claim against the policyholder’s insurance coverage. This should trigger a full investigation and protective behavior from the insurance company on behalf of their policyholder. Policyholders must be defended against paying out settlements and suffering a jump in premiums after accepting liability for an accident they weren’t at fault for.
Insurance companies acting in good faith must investigate any accident involving their policyholder and attempt to determine who should be held liable. Coverage providers must not reject claims without a reasonable investigation into the facts of a case.
Another driver or someone injured in a personal injury accident may unfairly blame a policyholder for what happened. Insurance companies are responsible for providing legal defense against third-party claims. They are also required to negotiate settlements in the best interest of the policyholder.
Compensation Available in a Bad Faith Insurance Case
When insurance companies operating in Washington violate these codes or break Consumer Protection Act safeguards, they can be forced to explain their actions in court.
A Bad Faith Insurance Claim may be filed to recover several damages a policyholder suffers due to bad faith behavior on the part of a Spokane insurance provider.
In a settlement or a courtroom victory, a policyholder can earn reimbursement and compensation for several factors:
- Attorney Fees and legal fees built up while litigating an insurance company or while defending a lawsuit from a third party.
- The benefits that should have been originally paid by the insurance company to the victim.
- Punitive damages assessed by the court to additionally penalize insurance companies for their bad faith behavior.
- Damages for emotional anguish the policyholder has suffered.
Contact a Spokane Personal Injury Lawyer
When your claim is unfairly denied or you don’t feel you’re getting the support you should from your insurance agent after an accident, contact a lawyer experienced in protecting the rights of victims.
Established in Spokane in 1948, Crary, Clark, Domanico, & Chuang, P.S. is committed to providing our clients with the absolute highest quality legal representation. If our Spokane Personal Injury Lawyers represent you for your accident case, you have our assurance that we will use our absolute best efforts to win your case.
Contact us after any accident when you feel an insurance company is acting in bad faith towards your claim or a claim filed against you. We offer a free, confidential consultation and case evaluation. We will only offer you advice that is in your best interest.