March 27, 2019
Insurance company claim departments too often create a culture among their adjusters that encourages them to do whatever it takes to pay less on the claims of the company’s policyholders, even when that means engaging in unreasonable and unfair claim handling practices.
There are multiple ways insurance companies attempt to unfairly save money at the expense of their policyholders.
Policyholders are many times entirely unaware of the fact the law requires insurance companies to treat them in compliance with the duty of good faith and fair dealing. Therefore, when an insurance company engages in bad faith claim handling practices, policyholders sometimes think insurance companies are allowed to do anything they can to save money, which is not true. Also, policyholders sometimes feel too intimidated to stand up for themselves against a powerful insurance company. Once you know which tactics to look for, however, they’re shockingly easy to spot— and easy to refute, if you work with the right advocate. As you proceed with your car insurance claim, keep an eye out for these unfavorable tactics:
Offering Unfairly Low Settlements
Low-ball settlement offers represent one of the most common and infuriating bad faith tactics — and one of the most effective. Insurance adjusters understand that drivers lead busy lives and are eager to avoid as much hassle as possible. They also have the “power of the checkbook” and assume that uninformed drivers will accept unreasonably low settlement offers if they don’t know that they’re eligible for more.
Relying on Impossible-to-Understand Fine Print
How closely have you actually analyzed the fine print in your car insurance policy? If you’re like most policyholders, you skimmed these tiny font blocks of text or skipped them altogether. That decision may come back to haunt you. Of course, even if you’d bothered to read the fine print, you probably would not have understood it; insurers seem to make the terms of the insurance policy (which is a legal contract) too difficult to understand. Then, when someone makes a claim the insurance company will sometimes say “no coverage” under language a normal person cannot understand.
Delay, Delay, Delay
Insurance adjusters understand that the more you know about your case and the more you advocate for yourself, the less likely it is they will be able to run over you. One tactic adjusters sometimes use to drive down claim payments is to delay, delay, delay. Adjusters know when you’ve been injured in a car accident or had your car damaged in a wreck, time is of the essence for you to receive a fair claim payment. That way, you can get the medical treatment you need and get your car fixed so you can get on with your life. Sometimes adjusters will go silent or drag things out unnecessarily in an effort to wear down your resolve to get a fair settlement of your claim. Your calls, emails and letters may be responded to slowly or not at all. The adjuster may repeatedly ask for more and more information or documentation of your claim, even when it is unnecessary. In effect, the adjuster may use these foot-dragging tactics to make you receiving a fair settlement as difficult as possible. The law recognizes unreasonable delay is the same as a denial of the claim, and that delay can amount to bad faith.
Refusing Reasonable Requests for Documentation
If your insurer arrives at a decision that you find objectionable, you’re entitled to documentation outlining their decision. You should ask them to send you a detailed written explanation of why they made their decision. Insurance companies acting in bad faith may refuse to provide you with copies of the documents (the policy, the reports of “experts,” the medical records, etc.) they relied upon to deny you of a fair settlement. Obviously, if the insurance company was proud of the way they made their decision, they would be happy to explain it to you in detail. If they will not do so, you should be on high alert that you have been treated in bad faith.
Using Biased “Experts”
Insurance companies sometimes hire “experts” to help them evaluate policyholders’ claims. These can be doctors, engineers, lawyers, mechanics, body shops, etc. There is nothing preventing insurance companies from doing this; in fact, if it is done correctly it can be an act of good faith. If an adjuster genuinely needs the opinion of an expert in a given field, he or she should get that opinion before making a decision on a claim. The problem arises when an insurance company hires an expert they know to be biased in their favor – one they know will give an opinion in the insurance company’s favor. For example, if an insurance company sends a policyholder’s personal injury claim to be evaluated by a doctor they have used (and paid) hundreds of times who never believes a policyholder is really injured, that “expert” doctor is not unbiased. It can be bad faith for an insurance company to rely on the opinion of a biased expert.
Get an Experienced Advocate on Your Side
If you’ve fallen victim to any of the bad faith tactics outlined above, you deserve legal advocacy from an auto insurance bad faith lawyer who has your best interests at heart. Attorney Doug Terry is happy to help. Call (405) 463-6362 today to learn more about his legal approach — and to discover how you can hold bad faith insurers accountable.