Weatherford Bad Faith Insurance Lawyer
When you submit an insurance claim, you trust that the premiums you have paid faithfully will finally pay off. You trust the insurance company to fairly settle your claim so you can move on. What happens when the insurance company does not treat you fairly and delays, denies, or underpays your valid claim?
You have rights when it comes to insurance claims in Texas.
If an insurance company has acted in bad faith and breached their duties, a Weatherford bad faith insurance lawyer can help.
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How a Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help with a Bad Faith Insurance Claim
Bad faith insurance claims are notoriously complicated to prove. Without an experienced personal injury lawyer, a well-funded insurance company may believe they can easily get away with their behavior and you will not recognize their bad faith or have the means to prove it.
An experienced Weatherford bad faith insurance claim lawyer can help ensure your insurer acts in good faith with you and hold them accountable when they do not.
Jason Stephens of Stephens Law Firm, PLLC has more than 22 years of experience as a Weatherford personal injury lawyer.
He is an award-winning trial lawyer who has been recognized with the highest Martindale-Hubbel AV rating and named a Texas Super Lawyer. Jason Stephens has recovered some of the largest jury verdicts in Texas history and will put his experience to work for you.
Choose Stephens Law Firm, PLLC to represent you in stopping bad faith actions and Jason Stephens will:
- Carefully explain your legal options and answer your questions
- Gather evidence proving the validity of your claim
- Handle all communications with the insurance company
- Present your case before a jury if your bad faith claim can’t be resolved through negotiations
If you suspect you are the victim of bad faith actions by your insurer, contact Stephens Law Firm, PLLC today for a free consultation.
What Does it Mean When an Insurance Company Acts in Bad Faith?
When it comes to investigating and settling claims, insurance companies have a number of legal duties under the Texas Insurance Code.
Specifically, Chapter 541.060 states that insurance companies must do the following when processing a claim:
- Process your claim in a timely fashion
- Accurately represent information about your coverage
- Provide a reasonable and valid reason to explain a denial of your claim
- Attempt to offer a fair settlement
- Release funds without requesting unnecessary information such as a birth certificate
An insurance company, adjuster, or employees may be held liable for acting in bad faith when handling a claim.
There are many types of conduct that can fall under bad faith in Texas such as:
- Undervaluing a claim
- Delaying payment
- Delaying adjustment
- Misrepresenting policy terms
- Pressuring a policyholder to not retain a lawyer
- Ignoring parts of the claim during adjustment or the investigation
- Changing policy terms after a claim is made
- Failing to provide reasons for a determination
- Requesting unnecessary information to delay the adjustment process
- Hiring biased third parties to handle parts of the investigation or claims process
- Performing a shoddy or haphazard investigation
- Alleging fraud without reasonable suspicion
Chapter 542 also provides specific deadlines an insurance company has to investigate and settle claims. These requirements are separate from the bad faith practices banned under Chapter 541. Violations of Chapter 542 can entitle you to attorney’s fees plus damages with an annual 18% penalty.
To collect damages under Chapter 542, you must show you had a claim under your policy, the insurer was liable for the claim, and they failed to comply with statute requirements. Among these requirements are:
- The insurer has 15 days to acknowledge your claim, start an investigation, and request additional information after receiving written notice.
- After receiving the requested information, the insurer has 15 days to make a claim determination but may extend this up to 45 days.
- If a claim is accepted, it must be paid within 5 business days.
- If a claim is denied, valid reasons must be provided.
- A determination must generally be made within 60 days.
If an insurance company violates these duties, they can be sued by the policyholder under a bad faith claim. They can also be penalized with hefty fines.
How to Tell if Your Insurance Company is Acting in Bad Faith in Weatherford, TX
Bad faith practices can involve any type of insurance claim.
- Car accident claims against an auto insurance policy
- Property damage claims against homeowner’s insurance such as tornado, hail, fire, or storm damage
- Personal injury claims (such as a slip and fall or dog bite) against homeowner’s insurance or Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage
- Life insurance claims
- Boat insurance claims
How do you know if your insurance company acted in bad faith? Because you probably do not speak with your insurer often, it can be hard to tell if their behavior is normal and in good faith or if they are violating your rights. The following are important signs to watch for.
