If you suspect your insurance company is acting in bad faith, it may be time to file a lawsuit against them to seek the money you are owed. Attorney Brian White & Associates, P.C., has more than 45 years of combined experience fighting insurance companies and their unfair tactics. Contact our law firm for a free consultation with a Houston insurance bad faith attorney who can help you.
How Attorney Brian White & Associates, P.C. Can Help with a Bad Faith Insurance Company
Do you suspect your insurance company is acting in bad faith when processing your claim? When you are not being treated fairly by an insurer, it can feel like you have little recourse. After all, insurance law and policy language are complex and it can be challenging to get an insurance company and its team of attorneys to take you seriously.
Attorney Brian White & Associates, P.C., will act on your behalf to hold your insurer accountable under Texas law. Founding attorney Brian White maintains a 10.0 Superb AVVO rating and is a member of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum. Our Houston, Texas law firm has 45 years of combined legal experience fighting against major insurance companies and protecting the rights of our clients.
Trust a Houston personal injury lawyer at our firm to:
- Help you explore your legal options and offer legal advice
- Gather evidence that proves the validity and value of your claim
- Investigate the insurance company’s practices to determine how bad faith occurred
- Handle all communications with your insurer to stop bad faith actions
- Take your case to the courtroom and seek damages for bad faith if a fair settlement is not reached
You do not need to accept illegal and unfair insurance practices. Call Attorney Brian White & Associates, P.C., today for a free case review with an experienced bad faith insurance lawyer for help.
What Are the Duties and Responsibilities of Insurance Companies in Houston, Texas?
You count on your insurance company to be there for you when you finally need to make a claim. Sadly, for-profit insurance companies sometimes act in bad faith and deny valid claims, make processing a claim difficult, or intentionally undervaluing a claim.
Insurance companies in Texas have many legally mandated duties under the Texas Insurance Code. Chapter 541 of the code is called the Unfair Methods of Competition and Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices Act.
Chapter 541.060 requires insurers to do the following when they process a claim:
- Process the claim in a timely manner without unnecessary or unreasonable delays
- Provide accurate information regarding insurance coverage and terms
- Provide valid, reasonable reasons for any claim denial
- Attempt to settle valid claims fairly
- Release settlement funds without unnecessary requests for additional information
Chapter 541 of the Insurance Code bans bad faith practices by Texas insurers. Texas Insurance Code Chapter 542 is called the Unfair Claim Settlement Practices Act. It addresses a separate type of behavior that may also result in a claim against an insurance company.
These two chapters overlap somewhat, but Chapter 542 mostly addresses prompt claim payment and the timing of payment and communications.
Under Chapter 542, Texas insurers are given clear deadlines to investigate and settle all claims:
- Insurance companies have 15 days after receiving written notice to acknowledge a claim, begin an investigation, and request additional information.
- Insurance companies have 15 days after receiving any requested information to make a claim determination. This may be extended to up to 45 days in certain cases.
- Insurance companies must pay accepted claims within 5 business days. If the claim is denied, valid reasons should be provided.
- An insurance claim determination must be made within 60 days in most cases.
If an insurance company violates these deadlines, they may be liable for paying the policyholder’s attorney’s fees and damages with an 18% annual penalty.
When the insurance company fails in their duties, they are acting in bad faith. They may be held liable for this behavior through a bad faith insurance lawsuit.
When Can an Insurance Company Rightfully Deny a Claim?
Insurance companies, of course, are not obligated to pay all claims made by policyholders and third parties.
The most common legal reasons for a denied insurance claim include:
- The damage or incident is not covered by the policy
- State law was violated
- The claim involves an error
- A reporting or filing deadline was missed
- A procedure or other remedy is not medically necessary, experimental, or investigational
If your claim is denied, you have the right to appeal. Sometimes claims are denied because the insurance company does not have enough information and further documentation must be submitted. It’s also possible a valid claim that should be covered is denied due to bad faith.
What Is Insurance Bad Faith in Texas?
Insurance bad faith happens when an insurance company violates its legal duties to its policyholders. Bad faith can refer to any type of behavior that is unfair, unreasonable, or deceptive.
