San Diego Car Insurance Dispute Lawyer
Auto insurance premiums represent a significant investment for many California residents. In exchange for payment in regular installments, automobile owners can reasonably expect compensation for damages if they are involved in an accident. Unfortunately, not all insurers take their responsibilities to reasonably pay claims seriously, favoring profit over a claimant’s best interest. This is a breach of contract called insurance bad faith.
If you believe you’ve been a victim of auto insurance bad faith, you need an attorney. Contact the San Diego bad faith insurance attorneys at Dawson & Rosenthal, P.C. today to schedule a free initial consultation.
California residents choose us for their insurance legal needs because:
- We have a concentrated focus: Bad faith insurance law is all we do.
- We have more than 50 years of experience in legal matters involving insurance.
- We’re fearless in the courtroom and prepare every case as if it’s going to trial.
Car Insurance Bad Faith Resources
- What is Bad Faith Car Insurance?
- What are the California Laws on Bad Faith?
- Who is Liable for Bad Faith Insurance?
- What Damages Can I Seek in a Claim?
- How Do I Know if My Claim is Valid?
- How an Attorney Can Help
What is Auto Insurance Bad Faith?
An insurance company acts in bad faith when it fails to adhere to the obligations outlined in an insurance policy, or when it defies the language of the California insurance code. Insurers have a legal obligation to put the needs of a claimant before its own and to seek evidence that supports coverage, not deny it. The following may constitute examples of auto insurance bad faith dealing:
- Refusing to pay a claim the company owes, such as when liability is clear.
- Failing to pay a claim on time (i.e., unreasonably delaying a claim).
- Failure to explain a claim denial.
- Requesting an unreasonable amount of paperwork or demanding unreasonable evidence in support of your claim.
- Failing to provide a reasonable evaluation of your claim, resulting in a lowball offer.
- Failing to provide an appropriate defense for you against a claim, such as when you assume liability for an accident.
If an insurance company acts in bad faith when handling an auto accident claim, the insured may have a legal claim to hold that company responsible for its actions. A bad faith insurance claim will not only address reimbursement for any claim amount, but also may include accrued interest, reimbursement for attorney’s fees, and punitive damages.
Auto Insurance Bad Faith Laws in California
California law gives consumers the right to bring a bad faith claim against their insurer when it breaches its duty of good faith and fair dealing. This applies when an insurance company fails to reasonably compensate an insured for a loss that should have coverage under the policy. Each insurance company in California has an implied duty to exercise good faith when providing coverage and interpreting policy language. Under California law, auto insurance bad faith may occur when an insurer:
- Denies a claim without a reasonable basis or explanation
- Delays the claims process
- Unreasonably terminates a claim or coverage
- Underpays a claim without a reasonable basis or explanation
California Insurance Code 790.03 expressly prohibits the following actions:
- Engaging in deceptive practices to avoid reasonably paying claims.
- Failing to reasonably investigate claims.
- Deliberately misrepresenting the facts of the policy to avoid providing coverage.
- Creating unreasonable demands for proof.
- Using coercion to settle a claim.
- Using unreasonable conduct in litigation.
- Failing to disclose policy limits.
- Failing to use reasonable investigative procedures.
- Coercing an insured to contribute monetarily to a settlement.
Who Is Liable for Auto Insurance Bad Faith?
Many types of auto insurance bad faith exist, and anyone within an insurance company may be responsible. An insurance agent, for example, may misrepresent the extent of coverage when selling the policy, or a claims adjuster may purposely draw out a claims process to delay the insurance payment. The insurance company is generally liable regardless of which employee perpetrates the bad faith. Employees are representatives of the company, so they generally will not be personally liable for insurance bad faith. Exceptions do exist, for example, when a defendant is acting in bad faith out of the scope of his or her employment with the agency.
How is Fault Determined?
In certain cases, comparative negligence will play a role in determining who is the at-fault party and acted negligently to cause the accident. This process is used to assign blame and is based on a percentage such as 60/40. Insurance companies will often try to lower the percentage of the fault, so they are not held liable for the accident and have to pay more than they want. Comparative negligence can be determined during an investigation. Your San Diego insurance dispute lawyer will work to ensure that the right percentage of fault is placed on each party.
Car Accident Damages
There are several different types of damages you may be entitled to after a car accident. The main two are economic and non-economic damages. However, in bad faith claims, there are several other damages, such as consequential, punitive, and emotional distress damages.
Consequential damages can range depending on the facts of your case. You might be eligible for these damages if your health suffered due to a health insurance claim denial. Emotional distress damages may be caused by a denial that has led to you having to worry about bills or borrowing money, and maxing out your credit cards. Punitive damages can be awarded if the insurer acted in bad faith.
The more common types of damages that a San Diego car insurance dispute lawyer will go for are economic damages which include:
- Lost income and wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Medical expenses related to the accident
- Rental car costs
- Property damage
On the other hand, there are non-economic damages that consist of:
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of companionship or affection
- Loss of consortium
The types of damages you may be entitled to will vary depending on your case, and you should discuss this with your San Diego car insurance dispute lawyer.
Do I Have a Legitimate Claim?
The first thing to determine in an insurance case is whether you have a legitimate claim, and this will heavily rely on what type of insurance policy you have. There are six common types of auto insurance policies including:
- Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage
- Liability coverage
- Collision coverage
- Comprehensive coverage
- Personal injury protection
- Medical payments coverage
There are several other types, but these are the most common. Once your coverage has been determined, you will then want to know why your claim was denied. Often insurance companies will try to look for loopholes within the contract, so they do not have to pay. One common reason they will use is saying that your injuries were not as substantial as you claimed. They will also try to assign blame to another party, so they do not have to pay for your claim.
San Diego Car Insurance Bad Faith Lawyer
When an insurance company resorts to these tactics, they are acting in bad faith, and you will need to enlist the help of a San Diego car insurance dispute lawyer to help you resolve these claims. We will work diligently to get you the compensation you deserve. Auto insurers have an obligation to their insured to promptly and reasonably pay valid claims. If you believe you’ve been a victim of insurance bad faith, contact the lawyers at Dawson & Rosenthal, P.C. to schedule a free review of your legal options today.