Once you file a claim with your insurance company, your fate is essentially in the insurer’s hands. You can fill out all the forms the company requests, answer all its questions, cooperate when they send inspectors and adjusters out to investigate; but you can’t make them pay, and you really can’t do much to make them hurry up so you get your insurance money before you go broke.
At this point, you have to depend on the insurance company keeping its end of the bargain you made when you bought the policy: I’ll pay you these premiums every time they come due, and if I suffer one of the losses described in the policy, you’ll pay me enough to cover it. But insurance companies get the better of the bargain, because they get the premiums first. And when it comes to paying your claim, there’s an obvious incentive to pay as little as possible.
Making Insurers Accountable
North Carolina offers insureds various ways to recover for the harm they’ve suffered because of an insurer’s bad faith. The different avenues of recovery can be combined, giving an injured insured the best chance of recovering for the harm caused by the insurer’s bad faith. Triple damages are available for an insurer’s violation of statutory prohibitions, and punitive damages may be available. An attorney experienced in applying these laws is essential to holding insurers accountable for their actions.
Bad Faith Behaviors
Like most states, North Carolina defines bad faith to include activities that favor an insurer’s interests over those of an insured who has been paying premiums in the expectation of coverage when a loss occurs. That covers a lot of different behaviors, such as
- Not bothering to investigate the claim responsibly and/or promptly
- Lying about facts or the policy coverage
- Trying to coerce the insured to accept less than is actually due under policy
- Denying claims that the insurer reasonably knew were covered
- Dragging out the claim evaluation in any number of ways, including asking for ever more forms and information
In North Carolina, the law also prohibits misrepresentations as to the terms of the policy or as to the benefits it promises. That can help an insured who was told that the policy covers a specific risk, only to have the insurer later deny a claim for that kind of loss because it is outside the policy coverage.
An experienced insurance bad faith attorney has little trouble proving bad faith in some cases, simply because the insurer’s conduct and motives are clear from the facts. One such example is when an insurer sent out an adjuster to inspect wind damage to property and then rejected the adjuster’s recommended settlement offer, they fired the adjuster and sent out a second one who came back with a considerably lower recommendation.
Get Help in the Bad Faith Battle
Insurance companies have access to tremendous legal resources and know what the bad faith rules are. As they adjust to the increased likelihood of insureds bringing and winning bad faith claims, they adjust their practices to anticipate the claims files and other paperwork that can be used to show bad faith. This makes the job of proving bad faith that much more difficult, but the fact is that changing the paperwork doesn’t mean that the insurer changed their bad faith practices.
It’s more important than ever that your attorney be very familiar with the claims practices end of the insurance industry and understand that some “evidence” in the insurer’s possession may not accurately reflect what actually happened in your case. The earlier you get help from an experienced attorney, the better.
The attorneys at the Surrano Law Offices have decades of experience handling bad faith claims against all kinds of insurers. Our record of success, despite the advantage that insurers have, speaks for itself. Call us as soon as possible if you suspect that your insurance company has acted in bad faith in dealing with your legitimate claim. The initial consultation is free, and we have payment arrangements available for every need.