Common examples of insurance bad faith are:
- Misrepresenting the terms of the policy
- Delaying claims adjustment
- Delaying payment of the claim
- Intentionally undervaluing the claim
- Pressuring the policyholder to not seek legal representation
- Changing the terms of the policy once a claim has been made
- Ignoring certain parts of the claim during an investigation or adjustment
- Failing to provide valid reasons for a claim denial
- Using biased third parties during the claims process and investigation
- Performing a sub-par investigation
- Alleging fraud on the part of the policyholder without any reasonable suspicion
- Requesting unneeded information or documentation to delay the claim
Bad faith insurance claims can be based on first-party or third-party claims. A first-party claim happens if your insurance company acts in bad faith when you file a claim against your policy. A third-party claim involves liability coverage when your insurance company unfairly fails to indemnify, defend, or settle a claim against you.
How Can I Tell if My Insurance Company Is Acting in Bad Faith?
Bad faith can occur with any type of insurance claim including:
- Auto insurance claims for property damage and injuries after a car accident
- Homeowner’s insurance claims for property damage, theft, or liability
- Personal Injury Protection (PIP) claims
- Boat insurance claims
- Life insurance claims
- Health insurance claims
It can be difficult to recognize when your insurer acts in bad faith. Policy language is intentionally complex, and you may not be sure if their behavior is normal or acceptable.
Your insurance company may be violating Texas insurance laws if you believe any of the following has happened:
- The insurance company has tried to conceal important information such as policy information.
- Your claim has been denied without a valid reason.
- The insurance company did not acknowledge receipt of your claim.
- You have been pressured to accept a settlement or told you must accept the offer quickly
- The insurance company avoids easy communication by changing your point of contact or failing to respond to communication
You may have little more than suspicion when an insurance company acts in bad faith. If you suspect your claim is not being processed fairly in good faith, document all correspondence with the insurance company. Contact an experienced bad faith insurance attorney to investigate your case, assess if any laws are being violated, and force the insurance company to act fairly.
What Damages Are Available in an Insurance Bad Faith Claim in Houston, TX?
Houston bad faith insurance lawsuits generally allow you to recover the following damages:
- The actual damages or value of your denied claim
- Reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs
- Relief the court considers proper
You can also recover three times your actual damages if the insurance company knowingly violated Chapter 541. This is called treble damages. Under Chapter 542, you may also be entitled to interest on the outstanding payment amount.
Insurance litigation is complex but may entitle you to not only the value of your claim but additional compensation from your insurer. Our Houston bad faith insurance lawyers can help you understand what your insurance bad faith claim may be worth.
How Can I Prove Insurance Bad Faith in Houston, TX?
A bad faith claim in Texas can be proved using one of two methods:
- Showing the insurer denied a claim despite reasonably clear liability, or
- Showing the insurance company did something prohibited by Chapter 541 or Chapter 542. This can include the types of behavior listed above or missing deadlines under Chapter 542.
The first option is known as a common law bad faith claim. This type of claim cannot be made by a third-party, only the policyholder. The second option, called a statutory bad faith claim, is generally the better option for holding an insurance company accountable for bad faith.
Proving bad faith requires showing the insurer didn’t simply make a mistake. Instead, they engaged in intentional wrongdoing or gross negligence that caused you harm. Sometimes bad faith is clear and fairly easy to prove such as changing policy terms or misrepresenting policy facts. Sometimes it is not clear, particularly when it comes to how your claim is valued.
Simply undervaluing a claim is not always bad faith. To show the insurer was not acting fairly, we will compare the insurance company’s reports and investigations to your claim and demonstrate that their value was not reasonable given the facts.
Contact a Houston Insurance Bad Faith Attorney for a Free Consultation
You pay your policy premiums faithfully and trust that your insurance policy will protect you when you need to make a claim. When you are left with serious injuries or property damage and your claim is unfairly denied or undervalued, the insurance company should be held accountable for their bad faith practices.
Attorney Brian White & Associates, P.C., is here to fight the insurance company on your behalf and help you recover the compensation you deserve. Call our law office today for a free consultation with a Houston insurance bad faith attorney who can help.