WHAT'S BAD FAITH LAW?
You purchased insurance coverage to gain protection, peace of mind and security in the event of a loss. You acted responsibly in maintaining this insurance coverage and faithfully paying your insurance premiums. You lived up to your end of the bargain. Now you are asking your insurance company to do the same. But even though your insurance company promised to pay you when it took your premiums, now that you have suffered a loss, it wants a different deal. When someone is hurt, however, they are not in a position to re-negotiate. They are in a state of distress because they have experienced an injury, a death, a fire, a car accident, or some other type of loss. People who are suffering are vulnerable and it is easy to take advantage of them. That is why courts recognize that an insurance company has a unique relationship with the people it insures. Insurance companies must play by the rules, at all times and with every insured.
"Bad Faith Law" is a group of laws which are designed to protect you against fraudulent insurance practices. South Dakota, as well as most other states, has adopted the Unfair Claims Practices Act which insurance companies must follow. Unfortunately, you only have to look at the recent headlines to know that insurance companies sometimes disregard those laws. Two years after Hurricane Katrina, homeowners are still arguing with their insurance companies for coverage. In fact, U.S. Senator Trent Lott was not even immune. He sued his insurer, State Farm, for failing to honor his homeowner's policy.
"Bad Faith" laws are meant to prevent your insurance company from abusing its power and position. A bad faith case arises when your own insurance company unreasonably denies or delays payment of your claim. Your insurance company has an obligation to deal with you fairly and promptly. If your insurance company unreasonably denies your claim, unreasonably delays payment of your claim or unreasonably underpays your claim, it may now owe you for more than just the coverage it originally agreed to in the policy. It may also owe you for the harm and inconvenience it caused you by denying or delaying payment on your claim.
There are many examples of how an insurance company can commit bad faith. They include: (1) failing to promptly investigate a claim; (2) unjustly delaying payment; (3) unreasonably refusing payment on a claim; and (4) using unreasonable interpretations in translating policy language.
If you have suffered a loss, you have the right to recover the full value of that loss. Please contact Abourezk & Garcia at our Rapid City, South Dakota office if you are concerned that your insurance company is failing to live up to its promises.