When you experience a car accident, you deal with lots of stress. From medical treatment to car repairs, the hassles involved in accident recovery are extensive. However, you expect your insurance company to reimburse you for accident expenses. After all, you pay insurance premiums each month so that you have protection from the expenses of an accident.
Unfortunately, insurance companies don’t always fulfill their end of the bargain. These big companies are in the business of maximizing their profits, and paying out accident claims doesn’t help this goal. So, insurance companies often try to pay accident victims as little as possible. Sometimes, they even deny claims unfairly.
An insurance company has a duty to conduct business in good faith and with fair dealing. When your insurance company ignores you, delays your claim, or refuses to defend you against someone’s claim, it could be acting in bad faith. If insurers deny your claim in bad faith, they may be liable under California insurance law.
If you think your insurance company has acted unfairly, you should contact an attorney. At Wells Call, our attorneys help California policyholders with insurance disputes. We show our clients how to report bad faith insurance in California.
Here, we’ve provided eight steps you should take to address bad faith insurers in California. If you’d like to discuss the specifics of your situation, contact us for a free consultation.
Understand Bad Faith
An insurance company can fail to act in good faith through a variety of actions. Any of these behaviors might constitute bad faith:
- Unreasonably denying your claim,
- Dragging the claim process out,
- Telling you not to hire an attorney,
- Refusing to settle your claim,
- Offering an unreasonable settlement amount,
- Providing no justification for denying your claim, and
- Altering your claim application.
If your insurance company is handling your claim in bad faith, you need legal advice on how to proceed. You may be able to report your insurance company to the California Department of Insurance or sue the company for damages. Our lawyers can tell you which legal options should work best for your situation.
Read Your Contract Carefully
Before claiming your insurance company is acting in bad faith, you should carefully read your insurance contract. The policy contract language can seem technical and difficult to understand. Insurance companies may intentionally use this language to confuse policyholders and protect their business. Pay careful attention to the fine print and any exceptions or exclusions.
If you can’t figure out what your policy includes, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. An experienced attorney can help you evaluate your insurance policy to determine if the insurance company’s actions are allowed under the contract.
Keep a Record of All Correspondence
You should keep a running log of all phone conversations with your insurance company. Save all emails, text messages, and mail from your insurance company. Recording dates that you communicated with your insurance company and the content of those messages can play an important role in proving a bad faith insurance claim.
Make a copy of any documents you send to the insurance company, including forms, letters, receipts, and photographs. Your attorney can use this evidence to back up your claim and increase your chances of getting fair compensation from the insurer.
Appeal a Claim
If your claim was unfairly denied or undervalued, you should not accept the insurance company’s offer. You can appeal the denied or undervalued claim to an insurance company supervisor. When you work your way to the top-level insurance company personnel without a successful resolution to your claim, it’s time to hold the insurance company accountable. You may want to consider a consumer complaint or a lawsuit.
Prove the Insurance Company Acted Unreasonably
To prove an insurance company acted in bad faith, you must show that the insurance company unreasonably failed to provide policy benefits. Sometimes, an insurance company might reasonably deny benefits. For instance, if you drive an old car, your insurance company may not pay you much when it is totaled in an accident. This might be a reasonable payout, even if you were hoping for a bigger payment. After all, your car isn’t worth much due to its age.
However, if the insurance company only offers a meager payout for your totaled brand-new sports car, that would likely be an unreasonable denial of your policy benefits. All evidence you have to back your claim can help prove the insurance company acted unreasonably.
File a Complaint
In California, you can file a complaint against an insurer with the California Department of Insurance. Consumers can file a complaint directly on the Department’s website. The site also provides printable forms for you to mail in your complaint.
Like any other contract you enter, an insurance contract allows you to sue a breaching party under California contract law. However, California gives insurance disputes an additional legal path. The state allows you to file a tort claim against an insurer that acted in bad faith. Access to a tort action gives you greater potential damages, including:
- Financial damages,
- Emotional damages, and
- Punitive damages.
This means that you may be able to recover more compensation by filing a California tort claim against your insurer that acted in bad faith.
Hire an Attorney
Insurance companies have huge legal and financial resources. These resources put you at an unfair advantage when you try to contest a claim on your own. You may not understand the details of California insurance law, and insurance companies know this. To put you on even ground with the insurance company, you need an experienced insurance attorney who will challenge the unfair denial of your claim.
What Can Wells Call Do for Your Insurance Claim?
At Wells Call, we know how insurance companies work. Our lawyers can interpret complicated policy language to determine what your company owes you. If your insurance company has mistreated you, we’ll work to make them pay. We try to resolve cases in a settlement so that you get money faster. However, we’re prepared to take your case to trial if needed.
Here are some more things you should know about our law firm:
- We have six offices in Fairfield, Napa, Richmond, Vallejo, Woodland, and Vacaville;
- We live and work in the areas we serve;
- Since 1984, we have recovered over half a billion dollars for our clients; and
- We truly care about getting the best settlement possible for each client.
To learn more about how we’ve helped accident victims through the years, read testimonials from satisfied clients. If you would like to talk to our attorneys about your insurance experience, call us at 707-302-8029 or contact us on our website for a free case review. We won’t charge you anything until we win your case. It can be challenging to fight your insurance company, but you can do it with our experienced attorneys standing up for you.