Insurance companies are, by nature, at odds with themselves. They are both in the business of paying out money for accident victims' claims, as well as making a profit in order to stay in business. A driver's lifetime of paying insurance premiums can still fall short of the costs incurred in one bad car accident. This contradiction leads to some problems. One of those problems is an insurance company acting in "bad faith".
People buy insurance policies for protection. It is essentially buying a promise that if you are in an accident, i.e. someone hits you with their car, your insurance company will pay for the damages the accident incurred. Along with this protection, the insurer must also negotiate and settle claims in "good faith". In the real world, this doesn't always happen. A "bad faith" situation occurs when an insurance company denies a policy holder's claim or offer a very low settlement without a reasonable basis to do so. Situations like these call for a personal injury lawyer's help in negotiating for a fairer claim, even if that means taking the insurance company to court.
Let's say it's necessary for you to initiate a bad faith lawsuit. What does the accident victim have to prove in order to win?
Though states vary, it is essentially necessary to show that the facts and circumstances in play at the time of the claim's denial will indicate an intentionally careless investigation or a willful attempt to manipulate the outcome.
If a bad faith claim is determined, then the insurance company will have to pay to the accident victim the value of the original claim that should have been paid out. The accident victim can also be awarded "consequential" damages that occurred as a result of the claim's original denial. Consequential damages can include things like the cost of defending the injury lawsuit, i.e. attorney's fees, the cost of suing the company that should have paid the claim fairly in the beginning, and even the financial cost of the emotional distress that results from dealing with bad faith acts.
If you feel that you have filed a claim and your insurer gave you a settlement offer in bad faith, speak to a Bellingham personal injury lawyer right away.
Savvy lawyers know insurance companies' tricks. Insurance companies will try to pay as little as they can in order to make a profit. One way they might act in bad faith is to try to show the policy holder lied during the claims process. Or they'll say that their denial of the claim was reasonable. They will have a team of lawyers who advise them on ways to pay less, including outcomes of previous, similar cases. Trying to argue with the insurance company and their legal team as an accident victim they don't want to pay can often worsen the claims process.
If you believe that the insurance company's adjuster assigned to your claim is acting in bad faith, tell them that. If they still don't offer you a settlement that seems fair, you may want to write a "bad faith letter". And if that doesn't help, then consider hiring an attorney to represent you. An experienced, skilled lawyer has the power of being able to file a lawsuit - and win at trial - if necessary to get you a fair outcome.