March 1, 2019

Being in a car accident is traumatic enough — after experiencing an incident and filing a claim, the last thing you want to deal with is an auto insurance company that refuses to pay. After all, you make regular payments to your insurer in good faith. They should fulfill their end of the bargain and protect you, their policyholder, if you suffer injury or damage in an accident.

Unfortunately, scenarios in which auto insurance companies deny claims in bad faith are all too common. Each year, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners tracks the top reasons why insurance customers complain about their coverage… and each year, “denial of claims” makes the top three. Sometimes, insurers won’t pay the full amount, stall on making a payment, or refuse to pay a claim altogether.

What should a policyholder do when a car insurance company denies a claim, underpays or drags their feet? Here are some steps you can take to ensure you receive the claim you’re entitled to.

Is Your Auto Insurance Company Acting in Bad Faith?

When you purchase and make payments on a car insurance policy, you expect the insurance company to cover you in the case of injury or damage. However, companies may act unscrupulously (or even illegally), leaving you stuck with and invalid claim denial or a claim payment that is unfairly low.Unfairly and unreasonably denying or underpaying a claim can be “bad faith.”

Bad faith may take several forms, such as using stalling tactics to delay claim payouts, underpaying a claim, or even refusing to pay a claim altogether. Fortunately, your insurance carrier does have legal obligations to policy holders. While specific legal obligations vary based on the type of policy and coverage you purchase, your insurer must investigate and resolve your claims in a fair, reasonable manner in order to comply with the duty of good faith and fair dealing owed to policyholders.

For instance, if your policy includes uninsured/underinsured motorist or “UM” coverage, your carrier must treat claims under that coverage in good faith. If your policy requires the insurer to pay for damage to your car or to cover medical bills related to an accident, they must fulfill those obligations. And they must, in good faith, protect you from third-party lawsuits, which may mean paying claims related to property damage, medical bills or other expenses related to an accident that you cause.

Keep in mind that auto claims can take time to work their way through the system, and your insurer may have a legitimate reason for not paying a claim. Not every claim denial amounts to bad faith.  If the insurance company has a legitimate, good faith reason to do what it has done, they may be found not to be in bad faith.

But in many cases, delays mean an insurer is acting in bad faith. They may be stalling, attempting to delay the claim in the hopes that you will get frustrated or confused, or even give up in your pursuit of your rightful compensation.  All too often claims adjusters are assigned to handle so many claims by their insurance company employer that there is no way they can move claims forward quickly as they should be.

Common Auto Insurer Bad Faith Tactics

While each case is unique, insurance companies tend to employ a common set of bad faith tactics when they attempt to stall, underpay or deny claims. Here’s what to look out for:

  • Claim denial without valid justification under the language of your insurance policy: insurance company denies your claim but cannot point to a common sense reading of the insurance policy justifying the denial
  • “Low ball’ settlement offers: insurer offers settlement that’s not adequate to cover all past, present and future damages (either for your medical bills, pain and suffering, property damage, etc.) associated with the accident; often, companies offer low settlements in the hope that you’ll simply accept it without fighting for what you are owed
  • Using biased experts: Insurers may obtain opinions from “experts,” but utilize doctors, engineers, etc. who are biased in favor of the insurance company, knowing the “expert” will give an opinion in the insurer’s best interests no matter what the facts really show
  • Delaying the claim: Insurers may try to wait you out by repeatedly delaying the claim or continuously asking for more information, in the hopes that you’ll give up and drop the claim

How Can You Fight Back Against Bad Faith Insurers?

Start by ensuring you know exactly what your policy covers and the limits of that coverage. Before you file a claim, identify your deductible and determine if your coverage includes:

  • Personal liability
  • Property damage
  • Comprehensive and collision
  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist (“UM”) coverage

After reviewing your coverage and limits, if you believe your car insurance company is acting in bad faith, it’s time to call an auto insurance claim denial lawyer.

When you’re being treated unfairly by your insurer, Oklahoma auto insurance claim lawyer Doug Terry can help. Since 1993, he’s been working ensure policy holders receive the payments they deserve. To schedule a free case consultation, call (405) 463-6362 and learn how Doug can help you get what you’re rightfully owed.

Attorney Doug Terry

Attorney Doug TerryAfter 25 years practicing in a larger firm, Doug chose to open his own practice in Oklahoma City. He brings his wealth of knowledge and his skills as a litigator to bear for his clients in matters of insurance bad faith, personal injury cases and class actions. He won $200 million and $25 million verdicts for clients in cases in which an insurer denied a health insurance claim. Doug has the distinction of being awarded a Martindale-Hubbell “AV Preeminent” rating from his peers in the legal community. He has also been selected as an Oklahoma Super Lawyer. [Attorney Bio]