If you’re like the majority of American families, your family’s single largest asset is your home. To protect your investment, you insure your home with a homeowner’s policy with the expectation that if anything happens to diminish the value of this valuable asset, the damage will be repaired or the structure replaced.
You may think that your insurance company exists to help families like yours repair or rebuild a damaged home. In fact, homeowner’s carriers, like all insurance companies, exist for the benefit of their investors, and their mission and reason for being is to generate profits. This is accomplished by selling a large number of policies and pulling in large amounts in premiums while paying out the very least possible in claims. Their interest in profits and you interest in security are at odds, and filing a claim may place you in an adversarial position with your homeowner’s insurance carrier. You need to repair your home so you and your family can pick up the pieces of your life after your home has been damaged; your insurance company sees every claim as a dent in their total profits, the financial return to their investors, and the bonuses they are able to pay to their executives.
Knowing this, you should not be too surprised if a prompt payment of your claim is not forthcoming. Many homeowner’s carriers will use any excuse to deny or minimize your claim. It is simply not in their best interest. Insurance adjusters are well trained in finding reasons to deny or diminish claims, or they may even ignore your claim altogether.
What Constitutes Homeowner’s Insurance Bad Faith
An insurance company has a legal obligation to deal with you fairly and in accordance with the terms set forth in your policy. These are some ways in which companies commonly try to avoid this obligation that may be considered acting in bad faith:
- Denying your claim without reasonable grounds;
- Extensive delays making a payment decision on the claim;
- Ignoring or failing to respond to your claim;
- Offering for a payment far below what is needed to repair your home;
- Repeatedly asking for more information, ordering more inspections, or insisting on additional interviews; or
- Homeowners insurance bad faith can take many forms. Our attorneys have enough experience to recognize bad faith practices and take immediate action to protect the rights of the policyholder. If you believe your insurance company is taking advantage of you or trying to avoid a fair payout, contact us for a free consultation to find out if your case qualifies as insurance bad faith.
Why Do I Need a Bad Faith Attorney?
It can be difficult enough to deal with an insurance company during a property damage claim when it is practicing in good faith. The claims process can be complicated and overwhelming. When the insurance company does not treat you or your claim fairly, it can be even more difficult to demand a positive outcome. A bad faith insurance company can be unpredictable, often with no clearly defined or valid reason to deny your claim or delay payout. It is important to hire a lawyer to protect your rights when dealing with suspected homeowners insurance bad faith. Otherwise, you could allow the insurer to take advantage of you.
A bad faith attorney can analyze your case and help you know the best next move. Your insurance company may need a reminder from an attorney that you have rights and will not tolerate bad faith practices. In some cases, intervention from an attorney is enough to turn things around. Your homeowners insurance provider may start to take your claim more seriously and correct bad faith practices, leading to a positive case resolution via settlement. In other cases; however, the lawyer may need to take the insurer to court to demand fair compensation.
Hiring a bad faith attorney gives you the ability to go up against large and powerful homeowners insurance corporations in Arizona. A lawyer evens out the balance of power between you and the insurer. If your case has to go to trial to resolve, your lawyer can handle the legal process on your behalf. Your attorney can help you understand your statute of limitations, evaluate the severity of your losses and demand good-faith actions from the insurance company. Hiring a lawyer can improve your odds of obtaining the compensation you need to move forward.
Damages from Bad Faith
In a bad faith claim with the help of a skilled attorney, you can potentially recover more than you were originally owed under the policy, including economic damages resulting from the insurer’s bad faith conduct, as well as compensation for inconvenience, stress, and attorney fees. In cases where your bad faith attorney can successfully demonstrate that the insurer intentionally put its interests ahead of yours, you may be awarded punitive damages, aimed at punishing the behavior and deterring the company from repeating it in the future.
What Is the Time Limit for Filing a Claim?
Like all states, Arizona has strict deadlines for filing civil claims – even insurance bad faith claims. No matter how significant your losses or how blatant the insurance company’s bad faith appears to be, you will only have a limited amount of time to bring your claim before the courts will refuse to hear the case. Each state has unique statutes of limitations on insurance bad faith claims. In Arizona, the general time limit is two years from the date you experienced bad faith from your homeowners insurance company.
In most cases, the two-year time clock starts ticking on the date the wrongdoing occurred. However, it can be difficult as a policyholder to know the exact date your homeowners insurance company started engaging in bad faith practices. In general, a judge will agree the statute of limitations on a bad faith claim will not begin until the policyholder receives his or her first letter denying insurance coverage. As a wronged policyholder, you will generally have two years from the date of your denial letter to file a civil claim.
Note, however, that you may have less time if your homeowners insurance company has policies in place that limit how long you have to file a civil lawsuit. Some insurance policies have contractual agreements that dictate deadlines for filing. If this is true for your policy, you or your lawyer must file by the date your insurance company says you must. It is common for insurance companies to use one-year deadlines for bad faith claims. Check your policy and consult with one of our attorneys for more information about your unique time limit for filing.
Experienced Counsel for the Best Outcome
At Surrano Law Offices, we focus our practice exclusively on insurance company bad faith, and because this is all we do, we have developed the highest level of competence in this specialized area and a have a long and well documented record of successful recoveries for our clients. We know insurance law and understand the goals of insurance companies and the methods they use to achieve them. We are able to put this knowledge and experience to use on your behalf. Call us to arrange a consultation, and we will advise you on the best course of action available. The initial meeting is free, and we will work out an easy payment arrangement or contingency agreement that works for you.