Insurance Company Fails to Acknowledge Receiving Your Claim
When you inform your insurer that you have suffered covered damage or been in an accident, they should promptly confirm they have received the claim and are processing it.
Insurance Company Denies Your Claim Without Valid Reason
Insurance companies are required to give valid and reasonable explanations for denied claims. If they do not, they may be hoping you will not challenge their wrongful decision.
Insurance Company Tries to Hide Important Information
The insurance claims process is supposed to be transparent and open. The insurance company may be acting in bad faith if they try to hide key information or facts about your policy.
Insurance Company Pressures You to Accept a Settlement
When the insurance company offers a settlement, you have the right to consider it. This should not be a rushed decision and the insurer should not try to pressure or force you to accept the settlement quickly. They may try to make you decide on the spot or tell you the offer may be rescinded if it isn’t accepted quickly.
Insurance Company Avoids Communication
You should be able to easily reach your insurer for updates while your claim is being processed. If your assigned point of contact does not answer calls or emails, or the insurer keeps changing your point of contact, they may be acting in bad faith.
If you believe your insurance company is acting in bad faith, document all conversations and correspondence. It’s important to consult with an experienced bad faith insurance claims lawyer in Weatherford as soon as possible to begin building your case.
First-Party Versus Third-Party Bad Faith Insurance Claims
In Texas, bad faith lawsuits can be based on first-party or third-party claims.
A first-party claim refers to a claim you file with your own insurance company after you are involved in an accident or suffer covered damages. If your home is damaged in a storm or you are hurt in a car accident by a hit-and-run driver, you may be able to file a first-party claim with your insurer.
A third-party claim is different because it involves liability coverage or the type of coverage purchased to protect you from claims by other people. If you are involved in a car accident and the other driver was negligent, you may have a third-party claim against their insurance company.
Third-party claims can give rise to a bad faith claim if the insurance company is unreasonable in failing to defend you, indemnify you, or settle a claim against you. A third party can also make a bad faith claim against your insurance company for refusing to pay for their damages.
Proving a Bad Faith Claim in Weatherford
In Texas, an insurance bad faith claim can be proved under common-law bad faith or through a statutory bad faith claim.
A common-law bad faith claim requires proving that the insurer delayed or denied your claim even when liability was clear. There are several drawbacks to this option, most notably that only the policyholder can bring a claim against their insurance carrier; third-party claims are not allowed.
You can also bring a claim under Texas Insurance Code Chapter 541.
To prove bad faith, you must show that the insurance company did not simply make a mistake but engaged in grossly negligent or intentional conduct designed to harm you. Some forms of conduct are obvious, such as misrepresenting or changing the terms of your policy. Bad faith is not always obvious, especially when it comes to valuing your claim.
Even underestimating your claim is not necessarily considered bad faith. To prove a claim, you must compare the investigation and reports from the insurance company with what you have claimed and show that the insurance company’s valuation is not reasonable.
Damages for Insurance Bad Faith in Texas
If your bad faith claim is successful, you may have the right to the following types of damages, in addition to the full cost of your claimed damages:
- Tremble Damages, or three times the amount your insurer should have paid. This usually requires proving the insurance company knowingly or intentionally behaved in bad faith.
- Attorney’s fees and court costs
- Interest on the payment that was delayed
While bad faith claims are notoriously difficult to prove, Texas law treats insurance companies that engage in bad faith conduct very harshly.
Contact a Weatherford Bad Faith Insurance Lawyer for a Free Consultation
Sadly, many insurance companies delay or deny legitimate claims from policyholders who are in need. If you believe your insurance company has not treated you fairly and acted in bad faith, the Weatherford bad faith insurance lawyer at Stephens Law Firm, PLLC is here to hold insurance companies accountable. Contact Stephens Law Firm, PLLC today to schedule a free consultation with Jason Stephens to discuss your case.