Purchasing an insurance policy is essentially buying a promise that the insurer will pay for damages in a covered event. The terms of an insurance policy dictate which events qualify for coverage and the insurer’s coverage obligation. Most insurance policies also include various disclaimers and other special clauses that may complicate an insurance claim, but insurance companies have a legal duty to handle, investigate, and process insurance claims in good faith.
When an insurance company denies a legitimate claim or wrongfully delays claim processing or investigation, the insurance company is guilty of bad faith insurance practices. Other examples of insurance bad faith can include lying to a claimant about aspects of his or her available coverage, misrepresenting the details of a policy, or engaging in unethical or harassing behavior to coerce a claimant into dropping a claim or accepting a lowball settlement offer.
Do I Need an Attorney’s Help With My Insurance Bad Faith Claim?
It is entirely possible to file a bad faith insurance claim against an insurance company without an attorney but succeeding with such a claim will be incredibly difficult. Most insurance companies retain powerful in-house legal teams and can afford to drag out a legal battle to compel the opposition to drop the matter or accept an unjust settlement. Additionally, most insurance companies are far less likely to push back against legitimate claims made by claimants who have hired legal representation.
Consider two major factors when deciding whether to hire an attorney to handle an insurance claim: fault and damages. If the fault in the accident is abundantly clear, and the opposition cannot cast blame on you, then minimal grounds would exist for the insurer to push back against your claim or attempt to blame you for the claimed incident. Additionally, an insurance company is far less likely to push back against a smaller claim for minimal damages than a larger, more expensive claim.
How Do I File a Bad Faith Claim?
The first step in pursuing a lawsuit against an insurance company for bad faith is issuing a letter claiming bad faith. Having an attorney’s name on this letter is a good way to encourage a favorable result, but a claimant can potentially draft a very strong letter without legal representation. It is essential to include all of the evidence and documentation you need to make a strong case. Explain in the letter how the insurance company acted in bad faith, the scope of your damages, and your reasoning behind the claim. An insurance company is more likely to take your letter seriously if you take the time to draft a comprehensive, detailed letter.
It is not in the best interests of an insurance company to deal with lawsuits over bad faith accusations, so a well-crafted letter accusing an insurer of bad faith could be all it takes to encourage a more reasonable settlement offer. However, should a bad faith claim proceed to a lawsuit, it can be difficult to succeed without an attorney.
The court system has strict deadlines for filing different documents and other requirements that the average person with no legal training may have trouble navigating. You may miss a deadline or forget a crucial piece of paperwork, which could be all it takes for the insurer to file a motion to dismiss, and the case could be dead before it ever really gets off the ground.
Ultimately, pursuing any type of legal claim without the assistance of an attorney comes with a significant level of risk. A claimant must prepare for a potentially difficult road and take the time to thoroughly research his or her legal rights and the elements of the insurance policy in question to decide if pursuing a claim without an attorney is feasible or even possible.