After a serious car crash, most Americans need their insurance to cover property damage, medical care, and lost wages. While insurance will typically provide some kind of coverage, especially when an attorney is helping with negotiations, there are occasionally cases where insurance companies act in bad faith. But what is insurance bad faith and why should you worry about it?
What is Insurance Bad Faith?
Policyholders pay into their insurance with the expectation that they will be covered in the event of a crash. When an insurance company promptly handles the claim and provides a settlement, they’re acting in good faith.
Insurance bad faith is a uniquely American phenomenon where an insurance provider delays the claim, ignores the policyholder, or even attempts to distort the policy’s wording to avoid a payout. This behavior typically starts with an individual insurance adjuster but can spread up the chain.
If you suspect your insurance adjuster is acting in bad faith, request to speak to their manager. If you believe their manager is acting in bad faith, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney ASAP.
What are the Signs of Bad Faith?
Maze of Phone Menus
One of the most frustrating signs of insurance bad faith is when you call to check on your claim, speak to someone, and then are redirected through phone menus or put on hold indefinitely. If you find yourself bouncing between different adjusters who promise to reconnect you, or if you find yourself on hold for an unreasonable amount of time whenever you call, the insurance company may be trying to avoid a payout.
The Insurance Adjustor Frequently Reschedules or Stops Responding
It’s not unreasonable to reschedule once. However, if an insurance adjuster consistently reschedules when the date of your appointment or damages inspection approaches, they might be acting in bad faith.
If an insurance adjuster reschedules more than once, consider contacting an attorney to handle your car accident case. On the other hand, if an insurance adjuster stops answering calls and emails altogether, you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible.
Insurance Adjuster Appears to Misinterpret the Policy
Insurance policies are legal paperwork and can be difficult to understand. That said, you don’t need to be an attorney to recognize signs of an insurance adjuster twisting the policy’s language to avoid approving your claim. If you believe your damages meet the criteria in the policy, you should be vocal about it.
In rare cases, the insurance adjuster may claim that the policy you signed doesn’t apply because the company has updated its policies. Remember that the contract you signed is the one that counts. If an insurance adjuster makes a claim like this, you should consult an attorney immediately.
Insurance Adjuster Delays Payout
One of the most common tactics for delaying a claim is to ask for an unreasonable amount of paperwork. The insurance company may ask for a medical report, a police report, a service report from the mechanic, or any number of other documents. While these are good to have, they are typically not required to make an insurance claim.
Sometimes, the insurance company will delay an approved claim. Insurance payouts typically take a few months to process, though it varies based on the company, the amount, and the state. If your payout hasn’t come several weeks after the expected timeframe, it could be a sign of bad faith.
In some cases, a delayed payment could mean the adjuster never started the payout process. While there are other explanations, such as a mistake or a delay with the bank, it’s worth investigating. If the adjuster is suddenly difficult to reach after approving the claim, contact a car accident attorney as soon as possible.
The Insurance Company Does Not Provide the Full Payout
Insurance adjusters have tools to calculate the exact value of your injuries, property damages, and lost wages. Therefore, an extremely low payout or one that utilizes a tiny fraction of your total coverage could signal the insurance company acting in bad faith.
If you believe you didn’t receive the full amount you deserve, you should speak to an attorney. Likewise, if an insurance adjuster offers a payout and later reduces that amount, collect as much documentation as you can and consult an experienced auto accident attorney immediately.
Increasing Your Premiums
Even after you’ve received a settlement, you still need to watch for the signs of insurance bad faith. If you weren’t at fault for the crash and the insurance company increases your monthly premiums, you should call your attorney as soon as possible.
Many states have protections against raising premiums when a driver was not at fault for the crash. If you received your settlement but believe the insurance company is treating you unfairly, it may be a warning sign of bad faith practices.
Why Speak to an Attorney?
Attorneys write insurance policies, and the legal phrasing can be difficult to understand. Anyone planning to contest an insurance company’s interpretation of their own policies needs a strong understanding of personal injury law.
When you dispute a claim, the insurance companies will have a team of lawyers protecting their interests. If you’re pursuing a claim of insurance bad faith, hiring an attorney is one of the best things you can do.
Insurance bad faith claims are often difficult to prove, but if the insurance company won’t answer your calls or they’re twisting the language in your policy, it may be the only way to earn the damages you are entitled to.
In some cases, a successful insurance bad faith claim can lead to a settlement significantly larger than the original policy amount. Not only that, but a successful claim may include interest, inflation adjustment, punitive fees, and even cover your attorney fees.
If you believe the insurance company is acting in bad faith, we can help. If you’d like to schedule an appointment with an experienced auto injury attorney from Dunk Law Firm, please don’t hesitate to call (800) 674-9339 or send us an email.